Californians Should Say NO To Real Life Gordon Gekko

It should come as no surprise that in last year’s sequel to the 1987 film Wall Street “greed is good” Gordon Gekko came back as a green energy hedge fund manager.

Real life green energy hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer recently published an op-ed in the Sacramento Bee urging the extension of billions of dollars in utility taxes to fund green energy programs. Steyer claims these taxes which we all now pay but which harm low income citizens the most will create thousands of new “green jobs.”

The tax in question is officially known as the “public goods charge” and was implemented 15 years ago as a supposedly temporary measure to fund subsidies for green energy programs. Today because of this tax and many other costly green energy mandates and red tape California’s electricity costs are 50% higher than the national average.

The politically connected Steyer and his hedge fund buddies are now pouring millions of dollars into lobbying efforts aimed at protecting green energy subsidies. What they don’t like to say directly is that they have billions invested in green energy ventures that are only profitable to them if they can get politicians to give them massive handouts of taxpayer dollars.

As for their claims that the corporate welfare they demand from you and me will lead to a boom in green jobs the New York Times reported last week “federal and state efforts to stimulate creation of green jobs have largely failed government records show.” Even worse the costly energy that has resulted from the efforts of Steyer and company are a main factor pushing California’s unemployment through the roof with our 12% jobless rate now the second highest in the nation.

Affordable energy is crucial to economic growth. For example manufacturing is an energy intensive industry that in California has been driven to the brink of extinction by out of control energy costs. Over the past 10 years our state has lost 34% of its industrial base. And these were good jobs with an average wage of $64000 a year and which once offered a path to the middle class for the poor and disadvantaged.

EDM Laboratories is one of many former California manufacturers now providing jobs in Texas. In an interview with the Orange County Register regarding EDM Laboratories’ move the owner cited electricity costs that had been $3000 a month in California but were only $800 in Texas — and that’s with a new building twice the size of the old one and running the air conditioning full time.

Besides killing quality blue collar jobs the utility tax in question also disproportionately harms those who are already struggling to pay their bills and for whom every extra dollar they must spend is a hardship.

As Steyer points out the energy taxes he advocates might be good for venture capitalists but regular citizens have not seen these taxes translate into lower unemployment rates for the many now looking for work and the nearly as many who have grown so discouraged that they’ve simply quit trying.

Steyer himself has a net worth of over $2 billion and despite his professional public relations spin about a new green economy in California his own Farallon Capital has chosen to make some of its biggest investments in solar manufacturing — in China. That company makes solar panels there before selling to government institutions here who must buy them to comply with the mandates Steyer likes so much.

Californians need jobs and this “temporary” utility tax needs to end to bring down our state’s crippling energy costs. The “greed is good” hedge fund tycoons want us to think they’re in business to save the world but they’re in the business of making money. That’s fine but taxpayers aren’t interested in giving them handouts.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.