Virgil: The Washington Post’s Carbon Tax Put-On

What do you call it when The Washington Post, which hates Republicans, seeks to advise them on what to do?  That is, when the Post pretends to be offering honest constructive advice to the GOP?  As in, do this, and it will be good for you. 

Maybe we could call it the Post Pretense, or the Post Ponzi, or the Post Prevarication.  Or maybe we should just keep it simple and call it the Post Put-On. 

The last time we saw the Post stage this sort of put-on effort was in 2013, when the liberal newspaper straight-facedly advised Republicans that what they really needed was “comprehensive immigration reform,” as seen in the America-changing bill pushed by the so-called “Gang of Eight.”  The Gang of Eight, of course, included such well-known “friends” of the Republican Party as Sen. Chuck Schumer, now the Democratic minority leader. 

Here’s just a sampler of the propaganda that the Post was putting out back then: “An immigration bill worthy of support,” “Gang of Eight immigration plan: Reality-based legislating,” and “‘Gang of Eight’ pledges tough enforcement, difficult path to citizenship.”  You get the idea: The overwhelming message was that Republicans should seize the opportunity to “solve” the immigration problem once and for all (more precisely, until the next wave of immigrants, to be followed by the next amnesty, and on and on and on).

And of course, four years ago, the Post was also happy to run an op-ed from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, announcing the creation of his pro-immigration group, FWD.US, an open-borders operation now run by a former Obama campaign staffer.  

Okay, so that was then.  And happily, Republicans—enough of them, anyway—weren’t buying the Post’s “sincere” advice.

And yet today, the Post is at it again, telling Republicans what’s good for them.  This time, the issue is a carbon tax, to help address the new favorite cause of the elite left, “global warming”— or, as it’s called nowadays, “climate change.” 

This might seem like a strange time for the Post to get back in the game of purporting to “help” the GOP.  After all, just last October, the newspaper strongly endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, and each day now, it routinely runs a dozen news articles, editorials, and op-eds slamming President Trump, the Trump administration, and, for good measure, just about every incumbent Republican. 

However, the Post makes an exception for former Republican officeholders, provided that they toe the politically correct line.  That is, if out-of-office Republicans agree to turn themselves into hammers against current Republicans, well, the Post will love that, and so it will love these renegade GOPers.  

A case in point is something called the Climate Leadership Council.  Yes, it’s yet another “climate change” group, but this one has a twist: It’s composed mostly of former Republican luminaries, including two former secretaries of state, James Baker and George Shultz; two former top presidential economic advisers, Martin Feldstein and Greg Mankiw; and former treasury secretary Henry Paulson.  (We all remember Paulson, of course, as the lead architect of the infamous 2008 bank bailout.)  

On February 8, these Republicans assembled to meet with President Trump and top aides at the White House to pitch their big idea: a carbon tax. Their plan would establish a $40-per-ton tax on carbon emissions, which, the group says, would work out to, for example, 36 cents per gallon of gasoline.  And then the money would, the advocates pledged, be fully rebated back to the taxpayers.   The idea, proponents added, was to raise the price of fossil fuels while not hurting consumers.  Of course, that’s only true if the carbon-tax money is fully returned to the taxpayers—a big “if,” shall we say.  That is, Washington, DC, would have to resist its historic impulse to rake off a small share—or a big share—of the carbon-tax revenues.

The veteran Republicans further claimed that with such a carbon tax in place, Uncle Sam would then ease up on direct regulatory restrictions on carbon.  And that’s an even bigger if, because there’s no evidence that the Democrats are on board with such deregulation.  Indeed, the new thinking of the Greens is, as they say, to leave it in the ground.  That is, forbid the extraction of fossil fuels, period, tax or no tax. 

Still, James Baker, Reagan administration alumni that he is, gamely insisted that the tax idea was something that Ronald Reagan probably would have liked.  (President Reagan left the White House in 1989 and died in 2004.)

Breitbart’s James Delingpole, a leading climate-change skeptic, was immediate and unsparing in his criticism.  Writing under the headline, “Ronald Reagan Would Have Hated this Stupid ‘Conservative’ Carbon Tax Idea,” Delingpole ripped the tax proposal as “regressive, counterproductive, [and] pointless”—among other things.  

However, the Post had a different take: It loved the idea, and advised Republicans, with oh so much sincerity, to jump on the proposal.  Its news story on the White House meeting was headlined, “Senior Republican Statesmen Propose Replacing Obama’s Climate Plan with a Carbon Tax.”  We can pause to note the glowing description of Baker and the rest as “Senior Republican Statesmen.”  And we might ask ourselves, would the Post, under any circumstances, describe any other Republican—say, Attorney General Jeff Sessions—as a “senior statesman”?  And the answer, of course, is of course not. 

Yet the Post was far from done.  It also ran an excited editorial, “A group of prominent Republicans has an excellent plan to fight climate change,” which concluded:

These dyed-in-the-wool Republicans have proposed an elegant climate policy that addresses an issue of widespread concern and poses no threat to conservative ideology.  The rest of their party should listen.

Got that, Republicans?  This tax increase is not only “excellent,” but “elegant.” So get on board!  

We might note that the Post didn’t quite say that it was actually in favor of the plan.  In fact, the paper is long on record as supporting far more severe policies to cut carbon use, including radically expanded national and international restrictions on fossil-fuel extraction.    

And yet the Post loves the idea of a carbon tax, probably because a) the Post has never met a federal-government-enlarging tax increase that it didn’t like; b) the Post would love to see the Republican coalition fracture itself over a tax increase; c) the Post, and the left in general, never misses a chance to sock it to the middle class; and d) the chattering classes have never stopped hating on a key symbol of middle-class suburbia—the automobile.  

We might observe that the granddaddy of this new carbon-tax proposal is the 50-cent-a-gallon gas-tax increase proposed by independent presidential candidate John Anderson, way back in 1980.  In those days, “climate change” didn’t yet exist as a political issue, and yet even so, the Establishment loved Anderson’s gas-tax idea, because it fit perfectly into its anti-middle class, anti-car ideology.  

For Anderson, that was the good news; he became a hero to reporters, trust-funders, and college professors.  The bad news, though, was that most voters didn’t like his idea, not one bit: Anderson garnered less than seven percent of the nationwide vote that November, as Reagan cruised to a landslide victory over Jimmy Carter.  

And yet as we have seen, the gas tax still has strong support among the high-end elite.  That is, among people who don’t have to worry about the economic pain caused by regressive taxes that hit American workers the hardest.  Or maybe, in fact, the elite is in favor of such regressive taxes, because, after all, the middle class voted for Trump, and so surely, it deserves punishment. 

Happily for the beleaguered middle class, there’s no indication that the Trump administration has any interest in this tax-increase idea.  In the days since that White House meeting, the famously tweet-minded president has had nothing to say about the subject, nor has the administration issued any other pro-tax signals. 

In fact, back in May 2016, Candidate Trump tweeted in response to an earlier suggestion of the same sort of tax, “I will not support or endorse a carbon tax!

Still, these Republican elitists, joined by Democratic elitists—and cheered on, endlessly, by The Washington Post and the rest of the media elite—will keep pushing the carbon-tax idea, because it fits perfectly into their shared worldview.

So yes, the elites are all on board.  And so the biggest obstacle that the regressive taxers will face will be the people who would pay this tax.  Also known as the voters.  Also known as the American people.   

And most of them don’t read the Post.  And even fewer trust it.


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