Grover Norquist Buckles to Pressure From Koch-Backed Group on Carbon Tax

Some readers took issue with yesterday’s post that characterized a carbon tax as a terrific but politically unlikely proposal, after the Obama administration shot down the idea last week. Putting a price on carbon emissions is, after all, generating renewed interest from across the ideological spectrum. Notably, the libertarian American Enterprise Institute is co-sponsoring a forum on the issue today with the left-leaning Brookings Institution, Resources for the Future, and the IMF.

Grover Norquist, accustomed to reducing politicians to cowering yes-men, has apparently become one himself. Photo: ##http://www.nationaljournal.com/energy/norquist-carbon-tax-swap-for-income-tax-cut-wouldn-t-violate-no-tax-hike-pledge-20121112##National Journal##

And yesterday, Grover Norquist told the National Journal that the blood oath he extracted from a majority of members of Congress not to raise taxes wouldn’t be violated by a carbon tax — if it was accompanied by lower income taxes.

(Here’s the list of pledge signers in the current Congess [PDF] but here’s a tip: It’s quicker just to look at what Republicans didn’t sign — just 13 of them — and what Democrats did — just three. The numbers are lower in the next Congress, as politicians increasingly campaigned against the idea of making a pledge to Grover Norquist, instead of their constituents.)

Norquist only opened the door a crack, however. “It’s a conversation about what color unicorn you’d like,” he said of discussions about how to structure an income-for-carbon tax swap. “It would infuriate taxpayers.”

Apparently it also infuriated the American Energy Alliance — the political arm of the Institute for Energy Research, a think tank devoted to the promotion of fossil fuel development that’s funded in part by the ultra-right Koch brothers and their donor network.

“Grover, just butch it up and oppose this lousy idea directly,” AEA wrote in their daily newsletter today. “This word-smithing is giving us all headaches.” (Note: I don’t regularly read the AEA’s daily newsletter, so a hat tip goes out to ThinkProgress for breaking this news.)

If “butch it up” means “kow-tow to your benefactors,” then yes, “Grover” did just that, within hours. His group, Americans for Tax Reform, has now unequivocally stated its opposition to a carbon tax and promised to “work tirelessly to ensure one does not become law.”

Well, that’s a quick turnaround from saying that it wasn’t a bad idea.

Apparently a carbon tax is verboten now that the Koch brothers don’t like it. The Americans for Tax Reform statement calls it “big government” that will “forever damage the American economy” and “inevitably lead to higher taxes.” Norquist himself said, “there is no conceivable way” that such a tax wouldn’t violate his sacrosanct anti-tax pledge. Those statements directly contradict his assertion to the National Journal: “It’s possible you could structure something that wasn’t an increase and didn’t violate the pledge.”

The Obama administration has stated that, despite rumors circulated by British bankers, it was not planning to introduce a carbon tax. That assurance isn’t enough, however, for another Koch-funded think tank, the Competitive Enterprise Institute. CEI is suing the government to gain access to emails, just to make sure the Obama administration is serious about failing to take the single most effective step to prevent catastrophic climate change.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Republicans are in favor of cutting progressvie taxes and increasing regressive taxes.

    In 1983, we were told that increasing the regressive payroll tax would “Save Social Security.”  Instead, the money was just used to offset income tax cuts.

    Now they want to use the environment as an excuse.  Or not, because taking benefits away from younger generations that older generations promised themselves but were unwilling to pay for is the greater goal.

  • Daniel

    Good sleuthing. It’s amazing to see this stuff unfold in real-time. Maybe Norquist’s funders should go back to dictating orders by private phone calls, rather than use a publicly-available newsletter. What were they thinking?

  • USbike

    There is just such a stigma about paying taxes in this country.  And people wonder why the education system is falling apart and the road infrastructure is so poor quality and often worn out.  The common good mentality is terribly lacking.  

  • fj

    Pretty amazing that Koch brothers can be so blatant about destroying American governance and justice with relatively no complaint.

  • Anonymous

    This isn’t about “progressive” or “regressive”. It’s about offsetting the real, quantifiable damage of carbon-based fuels.  It’s economics at its most basic level.  To be against a carbon tax is to be for the subsidized waste of a precious resource, and the reckless neglect of the environment.

  • The tired old assertion is that the American people will never accept a tax on carbon emissions (even in exchange for rebates or cuts in other taxes), but here it’s pretty clear that powerful interests are terrified of what will happen if the people are ever given the choice.

  • KillMoto

    No such thing as selling “a little bit of your soul” to Big Oil, is there.

  • This isn’t the fist time Norquist has engaged in sophistry, nor the most blatant. Check out the link for his uber-lame explanation regarding taxing marijuana.

    http://www.nationaljournal.com/congress/grover-norquist-gives-thumbs-up-to-pot-taxes-20131024