The federal government stands at an economic crossroads. After twelve years of anti-taxation executive agendas, the budget deficit looms as the foremost obstacle to America's future prosperity. Now a new presidential administration is at the helm - an administration avowedly pledged to reducing the deficit - and the bitter medicine of deficit-reduction must be swallowed: the federal government needs to cut spending and raise revenues - that is, increase taxes somewhere within the national infrastructure while reducing services to the electorate composing that entity - while, it must be added, not wrecking the economy by spurring inflation and sending the current recession spiralling down into a depression.
At the same time - after the same twelve year span of anti-conservation/anti-environmentalist leadership - the current administration was elected on a platform that included advocacy for both programs. The first target of conservation groups is the massive oil consumption of the American public, business and individual consumer alike. The first target of environmental groups is the overwhelming pollution caused by utilizing petroleum, fossil fuels and other "unclean" fuel sources - caused by a "deregulatory" business environment that holds few incentives for developing nascent "clean" fuel industries.
The crossroads the Clinton Administration stands at, then, is how to reconcile a need to raise revenues and bolster the economy while cleaning up the environment by reducing "unclean" fuel consumption.
The answer proposed to date - discounting an unauthorized mention of a Value Added Tax (VAT) by Health Secretary Donna Shalala on April 15th - is the imposition of a broad based tax on energy consumption based upon the British Thermal Unit (Btu) as a measure of energy content. Covering all forms of energy, under the general outlines described by Administration officials, the Btu tax would be phased-in to the economy over...