Daily Chart: What Waxman-Markey Will Do To The Economy

By Conor Clarke

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[Update: Jim Manzi responds here and I respond to him here.]

As you might know, the House is voting later today on the Waxman-Markey climate change bill, The American Clean Energy and Security Act. Feelings are mixed. For one, there were a lot of mischievous compromises. For another, the bill doesn't have any immediate, selfish economic benefits for the country, and there's no point pretending otherwise. I think Jim Manzi and others are right to say -- if you believe the IPCC and CBO estimates -- that the U.S. won't experience a climate-induced decline in GDP until 2080 or 2100. (And that decline in GDP is not something Waxman-Markey will stop, at least without global coordination. The big question is whether this bill will increase or decrease the chance of such coordination.)

Nonetheless, I think there's a fair amount of scaremongering going on about the costs of cap and trade. I get off the Jim Manzi train when he says that Waxman-Markey will be "a terrible deal for American taxpayers" because "it is projected to impose annual costs of about $1,100 per household (a little less than 1% of total consumption) by 2050." (That's from the EPA estimate.) That $1,100 looks like a lot, but of course the country is projected be almost three times richer in 2050 than it is now. Average household consumption in 2050 will be $164,348.

Here's an easy way of visualizing the costs of Waxman-Markey. The chart below shows projected U.S. GDP with and without Waxman-Markey (drawn from the data annex of the EPA's big estimate). Projected U.S. GDP without the bill is in orange; it's sitting behind projected GDP with the bill, which is in grey. The visible orange stripe is the difference between the two scenarios:


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In 2050, GDP without Waxman-Markey is projected to be $35,377,000,000,000. GDP with Waxman-Markey is projected to be $34,918,000,000,000.


This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2009/06/daily-chart-what-waxman-markey-will-do-to-the-economy/20177/