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Carbon tax?

According to Jason Kottke, San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom has proposed a "carbon tax" to replace the income tax. Instead of being taxed for working and making money, you'd be taxed for generating carbon, thus encouraging you to live a more environmentally-friendly lifestyle.

This sounds pretty cool at first blush, at least to me. But a minute of thought made me realize: the people most able to "green up" quickly are the ones with the most money. They can get rid of their SUV and buy a Prius, and replace all their incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents, etc. Pretty soon they'll have minimized their carbon emissions and be paying very little tax. Meanwhile, Joe Average doesn't have the extra cash on hand to get rid of his 1992 Honda and buy a hybrid, etc., because he doesn't make that much money. Hence he'll be paying more taxes due to his higher carbon emissions.

So it sounds like in the end, the tax burden will be shifted largely onto the lower-income brackets. Great idea!


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 8th, 2008 05:38 pm (UTC)
Well, rich people have bigger homes, which cost more to heat, light and air-condition, but as you said, they'll be more able to green up. Moreover, there's still the issue of baselines; poorer people need to spend a higher proportion of their incomes than rich people, so a higher proportion of their income will go to fuel and power bills, and end up being taxed.

And how far would this extend, anyway? It'd be a massive labour to get it consistent. Just to fuel and electricity, or do you slap a sales tax on high-carbon-output goods? (In fact, the more I think about it the more it looks like a disguised sales tax anyway, and we know what those are for).
May. 8th, 2008 06:18 pm (UTC)
I agree with the points raised by maga_dogg. In the end, this seems pretty assy.
May. 8th, 2008 07:50 pm (UTC)
Doesn't this mean we'll be taxed for breathing?
May. 8th, 2008 08:10 pm (UTC)
Ha ha. You'll have to wear a filter over your face.
May. 9th, 2008 01:51 pm (UTC)
I have to think this through, but my knee-jerk reaction is the opposite of yours. Right now, my reaction is to say that this would work in a large city like San Fran, where it's proposed, and in NYC. Joe Average doesn't need to worry about trading in his 1992 Honda. He doesn't have one - he takes mass transit. Billy Rich is the one that takes a cab because he can't be bothered to walk or hang with the commoners on the subway. Sally Normal lives in a tiny cramped apartment so she has low heat and electric bills.

The tax burden being shifted on to the not-well-off is something I am seeing would happen in say, San Jose. But not the San Francisco population. And what would the mayor of San Fran care about San Jose? At the moment, I like the idea for NYC.
May. 12th, 2008 02:24 pm (UTC)
Hmm, that is something I didn't think of because I am not used to living in densely-populated areas, but it does seem to make sense. So maybe in a few areas like the ones you mentioned this could potentially work well.

That said, if it's implemented, I'd like to see it go hand-in-hand with subsidies for low-income people to upgrade their appliances, light bulbs, etc. to help them reduce their carbon footprint as much as possible.
May. 12th, 2008 02:18 pm (UTC)
Would the homeless be able to go negative and actually claim a carbon credit?
May. 12th, 2008 02:25 pm (UTC)
That would rule.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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