Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Schultz & Becker: Why We Support a Revenue-Neutral Carbon Tax
Wall Street Journal op-ed: Why We Support a Revenue-Neutral Carbon Tax, by George P. Schultz (Former Treasury Secretary and Secretary of State) & Gary Becker (University of Chicago, Department of Economics):
[W]e should seek out the many forms of subsidy that run through the entire energy enterprise and eliminate them. In their place we propose a measure that could go a long way toward leveling the playing field: a revenue-neutral tax on carbon, a major pollutant. A carbon tax would encourage producers and consumers to shift toward energy sources that emit less carbon—such as toward gas-fired power plants and away from coal-fired plants—and generate greater demand for electric and flex-fuel cars and lesser demand for conventional gasoline-powered cars.
We argue for revenue neutrality on the grounds that this tax should be exclusively for the purpose of leveling the playing field, not for financing some other government programs or for expanding the government sector. And revenue neutrality means that it will not have fiscal drag on economic growth.
The imposition of such a tax raises questions about how it should be levied and what measures should be used to see that the revenues collected are refunded to the public so that the tax is clearly revenue-neutral.
The tax might be imposed at a variety of stages in the production and distribution of energy. You can make an argument for imposing it at the point most visible to the population at large, which would be the point of consumption such as gasoline stations and electricity bills. An administratively more efficient way of imposing the tax, however, would be to collect it at the level of production, which would reduce greatly
Revenue neutrality comes from distribution of the proceeds, which could be done in many ways. On the grounds of ease of administration and visibility, we advocate having the tax collected and distributed by an existing unit of government, either the IRS or the Social Security Administration. In either case, we think the principle of transparency should be observed. Funds collected should go into an identified fund and the amounts flowing in and out should be clearly visible. This flow of funds should not be included in the unified budget, so as to keep the money from being spent on general government purposes, as happened to the earlier excess of inflows over outflows in the Social Security system. In the case of administration by the IRS, an annual distribution could be made to every taxpayer and recipient of the Earned Income Tax Credit.
"This flow of funds should not be included in the unified budget, so as to keep the money from being spent on general government purposes, as happened to the earlier excess of inflows over outflows in the Social Security system."
Congress would never be able to find a way to evade this restriction, would they?
Assume a can opener.
I'm glad these authors didn't design the car I drive.
Posted by: AMTbuff | Apr 10, 2013 11:14:34 AM