Perfect killing the good

The Everett Herald‘s editors weighed in. They urge a “no” vote on Initiative 732. They write:

Revenue forecasting is difficult enough now, without having to estimate what would come from a carbon tax.

And while it won’t generate any revenue for the state, we now have a carbon cap being put into place. At the direction of Gov. Jay Inslee, the state Department of Ecology in September announced its Clean Air Rule, which sets a limit on carbon for industrial producers. Phased in over the next 20 years the cap will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1.7 percent each year.

Assuming the cap survives challenges by industry and others, we will have the reductions in carbon that I-732 offers without the uncertainty it would bring to the state budget.

Fixing our regressive tax system will have to be left to another initiative or state lawmakers who can find the courage.

I find the editors unduly and cavalierly dismissive. While the initiative may be an imperfect attempt to limit carbon emissions in Washington state, and one certainly embroiled in controversy—mostly on the progressive side, it is the only game in town for the moment. If voters reject the measure, as the Herald‘s editors recommend, future opportunities to accomplish its objectives could be few and far between.

David Roberts, writing for Vox, dives into the initiative and its controversies. He begins:

It’s a fight happening within the left, and like a great many such fights in US politics these days, it reveals sharp differences over how to make progress in the face of Republican intransigence. In this case, the subject is climate change policy, but the fissures being exposed are relevant to all of left politics in an age of hyperpolarization.

Here’s the situation. There’s a carbon tax on the ballot in Washington this November, meant not just to put the state on the path to its climate targets but to serve as an example to other states.

The measure, called Initiative 732, isn’t just any carbon tax, either. It’s a big one. It would be the first carbon tax in the US, the biggest in North America, and one of the most ambitious in the world.

And yet the left opposes it. The Democratic Party, community-of-color groups, organized labor, big liberal donors, and even most big environmental groups have come out against it.

Why on Earth would the left oppose the first and biggest carbon tax in the country? How has the climate community in Washington ended up in what one participant calls a “train wreck”? (Others have described it in more, er, colorful terms.)

That turns out to be a complex and ill-fated story, revealing divisions among climate hawks — over who pays, who benefits, and who decides — that will not long stay confined to the West Coast. The future of climate politics is playing out in Washington state, and it is not pretty.

After reading Roberts’s lengthy report on the internecine battle being waged on the left, I’m struck once again by the stiletto approach of progressives, who seem so enamored of their own niche that they lose sight of the larger picture. In this case, the initiative, if successful, will surely result in fewer carbon emissions. Making something harmful more expensive will reduce its consumption—all other things being equal. Economists of every political stripe will say as much. Also, a carbon tax will increase the value of alternatives, including renewable energy and conservation.

But, according to Roberts, people’s noses got bent out of shape, resulting in self-destructive pettiness. So, Washington voters have before them a ballot measure that is officially rejected by the state’s large liberal organizations, including labor.

What I fear, if the measure fails, is that it will be a long time before Washingtonians get another bite of the carbon-reduction apple. However, this unfortunate outcome cannot be blamed on the left. As Roberts emphasizes, it’s the Republican Party’s stubborn refusal to accept the science and reality of global warming and its steadfast and foolish resistance to any solutions that stand in the way of progress.

This situation will only get worse should voters shoot themselves in the foot by electing more Republicans. The Party of No is intent on ruining everything, including our children’s future.