The Iran Policy “Gas Tax”

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    Cross-posted at Daily Kos

    Here’s what I don’t get:  Every serious analyst agrees that the current increase in gas prices is due to the current US policy of getting tough on Iran, and market fears that we, or Israel, may get even tougher. Even the CEO of Exxon has said as much.  And yet we are having an absurd political debate about the gas price increases that barely mentions these actual reasons.  See for example this story in today’s Washington Post which never even mentions Iran.  

    Yet every single time the President’s enemies bring up climate change, they invariably refer to efforts to mitigate climate impacts as some form of “gas tax”.  Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Urinal has spilled much ink making that connection, just as Sen. Inhofe (R-Oil) has released massive quantities of CO2 calling cap and trade proposals “Cap and Tax.”

    So why don’t we talk about an Iran policy gas tax?

    Look, every policy has costs associated with it, and if our political leaders ever treated us as adults, they would talk with us about what those costs are and why we should consider bearing them — instead of telling us we can have whatever policies we choose while cutting our taxes to the bone.  

    But instead, we have a selective conversation — for some policies, like climate change, politicians talk about the cost of action, but almost never about the costs of inaction.  (Those who have looked at the costs of ignoring climate change put it well in the trillions.) For military issues, like what we do with Iraq, Iran and Syria, it’s the reverse — these actions, Republicans tell us, are essential to take regardless of the cost.  (Indeed, Mitt Romney has called for increasing our military budget to record levels beyond what we spent to counter the Soviet Union.)

    At the same time, the outlay side of the ledger and the revenue side are almost always separated in Washington, so it seems that we can always talk about cutting taxes to infinitessimal levels with no impact on whatever we call for on the policy side.  It’s like listening to schitzophrenics having a conversation totally unhinged from reality.

    Stopping Iran from getting a nuclear weapon is a policy with merit if carried out diplomatically and well, and I support the Obama administration’s sanctions policy.  But let’s be completely honest in acknowledging that such a policy is raising our gas prices and more drastic policies, like bombing Iran — which I totally oppose — will send gas prices through the roof.  It’s an implicit tax, the cost of our policy choices.  

    Dealing with climate change will also involve paying some costs and making some choices.  It’s worth paying those prices because thousands of scientists worldwide have identified many disturbing consequences of global warming that will only get worse — to dangerously extreme levels — the longer we put off serious action.

    Maybe someday we can have leaders who talk to us like this, explaining the costs of action vs. inaction in regards to all of our policy decisions, so we can make those decisions well.  Until then, we’re all stuck in dreamworld, unequipped to understand why our policy choices keep leading to disaster.