Obama and Clinton attack the middle class

Merrill Matthews

President Obama and Hillary Clinton constantly talk about their efforts to help the middle class. Yet their policies often directly attack middle-income earners.

Consider two recent examples: Obama’s proposal to impose a $10 per barrel levy on oil, and Clinton’s boast that she would drastically reduce the use of coal as a source of energy.

Obama calls his proposal a “fee” under the pretext that he is collecting the money from oil companies. Don’t be fooled. Corporate taxes are inevitably passed along to consumers. So we’ll all feel this new fee at the pump.

Since 42 gallons of gas can be refined from one barrel of oil, the president’s $10-a-barrel tax works out to about 25 cents per gallon. So all told, those who live in states with high gas taxes could end up paying $1 per gallon just in taxes.

American households use on average about 1,000 gallons of gas per year. So Obama’s oil tax would cost the average family an extra $250 yearly — a hit much harder on low- and middle-income workers than the upper class.

Obama’s oil tax may even cost some Americans their jobs — but not nearly as many as Clinton’s plan.

“We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business,” Clinton told a CNN Town hall. And she didn’t stop with coal: “Now we gotta move away from coal — and all the other fossil fuels.”

Clinton stressed coal but tipped her hand on her real goal: eliminating all fossil fuels. The oil and natural gas industry supports about 8.4 million full- and part-time jobs. The vast majority of these jobs pay middle- to upper-middle income wages.

A few days after her blunder, she went to West Virginia to try to clean up her mess: “I don’t know how to explain it other than what I said was totally out of context for what I meant because I have been talking about helping coal country for a very long time.”

Many politicians have accused media outlets of taking their statements out of context. Clinton goes them one better by claiming she took herself out of context.

She also says she wants to provide unemployed coal workers with health care benefits and let them keep whatever pensions they had. Of course, if she weren’t putting them out of a job, the federal government wouldn’t need to do that. And she claims that she will be replacing their fossil fuel jobs with clean energy jobs.

In 2009, when Obama took office, renewables excluding nuclear and hydro accounted for about 5.5 percent of U.S. electricity generation. Today, after eight years of the greenest president we have ever had, one who has thrown billions of taxpayer dollars at clean energy, the figure is a barely changed 7 percent.

If Obama and Clinton actually worried about the middle class, they would drop their plans and get the government out of the business of choosing energy winners and loser. Because the ultimate losers will be the middle class.

Merrill Matthews is a resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation.

Twitter: @MerrillMatthews