A growing number of business owners and taxpayers are mobilizing nationwide against the House-approved cap-and-trade energy bill, which would reduce energy consumption but could raise energy prices and harm small businesses.
By Joseph Abrams
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
The revolution will not be televised: it's been blinking along on a giant bakery sign in St. Louis, Mo., instead.
Fed up with his congressman's vote on a sweeping climate-change bill that passed the House of Representatives in late June, the proprietor of McArthur's Bakery took to his street sign and posted a clear message to all passersby:
"Russ Carnahan voted to ... close us and other ... small business."
David McArthur, vice president of the 52-year-old family operation, a Gateway City institution, is one of a growing number of business owners and taxpayers nationwide who are mobilizing against the so-called cap-and-trade bill, which would levy harsh fines on energy consumption that harms the environment.
McArthur told FOXNews.com that every aspect of his business relies on the forms of energy targeted by the American Clean Energy and Security Act, and that his congressman, Carnahan, was supporting "a direct tax increase on small business" by voting for it.
"We make (our product) with electricity, we bake it with gas, we refrigerate and freeze it with electricity and we distribute it with gas and oil," said McArthur, who said he worries that high prices could cost his company up to $15,000 a year in an industry with a very tight margin for profit.
The legislation requires that the country reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent by 2020. Big energy plants and producers would have a cap on emissions like carbon dioxide, but could purchase "credits" from other companies that have met their reduction goals. The Obama administration says it will pump hundreds of billions of dollars into the economy.
The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the plan would have a minimal effect on most taxpayers, costing an average family about 25 cents a day in its first years of implementation.
But the effect on small businesses could be wide-reaching.
"He's killing small business -- he's killing us," McArthur said of Carnahan, who was one of a majority of Democrats who voted for the bill in a closely fought 219-212 vote.
McArthur, who penned a scathing letter to Carnahan, is not alone in taking the message directly to his congressman. Dozens of small protests were organized at the end of June at federal buildings and outside the offices of national lawmakers who voted for the bill.
Mike Wilson, who led a protest in Cincinnati of about 100 people on June 27 across from the offices of Rep. Steve Driehaus, D-Ohio, said he was appalled by the 1,500-page legislation, which was fast-tracked by House leaders for a vote Friday. A 310-page amendment was slapped onto the bill Friday morning.
"It was, quite frankly, criminal passing a bill that you didn't read," said Wilson, founder of the anti-tax group Cincinnati Tea Party.
Wilson says he is part of a national movement opposed to the bill that was organizing protests from Napa to Nashville, and that will continue to assert pressure as the Senate prepares to vote on the bill later this year.
Crowds were not as large as those at the April 15 anti-tax Tea Party protests, from which the base of these rallies is being formed.
But the protesters aren't the only ones monitoring how members of Congress are voting on the issue.
The National Federation of Independent Business and the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors announced they have started a public scorecard on how lawmakers vote on priority legislation for business owners -- and are keeping a close eye on all the congressmen who have supported cap-and-trade.
The NFIB says escalating fuel costs are the second-biggest problem small business owners face, and argued that the legislation is putting a premium on alternative energy sources without considering the needs of entrepreneurs.
"At a time when our nation faces near 10 percent unemployment and stalled economic growth, now is not the time to impose an $846 billion energy tax on small business," wrote Susan Eckerly, senior vice president for public policy at the NFIB.
In the days since McArthur flashed his feelings on the bakery's electronic billboard, he was contacted by Carnahan's office and agreed to take the message down. He is happy to have a new line of communication to Carnahan, but he said that the current crisis is putting enough pressure on his business without added pressure from the bill.
"We have not had the ability to make money for the last three years," McArthur said. "Another year and a 50-year icon in St. Louis is gone."