Editorial: Opportunity for tax reform

This week’s newspaper falls equidistant between dread and hope: Tax deadline day this past Tuesday and Easter this coming Sunday. Rappahannock County’s many eloquent preachers are best qualified to talk about the latter, as they assuredly will during Sunrise and other services. So the words in this space will be devoted to something far easier, requiring very little eloquence — namely, complaining about taxes.

That April 15, the deadline day for filing federal income tax returns, inspires so many complaints, even dread, has less to do with the actual money owed, I suspect, than the frustrating way it’s computed and collected. Sure, We the People might bicker about how much tax money should be owed and what percent of the government’s resulting tax-generated revenue is spent this way or that, but . . .

Regardless of whether you’re a so-called Big Government liberal or Small Government conservative, you probably agree that the process of filling out and filing your tax return is not fun. We the People’s representatives in Congress — refusing to simplify the tax code at the risk of upsetting special interests — have made sure of that.

The most obstructionist special interests represent the fossil-fuel industry, for they refuse to go along with an obvious reform privately endorsed by both Republicans and Democrats: A comprehensive overhaul of the tax code, simplifying it while reducing both individual and corporate tax rates, and replacing the lost revenue with a simple carbon tax.

Without such a new law mitigating U.S. carbon emissions, according to scientists on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the most catastrophic impacts of global warming will be unstoppable, inevitable. For the United States, at an estimated 16,400 tons of carbon emissions per capita is second only to China (7,100 tons per capita) in total carbon emissions — in millions of tons annually, that’s 5,190 and 9,860, respectively. The U.S. and China, together with eight other countries, are responsible for 70 percent of the world’s total greenhouse gas pollution.

From dread to hope: From the dread of all the climate-induced disasters ahead — drastic sea level rise, crop damage, droughts, increased poverty and disease — may rise the hope that we’ll have the political will finally to do something about it. Just change the tax code! Save the planet!

Walter Nicklin