Friday, July 13, 2007

Truth in advertising

As you probably know if you're reading this blog, global warmism is really all about stealthily foisting huge tax increases on and imposing more governmental control over the lives of an unsuspecting and unwilling public, who would call BS on the whole thing without the clever rhetorical sleight of hand of "saving the planet." It turns out that you can put a dress on a pig after all.

Kudos to ancient House Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell (D, Mi) for his honesty in proposing a direct tax on carbon emissions, instead of the usual end run of pretending they are taxing businesses, using them as a middleman to give the false impression not taxing the general public, as the Wall Street Journal reports:

This week's prize for honest liberalism goes to Michigan's John Dingell, who is having fun with his fellow Democrats while also making a useful point about the politics of global warming. [He] has announced that he plans to introduce as early as this week a new tax on carbon emissions.

Now, that's the way to clear a Capitol Hill hearing room. Americans are already miffed at paying $3 a gallon for gasoline, a fact that has the Members assailing oil companies on a daily basis. So the last thing Democrats seeking re-election want to do is pile on another dollar or two a gallon in taxes--especially in the name of "saving the planet" from the speculative danger of global warming 50 or 100 years from now. Their voters have to deal with the more immediate danger of missing the mortgage payment.

Mr. Dingell knows all this. His point is to force his colleagues--and the voters--to be more honest about the cost of their global-warming posturing. It's one thing to pay 100 bucks to hear Madonna at the "Live Earth" concert, or impress your girlfriend by wearing an "I reduced my carbon footprint" T-shirt. It's quite another to accept that energy prices would have to rise by many multiples to make even a degree's worth of difference to the world's climate. "I sincerely doubt that the American people will be willing to pay what this is really going to cost them," Mr. Dingell said on C-SPAN last week.

That's why most politicians prefer policy artifice that disguises the cost of raising energy prices. These policy tricks include higher automobile mileage standards and a "cap and trade" regime for swapping "credits" for carbon emissions. These schemes shift the direct costs onto businesses, which then pass them along indirectly to unwitting consumers. These policies still amount to taxes on energy use, but they allow politicians and green lobbyists to pretend that you can "save the world" for the price of a concert ticket. [...]

As it happens, neither cap and trade nor higher fuel mileage standards would reduce emissions all that much, if at all. Most of Europe has been busting through its carbon limits under the Kyoto Protocol, while the mileage mandates imposed in the U.S. in the 1970s didn't stop Americans from purchasing SUVs and trucks. The only thing that has slowed those sales is $3 gasoline--thus the policy logic of Mr. Dingell's tax proposal.

Regarding such a tax, Democrats already have some hard political experience. In 1993, Vice President Al Gore convinced Bill Clinton to propose an energy tax on BTU (British thermal units) usage. That would have added about 12 cents a gallon to the price of gas. House Democrats walked the plank and passed it, only to have Senate Democrats kill it. As much as anything else, that vote cost Democrats control of the House in 1994. Now Mr. Gore has embraced the carbon tax once again--though we still haven't heard him endorse a direct tax on gas or consumers.

Speaking for ourselves, we don't favor a carbon tax. In theory, such a tax might make sense if it were offset by lower taxes on income tax rates and capital investment--which would be a net plus for economic growth. However, there's not a chance in melting Greenland that the current Congress would offset any new carbon taxes; it would merely pocket the extra revenue to permanently increase the government's share of GDP.

If Congressional Democrats are really serious about global warming, they'd nonetheless have the courage of their professed convictions: Take the Dingell honesty test and vote to raise carbon taxes.

I'm with the editors on offsetting potential carbon taxes with pro-growth tax cuts, that would be the ultimate win-win if this was really about doing what's good for the planet and the people. But that's never been what any of this is about, has it (clean drinking water and sanitation around the globe are orders of magnitude more important environmental problems than anything to do with "climate change", for example), which is what makes Rep. Dingell's honesty so refreshing.

If an idea has merit, it can survive and even thrive in the marketplace of ideas. When proponents are willing to do pretty much anything to avoid honest debate on an issue, that should tell you all you need to know about it...and them.

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At 7/13/2007 11:15 PM, Blogger Dan said...

You are correct about the importance of clean water, but you are ignoring the inevitable impacts of climate change on water supplies, disease, flooding (doesn't do much for sanitary water supplies), food supply and, of course, weather (more Katrinas and dangerously hot weather conditions). A revenue neutral carbon tax, such as we propose at the Carbon Tax Center,, reduces the impact of climate change, increases national security and helps our economy by keeping our dollars in the country instead of propping up oil-rich countries in the Middle-east and elsewhere.

At 7/16/2007 10:40 AM, Blogger Gary Collard said...

A quick scan of your home page doesn't yield what tax cuts you would propose to make a carbon tax revenue-neutral, but I'm glad we agree that is a requirement of any carbon taxing scheme, it's a step in the right direction from much of the green dogma we see these days.

That quick scan also meant that:

"There is no longer any serious scientific question that CO2 emissions must be reduced massively and quickly."

caught my eye. This is the kind of overheated rhetoric that demeans your cause. The statement is self-evidently false; I urge you to use more reasonable language and defensible claims, it will help you win over those who come to the issue with an open mind (as opposed to religious fervor, you've got them anyway so why bother?)


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