Justin Sykes

Obama Appointed Judge Strikes Down Federal Fracking Rule

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016, 12:53 PM PERMALINK

This week a federal judge appointed by President Obama struck down the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) 2015 rule for hydraulic fracturing on federal lands. Wyoming District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl, appointed by Obama in 2011, ruled that “Congress has not delegated to the Department of Interior the authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing” and that the rule exceeds the authority of the BLM.

The rule was published in 2015, and focused new regulations and requirements on well construction and wastewater storage, among other things. One of the most onerous provisions was the requirement that companies would be forced to disclose confidential information related to chemicals used in the fracking process. Such a requirement would have been a massive blow to the protection of company trade secrets and have set a dangerous precedent going forward.      

Judge Skavdahl’s opinion however focused primarily on the lack of jurisdiction and authority, ruling that the Department of Interior has not received the delegated authority from Congress to oversee such far-reaching regulations. He further criticized the Interior’s efforts, arguing BLM was acting outside of its statutory authority and contrary to the rule of law.

Skavdahl also took the opportunity to point out issues of executive overreach. “Congress’ inability or unwillingness to pass a law desired by the executive branch does not default authority to the executive branch to act independently,” Skavdahl argued. 

The District Court’s ruling was an embarrassing and sobering blow to President Obama and his signature effort to regulate fracking on public lands, especially at the hands of one of his own appointees. The ruling also comes on the heels of the recent Supreme Court stay that was issued on the President’s Clean Power Plan. Both rulings stand as reminders that President Obama’s repeated executive overreach is no match for basic logic and the rule of law.

While it is likely Interior will appeal this weeks ruling, given Judge Skavdahl’s clear and simple holding on the Department’s lack of statutory authority, President Obama should not count on this onerous and costly rule ever seeing the light of day.


Photo credit:   Blake Thornberry

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Rep. Sanford Looks to Make Flight-Sharing a Reality

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Tuesday, June 21st, 2016, 1:58 PM PERMALINK

Representative Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) this year has been working to make “flight-sharing” in the U.S. a reality. The concept of flight-sharing would allow pilots to share their travel plans so that passengers looking to fly to the same destination would be able to split the costs of the flight. This free-market, pro-consumer concept would add a new layer of travel accessibility to the already booming sharing-economy marketplace, but is currently stalled by and overreaching FAA.  

The concept of flight-sharing is relatively new, and as mentioned would allow private (as opposed to commercial) pilots to share travel plans online so that passengers traveling to the same destination would be allowed to split the costs of the flight with the pilot. Airline ridesharing startups such as Flytenow have developed technology to allow flight-sharing on an online platform that would pair private pilots with other individuals.  

The potential benefits of flight-sharing to consumers and pilots are huge. There are roughly 28,000 commercial flights daily in the U.S., compared to over 50,000 private flights daily. Commercial airlines currently access 560 U.S. airports while private pilots reach over 19,000 airports throughout the country.  

However, under existing federal regulations, private pilots are prohibited from using the internet to post flight routes and as a result effectively prohibited from splitting the cost in sharing a ride. As characteristic of a slow to adapt federal bureaucracy, pilots are allowed to post shared flights on a “3-by-5 card” pinned to the bulletin board of the pilots lounge, but are barred from posting the same information on a virtual bulletin board.

Thus once again you have federal bureaucrats preemptively grounding a potentially market changing and consumer driven innovation before it has had the chance to take off. Thankfully Rep. Sanford understands the potential benefits that flight-sharing could yield for consumers and the economy.

In response, Rep. Sanford authored an amendment to correct this issue, the language of which was incorporated into the AIRR Act during committee consideration. The language of Sandford’s provision would require the FAA to issue or revise regulations to ensure that holders’ of a private pilot’s license can communicate with the public through any medium, such as the internet. As such, flight-sharing startups like Flytenow would be allowed to operate their internet-based platform pursuant to FAA rules.        

In a recent press release, Rep. Sanford touted the benefits of flight-sharing, stating that, “if private pilots can connect with passengers, the end result is more flights available to more airports – and more choices for me and you as consumers.” 

Lawmakers in Congress are currently facing a July 15 deadline to reauthorize funding for the FAA, with the House and Senate both offering competing plans. Regardless of what route lawmakers take, the legislative vehicle should include the flight-sharing provisions Rep. Sanford has put forth.   

As we’ve seen play out with the hard-fought success of other sharing economy technologies, government is often slow to adapt to the fast paced innovation of the free-market, thus depriving Americans of life changing products and services. Rep. Sanford’s efforts to support flight-sharing would resolve such regulatory quagmires by allowing a new and market changing service to benefit consumers and the economy.


Photo credit:  Gage Skidmore

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Financial Services Appropriations Bill Reins in Obama Government Agencies

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie, Justin Sykes, Katie McAuliffe on Tuesday, June 21st, 2016, 1:10 PM PERMALINK

Later this week, the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on H.R. 5485, the Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) Appropriations Act, introduced by Congressman Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.). This legislation allocates 2017 federal funding for numerous agencies including the Treasury Department, the IRS, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the FCC.

H.R. 5485 allocates this funding in a responsible, pro-taxpayer way and reins in out-of-control agencies to ensure they do not overstep their bounds and needlessly waste federal resources. ATR supports this legislation and urges all Members of Congress to vote for it when it reaches the floor.

Restrains IRS Overreach
H.R. 5485 contains several important policy riders to rein in the IRS. Under this administration, the agency has targeted non-profit organizations, families, and small businesses again and again in a concerted effort to limit free speech and harass taxpayers.

The legislation prohibits the IRS from implementing a new regulation on non-profit organizations, from giving bonuses or rehiring former employees without proper tax compliance measures, or from targeting individuals based on first amendment rights. In addition, the package implements extensive reporting on IRS spending to ensure the agency is wisely utilizing taxpayer resources.

Reins in SEC Funding and Improves Transparency
FSGG allocates $1.5 billion for the SEC, lowering the agency’s funding by $50 million from previous levels in fiscal year 2016. The legislation also creates new reporting requirements for the SEC, which would improve the transparency and fairness of the agency. One provision requires the SEC to report to Congress the cost associated with the regulatory burdens promulgated under the Dodd-Frank Act. 

The legislation also ensures First Amendment free speech is protected by prohibiting the agency from requiring the disclosure of political contributions in SEC filings. 

Responsibly Allocates IRS Funding 
The legislation provides $10.9 billion for the IRS, reducing their funding by $236 million compared to fiscal year 2016. In addition, the legislation funds the agency $1.3 billion below President Obama’s budget, which called for more than $1 billion in additional funding for the agency.

FSGG also allocates this funding in an efficient way. Of the $10.9 billion in funding, the legislation allocates $2.1 billion to taxpayer services and provides $290 million for the IRS to improve customer service, fight fraud, and improve cybersecurity.

Given the IRS's record of ineptitude and incompetence, the last thing the agency needs is more money. The agency’s woes are due to its management problems, not because of insufficient resources and this legislation will force the agency to spend its resources in a more responsible way.

Blocks Implementation of Obamacare
FSGG also contains important provisions that restrict the ability of the federal government to implement Obamacare. Specifically, this legislation stops transfer of funds between the Department of Health and Human Services and the IRS to fund Obamacare. Since passage of the law, the Obama Administration has funneled funds across agencies to hide the true costs of the law and pay out special interests at the expense of the American people.

Most importantly, the legislation restricts the use of funds to implement the individual mandate. Under current law, anyone not buying “qualifying” health insurance – as defined by President Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services -- must pay an income surtax to the IRS. This year a family in the middle class will be forced to pay 2.5 percent of Adjusted Gross income or $1,390 if they do not have insurance. The Obama administration uses the Orwellian phrase “shared responsibility payment” to describe this tax.  

Increases CFPB Oversight and Accountability 
This legislation provides increased oversight over the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, by subjecting the agency to annual congressional appropriations process, something that has not occurred since the CFPB was created in 2010. By bringing funding for the CFPB under the congressional appropriations process, this legislation increases the accountability of the CFPB to congress and taxpayers. 

Further, H.R. 5485 temporarily halts the CFPB’s costly and overreaching arbitration rule by requiring the agency to study the use of pre-dispute arbitration before issuing such regulations. The CFPB has not adequately justified the need for rule, and enactment would increase the costs of products and reduce access for the very consumers it would supposedly protect.  

Restrains FCC
The FCC’s snowballing regulatory binge continues to tighten its grasp on basic functions of the Internet and the free market.  The FCC's dubious interpretations of "ambiguous" legal language, even at the protest of Congress, leave no other options but for Congress to restrain and direct FCC spending as Congress is statutorily required to do.

To enhance transparency and public participation, funds must be used for the agency to make all proposed regulations public three weeks before the final legally binding vote.  It constrains some of the agency’s overreaches on policy, by preventing the agency from using any appropriated funding for “Net Neutrality” regulations until court proceedings conclude. 

The dollars in the public pot are limited. While the agency does receive less money for operations than it asked for, and the is an overall decrease in funding of $25 million, the FCC maintains an ample budget of $315 million to aptly pursue its core functions and target waste fraud and abuse within its programs. 


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Speaker Ryan’s Regulatory Reform Agenda is Pro Consumer and Pro Energy

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Wednesday, June 15th, 2016, 11:37 AM PERMALINK

This week Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) released his regulatory reform agenda, which is the third installment of his “A Better Way” plan. The regulatory reform agenda released outlines a number of policy proposals aimed at reigning in a regulatory burden that has grown exponentially under Obama. While the proposed reforms would have widespread benefits for the economy as a whole, many would prove especially beneficial to energy consumers and the energy sector, both of which have seen costs skyrocket under the Obama regime.

Since taking office, the President has actively worked to expand executive agency control over the economy through increased regulations, specifically as it relates to the energy sector. Over the last eight years U.S. consumers and the economy have been subjected to an avalanche of energy regulations, such as the Clean Power Plan and Methane Rule, which increase the costs of energy. 

By growing the regulatory burden, the Obama Administration has increased the amount of time and resources U.S. businesses expend to comply with such regulations. The increased compliance burden trickles down to U.S. families and consumers in the form of higher monthly energy bills, reduced household income, and increased costs of consumer goods.

Speaker Ryan’s regulatory reform agenda looks to reverse this economically disastrous trend by proposing common sense reforms such as: providing for a regulatory budget; requiring regulators to take the cumulative impact of rules into account; and using reproducible and transparent data.

Speaker Ryan points out that Washington’s regulatory bureaucracy rarely knows the financial costs of the regulations it enacts, even with regard to major regulations. In order to fix this issue, Ryan proposes requiring Congress, when it passes new regulatory legislation, to prepare and report estimates of how much a regulation will cost. This would essentially impose a “regulatory budget” on the process, ensuring lawmakers take into account the associated costs of new rules.

In the same vein, the regulatory reform agenda notes that while regulations are enacted separately, often the cumulative effect of such regulations on the economy is overlooked. This issue only compounds as more and more regulations are added each year. For instance, in 2015 the federal government enacted 3,408 new regulations while repealing few. Ryan argues that such regulatory impacts should not be considered in isolation, but the burden on the economy should be considered as a whole when enacting new rules. 

It has also been a constant criticism that federal agencies are often not transparent or accountable in reproducing and making available the scientific data used to justify new regulations. As part of the reforms proposed, Congress would require federal agencies adhere to accepted principles of scientific practice during research, and make such data available to the citizens, industries, and organizations that would be impacted by proposed regulations.

Ryan’s regulatory reform agenda also outlines needed reforms such as reducing paperwork, requiring “meaningful” judicial review of rules, and adhering to statutory mandates, among a number of other positive reforms. 

The reforms outlined by Speaker Ryan would not only be a boon for U.S. competitiveness as a whole but also would be particularly beneficial to energy consumers and businesses, reducing compliance costs and in turn reducing the price of energy American families and businesses pay each month.

Unlike the existing regulatory climate under Obama, requiring regulators and lawmakers to work within a regulatory budget and take into account cumulative costs would protect businesses from a continuation of a suffocating compliance burden and ensure consumers are not subjected to even more increased energy costs. Additionally, making the regulatory process more transparent would allow for the interests of citizen stakeholders and businesses to have a voice in the process that has been muffled by federal bureaucracy for too long. 

Photo credit:  House GOP

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Overwhelming Majority in the House Votes to Oppose a Carbon Tax

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Monday, June 13th, 2016, 10:20 AM PERMALINK

Last week the U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to oppose a national carbon tax. Lawmakers in the House voted 237-163 to a pass a resolution offered by House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), that expressed the sense of Congress that a carbon tax would be “detrimental to American families and businesses, and is not in the best interest of the United States.”

The vote by the lower chamber found the support of 231 House Republicans, all voting to oppose a carbon tax. No Republicans voted to support a carbon tax, and six Democrats crossed the aisle also to oppose a carbon tax.

While the vote on Scalise’s resolution is largely symbolic, it marks a huge win for those in Congress that understand just how economically disastrous the impact of a carbon tax would be in the U.S. The 237 votes represent not just a vote against a carbon tax, but also a vote to protect American families and businesses. 

As Americans for Tax Reform has repeatedly pointed out, a U.S. carbon tax would have far reaching impacts on the entire economy. For instance, projections show a carbon tax would reduce U.S. GDP by over $140 billion and crush over 1 million jobs within a few decades. Energy prices would also see up to a 30 percent increase, impacting the nation’s most vulnerable populations as energy costs and the costs of consumer goods rise.

With the House’s vote last week, lawmakers in the lower chamber have committed to going on record to oppose any future proposals of a national carbon tax. Now, focus shifts to the Senate where Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) has introduced a companion resolution to the one passed by the House, which would put members of the upper chamber on record opposing a carbon tax. 

Sen. Blunt’s resolution S. Res. 472, has already garnered 25 co-sponsors since it was released last month. As was the case with Rep. Scalise’s resolution, Sen. Blunt’s expresses “the sense of the Senate that a carbon tax would be detrimental to U.S. families and businesses.”

Americans for Tax Reform urges members of the Senate to support Sen. Blunt’s resolution, and also applauds the 237 House members that voted to oppose a carbon tax in the House. Such measures lay the groundwork for protecting American families and businesses from possible efforts in the future to enact burdensome and economically disastrous carbon tax policies.   


Photo credit: Henk Sijgers

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ATR Supports Sen. Blunt's Resolution Opposing a Carbon Tax

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Tuesday, May 24th, 2016, 12:39 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist sent the following letter to Congress this week, urging support for Senator Roy Blunt's (R-Mo.) resolution opposing a carbon tax. The resolution introduced by Senator Blunt expresses the sense of Congress that a carbon tax would be detrimental to American families and businesses and is not in the best interest of the United States. 

Below is the full text of the letter:

May 9, 2016

Dear Senator Blunt:

Americans for Tax Reform strongly supports your leadership in the fight against any form of a carbon tax.

I urge all members of Congress to support and vote for your Senate Resolution, which puts Congress on the record in opposition to a carbon tax. 

A carbon tax would kill jobs in the United States, reduce economic growth, and set the stage for future tax hikes. Such a tax would drive up energy prices for American families and businesses, leading to an increase in the costs of consumer goods and reduced household income.

A carbon tax would be wholly regressive, falling hardest on low-income families who can least afford it. As the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office pointed out, “low-income households spend a larger share of their income on goods and services whose prices would increase the most” as a result of a carbon tax.

A study by the National Association of Manufacturers found a carbon tax would: have a negative effect on consumption, investment and jobs; increase the cost of coal, natural gas and petroleum products thus resulting in higher production costs and less spending on non-energy goods; and lead to lower real wage rates, lower labor productivity, and decrease workers’ incomes.

Americans for Tax Reform encourages all members of Congress to vote for your resolution opposing a carbon tax. 

Thank you Senator for your continued strong leadership in protecting Americans from a carbon tax today and forever.


Grover G. Norquist


Americans for Tax Reform


PDF link to letter

Photo credit: Bill Dickinson


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ATR Urges Lawmakers to Act on TSCA Reform

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Tuesday, May 24th, 2016, 9:03 AM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform today sent the following letter to Congress urging lawmakers to act quickly to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

Since enactment of TSCA in 1976, industry innovations and product development have outpaced the Act's provisions leaving it outdated and untouched by lawmakers for almost 40 years. 

Reforming TSCA will provide a more cohesive national chemical regulatory program that gives businesses and states a new level of certainty with regards to interstate commerce. Reform will also increase consumer safety and confidence. 

May 24, 2016

Dear Members of Congress: 

On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) and millions of taxpayers nationwide, I strongly urge you to act to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Reforming TSCA would not just be a boon to the economy as whole, but would also increase consumer confidence and safety, and give certainty to key American industries such as manufacturing.    

Since enactment of TSCA in 1976, industry innovations in product development and chemical safety have far outpaced the Act’s provisions leaving it outdated and untouched by lawmakers for almost 40 years.

This has given rise to criticism from industry, environmental, and consumer groups that all point to inefficiencies in the Act’s chemical evaluation process, as well as a patch work of state regulations that can stymie interstate commerce and increase compliance issues for businesses. Such issues have far reaching impacts on the economy and consumer confidence.   

Reforming TSCA would remedy compliance issues by providing for a more cohesive national chemical regulatory program that gives businesses and states a new level of certainty with regards to interstate commerce. TSCA reform would also increase consumer confidence and safety. 

Americans for Tax Reform encourages members of Congress to act swiftly to reform and improve the Toxic Substances Control Act.


Grover G. Norquist


Americans for Tax Reform

PDF link to letter

Photo credit: Ryan Bowley


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Trump Takes a Stand Against a Carbon Tax

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Friday, May 13th, 2016, 5:17 PM PERMALINK

Presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump today took to twitter to make it clear that under no circumstances would he support a carbon tax. Trump’s move to disavow a carbon tax comes as some clueless state and federal lawmakers and far left energy advocates have made the case for a carbon tax this year. 

Trump’s opposition to a carbon tax shows that he is well aware of just how economically disastrous such a tax would be for the country. The imposition of a carbon tax would not only impact the competitiveness of the U.S. economy, but also would drive up energy prices, inevitably leading to higher consumers costs and reduce the household income of millions of American families. 

For the U.S. economy as a whole, projections show a carbon tax would lead to a drop in U.S. GDP of at least $146 billion by the year 2030, impacting both investment and labor. It is projected that over a 3-year span after enactment, over 400,000 jobs would be lost, with losses reaching more than a million jobs by 2030. 

The impact of a carbon tax on energy costs would ripple throughout the economy, with energy prices estimated to see cost increases of 20 to 30 percent.

The resulting increase in energy costs would be wholly regressive, impacting the nation’s most vulnerable. Low to middle income families, who spend a larger portion of their income on energy, would be disproportionately impacted as more and more of their household budget is consumed by rising energy costs.

These same families would be doubly impacted by a carbon tax due to the fact that resulting increases in the costs of energy would also drive up the price of consumer goods, further depleting the disposable income of millions of Americans.

Clearly Trump has done his homework on the carbon tax, and realizes it would be a huuuuuge mistake and terrible deal for the American people.


Photo credit:  Ed Ouimette

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ATR Supports The Ozone Standards Implemnetation Act of 2016

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Monday, May 9th, 2016, 11:17 AM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform today expressed support for the Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2016 (H.R. 4775, S. 2882), which would allow states to pursue cost-effective and practical implementation of EPA’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone.

The origins of EPA ozone regulations can be traced back to the original standards for criteria pollutants in 1971, which included ground-level ozone. These regulations have been regularly revised in the years since, the most recent occurring in 2008. However, due to bureaucratic delay characteristic of EPA regulators, the implementing regulations specified for 2008 were not published until March of 2015. The March 2015 regulations lowered the compliance level of ozone to 75 parts per billion (ppb).  

As states began implementation of the 75 ppb standards, the EPA again revised the regulations in October 2015, imposing additional new planning and compliance obligations on states. By the EPA’s own estimate, the October 2015 standards, which lowered compliance to 70 ppb, would cost $1.4 billion annually, while providing little environmental benefit.   

The EPA’s lack of efficiency and reliability on ozone standard implementation has put states in the position of having to possibly implement two costly ozone standards at the same time. Such inefficiency has left states burdened with confusing and costly implementation scenarios that could prove devastating for state economies.       

In contrast, the Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2016 would provide states more time and flexibility to implement the standards on an efficient and realistic timeline. The Act would also address related implementation issues facing states under the NAAQS program, such as reforming the rulemaking process by extending the review period for pollutants from every 5 to 10 years.

Americans for Tax Reform strongly supports the Ozone Standards Implementation Act (H.R. 4775, S. 2882), and encourages members of Congress to support and vote for this much needed legislation.  


Photo credit: John Griffiths

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Obama's Paris Agreement: All Cost and No Benefit for the U.S.

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Friday, April 22nd, 2016, 1:44 PM PERMALINK

Today the Obama Administration will sign the Paris climate agreement at a ceremony in New York, a move that is projected to severely impact the U.S. economy with ironically negligible impacts for the environment. The agreement will not only set the stage for increased regulation, but will crush U.S. economic output, reduce household income for millions, and likely lead to hundreds of thousands of lost jobs.

The agreement is a product of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, where President Obama met with world leaders to commit the U.S. to non-binding emission reduction targets. Under the agreement, Obama committed the U.S. to wholly improbable reduction goals of 26 to 28 percent by year 2025.

Through a litany of regulations stemming from the agreement, Obama has essentially offered up the U.S. economy as a sacrificial lamb to further his own legacy.  Sadly, the agreement will not just hurt the country’s growth as a whole, but will trickle down to low-and-middle income Americans. As a result of the agreement, energy costs will skyrocket, in turn raising the cost of utility bills for families and increasing the costs of consumer goods.

A recent study by the Heritage Foundation projects that the Paris agreement and resulting policies will increase electricity costs for a family of four between 13 and 20 percent annually. The study also projected American families will see over $20,000 of lost income by year 2035. Such regressive policy hits the nation’s most vulnerable hardest, who ironically are the same people Obama uses to justify the deal. 

The Paris deal is also slated to reduce U.S. GDP by over $2.5 trillion, and result in an average shortfall of nearly 400,000 jobs by 2035. Of the 400,000 jobs lost, an estimated 200,000 will be in the manufacturing sector. This means Americans will also see the costs of consumer goods such as electronics, paper products, and apparel increase, inevitably taking more out of household income.

With such drastic costs to the U.S., American’s would expect an equally drastic benefit on the other end, yet that is simply not the case. Policies such as those resulting from climate deal would, even with a complete elimination of U.S. carbon emissions, result in less than two-tenths of a degree Celsius reduction in global temperatures. 

It is all to clear the Paris climate deal is all cost and no benefit for the U.S., and the Obama Administration is comfortable sacrificing low-and-middle income Americans, along with thousands of jobs and GDP, for an environmental benefit that is negligible, at best.   


Photo credit: Joe Crimmings

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