The “Race to the Top” mentality is creating an economy – and society – where only the winners matter

One of the things I do in the fall is volunteer as a coach for cross country runners at Ballard High School. I usually end up coaching the kids at the end of the pack. That’s how it should be. Because with cross country, it’s not just about the fastest runners, it is also about the kids in the middle and the kids who can barely finish — everyone who wants to put their best effort out there to compete for their best time.

Here’s the thing, though: Life is a little different than a cross country race. In a meet, every kid begins at the same starting line. In life, that is rarely the case. Too often, America’s “Race to the Top”-style public policies put a few kids on the starting line or the inside lane — usually those who were born with the luck or heritage to get a strong start in life — and most others a few hundred meters back, or in the far outside lane.

Competition can push us to work harder and get better — and that’s a good thing. But when this “race” mentality runs unchecked, the danger is we start to believe the winners are the only ones who matter. And when our economy, our educational institutions, and our government are creating social and economic injustice — especially by continually giving more advantages to those born with a head start in life — then we’re no longer living in a democracy.

There was a name for this mentality a century ago: Social Darwinism. It was the excuse for the favoritism of the market and the adulation of the wealthy. “Race to the Top” may sound more civil, but it is the same thing. Suddenly, it’s just another day when The New York Times sponsors an International Luxury Conference in Miami, while more than a fifth of Florida residents lack health coverage and 1 out of 7 people there live in poverty.

American democracy began with the exhortation to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. To actually make progress toward those ideals, we all need certain things, including a good education, affordable and accessible health care, respect for work at all levels and a secure retirement.

In a true democracy, these foundations are not just for the winning few, or the top half, or even the top 80 percent. They have to be a reality for all of us: the poorest who can’t make ends meet; the middle class family undermined by stagnating wages, skyrocketing housing costs and college tuition; the kids who took a wrong turn and ended up in prison; the people too ill to work; the developmentally disabled; the alcoholic; the ex-spouse; the person who yelled at you in road rage this morning; the co-worker who gets you to do all the work.

Because when these are cordoned off only for the wealthy, the winners, or the “good” people, it’s not a democracy at all. Only when they are shared and enjoyed by all — the good, the bad, working poor people and pampered trust fund babies — are we truly fulfilling the promise of America’s ideals.

At the end of the day, we’re all in this together. Our economy will fail to function for most of us if the gains continue only going to the top. Our society will break down if we continue disempowering people based on their race, gender or sexual orientation.

In high school — especially in a diverse one — it’s hard to get by if you only learn algebra and English. You also have to learn how to get along with the winners, the losers, the best test takers, the cheaters, the kids late for class, and the smokers in the alleys. (Or if not get along, understand that all these kids are part of your world.)

Cross country running provides a big envelope to take in a lot of different kids. There is no bench. Everyone gets to run. Some are stars, some are in the middle of the pack, some come in at the very end, every single race. But they all finish. That’s the beauty and spirit of cross country. And with the right public policies in place, it can be part of the American Dream, too.

Originally published at EOI Online

A Challenge to Warren Buffet: End BNSF railroad's dependence on hauling and burning fossil fuels!

The Buffett Legacy Project is our moral appeal to multi-billionaire Warren Buffett, owner of BNSF. We launched a petition on Sunday and released a series of video letters asking that Buffett: (full letter below)

“End BNSF railroad’s dependence on hauling and burning fossil fuels. Partner with Gov. Inslee to electrify BNSF, increase track speeds, and run your trains on 100% renewable energy from Seattle to Chicago.”

This “Ask” is backed up with our companion Solutionary Rail project, our policy proposal to shift the economics of rail to make it an engine for sustainable transport and renewable energy rather than an accelerator for climate and environmental catastrophe. The Solutionary Rail proposal is being created by a dedicated team from around the country which has been meeting since last October. Patrick Mazza and I outlined the Solutionary Rail proposal on Diane Horn’s Sustainability Segment on KEXP last Saturday. (Listen here).

Feeling adventurous? If you create your own respectful-yet-strong moral appeal to Mr. Buffett, we’ll add it to the campaign.

Sign onto this letter to Warren Buffett via http://BuffettLegacy.org petition:

Dear Mr. Buffett,

Please, stop “hedging your bets” with investments in further use offossil fuels that are guaranteed to harm the climate and the well beingof future generations. Your railroad, BNSF’s reliance on shipping coaland oil is not sustainable for your company, your workers, or theplanet. These fuels are causing climate disruption, oceanacidification, damaging public health, and endangering the environmentsand cultural inheritance of the communities they move through.

As the owner, you have the capacity to break the BNSF’s and the railroadindustry’s addiction to the consumption and transport of fossil fuels. You alone have the power to transform the role and impact of railroadsfrom being part of the problem to being a pivotal component of thesolution.

As you have pointed out, transportation by rail is 3-4 times more energyefficient than by truck. Electrification of the railroad would multiplythat efficiency again by 3. Investment in modernization of rail lineswill deliver higher speeds, which will draw high value freight off oftrucks on our overburdened highways and make intercity passenger servicemore attractive. Electrified rail can run on zero emissions energy fromwind, sun and other renewable sources. It is even possible for yourrailroad’s right-of-way to serve as a highly efficient HVDC transmissioncorridor for clean, renewable energy.

We call this vision Solutionary Rail. We urge you to work with Governor Jay Inslee and other regional leadersmake the Northern Transcon part of the solution for future generations. Implement the Solutionary Rail model to create a backbone forsustainable transport and renewable energy infrastructure in the regionthrough which BNSF roles. Establish your legacy as the benevolentbillionaire who had the wisdom to invest in the pivot to a sustainablefuture.

Respectfully,

Signer… (YOU!)


For more on this topic, visit http://solutionaryrail.org/, a project of Backbone Campaign.

Backbone Campaign marked this historic weekend by being out in the streets in Seattle and New York City as well as at the Protect the Sacred rally at the US/Canada border. We used this pivotal moment to launch two new fronts in our campaign to save our beautiful Pacific NW home-bioregion Cascadia and the Salish Sea from becoming a fossil fuel corridor to Asia. I was honored to be able to address the crowd about these projects at the Seattle rally Sunday.

Carbon Pricing and Northwest Businesses

This post is 14 in the series: Cashing In Our Carbon, from SightLine Daily.

Many business owners and workers worry that carbon pricing will hurt local economies. They need to know: How would carbon pricing affect businesses and job creation in Washington and Oregon? In particular, how would it affect energy-intensive businesses that compete in national and international markets with companies not yet covered by carbon pricing? Will these energy-intensive, trade-exposed (EITE) businesses, like steel and aluminum manufacturing, still be able to compete with businesses outside the state or will carbon pricing send their sales plummeting? Will pricing carbon in the Northwest just send production and carbon pollution elsewhere? In other words, will carbon emissions “leak” to out-of-state firms?

The answer? Most businesses are not energy-intensive and consequently would be essentially unaffected; they might even benefit from carbon pricing if they receive offsetting reductions in existing taxes. However, a small group of energy-intensive businesses, only some of them trade-exposed, would be substantially affected by a price on carbon. Fortunately, there may be ways to partially and perhaps fully address those impacts, for example by reducing existing taxes on manufacturers.

In this article, I will spell out that answer, industry by industry, for Oregon and Washington. I assume a carbon price of $25 per ton of CO2. That figure is based on the proposal for Washington State that I’m working on with CarbonWA.org, and it’s close to the $30 carbon tax in BC. If you’re more interested in a California-style system, divide most of the carbon pricing financial impacts by two because permit prices there are roughly $12 per ton at the moment. For simplicity, I concentrate on CO2 from fossil fuels, which account for more than 75 percent of the total. A more-complete review would need to study more thoroughly the handful of industries with significant emissions of other greenhouse gases (GHGs) or of CO2 from other sources.

Who pays a price on carbon?

There are three ways to see that direct impacts of a carbon price on most businesses would be modest. The first approach is anecdotal: let’s consider a hypothetical energy-intensive business that spends 50 percent of its revenue on petroleum fuels. (That’s very roughly in the ballpark for an airline or a trucking company.) A carbon price of $25 per ton of CO2 works out to about 25 cents a gallon, so to keep the math simple let’s call that an extra 10 percent in fuel costs. Overall costs, then, increase by 5 percent. And since our hypothetical energy-intensive business sees a carbon pricing impact of only 5 percent, the vast majority of businesses—retailers, software companies, etc.—are going to see an impact that is much, much smaller.

The second approach is to look at actual data from an energy-intensive sector of the economy—manufactured goods—and notice how stable prices have been despite the wild price changes in oil and natural gas over the past 15 years. The impacts of a $25 carbon price would be much less than these natural price swings, and if these natural price swings haven’t had a strong impact on the selling price of manufactured goods then it’s clear that the vast majority of businesses will not be greatly affected by a carbon price.

Data sources: Prices for crude oil (U.S. first purchase price) and natural gas (industrial price) from EIA; Producer Price Index (for total manufacturing industries) from BLS. Original Sightline Institute graphic, available under our free use policy.

The third and final approach is to consider the data from the Carnegie Mellon Economic Input-Output Life Cycle Assessment (EIO-LCA) model, which breaks down the economy into 428 sectors and tracks the direct and indirect carbon emissions associated with each one. (The sectors are not of equal size: “retail trade” is one sector, and so is “power generation and supply,” and so is “tortilla manufacturing.”) The exact numbers from this model need to be treated with caution. For one thing, the model uses 2002 data and fossil fuel prices have changed since then. For another, national models like EIO-LCA don’t reflect the electricity mix in the Pacific Northwest. Still, the general results are informative.

Using the model, I estimate the impact of a $25 carbon price on each economic sector. Of the 428 sectors, only 2 (power generation and cement manufacturing) would see costs go up by an amount equal to more than 10 percent of revenue. Another 14 sectors would see a carbon price impact of 5-10 percent of revenue; examples include carbon black manufacturing, fertilizer manufacturing, and industrial gas manufacturing. The next 60 or so sectors—including pulp and paper mills, glass manufacturing, fishing, and air and truck transportation—would see a carbon price impact of 2.5-5 percent. The next 200 or so sectors would see a price impact of 1-2.5 percent; manufacturing still dominates this group, including most types of food and beverage manufacturing, but the group also includes various sectors of agriculture, forestry, mining, construction, and even a few unexpected sectors like colleges and universities. The final 150 or so sectors, with a price impact of less than 1 percent, include retail trade, software publishing, and high-value-added manufacturing such as aerospace.

A good summation comes from quoting “Who Pays a Price on Carbon?” a 2010 study of household and business impacts by economists Corbett Grainger and Charles Kolstad that uses an earlier version of the EOI-LCA model: “There are remarkably few sectors [of the economy] that see substantial cost increases.” They add that “what constitutes substantial is a subjective judgment” and I would add that whether businesses are trade-exposed matters here as well. A cost increase of (say) 3 percent is unlikely to significantly affect a business that will be able to raise its prices to compensate; the same cannot be said for a business that competes nationally or internationally, and consequently cannot raise prices, because that 3 percent will have to come out of the firm’s profit margin. (Typical profit margins for non-financial companies range from 5-10 percent according to investment advisor Jon Shayne. As another point of comparison, business and occupation [B&O] taxes in Washington State are 1.5 percent for most businesses and about 0.5 percent for manufacturing.)

Focusing on the Pacific Northwest

To bring these numbers down to the level of Washington and Oregon, consider EPA data on direct GHG emissions (not including electricity consumption) from large facilities, including all facilities that generate more than 25,000 tons of such emissions per year. For context, that level of emissions roughly equals the combined emissions of 1,000 households. In 2012, only 90 entities in Washington and 63 entities in Oregon made the cut for the EPA database.

Data source: EPA. Original Sightline Institute graphic, available under our free use policy.

Data source: EPA. Original Sightline Institute graphic, available under our free use policy.

Power plants and refineries

The dominant carbon polluters are power plants in Washington and Oregon and oil refineries in Washington. Each of those 3 sectors generates emissions of more than 6 million metric tons of CO2. At $25 per metric ton, pricing carbon would cost each sector more than $150 million.

That’s a lot of money, but remember that these are huge industries. For example, the Washington Research Council reports that the five oil refineries in Washington produced about 3.7 billion gallons of motor gasoline in 2011, plus a roughly equal amount of other products such as diesel and jet fuel. About half of their products are consumed in-state, including about 2.6 billion gallons of motor gasoline. Some $150 million in carbon pricing revenue divvied up among approximately 7.5 billion gallons of petroleum products is only about two pennies a gallon.

You might think that big industries like this would generate a lot of tax revenue for the state under the existing tax system. And you’d be right: the Washington Research Council estimates that the petroleum industry paid about $105 million in business and occupation (B&O) taxes and $163 million in other taxes, mostly the hazardous substance tax.

These existing taxes create an opportunity for a swap. Eliminate the B&O tax for refineries, and those $105 million in tax savings would be in the ballpark of the $150 million cost of a $25 carbon price. (Of course, the impact on individual companies would depend on their specific business practices and B&O tax liabilities, and since those are proprietary all we can do is express an interest in doing case studies on this topic. Also note that the Multiple Activities Tax Credit—under which refinery products sold in-state are subject to the B&O tax for selling rather than for manufacturing—may limit the tax savings to only about $60 million [figure 10.2])

A tax swap would give refineries a strong incentive to reduce emissions (every ton of reduced emissions would be $25 in savings) without greatly increasing their overall tax bill—or encouraging them to move production out of state. Besides, refineries may not be terribly exposed to trade competition anyway. No one has built a large refinery in the United States since 1977, and the two refineries in British Columbia—the Chevron refinery in Burnaby and the Husky refinery in Prince George—have not reduced their output since the province implemented its revenue-neutral $30 carbon tax. Likewise, Washington refineries have not cut output, even though the dollar value of B&O taxes paid by refineries has more than tripled since 2003 (Appendix A). The B&O tax is a tax on gross receipts, not profits, so if the price of crude oil goes way up then refineries pay much higher taxes, even if they’re not seeing any increase in profits.

Refineries in Washington or British Columbia may deserve tax reductions to offset the cost of a carbon price, but the purely economic case is tenuous.

Similar and additional questions about trade exposure arise with electric utilities. These businesses are regulated monopolies. They are subject to different types of economic pressures than most businesses. In any case, as with refineries, the $150 million carbon pricing bills for electric utilities in Washington and in Oregon should be seen in the context. For example, Washington’s largest electric utility, Puget Sound Energy (PSE), provided more than 22 million megawatt-hours of electricity in 2012 and had revenues of $2.2 billion. Based on PSE’s fuel mix disclosure reports, a $25 carbon price would cost the company about 1 cent per kilowatt-hour. That’s about a 10 percent increase of its retail prices.

If Washington chose to provide tax reductions to address the impact on electric utilities, it could trim the public utility tax, which utilities pay in lieu of B&O tax. The state’s Tax Reference Manual estimates that electricity providers pay about $225 million a year. Washington is roughly divided between public utilities like Seattle City Light that get a lot of hydropower and private utilities that are more carbon-intensive, so focusing just on the private utilities (because they are the ones that would be hit hard by a carbon price) would correspond to a public utility tax of about $100 million a year. As with refineries, that’s in the ballpark of that sector’s carbon pricing liabilities in Washington.

Opportunities for an electric utility tax swap in Oregon may be more limited. The relevant existing taxes in Oregon appear to be the corporate income tax and perhaps the electric cooperative tax, and according to the state’s Legislative Review Office (pages A7 and C21), utility tax payments totaled only about $3 million and $7 million, respectively, in 2010.

In any event, utilities are closely regulated by state utility commissions, and commissions will presumably allow utilities to pass carbon costs through to power consumers. Utilities, therefore, may not suffer in the least from a carbon price. (Consumers, for their part, could be compensated for power price increases with reductions in sales taxes, per-capita rebates, or other ideas discussed in two of the previous posts in this series.)

Other manufacturers

What about large emitters other than power plants and refineries? The EPA data show that emissions excluding these two industries totaled 7 million tons in Washington and 4.1 million tons in Oregon. At $25 per ton, that’s $175 million for Washington and $103 million for Oregon.

Data source: EPA. Original Sightline Institute graphic, available under our free use policy.

Data source: EPA. Original Sightline Institute graphic, available under our free use policy.

Carbon pricing liabilities in these sectors of the economy depend on the coverage details of the carbon price itself. The figures above reflect what might happen in a California-style system that covers most if not all GHG emissions. A BC-style system that just targets fossil fuels—or, to be more accurate, a large subset of fossil fuels—would not include the red (non- CO2) gases. And even the blue (CO2) bars in the figures overstate the actual impacts of a BC-style carbon tax because, for example, about half of the CO2 from cement production is from non-fossil-fuel-related chemical processes. For the sake of approximation, though, the blue bars shown in the figures above—only CO2 emissions, excluding power plants and refineries—total 4.6 million tons in Washington and 2.5 million tons in Oregon. At $25 per ton, that’s equal to a carbon pricing bill of $115 million in Washington and $63 million in Oregon.

How do these potential carbon pricing liabilities—on the order of $75-175 million in Washington and $40-100 million in Oregon, depending on the details of the policy—compare with existing taxes on manufacturers? In Oregon, the state Department of Revenue collected $49 million (page C21) in taxes from mining and manufacturing businesses in 2010. In Washington, the Department of Revenue estimates that manufacturing B&O taxes totaled $160 million in 2011. As noted, about $60 million of this came from refineries, leaving $100 million in B&O taxes for manufacturers other than power plants and refineries. In both states, then, existing taxes on large manufacturers are (in aggregate) in the ballpark of the additional direct cost of a $25 carbon price.

Beyond manufacturing

Moving beyond manufacturing entirely, the EIO-LCA model suggests that most other businesses would see a cost increase of less than 1 percent as a result of a $25 carbon price.

Moreover, in Washington State there’s a way to address carbon pricing impacts on many non-manufacturing businesses. I’ve argued previously that reducing the state sales tax by a penny (from 6.5 percent to 5.5 percent) is an excellent way to “recycle” carbon tax revenue, and that would benefit businesses as well as households. In fact, the state Department of Revenue estimates (table 9-3) that business purchases account for 36 percent of state sales tax revenue. The state sales tax generates more than $7 billion a year, so a 1-cent reduction would be $1.2 billion. More than $400 million of those tax reductions would accrue to businesses.

Let’s look at a specific example. Information from trucking companies is proprietary, but there’s a fairly similar entity that opens its books to the world: King County Metro. (You could argue that public transit systems should get an exemption from a carbon price, but never mind that for now.) According to its 2012 Annual Management Report (page 11), Metro uses about 10.6 million gallons of diesel fuel a year, so a $25 carbon price would work out to about $2.7 million a year. But Metro also spent $110 million on “transit fleet procurement” (that is, buses). And it pays state sales tax on those buses, so a 1 percentage point reduction in the sales tax would save it about $1 million, trimming Metro’s hypothetical carbon-pricing hit by 37 percent. That doesn’t entirely eliminate the impact of a hypothetical carbon tax, but it provides a substantial reduction. And most businesses are much less carbon-intensive than King County Metro.

The bottom line

When it comes to carbon pricing, the business world divides into three groups: businesses that are not energy-intensive, businesses that are energy-intensive but not trade-exposed, and businesses that are both energy-intensive and trade-exposed.

The first group includes the vast majority of businesses in Washington and Oregon. These businesses would pay relatively little in carbon pricing costs, and a reduction in sales taxes in Washington State would almost certainly offset costs for most of them. (If you’re especially concerned about small businesses, you could triple the small business B&O tax credit; that would save small businesses about $100 million a year.) Opportunities for a tax swap are less obvious in Oregon, but remember that the impacts of carbon pricing on businesses in Group One is quite small.

The second group consists of businesses that are energy-intensive but not trade-exposed. Refineries and power plants might fit this description, but let’s consider two less-energy-intensive examples that provide more clarity: local trucking and construction. Any company that wants to truck something around the Pacific Northwest or build something in the Pacific Northwest needs to conduct those business activities in the Pacific Northwest. All such companies would consequently pay the carbon prices associated with those business activities, and the laws of economics suggest that the market price of those business activities would increase accordingly. That’s all well and good because those business activities generate a lot of CO2: true-cost accounting means that those activities should be more expensive.

The third group consists of businesses that are both energy-intensive and trade-exposed, and the fact that they get an acronym (EITE) speaks to their importance. In an ideal world, there would be no businesses in this group: an ideal world would have an international carbon price instead of a state carbon price, and with an international carbon price all energy-intensive businesses would end up in Group Two. In the real world, however, states are leading the way on carbon pricing, and that obligates us to pay special attention to energy-intensive businesses that face out-of-state competition.

Fortunately, Washington and Oregon can reduce or eliminate impacts on EITE businesses by using about 10 percent of the revenue from carbon pricing to reduce or eliminate existing taxes on manufacturers. The relevant numbers may or may not balance for individual firms but in the aggregate they’re pretty close for a $25 carbon price. (And I’m looking for businesses that are willing to open their books and do a case study—anonymously if desired—-so if your business is interested please contact me!) That suggests that properly designed carbon pricing policies in the Pacific Northwest can pencil out for the business community and can help point the way forward for the nation and the world.

Research assistance by Summer Hanson. Thanks to Mia Reback and Jon Shayne for research guidance and to Quintin Barnes for feedback on a draft of this article.

 

Robert Poteat on War and Debt

Robert Poteat spoke at the 2014 VFP NW Regional Conference in Tacoma on War and Debt. The history of ballooning national debt caused by every war since 1812, and needed monetary reform. Says, Eisenhower should have called this the Financial Military Industrial Complex (FMIC) not just the MIC or MICC! Recommends Steven Zarlenga book and the American Monetary Act.

A manifesto for We the People, in honor of Nelson Mandela

Dedicated to the memory of Nelson Mandela who died on December 5, 2013 at the age of 95.  He led Africa’s struggle for freedom and justice.  A hero to millions, he will be mourned around the world.

 

We the People need to speak truth to power.  We need to be heard.  We need to restore our democracy and rein in the national security state that was established on the false premise of looking for terrorists.  The elected legislators in all branches of government represent the interests of the corporate welfare state and not the interests of the American people.  Our Constitution has been trashed and our Bill of Rights destroyed.

 

Civil liberties

Journalists and whistle-blowers jailed and prosecuted.  Citizens working for justice denigrated, marginalized, jailed, or even taken out.  Municipal police are being militarized.  Police brutality used against peaceful protestors who are beaten and jailed.  Citizens detained without access to family or lawyers.  Citizens may disappear into Controlled Management Units (CMUs). Infiltration of activist and dissident organizations [Amendments I, V, VI of the Constitution, NDAA, Military Commissions Act].

The national security state spies on us all.  The expansive military machine can turn on us at will.  National leaders who speak out can be taken out.  Look at what happened to John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., and Robert Kennedy.  Look at what is currently happening to our more recent patriot heroes: Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, Jeremy Hammond, and Edward Snowden. [Amendment IV of the Constitution]

 

Climate Change

The science has been pretty well established, yet neither the corporate media nor members of Congress mention the growing perils associated with climate change.  This may well be the most critical element in the future life of our planet and all living things.  The content of mainstream media has been dumbed down to infotainment so that what we see, read and hear is hollow.

Increasing changes in climate will worsen economic conditions and those hardships help to drive immigration.  Land and water wars will increase the social stress with resulting mass exoduses of refugees.

 

Congress and the Corporate State

Congress passes legislation written by lobbyists and corporate lawyers. [Article I of the Constitution]  Congress passes legislation that legalizes what is illegal.  A former democratic society is now a plutocracy with titles of Director, Lobbyist, CEO and President (instead of Baron, Duke, Earl and Monarch).  Regressive tax structure that benefits the 1%.

The use of offshore tax havens and other tax avoidance strategies by wealthy to avoid payment of income tax.  “Tax dodging by the rich and corporations costs every other American taxpayer $1,026 per year in higher taxes or reduced benefits and services.”  [WA Post May 24, 2013]

National Priorities Project reports that (1) corporate tax breaks will total $108 billion in FY2013 – more than 1.5 times what the U.S. government spends on education funding. Between 2007 and 2013, the revenue lost from U.S. corporations deferring taxes on income earned abroad rose 200%, going from $14 billion to $42 billion. (2) All tax breaks for individuals will exceed $1 trillion this year, with about 17% of the biggest individual tax breaks going to the top 1% of earners. More at a report out today from the National Priorities Project. [Amendment XVI of the Constitution].

Excessive involvement of the military and corporations manufacturing arms in formulation of U.S. foreign policy [Caldicott, Helen, The New Nuclear Danger, New Press, 2002].

A corrupt Congress has defunded and decreased the regularity authority of governmental agencies, putting profits before people and the planet.

The Extreme Court does the bidding of a very small political elite [Article III of the Constitution].

Congress fails to curb secret negotiations that affect relations between countries and corporations.  Current examples include TPP and TAFTA.

 

Economy

It’s all about money.  The obscene level of wealth and economic inequality is a moral issue, as well as an economic or political issue.  Marketplace autonomy, financial speculation and widespread corruption have caused the current massive inequality in societies the world over.  Workers and even our soldiers are treated as goods to be used and thrown away.  The wages of working Americans have remained stagnant since the late 70s while, at the same time, easy credit has made Americans slaves to debt.  The United States is last among 21 developed nations in union membership, reflecting a downward trend since 1983.  The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports union membership at 11.1% in 2012.  [Bureau of Labor Statistics. Union Membership-2012. [Washington, D.C.:] U.S. Department of Labor, 2013. Web. 23 January 2013]  The current union membership has been reported to be a meager 10%.

 

Elections

All citizens of legal age have the right to vote regardless of the state in which they live.  When election fraud is used to restrict their right to vote, why should they owe allegiance to a government that denies them the right to vote?  [Amendments XV and XXIV of the Constitution]

The two major parties have betrayed the American people.  They have been bought off by the 1% and are no longer worthy of our support.  Increasing numbers of Americans are alienated from the political process and don’t bother to vote.  More Americans might participate in elections if it were a national holiday.  It is time for a national debate on making voting mandatory by Constitutional amendment and making provision for run-off elections instead of the electoral college.  And it is time for legislation on term limits. [Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution]

 

Immigration

The attack on so-called illegal immigrants has been accelerated to distract us from the real problems facing this nation.  I daresay that most immigrants would rather stay at home but indigenous farmers can’t compete with highly subsidized U.S. agribusiness.  One may argue whether undocumented immigrants are an economic drain or an economic boon. The debate goes on and on while we witness an immense growth in border security with nationwide immigration sweeps, over 20,000 US border agents (highest in history and twice that of a decade ago), growth of agencies in addition to Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE), such as Secure Communities program. [Obama speech & Council on Foreign Relations], high number of deportations causing family breakups.  The construction of a double wall along our southern border also infringed on the rights of indigenous people to their land [Truthout Dec. 5, 2013].

 

Public Institutions and Government Services

Public institutions and government services are being privatized for profit: the military, education, prisons, etc.  Chicago closed 50 public schools May 2013, leading the way toward privatization.

According to the International Centre for Prison Studies, the five countries with the highest prison population are the US, China, Russia, Brazil and India. The US has a prison population of 2,239,751, or 716 people per 100,000. China ranks second with 1,640,000 people behind bars, or 121 people per 100,000, while Russia is third with 681,600, or 475 individuals per 100,000. Brazil has 548,003 people in prison or 274 per 100,000; finally, India’s prison population is 385,135, or 30 inmates per 100,000 citizens. Sweden ranks 112th and is closing 4 of its prisons.

The for-profit prison industry is thriving and dependent on a hefty prison population. Correction Corps of America (CCA), Management Training Corporation (MTC) from Centerville, Utah and the GEO Group, Inc., of Boca Raton, Florida, own and operate over 200 correctional, detention and residential treatment facilities and transport prisoners by land and air. They crank out $5 billion a year in profit.  “A perfect money machine, indeed — but only if the system keeps them supplied with prisoners.”

 

Government services, including the U.S. Postal Service [Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution], Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, even national parks and forests, are part of a larger strategy to privatize them under the guise of a budget crisis, or a manufactured need for austerity measures.  Social Security is not responsible for one dime of the so-called federal deficit.

 

The outcome of Citizens United has enabled a small minority of powerful interests with unlimited amounts of money to gain control of the government.  Huge amounts of money are brought into states to influence ballot initiatives on GMOs and similar legislation.  The corruption of government at all levels is so deeply embedded that it cannot be changed within the current political system.  See https://movetoamend.org/.

 

Wall Street

The criminality and chicanery of Wall Street and the big banks “too large to fail” have been well established.  These institutions are the primary cause of the budget crisis and yet not one of these high-level criminals has been held accountable by the Obama administration.  (Wall Street overwhelmingly supported Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.)  It is now known that secret Wall Street bailouts totaled $7.77 trillion!  On the local level, large financial institutions remove money from local economies to finance their Wall Street speculations and corporate take-overs.  They pay a minimal rate of interest on savings accounts, yet charge us 12 to 25 percent on loans.  That interest on loans is the lifeblood of the big banks.  These institutions work for the best interests of the 1%, rather than the interests of the American people.

 

War

The imperialistic and aggressive state of the U.S. in its perpetual war against “terrorism” threatens the peace of the world and the health of the planet and its peoples.  The destruction of Iraq, the high numbers of civilian dead from the use of drones, chemical warfare, (Vietnam, Iraq, etc.), threatens the health of civilians and the health of the planet.  The bloated U.S military budget is larger than that of the combined budgets of the 10 highest countries. [Stockholm Intl. Peace Research Institute, SIPRI Military Expenditure Database, 2013. Compiled by PGPF.]

Partial list of U.S. aggressive actions below:

Overthrow of PM Mosaddegh of Iran in 1953

Overthrow of leftist government in Guatemala in 1954

The Invasion and Occupation of Vietnam – 3 Million dead 1954-1975

Coup d’état in Chile on 9/11/1973 – 3000 murdered

Complicity in invasion of East Timor in 1975, including shipment of arms (violates U. S. law)

Destructive policies toward Haiti, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Philippines

Use of death squads in Vietnam, Central America, Iraq, Syria

Invasion and destruction of Iraq – 1 Million dead 2001 to present

Use of torture or “enhanced interrogation” (Bagram, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, global black sites) [Amendment VIII]

Destruction of Fallujah and use of white phosphorus in 2004

Use of depleted uranium in the Iraq War in 2004

Support for dictatorships in Middle East, South America & Africa, including Saudi Arabia; Bahrain; Yemen; Jordan

Complicity in human rights violations and war crimes by its financial, diplomatic and media support for militaristic and apartheid state of Israel

 

What to Do?

In 1999 thousands of citizens of the world gathered together in Seattle to stop the WTO conference then in progress.  On December 3, 2013 the The Ninth Ministerial Conference of the WTO meets in Bali, Indonesia from 3 to 6 December 2013.

How do We the People change the system?  First, We the People must support a new people’s movement or party and withdraw our support of the Democrat and Republican parties.  We need term limits.  We can undertake individual actions and also act in unison with our fellow citizens [Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution].  We see a kind of cruelty reflected in statements and legislation passed by a corrupt Congress.  We need to meet the needs of our citizens here at home, including our veterans, cut the bloated military budget and invest in America.

 

Move your money from the big banks to local banks and credit unions.  Save a little money if you can and your savings will make you free.  Free yourself of the tyranny of compound interest.  Support local businesses, banks and credit unions.  Work to build alternate economies to take care of local needs.  Support movements to establish state and city banks.

Support actions against foreclosures.  Be there if you can.  Urge your Congressional representatives to pass a financial transaction tax.

Don’t put a dollar sign on everything.  Someone needs something; if you have it and don’t need it, pass it on to them.  Don’t worry; that goodwill will come back to you.

Young folks who join the army under the poverty draft should take the oath to seriously uphold the Constitution.  When ordered to fire on peaceful protestors, they should aim high over their heads.

We the People want democracy, justice, a healthy environment, a sustainable economy, health care, and education.  These are human rights, not commodities to be traded on the markets.  We must build a movement to amend or rescind those laws that have destroyed our Constitution and our civil liberties.

 

Form community networks.  Help organize a People’s Congress as a shadow government to serve as a watchdog for liberty and rally support for people who look after the people’s best interests.  Become informed and engaged as much as you are willing and have time for.

Exercise civil disobediences to change unjust laws.  Yes, they may kill a few of us but they are killing us anyway.  Look at all the war victims and the deaths of our own soldiers who are sent around the world to protect the corporate interests of the 1%.

Support union workers in their efforts for decent working conditions, wages and pensions.  Support worker-owned enterprises.  We need to become citizens of the world and help each other rather than shoot at each other.

 

There is a growing undercurrent of dissatisfaction in the realization that politics as usual will not correct the corrupt system with its inequitable system of taxation and a bloated military budget.  Signs of change are taking place.  And the corporate media do not cover the growing vibrant movement that is going on right now.  When enough of us have had enough, the so-called 1% will run for cover.  Then we can lock the cover and build a new world of justice in which we take care of each other without the burden of those parasites who have been feasting on us ever since the development of mega capitalism.  We have one thing that scares the hell out of them that will eventually bring them down.  We have each other!

 

Sources

There is a lot of information and research available to those who want to help in changing the political system and transform our society.  More help is on the way but you can start with these links:

http://billmoyers.com/episode/full-show-the-path-of-positive-resistance/ with Jill Stein and Margaret Flowers. Also http://greenshadowcabinet.us/civicrm/petition/sign?sid=1

Popularresistance.org or info@popularresistance.org

http://www.opensecrets.org/

http://www.peoplescongress.org

The National Initiative for Democracy

 Movie worth watching https://vimeo.com/55141496(enter password when prompted:( barbarasteegmuller ) – 2

 

The list of books is long and comprehensive. The following is only a sampling:

Arendt, Hannah, The Origins of Totalitarianism, World Publishing, 1951

Blum, William, Rogue State, Common Courage Press, 2000

Fisk, Robert, The Great War for Civilization, Vintage, 2005

Gutierrez, Donald, Feeling the Unthinkable, Amador Publishing, 2012

Johnson, Chalmers, Blowback 2nd ed., Henry Holt, 2004

Wolf, Naomi, The End of America, Chelsea Publishing, 2007

Zinn, Howard, A People’s History of the United States, Harper’s, 1995

Zinn, Howard, The Zinn Reader, Seven Stories Press, 2004

 

Copyleft 2013 J. Glenn Evans

(Feel free to copy and distribute as broadly as possible)

Trade Talks Open In Utah, Secrecy Spurs Protests

1TPPSLC70
By Tom Harvey, www.sltrib.com

Above photo: (Jim McAuley | The Salt Lake Tribune) Bill Moyer, executive director of the Backbone Campaign, and Raphael Cordray of the Utah Tar Sands Resistance speak to demonstrators gathered to protest the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, November 19, 2013.

Note: The negotiators of the Trans-Pacific Partnership thought they would go to Salt Lake City, UT and not find protesters. Well, they were wrong about that.  A strong crowd came out to the hotel where the negotiators are meeting, putting forth a clear message of opposition to the TPP and the secret negotiations that produced it.   Those coming out against the TPP included labor, environment, Internet and justice activists; including the popular former mayor of Salt Lake City, Rocky Anderson. Protests are planned all week.

TPP protest Salt Lake posterPerhaps the most hilarious and embarrassing comment in the article below came from Carol Guthrie, the senior adviser for media affairs of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, who said the treaty had been negotiated with “unprecedented transparency.” Ms. Guthrie showed the world today that the US Trade Reps office cannot be trusted.  

The TPP is actually the most secret negotiation ever in the history of trade agreements. Today, Bloomberg News editorialized that Obama’s secrecy is destroying the trade agreement.  They have even classified the text so that members of Congress, who go through the process of seeing the text, cannot discuss it with their constituents. Members cannot even bring staff to see it, take notes or bring a computer or camera.  Ms. Guthrie calls that “unprecedented transparency.”  Does she think anyone will believe anything she says in the future?

The Washington Post, normally a very pro-trade agreement newspaper, wrote this week about the Wikileaks disclosure that “it is obvious why the USTR and the Obama administration have insisted on secrecy. From this text it appears that the U.S. administration is negotiating for intellectual property provisions that it knows it could not achieve through an open democratic process.”  

Note to Ms. Guthrie — everyone knows this is a secret agreement.  When you try to mislead us with such obvious lies you destroy not only your credibility but the credibility of the Office of the US Trade Representative.

Note to others, if the US Trade Representative needs to tell such obvious lies it is a sign of their desperation and insecurity. They have good reason to be insecure. If they really want to be open they should do as previous administrations have done and publish the text. In addition they should publish the positions the Obama administration is putting forward on our behalf. The US Trade Rep. tells the media this is a “high quality” agreement, yet they keep it secret.

There will be a week of protests ending with a funeral for the TPP on Friday.  This is an apt finale as the TPP is struggling on its death bed.  Three-quarters of Democrats wrote President Obama this week telling him they were opposed to granting Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority to him.  And Republicans — including moderates, conservatives and Tea Party members – also sent a letter opposing Fast Track. Without Fast Track the Administration will be unable to pass any trade agreement.  

The message: scrap the TPP and the Atlantic agreement, TAFTA, and start all over with a transparent process that includes civil society and Congress in the process, and works for Fair Trade that puts people and planet before profits. The TPP is running into a dead end and the Administration should stop wasting time pursuing this failed global corporate coup.

The article below is from the Salt Lake City Tribune.

Pacific Rim Representatives from 12 nations begin new round of negotiations; Joined by protesters opposed to TPP

Outside Salt Lake City’s Grand America Hotel on Tuesday, the rains fell, the speakers rose, the marchers chanted.

Outside the hotel where the negotiations are being held in Salt Lake City, UT

Outside the hotel where the negotiations are being held in Salt Lake City, UT

Inside, top trade negotiators from the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations perhaps discussed imports and exports, profits and products, prices and patents. The exact topics aren’t known. The talks were closed.

And that concerns critics most of all as parties from the Trans-Pacific Partnership launched a 19th round of negotiations — this time in Utah — in search of a sweeping free-trade agreement.

Tuesday’s rally, organized by a coalition called the Citizens Trade Campaign, of Washington, D.C., drew 100 or so protesters, who worry that the high-level talks have been conducted behind closed doors with only multinational corporations given access to proposed provisions.

Watched over by a small contingent of Salt Lake City police and other security officers, demonstrators carried various signs on the lawn and sidewalk in front of the hotel. Among them: “Protect Us From Corporate Protectionism,” “Obama: Exorcise Your Corporate Demons” and “Mormon Environmental Stewardship Alliance.”

Arthur Stamoulis of the Citizens Trade Campaign speaks outside of TPP negotiations.

Arthur Stamoulis of the Citizens Trade Campaign speaks outside of TPP negotiations.

One group held a U.S. flag, with the stars replaced by corporate logos such as those for McDonald’s, CBS, Coca-Cola and Microsoft.

Among Utahns who spoke were Dale Cox, president of the state AFL-CIO; Wayne Holland, a United Steelworkers Union representative; and former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson.

Cox pointed to the North American Free Trade Agreement as a model for the proposed Pacific accord, which he warned would lead to the loss of more U.S. jobs.

“They’re here to take jobs from us to other countries,” Cox said.

Holland echoed those remarks, saying, “We cannot allow NAFTA in the Pacific.”

Raphael Cordray, of Utah Tar Sands Resistance, said her group fears a final agreement would allow foreign corporations to sue local or state governments that pass laws affecting businesses’ profits.

Rocky Anderson, former mayor of Salt Lake City and former Justice Party presidential candidate opposes the TPP.

Rocky Anderson, former mayor of Salt Lake City and former Justice Party presidential candidate opposes the TPP.

“That’s what people don’t understand about these trade agreements,” Cordray said in an interview. ” … They can actually take away some of the sovereignty that we have in our local communities.”

Carol Guthrie, senior adviser for media affairs of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, which is negotiating for the United States, said her office had worked hard to introduce “unprecedented transparency” into the negotiations. She also touted the importance of foreign trade to Utah jobs.

“More than 100,000 jobs in Utah alone are supported by trade,” Guthrie said. “Twenty percent of Utah’s manufacturing jobs are supported by trade. Twenty percent of Utah’s exports go to the region represented by the Trans-Pacific Partnership.”

Besides the United States, nations belonging to the Trans-Pacific Partnership are Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Japan and Vietnam.

Groups plan to protest throughout the week, with the talks set to last through Sunday.

Originally published at PopularResistance.org

The Trillion Dollar Money Pump for the 1 Percent

By Stan Sorscher, EOI Board Member, and Labor Representative at the Society for Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace

I saw the movie Inequality for All, where Robert Reich explains the depth and meaning of inequality in America. He paints a compelling picture.

Reich sets up the movie with a teaser: “Something happened in the mid-’70s.”

Indeed “something did happen in the mid-’70s.” For one thing, since then workers’ wages as a fraction of the total economy have lagged by over a trillion dollars per year. If workers’ wages had kept up with gains in productivity since the mid-70′s, wages would be double what they are now. Most new income goes to the top 1 Percent.

The movie translates my blue squiggly line in the graphic below  into human terms, seen in the faces of families, students, workers, co-workers and neighbors. Their struggle, disappointment, and diminished prospects answer another key question in the movie: Does inequality matter?

It matters. A lot.

Our current downward spiral leads us to a Lesser America — less social cohesion, less political stability, less prosperity, less ability to compete globally.

Figure 1. Workers' wages have fallen as a share of total GDP.

Figure 1. Workers’ wages have fallen as a share of total GDP.

The upward spiral of my parents’ era expressed American ideals — stronger communities, opportunity and fairness, shared prosperity, and investment in the future.

In one scene in the movie, Robert Reich is speaking to power plant workers facing layoff. One worker says the owners are probably smarter and more deserving than he is, and they should keep the gains he produces. He is happy to take whatever they offer.

We hear a different view from a co-worker’s wife. Her husband takes his job seriously, works hard and creates value through his work. Don’t rich people have enough already? What is gained when the 1 Percent have even more? Isn’t there some left over for her family?

This woman has just enough self-esteem to claim a fair share of the wealth her husband creates. Her husband’s work has dignity, and her family has a legitimate claim when our society divides the gains from work.

Attitudes matter. My daughter once told me that I usually make eye contact with housekeepers in a hotel, or a waiter filling my water glass, or a cab driver. Actually, most people I know in the labor movement do that. It’s a fundamental labor value — all work has dignity.

Look at this image from the Norman Rockwell Museum, representing a Vermont Town Hall meeting. The tradesman with dirty fingers has the attention of his neighbors. His interests matter.

It took decades to create this trillion dollar money pump for the 1 Percent.

First, advocates for the 1 Percent took away the dignity of work. In today’s political discourse, the tradesman in the Rockwell painting is thrown together with teachers, public employees, construction workers, grocery store clerks, students in public universities, and fast food workers as moochers, or parasites.

Second, public sentiment and public policies shifted bargaining power away from workers, in favor of the 1 Percent.

Business strategy replaced “stakeholder” value with shareholder value. These terms are obscure, but the very real effect was to abandon any commitment large businesses may have had to communities and workers.

Job security has largely vanished. The idea of “a career” has been replaced by contingent or precarious work. We see more part-time, and temporary work, “perma-temps,” unpaid interns, wage theft, and dumping older experienced workers in favor of cheaper younger workers. Good jobs are privatized or contracted out, where the same worker comes back at lower wages, with worse benefits and less job security. College professors — the ultimate knowledge workers — are displaced by precarious adjunct faculty.

When workers are regarded as commodities, businesses provide less training on the job, externalizing those costs to workers and communities. Pensions express a long-term employment commitment. The message of a 401(k) is portability — you will leave this job, probably in 3-5 years.

Executives aggressively oppose union organizing, spending millions of dollars to intimidate, discourage, delay, and punish union organizers. We hear less and less about a strike, where workers seek more or defend what they have. Now, it’s lockouts by employers demanding concessions — at ports, in hockey, basketball and football — even symphony orchestras in Minneapolis and New York!

Households have stopped saving, piling up huge debt instead. Families, living paycheck to paycheck, are constantly at risk of ruin from layoffs or medical expenses. Crushing student loans make recent graduates very compliant and risk-averse in the labor market. Changes in bankruptcy laws favor investors, and banks, but put homeowners, students and retirees in the back seat.

Speculative hedge fund income and capital gains are taxed at a fraction of rates the rest of us pay on wages and earned income.

Millions of good manufacturing jobs moved offshore. Job growth is strongest in lower-paid service jobs. One-sided trade agreements consolidate investor rights and corporate rights at the global level, handcuffing civil society in every country. Investor rights take priority over the environment, labor rights, human rights, public health, and prudent financial regulation.

The ultimate loss of bargaining power for workers is the billions spent to elect our political leaders. Having cornered the market in electoral politics, the 1 Percent are furiously discrediting the role of government, eroding worker protections, and dismantling programs that offered economic security and opportunity for past generations.

This shift in bargaining power happened for two reasons. In the early ’70s, the 1 Percent realized they could do it, and because we let them do it.

The power plant worker in the movie accepts his wage peonage, dependent on his patrón for his livelihood. His co-worker’s wife still believes in her husband’s career.

The first step toward disabling the trillion-dollar money pump is within our power as individuals. We can recognize a key human value — the dignity of work. We are all connected to our communities. We all do better when we all do better.

Originally published at EOI Online

The Truth About Carbon Pricing

Mirror images: carbon taxes and cap-and-trade.

and on October 23, 2013 at 8:00 am

These are exciting times for carbon pricing in the Pacific Northwest. Under the auspices of the Climate Legislative and Executive Workgroup (CLEW), state leaders are, right now, engaged in the first serious look at the subject in years. (Please be sure to attend the hearings on October 23 in Seattle, and December 6 in Olympia!) The work is heavily informed by a recently released report commissioned by the state. It sets a foundation for the important work ahead, but we fear that it makes a few missteps that are unhelpful to policymakers. Our aim is to set the record straight about the benefits (and perils) of carbon pricing.

The truth about carbon pricing—a term that encompasses both carbon taxes and cap-and-trade systems—is that those two policies are two sides of the same coin. Unlike “command and control” policies that directly regulate the economy, “market-based” policies use the power of capitalism to protect the environment. Putting a price on carbon gives businesses and households a powerful financial incentive to reduce their consumption of fossil fuels and other greenhouse gases.

Although there are some (mostly subtle) differences between carbon taxes and cap-and-trade systems, they are more alike than they are different. In this context, efforts by some conservatives to re-label cap-and-trade as “cap-and-tax” makes perfect sense: the point of both of these policies is to make polluting more expensive. For the most part, whatever you do with one you can do with the other. (In particular, you can do either one well, and you can do either one badly.)

And that brings us to the state task force report, produced by the consulting firm SAIC. (Our comments refer to the original SAIC report, which can be found here, but they are also relevant to the updated report released more recently.)

First, the good news about the report: the treatment of carbon taxes is pretty reasonable. The analysis notes that carbon taxes will increase fossil fuel costs for households and businesses, but also points out that carbon tax revenues can be “recycled” by reducing property taxes, sales taxes, and B&O business taxes in a way that will help offset impacts on households and businesses. This kind of “revenue-neutral tax swap” was pioneered in British Columbia in 2008 and the result has been widely recognized by economists as the best climate policy in the world. Carbon emissions have fallen faster than in the rest of Canada, the provincial economy has grown faster than in the rest of Canada, and British Columbia now has some of the lowest personal income tax rates in Canada and some of the lowest corporate income tax rates in the rich world. The BC carbon tax is not a free lunch—as intended, fossil fuel prices have gone up—but it is good value for money, and the evidence shows that it’s a win-win for the environment and for the economy.

Now the bad news: the SAIC treatment of cap-and-trade ignores the fundamental similarities with carbon taxes.

The report notes that “revenue generated by the state [through permit auctions] can be invested based on state priorities”, just as carbon tax revenue could. But the report is less straightforward about where that revenue will come from, asserting in one place that “many of these costs can be passed on to customers” and in another that “there is no consensus among studies as to whether cap and trade would increase or decrease personal income.” Without wading too far into the complexities of the many possible flavors of cap-and-trade programs, let’s just state the obvious: if the program generates revenue, that revenue has to come from somewhere. And that somewhere—just like with a carbon tax—is going to be a combination of households and firms who will pay more to pollute.

In a few other places, too, the SAIC report seems to give the two policies unequal treatment in ways that we find concerning. For example, the authors estimate that a $50 per ton carbon tax would reduce CO2 emissions by 5 million tons in 2035. They also estimate that a cap-and-trade system would reduce emissions in that same year by over 17 million tons, yet they neglect to mention what permit prices would have to be in order to achieve such a reduction. Clearly, the figure would have to be much higher than the $50 per ton that SAIC uses as a high-water mark in the report.

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Elsewhere, in a discussion of “complementary policies”—regulations independent of the core market-based pricing system—SAIC categorizes them as “complements” to cap-and-trade systems but as “partial diminishments” to carbon tax systems. This doesn’t make much sense. In reality, complementary policies in sectors of the economy covered by a cap-and-trade program will not yield additional emissions reductions. That’s because a binding limit on emissions is both a ceiling and a floor: you won’t get more emissions than the cap specifies, but as long as the cap is binding you won’t get fewer emissions either. (Complementary policies can, however, reduce cap-and-trade permit prices, potentially making the program cheaper if those complementary policies are smart and lower-cost than market-based options.) On the flip side, complementary policies added to a carbon tax can yield additional emissions reductions, even in the sectors of the economy subject to the tax.

We think that, done correctly, either cap-and-trade or carbon taxes could be an effective tool for Washington to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a way that creates a win-win for the economy and the environment. Yet we are concerned that the SAIC findings may oversell some aspects of cap-and-trade and do not pay sufficient attention to the success story next door. British Columbia’s carbon tax legislation was passed in February of 2008 and went into effect in July of 2008. It was implemented by a right-of-center party and now enjoys support from both major parties, in part because eliminating it would mean rolling back the reductions in personal and corporate income taxes that are financed by the carbon tax. BC’s carbon tax is now $30 per ton of CO2, among the highest carbon prices in the world. They’re waiting for the rest of us to catch up.

Governor Inslee has said he wants Washington to give serious consideration to joining forces with California’s young cap-and-trade program. We think that a well-designed cap-and-trade programs can make for a worthy climate policy, but we also think that the Governor and Washington State should give serious consideration to following BC’s lead by adopting a revenue-neutral carbon tax.

 

Eric de Place leads climate policy for Sightline Institute; he was instrumental in the development of several cap-and-trade proposals, including the Western Climate Initiative. Yoram Bauman is a long-time climate activist with a PhD in economics; he is a Carbon Tax Fellow at Sightline and (separately) is a leader in the CarbonWA.org carbon tax effort. They don’t see eye to eye on all aspects of carbon pricing programs, but they agree that using a market-based system to put a price on carbon is the single most important thing we can do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

Originally posted at Sightline Institute

Empowering Women, Building Our Economy – Keynote Address by Marilyn Watkins

It’s great to be here today to celebrate the real progress we have made towards women’s equality. But I suspect many of us are also here today because we recognize how far we still have to go.

When I was girl growing up in 1960s, the expectation for at least white middle class women was that they would have a career as moms, housewives, and volunteers. I grew up in a family with five kids, and can remember my father saying one night at dinner, “If we can’t afford to send all of you to college, then the boys will will be ones to go since they’ll have to support their families” – even though when he was a child, his family depended largely on his mother’s earnings.

Now by the time we actually got to high school and college in the 1970s, my father and mother both strongly encouraged and supported their daughters’ education, and are very proud of our professional achievements.

My father’s attitude change was part of a general shift, a shift that was pushed by the women’s movement for both legal and social change. Now women make up about half of the U.S. workforce and over half of new college graduates. Professional schools are no longer closed to women, and Title IX has opened sports to girls and women.

But we’re still a long ways from equality. We are going to have to push for another level of policy change beyond anti-discrimination in order to take the next big step closer to the time when little girls and little boys grow up with truly equal opportunity.

Let’s look at some statistics:

  • The Wage Gap – Women who work full time, year-round earn 77 cents for every $1.00 earned by men. In the Seattle-Bellevue metropolitan area, we have the worst wage gap in the nation, with women earning just  73 cents to a man’s $1.00.
  • Job segregation –  Eighty percent of computer and math-related jobs in the Seattle metro area are held by men, with median annual earnings of $91,000 for men, and $75,00 for women. On the other hand, 80% of personal care service jobs are held by women, with median earnings of $16,000 for women and $22,000 men.
  • The Glass Ceiling – Men hold 60% of management occupations in the greater Seattle area. And while the typical man in management makes $90,000, the typical woman only makes $60,000.
  • Poverty – We have shockingly high rates of single mothers in poverty. In Washington,  51% of single moms with children under the age of 5 have incomes below the federal poverty level.

The impacts of women’s lower wages are far reaching. Kids in poverty have poorer health and struggle in school.  When women earn less, they have less income in retirement, too. And when women have more income, local businesses have more customers, which means they can hire more people – we get an upwardly spiraling economy that’s good for everybody.

So what’s it going to take?

At a recent forum on gender pay equality, every panelist touted math and science education for girls and teaching women how to negotiate better as the route to overcoming the wage gap. Now I’m all for STEM education and encouraging individuals to think big, pursue their dreams, and ask for what they are worth. But when problems are this big and this pervasive, they are not result of millions of individual failings.

Not everybody can be a software engineer or brain surgeon. We’ll still need childcare teachers, baristas, home care workers, restaurant servers, and store clerks no matter how well educated our population is.

Advances for women – like winning the right to vote, and hold a credit card in their own name, and keep a job after marriage, and participate in school sports – happened only with an organized movement that pushed for changes in law as well as in attitudes.

We will only change the status quo in the work place now with an organized movement for legal change.

Here are some of the policy changes we need in order to make every job a job that empowers rather than impoverishes women:

  • Paid Sick Days. We need to pass paid sick days laws through the Washington state legislature and in Congress, similar to those that have already passed in Seattle, Portland, Connecticut, and other places. Staying home when you have the flu or your child is sick shouldn’t mean the loss of that week’s grocery budget – or your job.
  • Family and Medical Leave Insurance. We need to get family and medical leave insurance up and running here in Washington, like programs that already exist in California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island.  Having a baby should be a joyous event, not a time of huge financial stress. Those first weeks should be a time when the mom can recover her strength, mother and father both bond with their child, and the baby flourishes. The early months of a baby’s life lay the foundation for all that follows.

Supporting people who are caring for a newborn or recovering from surgery or caring for a parent who’s had a stroke or a spouse with cancer is not only humane, it’s a smart public investment that saves public money on health care, public assistance, and long term care, while building a stronger economy where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.

  • Early learning and care. We need quality affordable childcare and preschool – with good wages for teachers – to support working parents and set all children on the path to educational success.
  • Fair pay. And we need paycheck transparency and fair pay in all jobs – not just better negotiating skills.

The good news is we have policy models right here in US for all of these advances, and we have organized coalitions working for change. But to succeed, we will really have to amp up the level of pressure on our public officials – because we can be sure that they are getting lots of pressure from the top 1% to keep the status quo.

This is the 93rd anniversary of women winning the right to vote in the United States. But the Seneca Falls Convention that launched the women’s rights movement in this country was held 72 years before that. Throughout those 72 years, people argued that women didn’t have the intellectual capability of voting or that women didn’t need to vote because they had their fathers and husbands to speak for them, or that women’s suffrage would destroy the family.

It was smaller, local victories along the way that disproved all those arguments and kept the campaign going. Women won the right to vote in school elections, and then in a few western states. We won the vote here in 1910, a decade before the 19th amendment was finally ratified.

Twenty years ago the federal Family and Medical Leave Act passed. It gives workers in big companies the right to take 12 weeks unpaid leave for a new child or serious ill family member, or their own health condition. In the decade long fight for that bill, opponents argued that companies would stop hiring women and that it would destroy profits – but passage was followed by a decade of economic growth and more women than ever in the workforce.

During the campaign for Seattle’s Paid Sick Days bill we heard that businesses would flee the city – but you know what? Business is booming in Seattle.  And some companies, like MOD Pizza and Tutta Bella, decided to offer sick leave to their employees outside the city, too.

The American Constitution talks about forming “a more perfect Union.” We are still trying to get there as a nation. Continuing to fight for an economy that works for women and children and families puts us in good company.

Originally published at EOIOnline.org

One way to save money, the environment, and journalism

I subscribe to The Nation, The American Prospect, Harper’s, Mother Jones, and The New Yorker.

In addition, I belong to various progressive advocacy groups.

So it seems like almost every I get letters in U.S. mail asking me to renew my subscription or donate money to some cause.

Junk Mail, image source: wikipedia

Often the same organization sends me multiple letters asking for my subscription or donation.

Then there are the wads of newspaper ads for local stores; those I throw immediately into the recycling bin.

All these ads and letters represent a huge waste of paper and money.

The Wikipedia article on Advertising junk mail says

In the US, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 44% of junk mail is discarded without being opened or read, equalling four million tons of waste paper per year, with 32% recovered for recycling… The CO2 emissions from 41 pounds of advertising mail received annually by the average US consumer is about 47.6 kilograms (105 pounds) according to one study.

The publications and causes should send me requests by email only!    There should be an easy way to ask them to do so.  We can put a “no trespassing” sign on our lawn, and we can get our phone number added to the national Do Not Call Registry.  Maybe we need a similar: Do Not Send Me Solicitations by U.S. Mail Registry.

The Wikipedia article says:

Several organizations offer opt-out services to people who wish to reduce or eliminate the amount of addressed advertising mail they receive. In the UK, the Mailing Preference Service allows people to register with them for removal from posted as opposed to hand-delivered mail. In the United States, there are several nonprofit organizations offering these services, such as 41pounds.org, as well as private sector alternatives like Greendimes. Several websites critical of junk mail have guides for people interested in reducing the amount of junk mail they get, such as the Center for a New American Dream.

One problem is free speech rights: don’t people have the right to send me stuff?  But (Ibid.)

In response to a US Supreme Court ruling (Rowan v. Post Office Dept.[23]), the United States Postal Service enables an applicant to obtain a Prohibitory Order, which gives people the power to stop non-governmental organizations from sending them mail, and to demand such organizations remove the consumers’ information from their mailing lists.

Another problem is that all that junk mail probably helps the bottom line of the U.S. Postal Service.

In fact, this article Going Postal: We Can Save America’s Mail Service While Bleeding the Banks Dry suggests the people send back to the banks those pre-paid envelopes that come with all the solicitations for credit cards and for opening bank accounts. That way the banks will be bled of some money and the post office will benefit.