Trudeau's Regressive Carbon Tax Designed to Make Politicians Look Good While Pandering to the Rich

The Trudeau government here in Canada is doing it's best to call what is a regressive Carbon Tax 'carbon pricing' and is clearly convinced that it is the only politically acceptable solution to meeting Canada's carbon budget promises. The fact is that carbon pollution, like all forms of pollution, is a byproduct of industrial production. These ugly byproducts remain unaccounted for in capitalist accounting of the costs of production. Instead, they are externalized onto future generations who'll be on the hook for the inevitable cleanup costs and onto the entire biosphere.

Next fact, the poor live with the various regressive taxation schemes [sales or VAT taxes, MSP fees here in BC and carbon taxes] because they don't have the extra funds it takes to adequately bribe enough politicians to get progressive taxes mandated. The rich are well educated in the cost-benefit analysis of paying off the every political party in every 'democracy' to keep their position secure.The poor spend their time in prayer and at the lottery ticket window.

Trudeau and his government are far from unique. Like all politicians they understand that no one ever won an election by telling voters that: 'due to the laws of physics, they'll have to consume less'. As i'm told all the time: "less doesn't sell". So the flimflam of carbon taxes have become the answer de jour. Carbon taxes make the politicians look good, by taking from the poor and giving to the rich. How?

For instance, when we Canadian drivers fill up our gas tanks, 35% of the price we now pay is tax. If the average tank holds 64 litres, every time we gas up at $1 a litre, we’re handing over $22 not to the producers and distributors of this product, but to the government. Since poor people have less money overall, taking $22 from them at the pump is a big deal. Via gasoline taxes, the poor are forced to pay a higher share of their income just to do ordinary things such as get to work, drop their kids at daycare, fetch groceries, and visit ailing relatives. This is called regressive taxation. When the $22 in tax we pay every time we gas up becomes $25 or $30, more affluent families will absorb the increase. They won’t be happy, but it won’t diminish their horizons. - Donna Laframboise

It’s poor people, the ones already pinching their pennies, whose lives will be made more miserable. Since driving to work isn’t negotiable, there will be less money in these households for food, clothes, eyeglasses, dentists, and skating lessons for the kids. There will be fewer family vacations, and narrower prospects. As the end of the month approaches and the bills loom large, stress and conflict will be amplified. The promise of a tax credit does nothing to alleviate a poor family's immediate and necessary needs. Try heating your house with a tax credit. Try telling your kids they can't go on a school trip next week but next year the family will get a tax credit.

Carbon taxes cause real misery here and now and they don't work to boot. Politicians see carbon taxes as a way to look good without biting the rich hands that feed them. Due to the global nature of our economies and the fact that much of Canada's non-necessity consumption is imported without a global agreement on an effective and equal carbon tax [as in James Hanson's plan, see video below] all the misery that the poor would suffer is meaningless and unless the revenues generated by a large enough carbon tax to make a real difference is redistributed progressively [exactly the opposite of what BC does] the results would be even worse for the poor because much of the revenue generated by carbon taxes goes to cutting taxes that are progressive - like income and corporate taxes.

In addition corporate taxes are costs that get passed onto the consumers eventually so the poor pay again. The point of carbon  taxation is to cut greenhouse gas consumption, exactly what BC's carbon tax has failed miserably at. The BC government brags that the carbon tax has resulted in lower consumption since it's introduction in 2008, but consumption of everything plummeted in 2008 just after the crooked banking collapse that year and as the rich are far less inconvenienced by downturns it would have been the poor who bought less heating and transportation fuel as well as everything else that contributed to the improved numbers. So the rich consume the most GHG causing stuff and get the most benefit from the carbon taxes.

Because BC is the only jurisdiction that currently has a carbon tax it's being lauded as a great example. But is it? If the BC government, and the Canadian govt. eventually, used the revenues generated by carbon taxation from those who use carbon-producing products and plunked it into initiatives that promote using less (transit, alternative energy, water conservation, marshland and grassland restoration, environmental education, organic agriculture, etc.) it could have been. If it had used the revenues to mitigate the misery it causes to the poor instead of a way to replace revenue from progressive taxation, it could have been...but it does neither.

Carbon taxes could be a valuable tool in the battle against carbon and other pollution caused by industrial development IF it was globally implemented as Hansen explains. Carbon taxes can be a useful tool, IF they are part of a concrete action to phase out fossil fuels rapidly and provide alternatives while being socially just. Unfortunately, pro-business governments, including all governments in Canada, aren’t going to do that.

The fact is, there's plenty of everything for everybody to live IF resources were distributed justly and used wisely. But that's not what our economic or political paradigm creates. Instead we have a few humans with far to much and many with far to little. Though our leaders and media constantly drum GROWTH, GROWTH, GROWTH, the fact is that when human consumption slows, planet Earth can heal. Only when our obsession with materialism wanes, only when our economy - based on endless growth - is seen as the destroyer of life and real wealth that it is, will our planet be able to heal.

Here's a short reading list for those who want to learn more:

Bottom Line on Carbon Taxes - World Resources Institute

BC's Carbon Tax is Just Another Regressive Sales Tax

Liberal Think Tank Admits A Carbon Tax Is ‘Regressive’

Dr. James Hansen - A Low-Loss Electrical Grid and Carbon Tax