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Former Federal Reserve chairs Ben Bernanke and Janet Yellen. Photo: Alex Wong via Getty Images

America’s leading economic establishment has penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed in support of taxing carbon dioxide emissions, eliminating other regulations and returning the resulting money to consumers in the form of a recurring dividend check.

Why it matters: The increasing consensus among economists that the best thing to do with any money raised with a carbon tax is to return it to Americans is a significant policy marker as Washington debates to what degree, if at all, it will address Earth’s rising temperatures.

Details: All four of the still-living former Federal Reserve chairs, nearly 30 Nobel economists and all but one former chair of the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers have signed onto a statement laying out their support for a carbon-tax policy — one that has been gaining support from big oil companies, environmental groups and others across the political spectrum.

  • The plan includes a tax on carbon emissions that rises over time, with the proceeds sent back to Americans via quarterly dividend checks.
  • Other carbon-tax policies have put the money toward other priorities, including clean-energy investments and eliminating other taxes.
  • The op-ed published Wednesday says a sufficiently rising carbon tax would “replace the need for various carbon regulations that are less efficient.” That point is particularly controversial among some environmentalists who want regulations as a backstop.
“This is a turning point in Republican climate policy, where the GOP economic brain trust unites behind the [carbon price policy]. This includes the top economic advisers to Presidents Ford, Reagan, H. W. Bush and W. Bush.”
— Former Sen. Trent Lott (R.-Miss.), a lobbyist pushing the policy

But, but, but: Despite economic agreement behind a carbon tax, the politics around it have long been toxic in Washington, and elsewhere too. Voters in Washington state, one of the most progressive in the nation, rejected a ballot measure pricing CO2 emissions after a $30 million campaign by oil companies.

  • President Trump and most elected Republicans continue to ignore or dismiss climate change. Meanwhile, Democrats are rallying around another idea: the vague-but-popular Green New Deal pushed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D.-N.Y.), whose only specific component as of now is a goal to achieve 100% renewable electricity.
  • By the way, the one White House economic adviser who didn't sign on is Joseph Stiglitz, who held the position under then-President Bill Clinton. An emailed request for comment to Stiglitz wasn't immediately returned. He has written a paper for the United Nations on the effectiveness of carbon pricing, so he is in favor of the general concept.

What’s next: Ted Halstead, one of the lead organizers on the policy, said he’s confident the 2020 presidential election will focus around this plan and not the Green New Deal, even though the former is getting more media attention with possible candidates. Getting economists’ support is critical, he says.

“We’ve just cornered the market on the best economic minds of our country behind every single pillar of our plan.”
— Halstead

Go deeper:

Go deeper

55 mins ago - Health

U.S. tops 88,000 COVID-19 cases, setting new single-day record

Expand chart
Data: COVID Tracking Project; Chart: Axios Visuals

The United States reported 88,452 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, setting a single-day record, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project.

The big picture: The country confirmed 1,049 additional deaths due to the virus, and there are over 46,000 people currently being hospitalized, suggesting the U.S. is experiencing a third wave heading into the winter months.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Large coronavirus outbreaks leading to high death rates — Coronavirus cases are at an all-time high ahead of Election Day.
  2. Politics: Top HHS spokesperson pitched coronavirus ad campaign as "helping the president" — Space Force's No. 2 general tests positive for coronavirus.
  3. World: Taiwan reaches a record 200 days with no local coronavirus cases.
  4. Sports: MLB to investigate Dodgers player who joined celebration after positive COVID test.
  5. 🎧Podcast: The vaccine race turns toward nationalism.

The norms around science and politics are cracking

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Crafting successful public health measures depends on the ability of top scientists to gather data and report their findings unrestricted to policymakers.

State of play: But concern has spiked among health experts and physicians over what they see as an assault on key science protections, particularly during a raging pandemic. And a move last week by President Trump, via an executive order, is triggering even more worries.