Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Tax-Shift Humor and Climate Change

Distinguished as “systemic causation,” if not direct, in a post last week by cognitive linguistic researcher Dr. George Lakoff, even scientists previously skeptical of climate change at Berkley Earth, who are now able to make assessments as far back as 1753, are confident in the “clear agreement between global land ­‐temperature rise and human-­caused greenhouse gases.”

That’s the same year a 21-year-old George Washington rode across the Blue Ridge Mountains and the upper Shenandoah Valley as an ambassador for the British Crown on a mission to assess the intentions of and convey a warning to the French and their Native American allies along the border of what is now Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Following a route I also partially traveled on one of my four cross country trips over the last three years, Washington cut northwest at the Quaker village of Winchester and up through the Forks of the Ohio River, the site of present-day Pittsburgh.

The fall of 1753 was also when the first steam engine arrived in America.  It doesn’t take a crash course in the Industrial Revolution to understand just how much that single machine has influenced our quality of life, but that doesn’t change the fact that we now need another revolution to ensure that quality of life for subsequent generations.

On Washington’s follow up mission in 1754, the first truly global war was ignited which led to the need for British taxes to fund it on this continent which in turn, led to the American War of Independence also led by Washington and the creation of the United States of America of which he was elected the first President.

As Americans were declaring independence, Scottish professor Adam Smith was publishing An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations which upended the notion that wealth could only be achieved by hording and inspired instead our current market economy based on creating wealth.

Ironically, many inspired by Smith have turned to hording wealth and denial of climate change, while, according to public opinion polls, 75% of Americans support regulating greenhouse gases such as CO2 and 60% support revenue-neutral taxes on carbon.Chart from TED presentation by Dr. Yoram Bauman

By 3 to 1, Americans believe that protecting the environment “improves economic growth and creates new jobs, while just 17% cling to a notion described by David Jenkins, a Republican conservative and environmentalist (yes they do exist) that:

“we can dig up all of that sequestered carbon from bygone eras, burn it, and send it back into the atmosphere without consequence?”

Jenkins, an official with ConservAmerica then chided a fellow conservative that such a view “is as impious as it is imprudent. It is certainly not conservative.”

Given political will by those elected to office, there is obviously bipartisan support for the ideas promoted fourteen years ago in a book of just 89 pages plus appendix entitled Tax Shift – How to Help the Economy and Improve the Environment, co-written by Alan Thein Durning and a young Reed College research intern named Yoram Bauman.

The now-Dr. Bauman is an environmental economist who teaches at the University of Washington.  He is even more famous as “the world’s first and only Stand-Up Economist.”  Click here for his hilarious five minute explanation of economics textbook author and Harvard professor Dr. Gregory Mankiw’s (pronounced Mank-u) Ten Principals of Economics.

Revenue-neutral tax-shifting has already been shown to work over the last few years in British Columbia, Canada where it was implemented several years ago based on the recommendation of Bauman and others.

It is based on the economic principle that the way to get less pollution is to make polluting expensive.  Revenue-neutral means shifting taxes off of things such as income and payroll and business while shifting them to things such as CO2 emissions.

Beginning in 2008, B.C. began a gradual revenue-neutral tax shift to carbon pollution in 2008 and an assessment four years later by a group of business, environmental, policy and academic leaders shows that it is working by reducing emissions far faster than elsewhere and without any negative effect on the economy there.

The B.C. experiment, while it must to likely be ratcheted up to have the intended impact, is well worth replicating in the United States.  The carbon tax approach is also supported by Mankiw, an advisor on the economy to both President George W. Bush and Republican presidential-candidate Mitt Romney.

In a TED presentation, Bauman quotes conservative columnist George Will, who, when it was noted that he agreed with Al Gore on this issue, paraphrases a quote from 20th-century American newspaper humorist Don Marquis by quipping back that:

“an idea should not be held responsible for the people who believe in it.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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