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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.

Go deeper

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
7 mins ago - Economy & Business

The biggest obstacle to a wealth tax

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Taxing the rich is an idea that's back. An "ultra-millionaire tax" introduced by Elizabeth Warren and other left-wing Democrats this week would raise more than $3 trillion over 10 years, they say, while making the tax system as a whole more fair.

Why it matters: New taxes would be a necessary part of any Democratic plan to redistribute wealth and reduce inequality. But President Biden has more urgent priorities — and Warren's wealth tax in particular faces constitutional obstacles that make it a hard sell.

House passes sweeping election and anti-corruption bill

Photo: Win McNamee via Getty Images

The House voted 220-210Wednesday to pass Democrats' expansive election and anti-corruption bill.

Why it matters: Expanding voting access has been a top priority for Democrats for years, but the House passage of the For the People Act (H.R. 1) comes as states across the country consider legislation to rollback voting access in the aftermath of former President Trump's loss.

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

House passes George Floyd Justice in Policing Act

Photo: Stephen Maturen via Getty Images

The House voted 220 to 212 on Wednesday evening to pass a policing bill named for George Floyd, the Black man whose death in Minneapolis last year led to nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice.

Why it matters: The legislation overhauls qualified immunity for police officers, bans chokeholds at the federal level, prohibits no-knock warrants in federal drug cases and outlaws racial profiling.