A self-made millionaire is using his wealth to make it harder for fellow Americans to write their own success stories.
If the last six years have been difficult for your family, buckle up, because according to the Congressional Budget Office, the next 10 years will be nearly as bad.
The CBO’s most recent Long-Term Budget Outlook , released last week, projected a $40,000 reduction in real-wage growth for middle-income families, among other grisly economic forecasts.
With no real recovery in sight, America needs to embrace every driver of economic growth it has at its disposal, but an influential California billionaire is doing everything in his power to put the brakes on an industry that employs millions of middle-income working people.
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A self-made man who started his own business in 1986 and is today worth $1.6 billion, Tom Steyer is an American success story. Unfortunately, he’s using that wealth to make it harder for his fellow Americans to write their own success stories.
Steyer is investing significant sums of his personal fortune to push radical environmental policies like cap-and-trade. Because Steyer is one of the largest megadonors in the Democratic Party , his money helps set the agenda for half of Washington. And this year, Steyer is going all-in, forcing candidates nationwide to run on unpopular anti-growth policies that Congress has already rejected.
Through his SuperPAC, NextGEN Climate , Steyer is pouring huge amounts of outside money in seven states - including the manufacturing hubs of Pennsylvania and Michigan - forcing candidates to run on his ecotopian message. The PAC’s two central issues are a revival of cap-and-trade legislation, which Congressional Democrats failed to pass at the peak of their power in 2009, and opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline.
Combined, these two misplaced priorities would cost us millions of jobs and trillions in gross domestic product.
Moreover, Steyer’s crusade puts him directly at odds with the working-class base of the Democratic Party he claims to be supporting.
As NextGEN Climate pressures vulnerable swing-state Democrats into opposing the Keystone XL project, labor unions - which remain the largest source of outside money for the American left - are acting in their members’ interests and supporting the project, which will create tens of thousands of blue-collar jobs and is projected to add $3.4 billion to the gross domestic product. The AFL-CIO, which claims over 11 million members, supports the pipeline, as do the Teamsters and LiUNA (the laborers' union), both of which are among the 10 largest unions by membership.
Pipe is stacked at the southern site of the Keystone XL pipeline on March 22, 2012 in Cushing, Oklahoma. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
This trio of labor giants represents many of the people hit hardest by the recession, but Steyer seems to be much more concerned with their carbon footprint than with their general welfare and livelihood.
Halting construction of Keystone XL would be a feather in Steyer’s biodegradable cap, but his more dangerous endgame is bringing a long, slow death to the American energy industry through cap-and-trade legislation.
Congressional Democrats from working-class and middle-income areas killed the most recent version of the bill in 2010 for good reason - contemporary analysis projected a nearly $5 trillion GDP loss over the first 20 years and three million job losses in the manufacturing sector alone. At the nadir of the global recession, that single piece of legislation would have tripled the pace of job losses in the hardest-hit communities in America, and would have stripped the economy of 800,000 jobs per year during its worst stretches.
This plan is made all the more chilling by the dismal figures the CBO put out last week.
Over the next 10 years, the office is projecting a $3.8 trillion decline in GDP growth - and that’s without the $5 trillion anvil Steyer wants to add.
Real-wage growth is also projecting to remain stagnant, meaning that someone earning $50,000 per year can expect their purchasing power (income adjusted for taxes and inflation) to decline by $4,200 each year.
Demonstrators hold signs as they protest near the site of a fundraiser on April 3, 2013 in San Francisco, California. Hundreds of protesters staged a demonstration against war and the Keystone XL pipeline outside of a fundraiser to be attended by U.S. President Barack Obama at the home of Ann and Gordon Getty. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
The CBO also projects that overall GDP growth will drop to 2.6 percent, down from an already-unhealthy 2.9 percent last year. To put that figure in perspective, until 2009, the International Monetary Fund considered any rate of growth below 3 percent to be a recession. By those terms, we’re facing an entire decade of recession with no way out.
But whether it’s called a recession is beside the point.
The totality of the CBO’s numbers is saying that life for working Americans is likely to get a lot harder over the next decade, with the “lucky ones” seeing their ability to spend and save their own money vastly reduced, and the unlucky ones joining an unemployment line that already seems to have no end.
To Tom Steyer, these people are numbers. Steyer looks at the prospect of three million lost jobs or $5 trillion in wages that will never be earned and justifies them as means to what he believes is a worthwhile end: A world where we all drive biodiesel hybrids to our solar-powered offices.
But to people who put in 40 hours a week, sign the back of the check, pay the bills, and try to put a few dollars away for retirement, those numbers mean a difficult future, and Steyer’s cash machine is only pumping more dark clouds onto the horizon.
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