By Lawrence Zupan
“If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street, If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat. If you get too cold I’ll tax the heat, If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet … TAXMAN!”
Though that’s from a 1966 song by The Beatles, with our Legislature plotting to impose a tax on gasoline and fuels, it might as well have been written in 2019.
Can somebody help me to imagine what the representatives of the state of Vermont, with the lowest carbon emissions of all states in the Union, are possibly thinking? Or are they thinking? Can a zeal to save the world from the supposed pernicious evils of all things carbon justify a blindness to the financial and economic consequences to the lower and middle class working Vermonters? (You know, the ones for whom consumption of gasoline and fuel oil is not a capricious and discretionary luxury but an absolute necessity in order to live, work, drive, heat a home and make a living.)
This is a highly regressionary tax which has a punishing effect on those who have no money left at the end of the month — which would include at least half of all Vermonters. And let’s not forget the indirect taxation to all Vermonters on all goods which must be either produced or transported by the use of fuels, which costs will be reflected in the inflated costs of everyday necessities for Vermonters.
After all, it’s not as if most citizens are like a certain politician from our state who recently flew around the country for 13 days in a private jet for almost $1million when he could have flown on a commercial jet, all while proclaiming that climate change is the biggest crisis since World War II and that millionaires are evil. Hypocrisy, thy name is Sanders.
But I have no qualms with finding a way to reduce our emissions. For example, if we stop subsidizing inefficient renewable companies with ratepayer and taxpayer money, these companies will be forced to innovate and produce renewables elements which can actually pay their own way. This would also have the added benefit of short-circuiting the crony capitalism put in place by previous Vermont administrations which we all are paying for today.
In other words, instead of punching Vermont taxpayers in their overtaxed mouths with still another tax, reduce the sweetheart deals to the solar industry so that they will be obliged to produce systems that can pull their own weight in the world of costs per kilowatt hour. The good news is that the costs of renewables like solar and wind, geothermal, bioenergy and hydropower are coming down so fast that the market itself will solve the very problem which the proponents of this carbon tax say they are trying to solve. In the meantime, the current lowest cost producers of energy, the region’s two nuclear reactors, must be protected and preserved.
And tell Gov. Phil Scott that Vermont does not need to participate in a Transportation and Climate Initiative that will give us the sneaky “cap and trade,” which is a Trojan horse deception cleverly designed to give us a carbon tax by another name. With apologies to William Shakespeare, a carbon tax by any other name will smell just as foul, and ironically coated with the black soot of political chicanery to boot.
And stop making Vermont more anti-business by new onerous Act 250 restrictions on buildings which are now supposed to be “carbon neutral.” Humans will be carbon neutral only when they are dead. Of course, this new and oppressive taxation might well hasten the arrival of that very day for some.
Vermont, with the second-smallest population, is the greenest state. Even if you accept the most dire claims of the climate alarmists, a carbon tax imposed on Vermont would not have any significant or even measurable impact on our climate. It would be symbolic. It would be a symbol lifted up on the backs of the poorest among us — working-class Vermonters living paycheck-to-paycheck, retirees living on fixed incomes and those who can’t use any less gasoline for their cars or fuel for their homes than they already are using.
For the wealthy, a carbon tax would be an inconvenience. For the rest of us, a carbon tax is a catastrophe. How very revealing it is that the same political group, which loudly proclaims their concern for the poor and disadvantaged by promoting more of their government provided compassion, is willing to sacrifice those same souls on the green altar of carbon neutrality. Besides, this is not an argument about climate change, this is an argument about pure economics. Whatever you believe about the effects of CO2 emissions, this tax is simply wrong. So, yes, this proposed tax is not a symbol of sound environmental stewardship — it is a symbol of the callous cluelessness of its proudly self righteous proponents.
If our esteemed Legislature cares about the climate, by all means, pass a resolution denouncing the mass pollution of India and China, but let the Senate and House know this: If you want to beat down our farmers, our veterans, our single mothers, every worker with a commute, just to send some vague green message to our neighboring states, we will not endure it. We will not be flagellated for your guilt. Vermonters across the political spectrum will remember how you tried to harm us; they will drive you from this Montpelier at the ballot box and return here to take your offices.
What is the message? Leave we, the people, the taxpayers, alone. Let the geniuses of renewables do their work without subsidy and bailout and watch the problem be solved the way Vermonters and Americans have always solved problems — through innovation, competition and good old fashioned Yankee ingenuity.
And lastly, a word of caution to legislators keen to raise taxes on a people whose nation and state was birthed in a Revolution triggered by unjust taxation: Better think twice.
Lawrence Zupan, a Manchester resident, was the 2018 Republican nominee for U.S. Senate.