Every time a tax reform is discussed in Germany, an interesting phenomenon can be observed: someone makes a sample calculation, according to which a certain constellation of individual household characteristics - a family with three children, four cars and five horses - leads to significant additional burdens. The individual case is exploited by the media and the reform is dead.
This fate now threatens the taxation of carbon dioxide, with which global warming is to be fought. The report of the Council of Experts on the assessment of macroeconomic development presented this Friday showed that the attempt to play off ecological and social justice against each other is above all one thing: ideology.
Why is? The introduction of a tax on gasoline, diesel and heating oil will increase the price of C02, which in all experience leads to less CO2 being released into the air. Just as fewer apples are consumed when the price of apples rises.
The charm of such a tax: It is a market-based instrument, so the state does not have to specify exactly who and when to save how much C02. The market would regulate this via the price mechanism, which is usually more efficient. Or as Council President Christoph Schmidt puts it: "There is a historic opportunity to change the expensive German climate policy."
But because the state should not enrich themselves with such a tax, it will be distributed back to the citizens - in the form of a lump sum. So who drives a lot, the bottom line paid less taxes than before, who leaves the car, which is relieved. In concrete terms, the economies calculate the following model: the price of one tonne of C02 increases to 35 euros by the introduction of the tax, which adds another 11 billion euros to the state. For each German citizen in the simplest case, 140 euros are transferred from the state treasury.
The result of the model calculations: the bottom half of the population would be relieved on the bottom line, not burdened. The main burden of the measure is borne by the top earners. So the C02 tax does not have to be socialized, it's already social. Anyone who claims otherwise is not concerned with the fate of the poor people, but with the prevention of the inevitably necessary ecological transformation of the economy. Or, as Rüdiger Bachmann, an economist at the University of Notre Dame in the US, puts it: "The distribution aspect of a CO2 tax is a smoke candle thrown by people who otherwise do not care about distribution policy."
Now, there are certainly people who earn little but still have to pay more. Because they live in the countryside in a big house and have a long commute, for example. But for such isolated cases, there is also a solution. For example, a hardship fund could be set up, which grants, for example, subsidies for commuting costs or the installation of a climate-friendly heating system.
If you do it wisely, no one in Germany is likely to complain about a CO2 tax.