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Time Part V: Time Goes for the Green -- In Your Wallet

     Time is money. Those words took on special meaning when Time magazine gave its readers “51 Things You Can Do to Make a Difference” and stop global warming.


     Some recommendations were enough to line pockets around the globe, from paying a carbon tax to creating a “carbon budget,” yet another way to tax the West.


     The carbon budget is a tax designed to battle the “essential injustice of global warming,” that “the poor will suffer the worst effects while contributing far less to carbon emissions than the rich.” To accomplish this, Time wants each of us on a budget that somehow we would be held to or taxed for.


     Imagine that scenario: government taxing you on all of your energy use, home, travel, maybe even for the energy used in what you eat. It’s a “cap-and-trade scheme for individuals.” Scheme is right. It’s a scheme to tax Westerners for having created a sophisticated society. Next up, a tax on the West for having made better use of democracy.


    That wasn’t Time’s only idea to tax the West. Here’s the detail on the carbon budget, carbon tax and more.


     Each of the 51 things is rated by its “impact,” “time horizon” and “feel good factor.” Here are a few highlights (Time’s ratings on a scale of 1 to 10/low to high):


·         # 40 “Get a carbon budget” – Each individual in the entire world would have a certain allocation of carbon output to “spend” (hopefully not including exhaling). If your output exceeded your budget, you would pay taxes on the excess. Impact: 9. (The gang at the IRS should already be working on a carbon budget form that tracks every aspect of your lives.) Feel good factor: 6. (Only Tony Shalhoub’s “Monk” character could enjoy something this obsessive.)


·         # 5 “Pay the carbon tax” – There are tax-and-spend liberals and then there’s Time, which is the tax-and-tax-some-more variety. The magazine was neutral on which major government regulation should control our lives – caps or taxes. But when it came to taxes, Time writers were quick to point out even a “10% flat carbon tax” “may not be enough.” Even worse, according to the magazine, it might not be either cap-and-trade or big taxes – the “environmental equivalent of Elvis vs. the Beatles.” The publication claimed “in the end, the world may need both.” Impact: 9. (A 10-percent tax might not be enough? Can you imagine what Time would consider a “10” for impact?) Feel good factor: 2. (Only the holy grail of carbon capture, modifying all coal plants and wearing live wolverines to keep warm ranked lower. OK, we’re kidding about one of those. We think.)


·         # 36 “Play the market” – Someone needs to teach time staffers about free market economics. According to the magazine, “environmentalists are using the force of the free market.” In this fantasy, government mandates that limit energy use (“carbon caps”) create a “free market” that then establishes the price of carbon credits. But it’s not exactly businesses’ choice to purchase those credits – they must offset their carbon emissions. Time called that old-fashioned “horse-trading.” It’s definitely something involving horses, but not “trading.” Government creating a bogus market out of something that has no value is just a tax, and there’s nothing “free” about that market. Impact: 9. (Impact is higher on economists who try to explain why this is stupid.) Feel good factor: 2. (That’s the same rating the carbon tax got. Big surprise. They’re both taxes.)


     Not everything Time wrote was designed to encourage spending. Readers were urged to hang their clothes to dry on old-fashioned clotheslines, consider buying vintage (used) clothes, and to open windows instead of using air conditioning.


     It’s hard to do justice to all 51, so all this week the Business & Media Institute has addressed the most entertaining or ridiculous of the suggestions. Here’s Part I, Part II, Part III and Part IV.