In the era of opposition to Trump, some states have refused to work with the President on immigration such as California and New York State (among others). Other states have sued the administration over actions such as allowing states waivers to mandate work requirements for Medicaid recipients. More have turned their war of words into an art form (I am looking at you Jerry Brown). But, until now, none have staked their opposition to Trump on economic stagnation. Until Washington State.
The state Democratic Party, Governor Jay Inslee, and a bevy of environmental and big biz groups succeeded in placing Initiative 1631 on the ballot for November. Initiative 1631 would impose a carbon “fee” (not tax for state statutory purposes), on every business in the state except for those the Governor and Democrats like (Boeing and Microsoft being a few). The fee would start at $15 in 2020 and eventually be raised to $55 by 2035, at which point lawmakers could cap the fee or allow it to continue to rise.
Calling it a fee as oppose to a tax is important for proponents as the revenue raised from the fees could only go to what is mentioned in the Initiative, specifically alleviating the damages of climate change such as fires and flooding (20 percent) and redistributing some of the revenue (five percent) to hard hit communities like Native Americans (that magically vote Democratic to boot). In addition, some monies (75 percent) would go to promote cleaner energy solutions (windmills can beat coal any day when the wind is not blowing, right). Not that you will hear these details from proponents. Indeed, proponents won a major, if not surprising victory, in court when a judge allowed them to frame the initiative not as a fee, but rather ““This measure would charge pollution fees on sources of greenhouse gas pollutants and use the revenue to reduce pollution, promote clean energy, and address climate impacts, under oversight of a public board.” Think of the children.
Progressives and Democrats have tried to get a climate change Initiative on the ballot before. In fact, in 2016 they succeeded. But the language of the Initiative did not have handouts to every Democratic minority group in the state and a tax meant the revenue could go almost anywhere. The Left largely bailed on it and it fell even as Clinton was dominating the state. More recently, in last year and this year’s legislative session Democrats and especially Jay Inslee tried to push a carbon fee through the legislature. Even when Democrats controlled the legislature this year they could not pass it through the state senate. Apparently some state Democrats don’t want to commit economic suicide.
While Washington State has neighbors to the north (British Columbia) and the south (California) who have implemented some sort of carbon scheme neither’s process is as far reaching as Washington’s. Unlike WA State’s proposal, California’s Cap and Trade structure allows the market to set the cost of carbon credits. In British Columbia, a fee structure is used but it is tiered for large and small businesses. Nothing of the sort would occur in WA State. Instead, a mom and pop shop would have to pay the same as a Boeing (oh wait, except Boeing is exempt).
In announcing the Initiative making the ballot Jay Inslee said the state is acting because the President will not. Of course, the good Governor is referring to Trump’s pulling out of the Paris Climate Accords. The Governor also fails to mention the damage this could do to the state if it goes south. Washington’s economic growth has been fueled by its attracting young and skilled employees. This Initiative does nothing to further such efforts and in fact makes it even more likely more employees of small businesses will find themselves out of work as small businesses have to pay more and more in fees.
Liberals and progressives won’t ever acknowledge this fact but to to make climate change policy truly work the poor will have to pay more as the cost of basic goods such as electricity and gas increase. In turn, redistribution has to occur to keep the poor from suffering but it can only be done in such a way the affluent and largely white progressive wing does not suffer economically. This cannot possibly occur and thus climate change policies ultimately make the lives of the poor, especially the working poor, harder. At a time when the homeless problem in the state’s crown jewel, Seattle, is getting worse and economic inequality is growing this policy would only exacerbate the problem.
Hopefully, voters will be smart enough to understand this dynamic. So far, the opposition and support lines up along environmental vs. petrol interests. The oil industry is solely funding the opposition and is making the argument it would kill economic growth and increase utility costs. They would be smart to pivot to discussing how it will impact those economically struggling and make the case it will make inequality worse. I wouldn’t hold my breath though.
In the age of Trump even progressives are willing to throw the poor under the bus to oppose the President. They know of its impact but elevate climate change over helping those they claim to care about. Of course, they also know as long as their policies do not irritate the affluent, white wealthy suburbanites they will stay in power with an upscale, downscale coalition. At some point it will shatter. But not in the age of Trump. Such a shame.