Year 4, Month 7, Day 8: Unfixable

They’re so cute when they dream. The San Jose Mercury-News features Bob Inglis and Eli Lehrer:

If conservatives don’t begin to engage on the important issue of climate change, we’ll cede the debate. The result will be a larger, more intrusive government that hurts business and job creation.

President Obama is readying a major push of administrative action on climate change. There will be new regulations on power plants, new subsidies for clean energy and a number of other big government programs in the name of solving climate change.

To conservatives like us, complicated new regulation is our worst nightmare. There is a conservative approach to dealing with climate change — one that can actually achieve conservative goals: the government-shrinking carbon tax.

Currently, United States tax law embodies everything that’s wrong with the federal government. It’s too big (about 17,000 pages), too burdensome (Americans spend nearly $50 billion a year complying with it), and too prone to manipulation. Working toward a simpler, fairer system with lower overall rates has long been a worthy conservative goal that deserves continued support from all liberty-loving Americans.

But amidst all the talk among conservatives about tax rates and tax compliance costs, activists should focus on what may be the most important flaw in the current system: it taxes the wrong things.

If conservatives want to inject new ideas into the political debate and win elections, they should look at what the government taxes as well as how the taxes get collected.

Over 90 percent of federal revenue comes from charges imposed on income, labor (payroll tax) and investments (capital gains tax). These taxes punish socially beneficial behavior; everyone agrees that society should have more income, jobs and investment. If there is any hope of moving the budget towards balance while cutting existing taxes, political leaders will have to find a better way to generate revenue.

Taxing the things we want less of and eliminating taxes on things we want more of is a common-sense solution. It’s hardly a new idea. The American founders funded the early federal government with sin taxes and a few import duties.

Dream on, suckers. June 21:

Taxing greenhouse emissions is an eminently sensible idea that would help America address the climate crisis responsibly — but the idea that conservatives would accept such a policy is predicated on the essentially preposterous notions that these lawmakers can be influenced by facts and are motivated by sincere desires to help their constituents, their nation, and their species.

Even before the McCarthy-era purges of China experts from the State Department, the Republican Party has been chary of experts, perhaps because people who know a great deal about their subject are less likely to accept ideologically-driven revisionism. But the GOP’s anti-intellectual faux populism has never been as extreme as it is today. When the House of Representatives features sideshow acts like Paul “cosmology and evolution are lies from the pit of hell” Broun and Michael “masturbating fetuses” Burgess, it’s hard to imagine Lehrer and Inglis’ science-based arguments making any headway.

Warren Senders

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