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Don't Forget About Lindsey Graham's Other Big Proposal

Irwin M. Stelzer

There has always been one feature that distinguishes Lindsey Graham from his almost-peers in the Senate: a self-deprecating sense of humor. This characteristic often obscures another engaging characteristic of Graham’s: raw courage.

So it should have come as no surprise that the senator from South Carolina took the opportunity of a seminar at Yale University to take on the Republican establishment once again—this time to declare that the climate is changing and that the cause is man-made activity which produces carbon-dioxide.

Forget for a moment whether Graham is right or wrong: The point is that when he believes he is right he doesn’t worry if he is out of step with the received wisdom of his party. Or convene a focus group. Which makes his views on other matters all the more worthy of attention.

As Republicans tie themselves in knots trying to figure out how to cut taxes without increasing the deficit, Graham insists that he will not go along with any plan that increases the burden we are passing on to our children. But it is increasingly clear that the president’s concern for deficits does not match his concern for what “Fox and Friends” have to say about him.

So Graham might want to remind his colleagues that his plan to “price carbon”—I suppose any politician is allowed a euphemism on occasion—would produce trillions in revenue over the next decade, funding the tax cuts the president wants, and perhaps leaving something over for the hard-pressed military so that, among other things, the Navy can properly train its sailors to avoid collisions.

The gentleman from South Carolina could then say to his colleagues,

I believe the climate is changing, and that by pricing carbon we are following the age-old competitive injunction to make the polluter pay and/or reduce his consumption of carbon-emitting stuff by making it more expensive. Disagree with me on the cause or even the fact of climate change if you will, but come along with me on pricing carbon so that we can raise enough revenue to cut the taxes that are preventing our economy from growing more rapidly than the meager rate of 1 percent or 2 percent.

If this isn’t the “pragmatic problem-solving” that Graham’s side-kick, John McCain, called for at the same seminar (via recorded address) I can’t imagine what is.

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