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When All You Have Is a Tax Hammer, Everything Looks Like a Nail

It’s amusing how Republicans have to roll themselves into contortions to describe everything under the sun as a tax, because that’s what they have the printed talking points for.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) is calling on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to delay plans to implement new greenhouse-gas standards on oil refineries, arguing the regulations would amount to “a new gas tax.”

The new greenhouse-gas standards “will hurt every American driver, trucker, farmer and flier with higher gasoline, diesel and jet fuel prices,” Hutchison said in a letter sent Wednesday to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. “Higher prices passed on to consumers will feel like a new gas tax.”

No, it’s not a tax. It’s a series of regulations. We have regulations on any number of things in America. There are regulations for the safety of food and drugs; they may cause prices to go higher, but they are not a “food tax.” There are regulations for the safety and soundness of banks; banks may lose risk-taking capacity as a result, and may seek to replace lost revenue, but the result is not a “banking consumer tax.” The only way to call all of these taxes is through a perspective that there should be no regulations on anything. Food producers should be allowed to poison you, banks should be allowed to gamble with your money and lose it without giving it back, etc., etc., etc.

I suppose Hutchison would welcome the no-regulation, anti-government environment of somewhere like Somalia, because that’s essentially what she’s calling for here.

I think progressives give away part of the game when they allow the playing field to be so narrowly defined that everything the government does is described as a tax.

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David Dayen

David Dayen