Justin Sykes

ATR Applauds Secretary Zinke's Efforts to Improve Antiquities Act Designations

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Thursday, August 24th, 2017, 3:50 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist issued the following statement today praising Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke’s efforts to highlight some of the most prevalent issues facing national monument designations under the Antiquities Act. 

Secretary Zinke and the Department of Interior (DOI) issued a report this week in response to an Executive Order issued by President Trump in April directing DOI to study the Antiquities Act and monument designation process. 

“The actions taken today by Secretary of Interior Zinke represent a huge step forward in highlighting the need for bringing more transparency and accountability to the national monument designation process under the Antiquities Act.

“For too long the Antiquities Act has allowed for the unbridled abuse of executive power, far beyond what lawmakers intended when the Act was first passed. The Antiquities Act has permitted past Presidents to designate vast swaths of public land as national monuments unilaterally, often with little to no input from affected stakeholders.

“In recent decades the size and scope of public land designations has increased exponentially with the Act having been used 26 times in the last 20 years to designate monuments well over 100,000 acres in size. Many designations have been made despite a lack of historically recognized significance, such as landmarks, prehistoric structures, or historic objects.

“Under former President Obama Americans witnessed the extent to which executive authority under the Antiquities Act could be abused. During the Obama Presidency the average size of monument designations was over 190 times larger than when the Act was first used under President Roosevelt. Currently 66 percent of the land and water mass of all national monuments was designated solely by the Obama Administration.

“Secretary Zinke’s work to highlight abuses and inefficiencies within the national monument designation process is a positive step towards reining in unchecked executive authority under the Antiquities Act. By focusing on positive reforms the Secretary has taken the first step to begin restoring the voice of rural communities and local stakeholders in federal land decisions, and rebuilding public trust.

“I look forward to working with Secretary Zinke and President Trump to improve transparency and accountability under the Antiquities Act and the national monument designation process.”

 

Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Interior

 

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ATR Joins Coalition Calling on Congress to Repeal CFPB Arbitration Rule

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Monday, July 24th, 2017, 3:38 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) this week joined a coaltion of 26 free-market, limited-government, and liberty-oriented groups calling on Congressional lawmakers to use the powers granted under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to repeal the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's (CFPB) recently published rule relating to arbitration agreements.  

The CFPB’s arbitration rule would do little in the way of benefiting American consumers, and instead would result in a flood of class-action lawsuits putting more money in the pockets of trial lawyers. The arbitration rule would cost consumers billions and lead to a projected 6,000 class action lawsuits every five years. 

According to the CFPB’s own study, average payouts to consumers after litigation was less than $2.00 per person, which is significantly lower that the amount awarded during the arbitration process. The same study found that only 20 percent of class-action lawsuits are approved and among those the average wait time for a settlement was roughly three years. This is compared to the arbitration process where the wait time is an average of only 6.9 months. 

Text of the letter is below and can be found here.

Dear Speaker Ryan and Senate Majority Leader McConnell: 

We, the following free-market, limited-government, and liberty-oriented organizations, ask you to use the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to reverse recently published rules promulgated by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) ending long-held policy allowing for binding arbitration contracts. Failure to reverse this regulation will result in an avalanche of class-action lawsuits that will hurt jobs and do little to benefit consumers.

The CFPB’s arbitration rule has been described as “Christmas in July” for America’s trial lawyers – and rightly so. According to the CFPB’s own finding, the rule will cost consumers billions of dollars and unleash over 6,000 class action lawsuits every five years. This rule is an obstacle to the efforts to right America’s fiscal ship and create jobs and prosperity for the American people. 

Class action lawsuits primarily benefit the trial lawyers rather than the plaintiffs they claim to represent. One extreme example regarding the Bank of Boston even resulted in some of the “winning” plaintiffs owing more in legal fees to lawyers,  who walked away with millions, than the meager winnings they received. Class-action lawsuits all too often benefit no one but lawyers, and arbitration provides a fair alternative that should not be prohibited by regulatory fiat.

The CFPB's own report provides undermines the case for relying exclusively on class-action lawsuits. Of the minority of cases filed between 2010 and 2013 that were later settled, consumers received on average only $32, while lawyers received $424 million in total fees. This disparity is due in part to the fact that claims are never filed by the vast majority of those in an eligible class, and lawyers receive fees based on inflated award figures that are never paid out.

There are also significant issues with the structure of the CFPB and its overall lack of accountability to elected officials. A United States Court of Appeals has held that “when measured in terms of unilateral power, the Director of the CFPB is the single most powerful official in the entire U.S. Government, other than the President. Indeed, within his jurisdiction, the Director of the CFPB can be considered even more powerful than the President.” 

As a rehearing of this ruling on the CFPB's constitutionality by the full Circuit is currently underway, and Congress weighs its own various options to rein in the unaccountable agency, CFPB should at the very least be prevented from instituting major new rules that could disrupt large segments of the economy until such issues are resolved. This is a prime opportunity for members of Congress to uphold their oaths to support and defend the Constitution by safeguarding the nation from costly new CFPB regulations.

The Congressional Review Act provides 60 legislative days for Congress to reverse the CFPB's decision. Each day, the clock ticks and the window of opportunity closes. We urge you to work together and reverse this job-killing regulation promulgated by an agency that is unconstitutionally structured.

 

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Happy Birthday Dodd-Frank…Hope It’s Your Last!

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Friday, July 21st, 2017, 11:17 AM PERMALINK

Today marks exactly seven years since President Obama signed into law the costly and burdensome Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. While the goal of Dodd-Frank Act was to protect financial consumers and “reign in Wall Street” following the 2008 financial crisis, the last seven years have proven that goal has not come to fruition and instead financial consumers, small banks and credit unions have been crushed by this disastrous law.

For America’s financial consumers, the Dodd-Frank Act has failed on all accounts. Misguided provisions such as anti-free market price caps instituted under the Durbin Amendment have all but eviscerated free checking accounts, driven up average minimum deposits and increased monthly checking account maintenance fees.

For instance in 2009, 75 percent of banks offered free checking accounts. Following the passage of Dodd-Frank and the Durbin Amendment in 2010, that number dropped to 45 percent the following year, and has now fallen to under 40 percent today.

According to an April 2017 study by the International Center for Law and Economics, in 1999 the average minimum deposit required in order to avoid fees on non-interest-bearing accounts was $562.27. The minimum fell to $109.28 in 2008. Yet after the Durbin Amendment passed, the minimum skyrocketed to $732.02 in 2012 and stands at $670.74 as of 2016.

Reduced free checking and increased minimum deposits and fees resulting from Dodd-Frank’s Durbin Amendment have proven incredibly regressive for low-income financial consumers and have led to millions of Americans becoming “unbanked.” 

As more Americans are pushed further out the traditional banking system by Dodd-Frank provisions, they have turned to alternative financial products such as prepaid debit cards, which serve a similar function as traditional bank accounts but are seen as more affordable given increased costs on traditional checking accounts due to Dodd-Frank. 

Amounts placed on prepaid cards have grown from $1 billion in 2003 to a projected $112 billion by 2018. According to a 2014 report from The Pew Charitable Trusts, of the estimated 23 million consumers using prepaid cards a quarter were low-income, with a third having annual income below $15,000.  However the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), another creation of Dodd-Frank, is now ironically working to end prepaid debit cards through a rule set to go into effect in 2018. 

Thus not only has Dodd-Frank driven many consumers, especially low-income Americans, out of the traditional banking system, but has allowed the CFPB to outlaw one of the last remaining and affordable financial products they have left. As Representative Ted Budd (R-NC) has stated, “Dodd-Frank has sawed off the bottom rung of the ladder of economic mobility.”

While the detrimental impact Dodd-Frank has had on American financial consumers is atrocious, it is also the case that Dodd-Frank has drowned U.S. credit unions and community banks in a sea of regulatory costs and an ever-growing compliance burden. According to a 2016 study by the American Action Forum, Dodd-Frank has imposed more than $36 billion in final rule costs and 73 million hours of paperwork.

Unlike their larger competitors, small credit unions and community banks don’t have armies of compliance lawyers or funds available to afford the regulatory burden imposed by Dodd-Frank. It is now the case that one in every four credit union employees time is spent on regulatory compliance, adding up to an additional $6.1 billion in costs for credit unions in 2014 alone. As a result of Dodd-Frank, an average of one small financial institution shutters or is consolidated everyday. 

Thankfully this year House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) has been leading the effort to enact massive reforms to the Dodd-Frank Act in order to protect American financial consumers and small financial institutions. Chairman Hensarling’s Financial CHOICE Act (H.R. 10), which passed the House in June 233-186, targets many of the most onerous and costly provisions of Dodd-Frank for reform and repeal. While the CHOICE Act faces an uphill battle in the Senate, it highlights the need for lawmakers to remain focused on reigning in Dodd-Frank.

Thus as the Dodd-Frank Act turns seven years old today lawmakers in Congress should take time to reflect on the disaster Dodd-Frank has become for their constituents and the markets as a whole. 

Happy Birthday Dodd-Frank! Hope it’s your last!

 

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ATR Applauds Pruitt EPA for Moving to Rescind WOTUS

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Wednesday, June 28th, 2017, 11:48 AM PERMALINK

This week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under the direction of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, announced its decision to rescind the costly and burdensome Obama-era "Waters of the United States Rule" commnonly referred to as WOTUS. 

Americans for Tax Reform applauds EPA Administrator Pruitt and his agency for the leadership shown in taking steps to protect the property rights of American landowners and businesses by addressing the federal overreach inherent in WOTUS. 

Speaking on the proposed rescisicion, Administrator Pruitt this week said the EPA is "taking significant action to return power to the states and provide regulatory certainty to our nation's farmer's and businesses." 

The rule proposed by former President Obama would have drastically expanded the EPA's jurisdiction, making small waterways such as wetlands and ponds subject to increased federal rules and permitting processes. According to the Obama EPA's own projections, the increased permitting burden under WOTUS could have cost American property owners and small businesses between $158 million and $465 million annually.    

In 2015 then Oklahoma Attorney General Pruitt, joined by 17 other states, successfully led a challenge to block implemnetation of WOTUS. Speaking at the time on the Sixth Circuirt Court of Appeal's decision, Pruitt stated that WOTUS is a "devastating blow to private property rights and is an unlawful power grab by the EPA over virtually all bodies of water in the United States." 

Now with Pruitt leading the EPA, the agency is able to roll back this harmful rule. The new rule proposed by Pruitt's EPA would rescind WOTUS and provide certainty in the interim pending a second rulemaking which the EPA, along with the Army Corps of Engineers, could engage in a substantive re-evaluation of the rule.

 

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ATR Urges Senate Lawmakers to Oppose PFC Increase

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Monday, June 26th, 2017, 12:58 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform this week released a letter urging members of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee to oppose any efforts to include an increase of the fee known as the Passenger Facility Charge (PCF) in the Senate's recently introduced bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The PFC program allows for the collection of PFC fees for enplaned passengers at commercial airports controlled by public agencies, with revenue going to fund airport improvement projects. The PFC is currently capped at $4.50 and maintaining the PFC at this level is a benefit to the traveling public. 

Revenue generated in recent years by commercial airports has been record breaking, in addition to record breaking amounts of revenue generated from the PFC. Thus it is wholly possible for airports to continue making improvements without incresing the cost of flying for passengers. 

The recently released Senate FAA reauthorization bill did not include any provisions to uncap or increase the PFC and Senate lawmakers should oppose any future efforts to amend the bill that would increase or uncap the PFC. 

Full text of the letter is below and can also be found here

June 26, 2017

Dear Chairman Thune and Ranking Member Nelson: 

On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), and millions of taxpayers nationwide, I write to reiterate ATR’s long held opposition to efforts to increase the fee known as the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC).

Proposals to allow for uncapping and increasing the PFC represent an unnecessary and unfair burden to airline passengers and should not be included in the Senate’s recently released bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Given the current record levels of revenue and PFC collections at airports, it is entirely possible for airports to continue making such improvements without increasing the cost of flying. 

According to recent financial reports filed with the FAA, US airports have over $12.7 billion in unrestricted cash and investments on hand, which equates to 362 days of liquidity. Additionally, the Airport and Airway Trust Fund (AATF) is at its highest level since 2001, with an uncommitted balance of $6 billion.

FAA reports show that U.S. airports brought in a record $27 billion in 2015 alone. This included record highs of $10.7 billion from airline rents and fees and $9.1 billion from non-airline revenues such as retail and food and beverage.

Government taxes and fees already overburden air passengers – taxes make up over 20% of the cost of an average domestic flight. In 2016 the PFC brought in a record high of over $3.1 billion and PFC revenue for 2017 is projected to increase to over $3.36 billion.

It is for these reasons Americans for Tax Reform urges members of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee to oppose any efforts to include uncapping or increasing the PFC as part of the Senate FAA reauthorization bill.

Sincerely,                                   

Grover G. Norquist                                                         
President                                                                       
Americans for Tax Reform

 

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ATR Urges Support for Davis-Cohen Airport Tax Amendment to House FAA Bill

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Monday, June 26th, 2017, 10:08 AM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform this week released a letter to House Transportation and Infastructure Committee members urging support for the bipartisan amendment being offered by Representative Rodney Davis (R-IL) and Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN) to the House FAA reauthorization bill (H.R. 2997).

The Davis-Cohen amendment would correct a long-standing issue with how revenue from the assessmenet of taxes, fees, and charges upon businesses located at commercial service airports is used. The problem the Davis-Cohen amendment would address is that often revenue generated from taxes and fees levied at commercial service airports is diverted and used for non-aviation purposes outside of the airport. 

The amendment being offered as part of the House's FAA reauthorization bill would resolve this issue by ensuring revenue from any tax, fee, or charge levied upon any business located at a commercial service airport remains at the airport and is used solely for aviation purposes. 

The full text of the letter is below and can also be found here

June 26, 2017

Dear Chairman Shuster, Ranking Member DeFazio, Chairman LoBiondo and Ranking Member Larsen:

Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) urges your support for the bipartisan amendment being offered by Representative Rodney Davis (R-IL) and Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN) to the House FAA reauthorization bill, H.R. 2997. 

The Davis-Cohen amendment offers a common sense solution to issues surrounding the manner in which revenue from the assessment of taxes, fees, and charges upon businesses located at commercial service airports is used.

It is often the case that revenue generated from taxes and fees levied at commercial service airports is diverted and used for non-aviation related purposes outside of the airport. This diversion of revenue generated at airports is wholly inequitable and deprives America’s airports of revenue that should be used solely for aviation related projects and infrastructure. 

The FAA Authorization Act of 1994 attempted to address this issue however local and state governments have utilized a loophole in the 1994 Act as it applies to the “exclusivity” requirement where such taxes may be imposed if a single business outside of the airport is also subject to the tax.

The amendment being offered by Representatives Davis and Cohen would resolve this issue, by ensuring that revenue from any tax, fee, or charge levied upon any business located at a commercial service airport remains at the airport and is used solely for aviation related purposes.

Americans for Tax Reform urges House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee members to support inclusion of the Davis-Cohen Airport Tax amendment in the House FAA reauthorization bill. 

Sincerely,                                   

Grover G. Norquist                                                         
President                                                                       
Americans for Tax Reform

 

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ATR Applauds House FAA Bill for Not Including PFC Increase

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Thursday, June 22nd, 2017, 12:28 PM PERMALINK

This week the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Chaired by Representative Bill Shuster (R-Penn.), released their version of a bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). 

Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) applauds Chairman Shuster and the Committee for not including provisions that would increase or uncap the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC).   

The PFC program allows for the collection of PFC fees for enplaned passengers at commercial airports controlled by public agencies. Airports use revenue generated from PFC fees to fund airport improvement projects that are approved by the FAA.

Currently the PFC is capped at $4.50 and maintaining the PFC at this level is a benefit to the traveling public. Given the current levels of revenue and PFC collections at airports, it is entirely possible for airports to continue making improvements without increasing the cost of flying for passengers.

According to FAA reports, U.S. airports brought in a record $27 billion in 2015 alone including record highs of $10.7 billion from airline rents and fees and $9.1 billion from non-airline revenues such as retail and food and beverage.

For 2016 PFC collections hit a new record high of over $3.1 billion according to FAA data, averaging roughly $260 million a month. FAA projections for 2017 show an additional increase of over $3.36 billion in estimated PFC collections. It is also the case that the Airport and Airway Trust Fund has reached its highest levels since 2001 with an uncommitted balance of over $6 billion. 

Government taxes and fees already overburden airline passengers – taxes make up over 20% of the cost of an average domestic flight. Given the record levels of airport revenue, billions in cash on hand, and PFC collections, there is simply no need to subject the traveling public to increased costs.

While Americans for Tax Reform looks forward to working with lawmakers on other provisions of the FAA reauthorization bill, the Committee's work to ensure that wholly unnecessary increases to the PFC are not included in the reauthorization bill is a positive step to benefit the traveling public. 

 

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ATR Supports Chairman Hensarling’s Efforts to Reform NFIP and Protect Taxpayers

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Thursday, June 15th, 2017, 8:11 AM PERMALINK

This week the House Financial Services Committee will mark up a package of bills that would reform and reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) supports Chairman Jeb Hensarling’s much needed efforts to reform the NFIP by allowing for private market competition and putting in place measures to protect American taxpayers.

The NFIP has faced persistent challenges since it was created decades ago and those challenges are only slated to grow. Over half the U.S. population now lives in coastal counties and according to government statistics, more than 90 percent of all presidentially declared national disasters involve flooding. It is also the case that roughly five percent of U.S. households carry flood insurance.

The NFIP is currently indebted to American taxpayers by almost $25 billion, and allowing the status quo to continue will only further increase this burden and the potential for taxpayer exposure to losses.

The package of bills now set to be marked up by the Financial Services Committee would begin the process of reforming many of the issues facing the NFIP. A number of the bills being considered by the Committee seek to better protect taxpayers by allowing for private insurers to compete in the market, thereby providing an alternative to keeping taxpayers on the hook.

Now more than ever Congressional lawmakers have the opportunity to enact positive reforms to the NFIP, which has for too long placed a burden on taxpayers to subsidize the program’s functions.

Although ATR is concerned with some of the provisions contained in the package, Chairman Hensarling and the House Financial Services Committee’s efforts overall to address issues facing the NFIP are greatly needed in order to protect policyholders, American taxpayers, and the overall viability of the program.  

 

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ATR Statement Supporting Chairman Hensarling's Financial CHOICE Act

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Tuesday, June 6th, 2017, 11:04 AM PERMALINK

ATR President Grover Norquist issued the following statement today in support of House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling’s Financial CHOICE Act:

“Americans for Tax Reform supports Chairman Hensarling’s Financial CHOICE Act which will reform the costly and burdensome Dodd-Frank Act. Chairman Hensarling has consistently been a champion for financial consumers, and the Financial CHOICE Act will deliver reforms to replace the misguided regulatory burdens imposed on America’s financial consumers and small financial institutions under former President Obama's Dodd-Frank Act

“Under President Obama Americans saw the role of government in the market increase exponentially with the Dodd-Frank Act. While Dodd-Frank was supposed to target Wall Street, impacts of the law have instead fallen heaviest on Main Street, reducing small business lending, shuttering credit unions and community banks, and growing the number of unbanked Americans.

“Chairman Hensarling’s Financial CHOICE Act will increase accountability from financial regulators and protect American consumers while also fostering economic growth. The Financial CHOICE Act seeks to rein in ‘regulatory taxes’ imposed by Dodd-Frank that have served only to burden consumers with increased fees and reduced products and services. 

“The Financial CHOICE Act also gives much needed relief to America’s credit unions and community banks, which have been crushed by compliance costs in recent years, with an average of one institution being shuttered daily. The Act also repeals the failed Volcker Rule and the Department of Labor’s Fiduciary Rule, both of which will benefit financial consumers and the economy as a whole. 

“I urger House lawmakers this week to support Chairman Hensarling's pro-consumer, pro-growth CHOICE Act, that ensures American consumers and taxpayers are protected, while also fostering a regulatory climate that allows business to grow and prosper.” 

 

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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 Wednesday, May 31st, 2017, 12:00 AM PERMALINK

Last week President Trump announced his intentions to withdraw the United States from the costly and burdensome Paris Climate Treaty. At a press conference in the White House Rose Garden President Trump stated that in order to fulfill his solemn duty to protect America and it's citizens, "The U.S. will withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord." 

The Paris Agreement was a product of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, where former 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 essentially offered up the U.S. economy as a sacrificial lamb to further his own legacy.  The agreement however would not just have hurt the country’s growth as a whole, but would have trickled down to low-and-middle income Americans. If the U.S.'s participation in the agreement had been allowed to move forward, energy costs would have skyrocketed, in turn raising the cost of utility bills for families and increasing the costs of consumer goods.

A recent study by the Heritage Foundation projected that the Paris agreement and resulting policies would have increased electricity costs for a family of four between 13 and 20 percent annually. The study also projected American families would 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 used to justify the deal. 

The Paris debacle was 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 would have been in the manufacturing sector. Meaning Americans would also have seen 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 was all cost and no benefit for the U.S., and unlike the Obama Administration, which was all to comfortable sacrificing low-and-middle income Americans, along with thousands of jobs and GDP, President Trump realized Paris was a "bad deal" for America and it's citizens, and made the right decision to withdraw from this disastrous agreement.   

 

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