Commentary

Democrats Endorse Tax Hikes on Lower- and Middle-Income Americans

Daniel Mitchell
By Daniel Mitchell | September 5, 2019 | 4:30 PM EDT

(Photo by Guy Smallman/Getty Images)

I’ve warned (over and over and over again) that supporters of larger government want big tax hikes on ordinary people.

But you don’t have to believe me.

CNN hosted a discussion yesterday with the major Democratic candidates about global warming … oops, I mean climate change … no, sorry, the preferred term is now “climate crisis.”

Shockingly, something newsworthy actually happened. As reported by The New York Times, most of the candidates expressed support for a big carbon tax that would be especially painful for poor and middle-class taxpayers.

“… more than half of the 10 candidates at the forum openly embraced the controversial idea of putting a tax or fee on carbon dioxide … Around the country and the world, opponents have attacked it as an ‘energy tax’ that could raise fuel costs, and it has been considered politically toxic in Washington for nearly a decade. … In addition to proposing $3 trillion in spending on environmental initiatives, Ms. Warren also responded ‘Yes!’ when asked by a moderator, Chris Cuomo, if she would support a carbon tax … Senator Kamala Harris of California, who on Wednesday morning released a plan to put a price on carbon, … calling for outright bans on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for oil and gas, and on offshore oil and gas drilling. … Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., who also released his climate plan on Wednesday, took the stage declaring his support for a carbon tax … The parade of far-reaching plans on display, ranging in cost from $1.7 trillion to $16.3 trillion … Two other candidates who said they would support carbon pricing, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and the former housing secretary Julián Castro.”

Interestingly, Crazy Bernie didn’t hop on the bandwagon.

“Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont … is one of the few candidates who has not called for a carbon tax.”

In this case, his desire to selectively target upper-income taxpayers presumably is even stronger than his desire to grab more revenue to fund bigger government (and the burden of government would be far bigger under the Green New Deal).

By the way, there was a very interesting admission in the article.

The United States generates almost 25 percent of global economic output, yet our share of carbon emissions is much smaller.

“… the United States is the world’s largest historic polluter of greenhouse gases, it today produces about 15 percent of total global emissions.”

You would think the climate fanatics would be praising America. But they instead want people to believe the U.S. is worse than Cuba.

Anyhow, let’s return to the main topic of today’s column.

What exactly would it mean for ordinary people if politicians imposed a carbon tax?

The Democrats didn’t offer many specifics last night, so we’ll have to use a proxy estimate. In a column for The Hill, Vance Ginn and Elliott Raia highlight how families would get hit if U.S. politicians followed U.N. suggestions.

“… travel … could soon be cost-prohibitive, if the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has its way. … Its recommendation: a carbon tax of as much as $200 per ton of carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 to an astonishing $27,000 per ton by 2100. For America families, this could mean the price of gasoline soaring to $240 per gallon. Remember when we thought $4 per gallon was high? … Regardless of the amount, a carbon tax would … disproportionately hurt the poor and middle class, who pay a higher percentage of their incomes for motor fuel and energy. … Concrete, for example, is perhaps one of the most common carbon-intensive products … At the IPCC rate of $200 per ton of carbon dioxide emissions by 2030, the cost of building with concrete would rapidly rise. … Take a new home of 3,000 square feet. A simple slab foundation (with no basement) could use 100 cubic yards of concrete. Adding a $370 tax per cubic yard for a ton of carbon based on the $200 rate above would mean the cost of that home would likely rise $37,000.”

For what it’s worth, the statists at the International Monetary Fund endorsed a $1.40 tax increase on a gallon of gas in America, which was part of a proposal to increases taxes on the average household by more than $5,000.

To be fair, I imagine the Democrats – if ever pressed for specifics – will propose taxes lower than what the U.N. or I.M.F. are suggesting.

That being said, it’s also fair to warn that taxes which start small almost always wind up becoming onerous.

Let’s close with a political observation.

At the risk of stating the obvious, people don’t like being saddled with higher taxes. And, as Sterling Burnett explains, they seem especially hostile to energy-related taxes.

“From Alberta to Australia, from Finland to France, and beyond, voters are increasingly showing their displeasure with expensive energy policies imposed by politicians in an inane effort to purportedly fight human-caused climate change. … This is what originally prompted protesters in France to don yellow vests and take to the streets in 2018. They were protesting scheduled increases in fuel taxes, electricity prices, and stricter vehicle emissions controls, which French President Emmanuel Macron had claimed were necessary to meet the country’s greenhouse gas reduction commitments … Also in 2018, in part as a reaction against Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s climate policies, global warming skeptic Doug Ford was elected as premier of Ontario, Canada’s most populous province. Ford announced he would end energy taxes imposed by Ontario’s previous premier and would join Saskatchewan’s premier in a legal fight against Trudeau’s federal carbon dioxide tax. … in August 2018, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was forced to resign over carbon dioxide restrictions he had planned … In Finland, … the Finns Party, which made the fight against expensive climate policies the central part of its platform, came out the big winner with the second-highest number of seats in Parliament.”

I’ve previously written about taxpayer uprisings in France and Australia.

Perhaps the most relevant data, though, is from the state of Washington. Voters in that left-leaning state rejected a carbon tax in 2018 (after rejecting a different version in 2016).

So maybe Crazy Bernie was being Smart Bernie by not embracing the tax. And Joe Biden also chose not to explicitly back the proposed tax hike.

P.S. The parasitical bureaucrats at the OECD also have endorsed higher energy taxes on the United States.

P.P.S. I don’t have an informed opinion on the degree of man-made warming, but I am highly confident that statists are using the issue to promote bad policies that they can’t get through any other way.

Daniel J. Mitchell is a top expert on tax reform and supply-side tax policy and is Chairman of the Center for Freedom and Prosperity. Mitchell is a strong advocate of a flat tax and international tax competition.

DONATE

Sponsored Links