Pollution Taxes, Gore and Immigration
September 19, 2006, 07:10 PM
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Al Gore recently said in a speech at NYU:

For the last fourteen years, I have advocated the elimination of all payroll taxes — including those for social security and unemployment compensation — and the replacement of that revenue in the form of pollution taxes — principally on CO2. The overall level of taxation would remain exactly the same. It would be, in other words, a revenue neutral tax swap. But, instead of discouraging businesses from hiring more employees, it would discourage business from producing more pollution.

Now, what does this have to do with immigration? Gore has the most restrictive record on immigration of any major presidential candidate. Now, one of the major incentives for illegal immigration has been a means for employers to avoid US tax regulations. Moving taxes from payrolls to pollution would eliminate that particular loophole rather rapidly. Also, if we removed payroll taxes as the basis for funding Social Security and other social programs, then it would raise the question of what determines eligibility for those programs. I would argue that eligibility should be citizenship(and we should close the loopholes of birthright citizenship)-and that is another major opportunity as we move towards seriously negotiating on this proposal.

The big reservation I have about Gore`s proposed tax plan: I don`t think it would be distributionally neutral. One of the major features of the open borders economy has been a strong movement towards increased concentration of wealth. The Gore proposal is an enormous change to how taxes are handled—and remove a lot of what is left in the tax code on restrictions on highly concentrated wealth and income. I would suggest that this tax move be done somewhat gradually. Furthermore, I would suggest that a wealth tax on large estates(say those over 1-5 million which are the top 5% and 1% respectfully that would kick in if there were further concentration of wealth as we moved away from payroll and income taxes. The simple fact is that those of us concerned about immigration have no reason to be particularly accomodating towards the wealthy interests that have profitted from mass immigration.

I`m not especially impressed by what I have heard Gore say about the topic of immigration, but given the choice between a solid voting record and poor rhetoric —and a good rhetoric and a poor voting record, I`ll choose the former.