Tuesday, April 18, 2017
Leave it to conservatives
to resurrect an idea that had been regarded as "dead on arrival,"
according to the Wall Street Journal: a carbon tax. This "group
of prominent conservative Republicans" hopes the resurrection will
come about because they have found a way to make the
less-than-observant think they are getting something for
[F]ormer Secretary of State James Baker III, former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, former Secretary of State George Shultz and former Walmart Chairman Rob Walton -- met with key members of the Trump administration on Wednesday about their proposal to tax carbon dioxide emissions and return the proceeds to the American people. Such an economy-wide "carbon dividend," as the group calls it, could enable the United States to achieve its international emissions targets with better economic outcomes than under a purely regulatory approach. [links omitted]Further reading reveals that this tax will disproportionately affect those who use the most energy -- i.e., the most productive -- in order to toss crumbs to the less well-off. The World Resources Institute provides the following bullet points about this new proposal (bolded, below), which would make the likes of FDR and Bernie Sanders envious. I provide my own quick takes after each:
- Significantly reduces emissions. -- This will happen when energy costs go through the roof due to these taxes increasing on a schedule. We won't need to add "energy poverty" to our lexicon, because we'll have good, old-fashioned, plain poverty to deal with once the prices for everything start going up with the energy prices -- I mean, carbon taxes -- needed for production and transport.
- Benefits for poor and middle classes. -- As long as you (deep breath): (1) don't value your freedom (or that of others you trade with); (2) don't care about what activity the government might decide to tax next; (3) ignore the fact that the hidden costs of this policy will exceed your pittance; and (4) assume that global warming is: (a) real, (b) primarily caused by human activities, (c) has zero upside (including the continued use of the cheapest and most portable energy source there is), and (d) can be averted by this method -- then I guess this is true, in the sense that stealing "benefits" the thief.
- Addresses concerns about U.S. competitiveness and international action. -- If you don't understand how tariffs reduce the taxing nation's productivity -- See Henry Hazlitt -- you'll love this. As for me, I'd rather come in dead last in a race and walk away, than win one in which all participants have to hobble themselves, first. (This isn't the best analogy since trade isn't a zero-sum game, but involves both sides winning.)
- Cost-effectively reduces emissions. -- See Item 2 above. Also note that the tax amounts to a government-decreed price. Why not declare that the diesel used to drive carbon-belching farm equipment costs $1000 a gallon, to discourage use, and wheat is now a penny a bushel, so as to drive those ecologically benighted farmers out of business? Oh, wait. That would be too obvious...
- Offers potential for bipartisan support. -- Hey! Here's one I actually agree with. Both parties are full of panderers, and too many voters are looking for a free lunch, even if consists of seed corn and meat from stud animals. Many of the worst ideas floating around in politics appeal to members of both parties.