Tag Archives: Politics

British Columbia enacted a carbon tax 5 years ago and it worked amazingly

In 2008, British Columbia passed a carbon tax and surprise! it's working really well. Not only is it reducing pollution, because the tax was designed to be revenue neutral, it's resulted in a reduction to both business and income taxes.

If the goal was to reduce global warming pollution, then the BC carbon tax totally works. Since its passage, gasoline use in British Columbia has plummeted, declining seven times as much as might be expected from an equivalent rise in the market price of gas, according to a recent study by two researchers at the University of Ottawa. That's apparently because the tax hasn't just had an economic effect: It has also helped change the culture of energy use in BC. "I think it really increased the awareness about climate change and the need for carbon reduction, just because it was a daily, weekly thing that you saw," says Merran Smith, the head of Clean Energy Canada. "It made climate action real to people."

It also saved many of them a lot of money. Sure, the tax may cost you if you drive your car a great deal, or if you have high home gas heating costs. But it also gives you the opportunity to save a lot of money if you change your habits, for instance by driving less or buying a more fuel-efficient vehicle. That's because the tax is designed to be "revenue neutral"—the money it raises goes right back to citizens in the form of tax breaks. Overall, the tax has brought in some $5 billion in revenue so far, and more than $3 billion has then been returned in the form of business tax cuts, along with over $1 billion in personal tax breaks, and nearly $1 billion in low-income tax credits (to protect those for whom rising fuel costs could mean the greatest economic hardship). According to the BC Ministry of Finance, for individuals who earn up to $122,000, income tax rates in the province are now Canada's lowest.

“Mistakes were made”

The Wikipedia entry for "Mistakes were made" features a list of 13 instances the phrase has been used in the past when it's clearly fucking obvious that mistakes were made, but come on, how could anyone be at fault for those mistakes! The use of the passive voice is supposed to remove responsibility for the mistakes. The latest entry: "On January 14, 2014, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, during his State of the State address, said "mistakes were clearly made" in reference to the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal."

Via @A_Grossman

General Irony: The Robert Gates Memoir

You can stop reading Robert Gates' memoir now, Dave Weigel found the funniest part.

So: It's the fall of 2010, and Gates is meeting with the president and top brass. "Biden, Mullen, Jones, Donilon, Brennan, and Tony Blinken, the vice president’s national security adviser, were there." The subject: how to be ready if a conflict between Iran and Israel ignites. Gates worries that the particulars have not thought the scenario through, and advises the president to deploy a second aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf soon, just in case. The meeting ends.

I was put off by the way the president closed the meeting. To his very closest advisers, he said, "For the record, and for those of you writing your memoirs, I am not making any decisions about Israel or Iran. Joe, you be my witness." I was offended by his suspicion that any of us would ever write about such sensitive matters.

Here’s a dumb thing about the beef industry

Cattle ranchers in the US are required to pay $1 per head to the government which then transfers the money to different trade associations intended to promote the beef industry. Most of the money goes to the National Cattleman's Beef Association, which is mostly an insane lobbying group arguing against commonsense regulations. They're the group that is fighting against the labeling of beef that would tell you where beef was from - something many ranchers (humane/organic/sustainable ranchers mostly) want. While the NCBA is a trade organization with membership fees, over 90% of it's revenue comes from that $1 per cattle tax charged to ranchers. Basically, without this "marketing" tax, our food industry in general, and our beef industry specifically would be a lot better off. Washington Monthly wrote about it here. The last couple paragraphs have the most bullshit.

And in the case of the NCBA, the degree of subsidy is particularly extreme. With its membership having shrunk from 40,000 in 1994 to 26,000 today, only 7 percent of the NCBA’s revenue comes from membership dues. That means that most of the cost of its overhead, from the $434,477 it paid its chief executive in 2010 to the cost of keeping the lights on and maintaining its Web site, comes from public money. As such, the comingling of its public money with lobbying activity is inherent and of great value. If the NCBA didn’t have those checkoff funds, says rancher Steve Charter, “they would have a pretty tough time keeping going.” Put another way, without the public money it receives, the NCBA might not even exist, and certainly would not have the lobbying clout it has today.

The GOP’s obstruction to Obamacare is based on a really crappy football play

Here's the play diagrammed on the third page of the GOP's strategy memo for opposition to Obamacare. Presumably, the Republicans are the offense in this situation, but they only have 10 players. That's still an advantage over the defense which only has 8 players.

Terrible football play

Jonathan Chait does not think the play will work.

Instead, the play is a naked bootleg to the left, running straight into the defensive back who isn't guarding anybody. That is to say, imagining they'll face an outnumbered and horribly misaligned defense, the offense proposes to attack the only part of the field where the defense has an unblockable defender. This is literally the only play I can imagine that could not work against this defense.

Romney voters fear sharks, Obama voters fear snakes.

Public Policy Polling recently released a pet poll with some interesting findings about pet ownership among American voters. 61% of voters own a pet, and 6% spend more than 20 hours a week caring for them. 18% of voters say sharks are the scariest animal, and 56% say a bear would win in a fight between a bear and a shark.

Additionally, Obama voters fear snakes most, while Romney voters fear sharks most.

Romney voters scared of sharks Obama voters snakes

You can download the full report here.

Via @mikenizza

Two reasons Rand Paul’s filibuster wasn’t the best thing ever

Mistermix at Balloon Juice has two pretty good reasons why Rand Paul's filibuster yesterday wasn't as cool as it seems. While it is good he was brought more attention to the President's use of drones without oversight, he kind of dodged the more serious issues.

1. What Paul was talking about is a fairly hyperbolic hypothetical.

Paul was talking about something that’s a far-off hypothetical when the reality of killing American citizens with drones has already happened, and the Obama Administration has repeatedly dodged Congressional oversight of the drone program. Paul’s stunt wasn’t aimed at addressing either of those substantive issues. Instead, he was, as is typical of the true glibertarian, chasing a dark shadow in a corner while ignoring what was obvious to all in the bright sunshine. The reason is simple: the people who write Paul checks are fine with killing brown Muslim Americans in a far-off land, and are irrationally afraid of a black president sending a Hellfire missile down their chimney.

2. Paul's filibuster was designed to fail.

Paul chose to filibuster the nomination of the head of the CIA, even though he stated repeatedly that his concern was the killing of Americans on American soil… The place to protest that is when the defense and intelligence appropriation bills come to the floor. At that point, Paul could filibuster until an amendment was added to the bill to compel the Administration to release more information on drone killings, at a minimum, or to require specific authorizations of force before drones are used in any foreign country… But that would be possibly effective and certainly risky to Paul’s electoral future, so instead he filibustered Brennan... If Paul would threaten the drone program in a way that could actually change the drone program, then shit would get real on the Senate floor very quickly.

[Emphais mine]

Also, here's Josh Marshall on Rand Paul's filibuster making the case for filibuster reform.

This was a real talking filibuster. And as I said earlier today, three cheers for it. It’s a good safety valve and it is self-correcting. Making filibusters visible like this does nothing to diminish the power of the filibuster and would preserve it as a robust minority right. It would be something that could be maintained for long periods of time if substantial numbers of the minority supported it. But it would be far, far less open to abuse than the current system of an accountability-free ability to block majority votes at will precisely because of its visibility. (See my argument on why here.)

If by whiskey

"If by whiskey" is a type of argument which seems to make a case, but ends up taking both sides of a position. It is named after a speech in 1952 by Noah "Soggy" Sweat from Mississippi, who found himself in a discussion about whether or not the state should legalize booze.

My friends, I had not intended to discuss this controversial subject at this particular time. However, I want you to know that I do not shun controversy. On the contrary, I will take a stand on any issue at any time, regardless of how fraught with controversy it might be. You have asked me how I feel about whiskey. All right, here is how I feel about whiskey:

If when you say whiskey you mean the devil's brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster, that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean the evil drink that topples the Christian man and woman from the pinnacle of righteous, gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation, and despair, and shame and helplessness, and hopelessness, then certainly I am against it.

But, if when you say whiskey you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips, and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer; if you mean the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman's step on a frosty, crispy morning; if you mean the drink which enables a man to magnify his joy, and his happiness, and to forget, if only for a little while, life's great tragedies, and heartaches, and sorrows; if you mean that drink, the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of dollars, which are used to provide tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our dumb, our pitiful aged and infirm; to build highways and hospitals and schools, then certainly I am for it.

This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise.

Via @asimone

Scott Brown debate preparation generator

Signs point to former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown running for John Kerry's seat when it opens up later this year. Last night, Brown seemingly got a bit tipsy, and possibly revealed his future debate strategy. I thought whomever his Democratic opponent is might want to prepare for this type of debate by practicing with this debate generator. If you'd like to practice debating Senator Brown, ask a question or express a position in the box below and click "Request Scott Brown's Response."