A Fool and His Primer

So… mrs. green and I speak often about how newspapers will be able to support themselves going forward, now that their revenue model has gone up in Craig’s List smoke. The supposition is that at some point, through collusion or other such cartel-like agreement, the larger and dependable online sources of actual reporting will have to start charging for content. This allows that some of them will be able to charge for content, with the inferred assumption that this is true as long as they don’t destroy their brand.

THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS A ‘LIGHT-SWITCH TAX’…. In an apparent effort to be an even more shameless hack, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) argues in a Washington Post op-ed today that “all American families will get stuck with a new ‘light-switch tax’ on electricity bills that is in the president’s budget.”

It’s not just Gregg. While President Obama cut taxes for the vast majority of Americans, a standard Republican talking point is that Obama is also raising taxes on everyone who uses electricity. The new GOP catch phrase popped up about a week ago, when the House Republican Conference said in a press release that the administration supports “a light switch tax that would cost every American household $3,128 a year.”

As is too often the case, the difference between Republican rhetoric and reality is overwhelming.

The extent to which established and dependable media sources commit to undermining their brand will have as much effect on their long-term viability as the bad decision-making of the corporate owners.

Also note the tendentious application of tax rhetoric to what is, sad to say, only an imagined attempt to create incentives to influence energy demand. It’s like the ‘death tax’ BS. Republicans can and do choose to see everything through the prism of taxes, but this childlike construct requires a grand gesture at the outset – primarily setting up the government as some separate, antagonistic entity, out to get you and your hard-earned winnings.

In the interest of brevity, a foolish and naive primer: We support the country, literally, by funding the government. It’s patriotic, sure, but also practical. We use it for all kinds of things we can and do disagree about – fighting wars, picking up the trash, putting out fires, educating our youngsters. Yet, through the magic of funding activities like these, we discover the handy ability to encourage or discourage behaviors by charging ourselves more or less for doing or not doing certain things – from littering to using lead paint, for example, but also having children, buying a home.

So despite this ‘light-switch tax’ scare-mongering, and it will get worse, taxing carbon emissions will be the route away from carbon-centric energy sources and toward affordable renewable energy. Whatever the costs, we will create a funding regimen that ultimately rewards sustainability. That’s not optimism – it’s what the system is supposed to do. The country is us – we fund the government.

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