Republicans and Democrats have joined forces to launch a new trade war with some of America’s trade partners by imposing tariffs (a tax) on imports coming from high carbon-polluting countries in order to fight global warming, and the inspiration for doing so comes from none other than Donald Trump.
In an interview on Morning Energy w/Josh Siegel, Trump’s top trade advisor Robert Lighthizer advocated penalizing the imports of top CO2-emitting countries like China by pairing Trump’s trade war, which was favored by Lighthizer, with fighting global warming — an issue Trump pretended to dismiss (via Politico Morning Energy):
“When you let polluters sell in your market without a border adjustment you are losing U.S. jobs in the competing industries and essentially you are subsidizing the polluters. This makes no sense,” Lighthizer told POLITICO’s Josh Siegel.
Lighthizer, the architect of Trump’s trade war against China, said he’s spoken about the idea with Republican senators toying with the idea (it’s a point of potential bipartisanship, as Josh reported in February). Republicans including Sens. Cramer and Lindsey Graham have reached out to former Trump administration officials to rally support for the policy in order to boost credibility with conservatives who are skittish about being associated with any policy that would address climate change. (Emphasis mine)
NEW: Trump's top trade adviser Robert Lighthizer backs a border carbon adjustment, he tells me exclusively in @Morning_Energy this morning. The idea of penalizing imports of high polluting goods pairs a protectionist trade agenda with combating climate change pic.twitter.com/gH0cOqFdr7
— Joshua Siegel (@SiegelScribe) May 2, 2022
“Border adjustment” is politispeak for tariffs which is politispeak for taxes, so the real issue being discussed here is carbon taxes on imports.
In the report February report mentioned above, we see how Republicans have adopted Trump’s trade war tariffs strategy to justify imposing a carbon tax on imports to fight global warming:
Trump was no climate activist, of course — he mocked climate science as a Chinese-inspired hoax and ordered his administration to shred the United States’ efforts to reduce greenhouse gases. But he also advanced a combative trade policy that wielded tariffs as a weapon. And that has opened the door for Republicans to consider a protectionist trade policy linked to addressing climate change, lawmakers engaged in the early discussions say.
“What did Trump do? When you had unfair business practices that gave the other country an advantage over our businesses, he put a tariff on their product,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who has been engaging with Democrats on the issue, told POLITICO. “Well, we are trying to move the world to a cleaner environment, and China, India and other countries are not doing as much, and they need to pay a price.”
In an attempt to shore up support from the right wing, Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) has reached out to former Trump administration officials who back the policy and has emphasized the geopolitical and economic benefits of imposing a border carbon adjustment.
“What we are working on is an America-first climate policy. Donald Trump should love it. He brought the Republican Party to a tariff position we were never comfortable with previously,” Cramer told POLITICO. (Emphasis mine)
Lighthizer also said he is opposed to pairing any tariff or fee on imported goods with a corresponding domestic carbon price, even though economists and trade experts say it would be hard to get the World Trade Organization to approve a carbon border fee for a country that wants to penalize imported goods based on carbon content without taxing its own products. (Emphasis mine)
On this last point, Lighthizer is simply engaging in a bit of political posturing because Republicans have already developed a carbon tax scheme that would apply to American-made products.
In early 2017, just weeks after his inauguration, Trump met with a group of GOP has-beens and the Climate Leadership Council led by former Secretary-of-State James Baker to discuss the need for a carbon tax to fight global warming.
For the uninitiated, James Baker’s law firm represented Exxon and Rex Tillerson and lobbied for Tillerson to get his old job as Trump’s SOS. Tillerson is a believer in global warming, a supporter of the Paris Climate Agreement, and an advocate of carbon taxes to fight so-called climate change.
According to Baker, his “carbon fee and dividend” scheme would provide every American an energy “dividend” in the form of a check from the Social Security Administration while creating an “insurance policy” against ecological disaster.
“I really don’t know the extent to which it is man-made, and I don’t think anybody can tell you with certainty that it’s all man-made. [But] the risk is sufficiently strong that we need an insurance policy [sic], and this is a damn good insurance policy.”
Baker wasn’t talking about an insurance policy to protect planet earth from the consequences of so-called global warming, he was talking about an insurance policy to protect government’s ability to feed its spending addiction.
This carbon tax scheme received new life in 2020 during Trump’s reelection campaign when he decided to “soften the rhetoric” on the global warming issue and “shift his position” in hopes of appeasing radical environmentalists in states like Florida. Inspired by this flip-flop, Trumpist Republicans in Congress decided to make carbon taxes a reality.
Hoping to win over young so-called conservative voters in 2020, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy released a package of global warming legislation that focused on carbon capture tax subsidies, planting trees, and funding clean energy innovation. Though not specifically addressing the carbon tax issue, the plan “put a price on carbon” designed to monetize his ideas in the future.
At the same time that this was going on, 18 business leaders of major corporations — aka campaign donors — met with senators from both parties to push the carbon tax scheme proposed by James Baker and the Climate Leadership Council to Donald Trump in 2017.
According to Baker, his carbon tax idea “is a good proposal, it’s simple, it’s conservative, it’s free market, it’s limited government.” But in reality, there’s nothing conservative, free market or limited government about it. Obama proposed a plan just like it in 2013 — proving that when the socialists have an “R” after their names, it’s all good — and like his bill, Republicans promise to use the revenues collected from a carbon tax to redistribute the wealth to the “poor” due to the inevitable increase in energy prices.
Despite what Trump or the Republicans are telling you, creating a carbon tax or “tariff” on imports to fight global warming is a terrible idea. It will ensure that energy prices continue to skyrocket, allow Big Brother to continue chipping away at our liberty, and help establish a new revenue source for the feds that will never go away — all because government needs more money to feed its spending addiction.
David Leach is the owner of the Strident Conservative. He holds people of every political stripe accountable for their failure to uphold conservative values, and he promotes those values instead of political parties.