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97% of House Republicans foolishly reject carbon taxes

Posted on 20 July 2018 by dana1981

Yesterday, the House of Representatives voted on an anti-carbon tax Resolution. The Resolution was introduced by Steve Scalise (R-LA) with essentially the same language as he introduced in 2013 and 2016.

On those past versions, every Republican House member voted against carbon taxes. This time, six Republicans rejected the Resolution and one abstained, voting ‘Present.’ However, 97% of the House Republicans on the floor voted against carbon taxes.

House Democrats have been fairly consistent in their votes on these Resolutions as well. In 2013, 94% voted against the Resolution, and in 2016 and 2018, 96% voted ‘Nay,’ with six to seven pro-fossil fuel Democrats voting ‘Yes.’

The Resolution is wrong – carbon taxes can be good for the economy

The text of the Resolution claims that carbon taxes are necessarily bad for America:

Expressing the sense of Congress that a carbon tax would be detrimental to the United States economy … [and] to American families and businesses, and is not in the best interest of the United States.

This week’s Resolution ironically came right on the heels of a comprehensive study showing that a carbon tax whose revenues were returned to taxpayers either via rebate checks or by offsetting income taxes would have a negligible impact on the economy – significantly less than the cost of unchecked global warming. In fact, research has shown that it’s global warming that will seriously slow economic growth.

Simply put, the only way to protect the economy is to stop global warming. Accomplishing that will require that virtually every world country implement climate policies aimed at curbing carbon pollution. That was the purpose of the Paris climate accords. Disgracefully, the Trump administration made America the only country in the world whose leadership rejects that international climate agreement. But a carbon tax would be one of the most effective and efficient ways to cut America’s carbon pollution.

The text of the Resolution has it exactly backwards – a carbon tax would help protect the American economy by slowing global warming and its detrimental effects on economic growth.

Cracks in the Republican anti-climate wall

Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) Executive Director Mark Reynolds characterized yesterday’s vote as progress, saying:

The fact that six Republicans voted ‘no’ on an anti-carbon tax resolution is an indication that there are cracks in the wall separating Democrats and Republicans on climate change.

At the CCL blog, Flannery Winchester also noted that the number of co-sponsors on Scalise’s Resolutions dropped from 155 in 2013, to 82 in 2016, to just 48 in 2018. That’s a nearly 70% decline over five years and an encouraging sign that the number of vehement anti-carbon tax members of Congress is dwindling.

Given that the share of the Republican vote against carbon taxes only dropped from 100% in 2016 to 97% in 2018, the cracks are still small, but a crack is better than an unyielding wall of denial. Nevertheless, it’s frustrating that just four of the 43 Republican members of the Climate Solutions Caucusvoted against the Resolution (with one more abstaining by voting ‘Present’). Especially given the conditions under which yesterday’s vote happened:

  1. Most 2018 primary elections are over, so Republican members of Congress don’t need to worry about challenges from the right-wing for another two years.
  2. Climate Solutions Caucus leader Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) plans to introduce a carbon tax bill next week.
  3. CCL volunteers lobbied their members of Congress to vote against the Resolution.
  4. 62% of Trump voters support taxing and/or regulating carbon pollution.
  5. This was a non-binding Resolution that wrongly suggested carbon taxes are necessarily bad.

It really should have been an easy ‘Nay’ vote, and yet only a handful of Republicans voted the right way. Climate Solutions Caucus member Darrell Issa (R-CA) explained his ‘Yes’ vote, saying a “carbon tax isn’t the solution” and that the Caucus should focus on policies that can generate bipartisan support, like energy efficiency programs and keeping nuclear power plants open. 

Those are indeed valid climate policies. They’re also wholly insufficient to tackle global warming, and if Republicans can only support inadequate climate policies, they’re unbefitting the role of governance.

The fossil fuel industry still owns the GOP

The cracks in the wall should be much bigger by now. A new study by Robert Brulle identified why the CCL volunteer lobbying on this Resolution was relatively ineffective:

Click here to read the rest

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Comments 1 to 7:

  1. I dont think you are going to convince the GOP, because they just hate taxes, its become tribal and irrational, and they are taking stubborn bottom line positions. No amount of evidence showing it won't harm the economy will change this intransigent mindset.  Carbon tax is a good idea, but you will have to wait until Democrats have a majority.

    A couple of things I just don't understand about America;

    1)There's no doubt about the powerful influence of lobby groups on politicians, but why is the influence stronger on the GOP compared to the Democrats? Given the Democrats appear to support a carbon tax?

    2) You have this independent EPA set up to deal with environmental problems and to stand above partisan bickering, so why not actually use it?

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    1. A major requirement is for the money to run in a nomination battle, not an election. That's where the anti AGW crowd exerts a lot of their influence in the US system. Especially effective when the state legislature has gerrymandered the electoral districts so that your party's nominee is guaranteed to win most of the congressional seats regardless of the candidates. Once your puppet is in office, continue to flood him with lobbying.
    2. Independence is great until it starts doing something you don't like. Then you need to gut it like a fish. It's like "free speech": I like it for me, but I don't want to hear it from you.
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  2. Great article Dana! ... Grassroots large-scale political-will for a rev-neutral CT is definitely far from sufficient, but it will eventually get there (but alas probably not for another 10-20+ years, much  later than it should be, by any measure of socially justice). I do believe that grassroots political-will does help in no small way, for example, like for volunteer lobbying for sake of the NRA, or in the case of pushing the DOJ to back-off of separating children from their parents (though there wasn't a competing corporation in this case). Building effective CC action political-will pays off in two forms: 1) ballot box (and in getting the most CC action candidates into the general election ballot), 2) lobbying (call in, etc) after the election; both involve substantial & radically active grass-roots. ... Even though polls say the majority are in favor of a CT; it just isn't radical enough (yet) to build substantial enough grass-roots lobbying.
    Also, one other thought: Getting both parties on board (non-partisan) is also semi-required so that the CT policy has durability when the ruling party switches. Industry & thus the economy will be more likely to hold off on making fundamental changes (in reaction to a gradually increasing tax) if they believe the next regime will repeal the tax. The CT has got to be so NON-partisan (politically universal) that the tax is, by the far majority, deemed the right thing to do come what may. 

    Thanks again for the great article and for mentioning CCL.

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  3. I live in one of America's many cities named "Springfield". My Springfield is a "downstate" Illinois city hosting a population of just over 100,000. It also happens to be the state's capitol. In Illinois the gears of civic process are badly rusted. Some say jammed. Attitudes toward almost anything to do with government are deeply negative. While I'm speaking here about a particular corner of a large country, I'm certain what I'll say applies to many other regions.

    When my wife and I first moved here we would ask residents what they liked most about our new community. The most common rejoinder was an enthusiastic observation that real estate taxes were uncommonly low compared to other cities.
    But then such statements were usually followed by complaints about inadequate city and county services or the public school system. Disconnecting taxes-paid from public-services-received struck us as very odd. Now that I have lived here a few decades I better understand the source of this popular mode of thought. Also the circumstances that perpetuate it.

    Througout Illinois, urban and rural areas alike, federal and state government are perceived to be frequently corrupt and almost universally inept. Furthermore citizens commonly feel they have little or no say in matters. The combined attitudes can be expressed as: Why bother to 'fork over' money to a 'bunch of bureaucrats' who will 'waste most of it' and use the rest in ways 'I don't like' or 'I don't understand'? (The ' enclosed phrases are common and reflect the level of exasperation.)

    Almost by accident, these attitudes have trickled down to produce excessive negativity toward local government, even though voters undeniably have more control at this level. Pertinent to our concerns here, negativity-as-normal leads to knee-jerk rejection of most any progressive initiative concerning environmental issues.

    I say "almost by accident" because, by word if not by deed, politicians in the USA routinely rail against taxes as a tactic to win elections. Both major political parties take part in this game, but Republicans have literally "weaponized" anti-tax sentiment. They embrace it as one of their party's cornerstones. (A classic example of the Republican anti-tax mantra was the famous? "Read my lips. No new taxes!" promise of Bush the 1st.)

    While this style of campaigning is by no means new (or limited to the USA) decades of effort by Republican strategists to manipulate perceptions through television and radio outlets have been highly effective. (Using the word "successful" here would be quite misleading. Let's just say they have borne fruit.) Some of the more extreme think tankers are convinced they can graduate to altering the very laws of physics.

    Stubborn rigidity is becoming a defining character of a culture once known for innovation. The normal dynamic of debate between liberals, centrists, and conservatives has been overwhelmed by partisan politicking. Even relatively simple elements of policy provoke over-the-top rhetoric and undue belligerence.

    A huge number of Americans are now fully alarmed by recent events. There is reason to hope their ranks will grow enough by November to punish the Republican party for its hubris. I predict the situation will improve, but it will take time for the USA to establish ("re-establish" doesn't quite cut it) itself as a constructive and reliable partner in efforts to combat environmental deterioration.

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  4. trstyles, I do not share your optimism. In the 23 years I have lived in the States, I have seen only a continuous degradation of the public discourse, and ever increasing erosion of the critical thinking abilities in the general population. We are now at the point where the emotional attachment to ideology is so strong that no rational exchange is possible at all. The means of propaganda that exist now would have been a dream to the 20th century dictators: not only everyone can be reached at any time, but you can even have people seek and reinforce their preferred narratives 24/7, with robots learning what they like and supplying them with always more of it. The lack of numeracy and scientific understanding are such that source are trusted only on the basis of their compliance with the preferred ideology. It's a nightmare beyond anything envisioned by even the most pessismistic science fiction writer. 

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  5. Philippe Chantreau: We are pretty much in agreement. I'll stick with my prediction that "the situation will improve" after the fall elections, but I expect, barring some political miracle, the USA will continue to contribute gaseous emissions and little else for years to come. Solutions to the problems of global warming and mass extinction, if they come at all, will have to come from the world outside my country and will likely have to be imposed on us through economic and diplomatic sanctions. 

    I'd so much rather learn and talk about science, but politics (mostly "politicking" in this case) keeps rearing its ugly head doesn't it? 

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  6. We have this political tribalism in my country, so its not unique to America. I think much of it has been driven by certain people in talk back radio and other media who use scaremongering, and relentlessly misleading and emotive rhetoric. There's unfortunately a big audience for this sort of thing, and now as you all point out is spread to the internet. It absolutely polarises people.

    But theres no point blaming "other people" too much either, because this won't change things by itself. You cant shut down free speech. Instead media commentators and politicians with an environmental and social conscience also need to have bold, clear positions and really own the debate.

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