Taking It Out on the Little Guy

EditorialBy Jon Coupal

Gov. Jerry Brown has declared that opposition to efforts to reduce carbon emissions “borders on the immoral.” Hesitate though we might to debate Brown, troche a former Jesuit seminarian, online on the nature of divine law, we have to question the “morality” of forcing working California motorists to bear the brunt of the cost of regulations required by Brown’s convictions.

In light of both economic concerns and a more rational understanding of climate change science, other nations and states are rethinking their aggressive policies. But here in California, the reigning political leadership is forcing the middle class and working poor to shoulder almost the entire burden of mankind’s response to climate change.

When it comes to the topic of climate change, there is really only one thing we know for certain. Climate change is a global concern that needs a global response. There are nearly 200 nations on earth. To ask the working families and small businesses of one state in one nation to suffer almost the entirety of economic harm is both unfair and foolish.

How did we get to this point? In 2006, California lawmakers enacted the Global Warming Solutions Act, telling the public that its cap-and-trade program – forcing emitters to buy credits – would radically reduce carbon emissions. The unelected California Air Resources Board has proceeded to place transportation fuels under the program. Because the agency has no power to levy taxes, CARB Chair Mary Nichols said they would use the power of cap-and-trade as the way to price carbon. Already, this program has added about 13 cents to the cost of a gallon of gas and this could be increasing to as much as 75 cents.

Last year, anticipating the problems this would create for working California families, Democratic Assemblyman Henry Perea introduced AB 69 to spread the implementation of the new fees over a three-year period to allow those who must buy gasoline more time to adjust to the higher costs. The measure was supported by other moderate Democrats and Republicans but was killed by Senate leader Darrell Steinberg.

Now that the new CARB regulations are taking hold and producing upward pressure on gasoline prices, Republican Assemblyman Jim Patterson has introduced AB 23, the Affordable Gas for California Families Act. This legislation would remove transportation fuels and natural gas from the clutches of the California Air Resource Board’s cap-and-trade program.

The idea behind AB 23 is simple. Relieve the burden on modest and low income folks already struggling under difficult economic circumstances and who have little ability to make quick changes to their lifestyles. However, when heard last week in the Assembly Resources Committee, the bill was rejected 6 to 3, on a party line vote, with Democrats, who like to portray themselves as the champions of the little guy, providing the no votes.

Unfortunately, this vote is what we’ve come to expect. Just last year the Democrats rejected a bill which would have phased the cap-and-trade “tax” in gradually. As I wrote last year, “the response of Democrats reminds one of Marie Antoinette’s who, when told that the people were starving because they had no bread, infamously said, ‘Let them eat cake.’ In the case of those fervently devoted to the rigid implementation of California’s cap and trade program it is as if when told that a low income citizen can no longer afford gasoline for their 1991 Toyota Corolla they respond with, ‘Let them drive Teslas.’ The Tesla, of course, is a taxpayer-subsidized electric car that will set the buyer back north of $100,000, which is well beyond the means of those who will be most hurt by this new gas tax.”


HJTA-150x1502Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

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Phil Erwin

Mr. Coupal reasonably argues that it is unfair to ask those among us with limited means to shoulder the financial burden of “fighting” the “scourge” known (this decade) as “Climate Change.” But regulating the price of gasoline up via a “carbon tax” does precisely that. Millionaires couldn’t care less what a gallon costs; but EVERYONE on a fixed income, or below the poverty level, or running a small business on razor-thin margins certainly DOES care. The state’s insistence on levying this social cost on the “least” among us is as regressive as a tax can get, and flies in the face of the Liberal mantra to “Tax the rich!!” in order to promote “fairness.”

But Mr. Coupal labors under the general misunderstanding, so forcefully promoted by the Liberal Left, of what “Climate” really is. To borrow from his own verbiage: When it comes to the topic of climate change, there is really only one thing we know for certain — Which is, that Climate ALWAYS changes. Always has, always will. That is true for an abundance of reasons, which is what makes it so difficult to control — And so easy to misconstrue. As someone who studied Climatology in college (I hold a degree in Environmental Science) I recognize just how much is NOT known about how Climate works. And the reality is, NO ONE actually knows whether there’s a serious global threat from the effects of man-caused carbon emissions. There may be; or it may amount to little more than a tempest in a century-wide teapot. “The Science,” contrary to what you hear trumpeted constantly by the Left, is absolutely NOT “settled.” Frankly, I’m not sure the surface has even been scratched.

But here are a few points of relevance to ponder, in consideration of Mr. Coupal’s expressed opinions:

1) IF there is a global impact to climate caused by man’s carbon emissions, then the only rational way to correct or control it is, indeed, with a global strategy — which I believe is what Mr. Coupal meant to say.

2) That does NOT mean that ONLY global-level changes will matter; what it means is that ONE STATE CANNOT CHANGE THINGS BY ITSELF — not even a state as economically “big” as California. Even all 50 of the United States cannot collectively reverse the damage that may be done by either China or India. It’s a question of population, and they got more than we do.

3) Therefore, there is NO GLOBAL VALUE to be gained by deliberately forcing the “working families and small businesses” of California to pay more for their gasoline. THE ONLY EFFECT A CARBON TAX IN CALIFORNIA WILL HAVE IS TO REDUCE CALIFORNIA’S ECONOMIC GROWTH. It will have no discernable effect on climate.

So Mr. Coupal may be speaking from a pretty sparse understanding of climate — as is virtually everyone you hear or read discussing it in the news. But he’s correct in his basic assertion, which is that California’s insistence on taxing carbon is an unfair and unwise approach to fixing a problem that may or may not exist, but is certainly not appropriately or effectively addressed by taxing gasoline.