What is going on? It feels like Clinton is giving in to the notion that in order to win the midwest we have to ease their pocketbooks. That’s a perfectly respectable goal. But in economics you want to tax things that you want to discourage. We desperately need to discourage fossil fuel consumption.
A much more effective way to accomplish both goals (easing pocketbooks and reducing carbon emissions) is to decrease federal income taxes by what the average household pays in gasoline taxes: basically redistribute the revenue from gasoline taxes back to the taxpayers as income tax decreases (or rebates, after all they are in vogue these days: call it the Thoreau Rebate or something catchy). And then let the people know: if you drive less than the average person, you’ll get more money back. If you want to drive a Hummer, that’s fine, you’ll just pay more for your gas. Don’t own a car? You’d make out quite well. And then this could lead to a five year program of gradual gasoline tax increases (with matching income tax rebates). If people knew gas taxes were going to steadily rise for five years, people would have a significant long-term incentive to choose more efficient vehicles whenever the need for purchasing a car came up. An issue is that current gas tax revenues are often assigned to road improvements etc. Of course the “Gas Tax Holiday” has the exact same problem.
Back to the kneejerk reaction of Clinton parroting McCain: Clinton is giving into the notion that to win as a Democrat, one needs to be more Republican-like. Didn’t the Globe run a front page story today about how Republicans in Indiana are defecting from the Republican party?
Actually making a dent in climate change is going to take vision and leadership on a truly unprecedented scale. I’ve written previously (here and here )on this site how Gore understands the magnitude of this issue and how the issue transcends politics. Obama recently confirmed that Gore would be part of his administration. To my great sadness, this primary campaign season has successfully vilified “hope”. Yet, considering that we are already doing worse than the worst-case scenarios of just a few years ago for carbon dioxide emissions, I am cynical enough to wonder: are Obama and Gore our only hope?