1.24.2009

Is the Conservative-Friendly Carbon Tax a Regressive Flat Tax In Disguise?

Dr. Bill Chameides, dean of Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment, recently asked, "Is the Conservative-Friendly Carbon Tax a Regressive Flat Tax In Disguise?" Not so fast, Dean Chameides:

* All things being equal, the poorer you are, the less likely you are to drive or fly.

* Most proponents of a revenue-neutral solution favor not only lowering income taxes but doing so in a way that helps the poor the most, notably through the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit program.

* Christian Laettner is a tool.

Whoops, couldn't restrain my anti-Duke upbringing. But seriously, a carbon tax can by no means be casually labeled a regressive consumption tax and can in fact be made to be quite progressive.

And if you're wondering about the fairness of the rural poor losing and urban rich winning, I say tough noogies. Our dependence on the automobile is so entrenched that we assume we can't force drastic changes in where we live and work and how we approach the question of land use. Having foregone bottled water for tap, using our burlap sacks instead of plastic, and buying a hybrid instead of a SUV, we pat ourselves on the back for doing our part for the environment.

But the "inconvenient truth" about global warning is that it necessitates painful and costly adjustments if we're going to take it seriously. It's not easy to break our addiction to cheap oil and to sprawling life patterns, but the fact of the matter is we've been paying far too less for gas and building an entire way of life around that artificially low price. A fairer price will cause some to conserve and others to have to either eat a higher cost or make a move. And, for our environment's sake and for the sake of our grandchildrens' quality of life, those actions are needed.
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