In the Arena

For A Gas Tax

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Charles Krauthammer has an absolutely compelling, and completely unexpected, argument for a gasoline tax in the Weekly Standard. He proposes a $1 per gallon tax that would be revenue neutral, 100% redistributed into payroll taxes and social security checks. This is not a new idea. (I wrote a column proposing a gas tax-payroll tax swap a few years ago; others came well before me.) And Krauthammer is, not surprisingly, more sympathetic to the national security arguments for higher gasoline prices than the environmental ones–Krauthammer remains unconvinced that global warming is man-made. But it is fascinating to see this proposal on the cover of Bill Kristol’s magazine. (And yes, one might argue ulterior motives–let a Democrat self-immolate by imposing a gas tax…one wonders where Krauthammer was on this issue the past eight years?)

Still, the simplicity of the thing is beautiful–especially when you compare to the mind-numbing complexity and scam-ability of a cap-and-trade program to limit carbon emissions. And it’s about time that workers got a payroll tax break, especially those urban sorts who “take the early bus,”  many of whom pay no income taxes. I harbor no illusions that Obama will spend political capital on a tax that would play into the hands of Rush and such, but let’s be honest: this is, without doubt, the most elegant way to lower carbon emissions and dependence on foreign oil.