Amy Harder Nov 29
SaveSave story

Four big problems with a carbon tax

The coal-fired Plant Scherer, one of the nation's top carbon dioxide emitters, in Juliette, Ga. Photo: Branden Camp / AP

In the movie The Secret Life of Pets, there's a part where two dogs are in dire straits, running away from a pack of angry dogs and lost in New York City's sewage pipes. One dog says to the other, "We've got a problem." The other responds: "We have so many problems. Which one do you mean at this moment?"

That's how I see things with a carbon tax, despite many economists insisting it's the best, simplest way to combat climate change. There's four big problems, as I explained at the Brookings Institution Tuesday:

  1. Most Republicans elected officials don't publicly say climate change is a problem in need of solutions. It's harder to tax something you don't acknowledge is something that needs to be reduced.
  2. Regardless of party, taxes are toxic. Hillary Clinton didn't support a carbon tax either. With universal GOP support and a handful of Democrats, the House approved a resolution in June 2016 to oppose a carbon tax. While symbolic, the vote nonetheless shows how politically toxic this remains.
  3. Where to draw the line preempting existing carbon regulations: where ExxonMobil draws that line is vastly different from where any environmental group ever would.
  4. How to spend the revenue raised: Lower other taxes? Give rebates to consumers? Put it toward clean-energy sources? Fossil fuel companies? It's a sticking point that helped lead to the downfall of a carbon tax ballot initiative in Washington state last year.

For now, the biggest problems in this Washington are the first two. When I ask Republican and conservative sources whether they'd prefer a carbon tax or a border tax as a way to raise money in tax reform, they don't have an answer. And I think ultimately the answer will be neither (for now).

Go deeper: Environmental think tank Resources for the Future just launched a handy carbon tax calculator. For example, a $40 carbon tax would increase gasoline prices on average by 36 cents.

SaveSave story

Trump: Transgender people "disqualified" from the military

SecDef Jim Mattis and Gen. Joseph Dunford.
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Gen. Joseph Dunford. Photo: Andrew Harrer-Pool / Getty Images

President Trump late Friday issued an order disqualifying most transgender people from serving in the military.

"[T]ransgender persons with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria -- individuals who the policies state may require substantial medical treatment, including medications and surgery -- are disqualified from military service except under certain limited circumstances."

Why it matters: Anything short of an inclusive policy for transgender troops will be viewed as a continuation of the ban Trump announced on Twitter in August.

Haley Britzky 3 hours ago
SaveSave story

Both Bush and Obama also requested line item veto power

Donald Trump.
Photo: Mark Wilson / Getty Images

President Trump tweeted on Friday evening that to avoid having "this omnibus situation from ever happening again," he wants Congress to re-instate "a line-item veto."

Why it matters: This would allow him to veto specific parts of a bill without getting rid of the entire thing. Trump was deeply unhappy with the $1.3 trillion spending bill approved by Congress early Friday morning, but signed it anyway on Friday afternoon.