After seeing up close what may be the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history, Trump is giving a speech Wednesday to push ... massive tax cuts. Unbelievable! So unbelievable, I’ve come up with what he should say instead.
Last week I wrote that House Speaker Paul Ryan picked the worst spot in America to push for a big corporate tax cut: the floor of a booming Boeing factory.
But this week, President Donald Trump is set to outdo him. Except Trump’s is a case of the worst possible timing.
On Wednesday, Trump is kicking off his part of the same GOP campaign for slashing taxes on businesses and individuals. But Trump is awkwardly doing it right as floodwaters still are rising from the U.S.’ biggest — and probably costliest — natural disaster ever.
Says a preview of the speech: “We’re going to win again by slashing the business tax rate and making our companies competitive again.”
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No, we’re not. Winning again surely involves first rebuilding the ravaged metro area of Houston, home to 6.5 million people and the U.S. oil industry. And that’s going to take some bigly money, right?
The most expensive storm was Katrina, wrecking New Orleans to the tune of $160 billion. Houston is so much larger it would not be a shock if Hurricane Harvey becomes the country’s first $200 billion disaster.
Congress shouldn’t just foist dollar amounts that fat onto the federal deficit (though they probably will). The deficit for this year is $352 billion. So this one storm could balloon that by 50 percent.
But calling for enormous tax cuts as the disaster is ongoing is even crazier. It shows a complete disconnect from reality.
Whether you believe climate change is the cause of all this or a Chinese hoax, it’s a fact that big-price-tag storms like Harvey are getting more routine. That may be partly due to rising storm intensity and rainfall, as the climate scientists argue. Or it may be due mostly to us: We’ve built more in the storms’ paths, so there’s more to fix.
Either way, the federal flood-insurance program already is $25 billion in debt. FEMA is about to run out of money. The infrastructure to take on the next storm — or earthquake, as may be the case in Seattle — isn’t being built at anywhere near the rate it needs to be.
So here’s what Trump should announce Wednesday: a national carbon tax.
Don’t laugh. OK you can laugh about Trump. He probably isn’t going to do something rational come hell or high water, so it makes little difference that the latter has arrived.
But even Exxon Mobil just came out in favor of a carbon-tax plan. So did BP and Shell. The idea is to tax fossil fuels at a rate of about 35 cents per gallon of gas, to raise about $200 billion a year. The point is to make polluting more expensive. The plan of the Climate Leadership Council, a slew of old-guard conservatives, would return that money as yearly dividend checks to taxpayers.
It’s kind of like that revenue-neutral climate change initiative voters defeated here in Washington state last fall.
But some of the carbon-tax money could also be used to stormproof our cities. No need to frenzy up the Breitbart crowd by using the dreaded words “climate change.” Call it the “American Preparedness Fund.” We know storms are getting costlier. Shouldn’t we get ready, regardless of the reasons why?
After offering to pay for the monumental Houston damage, as Trump just did, the last thing he should be doing now is offering up big tax breaks. That’s the something-for-nothing mentality that got us into this mess. That isn’t conservative. It’s reckless.
So, instead: “I have seen firsthand the devastation down in Houston — I just came from there, it’s the worst of all time, nobody knew storms could be that big, Obama’s storms were so puny — oh, OK, back to the teleprompter … so, instead of the tax cuts I was going to propose today, I must instead call on America’s great people and businesses to rally to this cause, to rebuild Houston in a smarter way, and then to fortify our coasts and infrastructure, all while protecting our environment and, above all, making America great again.”
In my dreams, I know. But a new reality’s gotta start somewhere.