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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!


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).

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