What If Republicans Proposed a Revenue-Neutral Carbon Tax?

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This isn’t going to happen, but I do think Zac Morgan is right to think that the climate change issue is a potentially huge opportunity for a hypothetical version of the Republican Party that’s willing to think a bit creatively about public policy:

The President’s triangulation on cap-and-trade and drilling is smart politics, designed to make supporting the energy bill more palatable for some Republicans. Rather than letting the President carve off a few Republicans, now would be a good time for the GOP to throw in a game-changer of our own by announcing support for a carbon tax, offset by reductions in the payroll tax.

Nothing could possibly flummox the left more.

Simply as a matter of legislative politics, you wouldn’t even need “the GOP” to do anything. It would just take a block of Senators—let’s say Senators Collins, Snowe, McCain, Brown, Kyl, Crapo, Risch, and Lemieux who all represent states with below-average emissions—got behind this plan. It would totally wreak havok with the progressive political coalition. Some greens would embrace it, and left-of-center economists would love it. At the same time I can already hear Dave Roberts denouncing it as another example of blinkered economist-think. You’d be making the tax code more regressive, so a lot of advocates for the poor would be opposed. It’s not clear where that would leave all the “green jobs” coalition work that’s been done.

And even people who find the idea intriguing would end up spending 60 percent of their time debating whether or not this was a poison pill designed to kill all momentum for energy reform. And if by some crazy miracle this coalition-jamming actually resulted in a revenue-neutral carbon tax, well, then, Republicans would have found a way to put a dent in carbon emissions while achieving their long-held goal of making the tax code more regressive. But my guess is that the first person to walk out on this plank would get reeled right in by Rush Limbaugh within moments.