This commentary originally appeared in The Morning Consult on September 10, 2015.
Freedom breeds prosperity. That’s why the world’s greatest experiment in freedom, the United States of America, is still – despite our current challenges – the most prosperous large nation on earth. Yet the American left, led by the Obama administration’s attack on energy markets, is trying to turn America’s prosperity into European-style poverty.
Sitting on this side of the Atlantic, it’s hard to imagine how different life is over in Europe. Gas in England goes for about $6 a gallon. Electricity in Germany costs around 29 cents per kWh, more than double the average cost in the U.S. Housing and the cost of living are generally more expensive as well. None of this is a coincidence; heavy government intervention in all sectors of the economy, especially energy, drives up costs and forces Europeans to live a life very different than we do in the U.S.
We see the harm caused by intervention in many ways, such as in the European Union’s economy being only slightly larger than that of the U.S., in spite of having 180 million more people. At a more personal level, we see smaller homes and apartments, smaller cars with standard rather than automatic transmissions, and fewer cars as people are forced onto public transportation because of the costs.
This is the kind of future envisioned for Americans by the Obama administration. Prosperity must take a back seat to saving the world from the evils of fossil fuels and profit. In their mindset, we must all make sacrifices to ensure that there is a world left for our grandchildren, no matter how impoverished that world might be.
This vision for the future is embodied in every policy, regulation and law championed by the administration. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Clean Power Plan, which will add more than $500 billion a year to energy costs and increase electricity bills by 20 percent or more, while doing nothing to help the environment.
There is a different way to go about saving the world. Over the last 15 years, Texas has led the nation in job creation, greatly increased oil production and electricity generation, decreased energy costs, and improved the environment, including air quality. The success of the Texas model – that is, lower taxes and spending, less regulation, fewer frivolous lawsuits, and reduced reliance on the federal government – can be seen in the people, from minimum wage workers to CEOs, who are flocking to Texas from all over the country to take advantage of new jobs, the high standard of living and healthy environment.
Texas is anathema to the left because it serves as an example to the rest of the country – and to the world – that freedom provides the pathway to greater prosperity and a cleaner, safer world. This is why the Clean Power Plan and other Obama regulations have often targeted Texas.
Of course, we don’t really have to look overseas to find examples of European-style socialism; we can see it right here – just look at California, New York and Michigan for examples. This encroachment upon the American dream is why it is even more important for Texas to stand firm in its opposition to federal overreach. It’s possible, for instance, that Texas’ example played a role in Michigan’s recent decision to become a right-to-work state.
While we like to brag in Texas, the fact is that the Texas model is nothing unique to us. It is simply one state’s version of securing the unalienable “Rights” with which we “are endowed by [our] Creator … among these [being] Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
If America is going to remain the “land of the free” and avoid European-style socialism – and the poverty that accompanies it – we need to stop the Clean Power Plan and the myriad other harmful regulations emanating from the Obama Administration and other bastions of socialism in America. If we hope to remain prosperous, freedom is the only answer.
Bill Peacock is the Vice President for Research and Director for the Center for Economic Freedom at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a non-profit, free-market research institute based in Austin.