John Kerry Completely Backwards on Purpose of Cap-and-Trade

March 12, 2010

In an interview Thursday with the Associated Press, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry said that the primary purpose of cap-and-trade legislation is to "create jobs," while benefits to the environment are mostly just side effects. From Yahoo News:

"It's primarily a jobs bill, and an energy independence bill and a pollution reduction-health-clean air bill," Kerry said. "Climate sort of follows. It's on for the ride."

Regardless of your position on cap-and-trade or a carbon tax, jobs should not be a primary concern in either opposition or support for these measures. When organizations on the right come out and say that a cap-and-trade bill is going to cost X number of jobs, or when Senator Kerry and others on the left claim such a policy is going to create Y number of jobs, they are ignoring the fundamental purpose of such a policy: internalize the externalities of pollution.

Regarding Kerry's position, the more jobs that are needed to reduce pollution, the worse the bill is. Creating more jobs that are devoted to transforming to "green energy" means fewer units of labor that are available for other productive functions in society. That's a cost, not a benefit of cap-and-trade policies. If we could reduce all pollution by building a magic rocketship that was built by one person, that is better for society than "creating" a million jobs for people that build solar energy panels.

Like all politicians (Republican or Democrat), Kerry is trying to sell a policy as being a free lunch where even the costs of the policy are counted as benefits.


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