Tax cut to save life on earth

Got your attention?

by Carolyn Chase, Editor

he Natural Wealth of Nations - Harnessing the Market for the Environment, by Worldwatch Institute Senior Researcher David Roodman, offers solutions to environmental problems by showing how we can turn the tremendous power of market economies away from environmentally destructive activities and toward protecting natural wealth and human health.

Roodman shows how cutting these wasteful subsidies can boost the economy and save tax dollars, while protecting the environment. Roodman argues governments need to slash the $650 billion in obsolete subsidies for environmentally destructive activities from logging to mining to driving. This would pay for a $2,000 tax cut for every family of four in the United States, Japan or Germany.

Roodman also proposes raising taxes on harmful activities like air pollution, while cutting taxes on payrolls and profits a tax shift that would discourage pollution without harming the economy.

The Natural Wealth of Nations calls on governments to fundamentally reorient how they raise and spend money in order to protect the earth. The proposals seem like common sense but are sure to rile established interests.

These and other proposals in this book would make the market better reflect the environmental costs and benefits of what we do. Putting a price on pollution turns environmental protection into a profit opportunity. When businesses are faced with environmental taxes, many turn their expertise to creating technologies that conserve resources and slash pollution levels. Market-based solutions for environmental protection exploit humanity's greatest resource: its creativity in problem solving.

Of course, governments offer most of these subsidies with the best of intentions: stimulating development, protecting jobs, aiding the poor. But almost all, Roodman asserts, are obsolete, ineffective, grossly inefficient or self-defeating. To keep old coal mines competitive and preserve jobs, he points out, Germany spends $86,000 per miner each year in subsidies. It would be cheaper to shut down the mines and pay miners not to work.

The book also argues that governments need to shift an additional $1.5 trillion per year in taxes, by jacking up levies on pollution and resource waste, and using the money to cut taxes on work and investment.

Roodman says, "Unless we stop subsidizing environmental harm and start taxing it, we will never save the planet. Solving problems like global warming slashing fossil fuel use will take changes in where we live, how we move about, and how we make everything from bottles to buildings. No government can plan all that - much less implement and enforce it. Only if we make prices tell the ecological truth can we harness the power of the market for the environment."


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The Natural Wealth of Nations puts in our hands a clear proposal for encouraging a vibrant economy and protecting our planet.

  Carolyn Chase is Chair of the San Diego Chapter of the Sierra Club, Chair of the City of San Diego Waste Management Advisory Board, and a founder of San Diego EarthWorks and the Earth Day Network.