Sunday, November 4, 2007

How Big-Government Republicans Approach Environmental Problems

William Saletan summarizes the Green Gingrich so you don't you have to read Newt's new book:

Nor is he averse to government spending and intervention in markets. He just wants the spending and intervention to take the form of incentives. Instead of giving $1 billion to a federal agency to deal with a problem, he'd offer the money as a prize to the first company that solves it. As the conversation proceeds, Gingrich throws money at one challenge after another. Hydrogen fuel? Dangle a 10-figure prize. Nuclear waste? A 10 percent tax break to any state that accepts it. Endangered species? Annual bonuses to countries that keep them alive. Math and science education? Pay poor kids for taking the classes and earning a B average. Even FDR's colossal outlays fit Gingrich's philosophy. "The entire New Deal was based on incentives," he says.

How does Gingrich square all this spending with limited government? To begin with, he reasons, it isn't much money. Second, the government doesn't administer solutions; it dangles the money and lets industry find the best way. Third, it doesn't count as spending if it comes off the revenue side of the ledger. We're not paying you to take nuclear waste; we're just cutting your taxes. Gingrich swears industry will be more inspired to solve the hydrogen problem by if we offer $1 billion tax-free than if we offer $1.8 billion subject to taxes. Why? People hate taxes, he says. Getting money tax-free just "feels better."