Updated Dec. 14, 2009

Businesses face new threats to their economic liberty and their ability to create jobs.

This is the result of two developments: The U.S. Senate passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill last Sunday; and it is now considering yet another cap-and-trade measure.

The massive spending bill, in funding federal agencies, exceeds the rate of inflation by more than 700 percent. Critics also contend it has $3.9 billion in pork spending. I’ll have more on that later.

The cap-and-trade measure was introduced by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA).

Reasonable people agree going green is healthy for all stakeholders. Indeed, Sen. Cantwell’s cap-and-trade bill seems better for consumers than the current legislation being debated in Congress, but it still threatens businesses and their ability to create jobs.

In essence, her bill would fund rebates to consumers via emission credits by requiring manufacturers and other companies to buy credits in conjunction with government auctions. She contends an average household of four would receive $1,100 a year for 18 years from 2012 to 2030 – a total of $21,000.

The government auctions would keep the Wall Street investment banks out of the process.

Cap-and-trade is a controversial, complex subject and I’ve already voiced my opposition to the current House-passed bill (http://bit.ly/8E7Hs2). So I turned to a highly respected business spokesperson, Don Brunell, who is the president of AWB, the Association of Washington Business. AWB and he are known for moderate views on behalf of business. I managed to reach him while vacationing out-of-state with his family. He says he has not seen Sen. Cantwell’s bill, but he graciously responds.

“Generally, cap and trade proposals have created winners and losers which public policy and politicians should not do,” says Mr. Brunell. “That has been the experience in Europe, Australia and California where the government has passed and implemented cap and trade.”

He argues for a positive approach, incentives, to reducing greenhouse gases.

“For example, we brought a little home in Vancouver, WA, 1700 sq. ft., and replaced out water heater with a tankless heater which has dramatically cut our consumption of natural gas because we are only there on weekends. To offset the higher costs for the tankless system, we got a $1,500 federal tax credit,” he explains.

Mr. Brunell points out the progress already made by companies:

“Because of energy costs, many businesses and industries have dramatically cut consumption and thereby greenhouse gases.”

How serious is the problem of greenhouse gases in Washington state?

“Washington state produces less than .01 of 1 percent of the greenhouse gases but Gov. Gregoire wants us to sign on to the Western Climate Initiative along with California that would put us at a competitive disadvantage with Idaho which is not a cosigner of the Western Climate Initiative,” explains Mr. Brunell. “Apply that to a national level where the U.S. may be put at a competitive disadvantage with China, India and other countries which will ignore the Copenhagen agreements on climate change and greenhouse gas restrictions unilaterally by a government – such as the U.S. under either the Waxman-Markey bill passed last August by the House and proposals we’ve seen in the Senate.”

Spending Bill

The U.S. Senate’s massive $1 trillion-plus measure is a compilation of several spending bills and contains more than 1,000-plus pages. It dotes big money on such agencies as the Education Department, the State Department, the Department of Health and Human Services.

With a 10-percent increase, it spends far above the rate of inflation. Inflation was only 1.4 percent in August, according to Bloomberg on Dec. 8 (http://bit.ly/4ZzpNU).

Taxpayers for Common Cause, a watchdog organization, complained the bill has 5,224 pet-lawmaker projects costing $3.9 billion.

A published report indicates the pork includes a farmer’s market in Kentucky and rehabilitation of a theater in New York.

“You are spending money like a drunken sailor, and the bar is still open,” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was quoted to say in response to his colleagues regarding their earmarks.

Just so the U.S. Treasury can continue to borrow, also planned is raising the federal debt limit by $1.8 trillion to $14 trillion.


So, yes, in conclusion, my sense is that the cap-and-trade concept and heavy spending, which increases the national debt, constitute silent but ominous threats to the nation and business. They must have economic liberty if they are to succeed and create jobs.

From the Coach’s Corner, for Washington businesses, here’s the link to AWB:  www.awb.org.

It contains a wealth of information. If you’re not a member, you might wish to consider joining. The folks at AWB know what they’re doing.

(Disclosure: I’ve worked with AWB on projects in the past.)