Many of those who supported Ralph Nader were left-leaning Democrats who felt Gore was too centrist for their tastes. They knew the risk of supporting Nader, but didn't care--they stuck to their principles, resulting in a President with views opposite to their basic values. During the next few years, the U.S. became engaged in a pointless and unnecessary war, basic liberties were limited, and conservative supreme court justices were appointed, to name only a few effects of the Bush presidency. For these Democrats, ideology was more important than pragmatics, with the end product being a disaster for the nation.
And it is about to happen again. Today, many left-leaning Washington State Democrats and their allies are determined to have their own "Nader Moment", rejecting the good for the perfect and undermining a major advance in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the State.
What am I talking about?
The vote on Washington State initiative I-732, which would bring a revenue-neutral carbon tax to Washington State-- an approach that would use the free market to reduce carbon emissions in our state while reducing the sales tax by 1%, thus making the state tax system less regressive. And it even provides a tax rebate for low-income working families to neutralize the impacts of the carbon tax.
As noted on the Yes-on-I732 website, I-732 is bipartisan effort, with support from both sides of the aisle. If passed, it would represent an example to the nation of how the entire political spectrum can work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A similar approach has worked well in British Columbia: greatly reducing carbon usage with no negative impacts on the economy. And it makes our tax system less regressive. Enlightened, pragmatic policy.
But now the problem. A group of self-described environmental groups are not supporting I-732 because they oppose revenue neutrality, whereby all taxes are returned to taxpayer. They are happy enough with a tax on carbon emissions, but they want WA State government to control the revenue, using it for environmental programs and to promote "climate justice". They claim that Washington State minorities and low-income folks are preferentially penalized by global warming, an assumption that has little basis in truth. Thus, they want divert funds to "community-directed investment"...whatever that means.
So environmental groups like the Sierra Club, the Washington Environmental Council, and Seattle's Climate Solutions are not supporting I-732. A variety of activist and "progressive" groups like the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy are opposing it for the same reasons. So are some labor unions. They demand that carbon tax revenue be used for larger government and more "social justice" programs, and they are willing to kill I-732 if it doesn't meet their social action requirements. The rapid rising levels of CO2 in the atmosphere does not appear to be their priority.
Just as disturbing, Governor Inslee, whose administration claims that addressing global warming is a priority, is sitting on the sidelines, providing no support for I-732. Most of his climate initiatives have not been successful, including his proposed fee on carbon emissions.
Governor Inslee has a real chance to lead by supporting I732 and do something important, but will he?
Opposition with no real plan
The left-leaning opponents of I-732 have no plan for moving forward with a carbon tax. For years they have had to opportunity to do so, but have done nothing. And even if they tried, a carbon tax that is not revenue neutral would be dead on arrival, since it would be opposed by most Republicans and even some moderate Democrats.
So these folks in the opposition are pushing for an approach that will never become law, while holding back support for an alternative (I-732) that both has a chance and which could provide a powerful tool for reducing greenhouse gas use in our State. They are willing to destroy the good for the perfect, because it does not mesh with their political vision. Thus, they are part of the problem and not the solution.
It is ironic that some of the most most liberal folks in the State are allies with some of the most conservative, such as the Association of Washington Businesses (who is sponsoring the No on I732 campaign). Or the more conservative members of the Republican party who still reject the overwhelming scientific evidence of a growing threat. They are even aligned with a very prominent Presidential candidate, who explicitly opposes carbon taxes and who believe global warming is a hoax (see below). As they say, politics makes strange bed fellows.
Opposes a carbon tax
There is still time for the "progressives" and social justice activists to rethink their positions and to avoid their "Nader Moment." Sill time for sober and logical consideration of what is possible and good. Still time to support I-732 and encourage their members to do the same. Still time for Governor Inslee and his allies to show that Washington State can lead the nation regarding an unfolding environmental crisis in a bipartisan and pragmatic way. Still time to understand that the key issue is the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere and not the size of government. Extremists on both the left and right need to stop making this issue a political tool and deal with a growing crisis for our planet.
Northwest Climate Surprises on September 28.
During the evening of September 28, I will be giving a talk in Seattle at UW's Kane Hall on Climate Surprise: Unexpected Impacts of Global Warming on the Pacific Northwest. You think global warming will simply bring warmer temperatures, drought, less snow, and more storms? Think again. The latest climate model simulations provide a far more nuanced prediction of what will happen here, with some of the results quite surprising. This talk is sponsored by CarbonWa and the Audubon Society To find out more or to secure tickets, please go here.