The Citizens’ Climate Lobby is trying to construct bipartisan support in favor of addressing the CO2 problem with a revenue neutral tax, following on Jim Hansen’s suggestion. I am pessimistic about the political prospects for a straightforward tax and dividend plan in America.
Poor people in urban areas can ride buses or even trains to get where they are going. Their heat bills are relatively small because they share walls with their neighbors. They may have a hard time getting food and other necessities, but they already live a relatively low-intensity lifestyle, or could do so fairly easily.
Poor people in rural areas live in drafty shacks miles from the services they depend on and the jobs they hold. Cheap energy is crucial for them – they use more than their share and their dividend will not net out to much if anything.
The problem with tax and dividend in the US is that it amounts to a direct transfer of wealth from the rural population to the urban poor, thereby fanning the flames of the hoity and paranoia that is already tearing the country apart.
The fact that it is ideologically pure market capitalism will not cause it to appeal to rank and file republicans. The fact that tax and dividend appeals to the economists and theorists of the right doesn’t matter. They don’t own the levers of power, and they don’t have many votes.
And all of this actually does raise equity issues. The rural American lifestyle may be unsustainable, but those with limited resources strung out (in more senses than one) along the highways and byways have no practicable options that they can actually see and understand. Making life easier in cities at their expense is just not going to be popular.
Since the RepubIican party puts unity ahead of honesty, their preferred option is denial. But even absent denial, I do not believe they can sell this solution to their base.