Climate Change Bill Screws the Poor

Amid the false fanfare about the transformational aspects of Joe Manchin’s supposed climate change bill is the way Democrats are using it to make corporations and the wealthy wealthier while further disadvantaging people living in poor communities, especially people living in poor communities of color.

There are three facts about Manchin’s bill everyone should know.

  • Over a decade, the bill will spend 46.1% of what the Pentagon will spend this year.
  • The bill makes even more federal land available for drilling than is available now.
  • Tax benefits for oil companies are extended.

While those facts matter, the bill’s catering to corporations and wealthier people at the expense of people living in poverty and people of color needs addressing.

Since Democrats don’t mind adding to the mythical deficit to arm Ukraine but are unwilling to do so to pretend to protect the planet, they are largely making their tepid change through the tax code. This means the bill’s individual tax provisions are related to the purchasing of electric cars, putting solar panels on homes, and the installation of efficient heat pumps. Those tax breaks have one thing in common: they all benefit people wealthy enough to purchase an electric car and/or to own a home with enough money left to upgrade the HVAC system.

Shamefully, the Democrats “transformational” climate change bill will result in increasing already unacceptable financial inequities. While middle-class homeowners are getting tax breaks for improving their homes and buying new cars, people living in apartments or those who, even with a tax break, can’t afford an HVAC upgrade get no financial advantage. The inequity grows over time as the updated HVAC systems and solar panels decrease energy bills and add value to the home, increasing the price when it is sold.

While poor people are left out of the expected financial gains in this bill, they get a second kick in the teeth by the lack of money dedicated to undoing the harms of climate change that disproportionately impact poor communities, especially poor communities of color.

This bill could have addressed contaminated drinking water. This bill could have dedicated more money to cleaning up so-called super fund sites (land that is basically toxic), most of which exists inside poor communities. This bill could have upgraded ventilation systems in schools and other public buildings. That approach would also help deal with virus transmission.

Instead of doing anything truly transformational, Democrats did what Democrats always do–use legislative power to advantage corporations and the wealthy while ignoring if not deliberately forgetting people living in poor communities.

Manchin’s bill will do little to stop climate change. It will do little to reverse the affects of climate change. It will not redress any of the worst impacts of energy exploration, refinement, and production that were deliberately placed in communities of color to protect white communities from the harm. But Manchin’s bill will result in greater financial gains for corporations and the wealthy.

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