Who Will Champion A Carbon Tax?

Last month, White House spokesman Jay Carney said, “We would never propose a carbon tax, and have no intention of proposing one.” Elizabeth Kolbert hopes Obama will reconsider:

This was taken by some to mean that Obama was opposed to the tax and by others to mean just that he was not going to be the one to suggest it.

In either case, the White House is making a big mistake. Pigovian taxes are rarely politically popular—something they have in common with virtually all taxes. But, as Obama embarks on his second term, it’s time for him to take some risks. Several countries, including Australia and Sweden, already have a carbon tax. Were the United States to impose one, it would have global significance. It would show that Americans are ready to acknowledge, finally, that we are part of the problem. There is a price to be paid for living as we do, and everyone is going to get stuck with the bill.

Frum is onboard:

A tax of $20 a ton, rising at a rate of 4% per year, would over the next decade raise $1.5 trillion, according to an important new study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. That $1.5 trillion is almost twice as much as would be recouped to the Treasury by allowing the expiration of all Bush-era tax cuts for upper-income taxpayers.

The revenues from a carbon tax could be used to reduce the deficit while also extending new forms of payroll tax relief to middle-class families, thus supporting middle-class family incomes. 

Meanwhile, the shock of slowly but steadily rising prices for fuel and electricity would drive economic changes that would accelerate U.S. economic growth.