Cross-posted from Smirking Chimp
Louise and I spent the holiday weekend near Lewisburg, West Virginia.
While we were there, we saw some pretty extraordinary signs of wealth. But we also saw the extreme poverty that West Virginia is known for.
That extreme poverty, and the gap between the rich and the poor in that state, is being driven by the coal industry.
West Virginia's principal industry is the extraction of coal, and most of the profits from that coal extraction (and now gas fracking) are going out of West Virginia. And the profits that do stay within West Virginia stay in the hands of a very small number of very wealthy families.
But what if West Virginians were to say to the coal industry, "If you're going to take our fossil fuels out of our state, then you have to pay us in the form of a carbon/coal tax"?
And what if all of the money that the state raked in from the coal industry each year was cycled back to the people of West Virginia?
This same sort of scenario has been playing out in Alaska -- Sarah Palin's Alaska -- for more than 30 years with great success.
Back in 1976, Alaska established the Alaska Permanent Fund, which was designed to help all Alaskans profit off of that state's oil industry.
Since then, Alaskan citizens have received a check in the mail each year. It's essentially a "guaranteed minimum income" like many European and Middle Eastern countries have.
In 2013, the permanent fund's Annual Individual Payout was $900.00. This year, it's expected to be between $1,300 and $1,400.
The program is incredibly popular, and even Sarah Palin, who's scared straight by the slightest mention of the word socialism, supported the fund, and even raised taxes on the oil industry even more, to fund an additional $1,200 one-time payment to Alaskans in 2008.
Now imagine if West Virginia was able to reap some of these same rewards.
If that state put a tax on coal and gas extraction -- effectively a carbon tax -- and then cycled all of the money it took in back to the people, the results could be extraordinary.
Say the West Virginia government collects $3 billion from the coal industry under a coal and carbon tax in one year.
That $3 billion is then redistributed to the people of West Virginia, every man, woman and child.