Thursday, June 5, 2008

Reich in WSJ

Robert Reich's unpublished copy of his recent WSJ article:
That's why it's important that all revenues from carbon auctions be cycled back to citizens. And rather than launch another endless debate over how and to whom – a payroll tax cut for people earning under the median wage? a cut in capital gains? – it would be well to agree to the simplest possible formula: Every adult citizen should receive an equal share. If the carbon auction yields $150 billion in the first year, for example, each of America’s 150 million adult citizens should receive a Treasury check of $1000.

Such direct and simple repayments – what analyst Peter Barnes, who has been pushing this idea, wisely calls “dividends” – deal with another problem. Although the balance of economic studies suggest that the cost of a cap and trade system will be
modest, particularly to the extent it induces companies to reduce their emissions, inevitably some costs will be involved and be passed along to consumers. The cost of doing nothing about climate change will be far higher. But consumers Who are already walloped by high fuel and food costs will be in no mood to accept even modest additional price increases. Hence, the yearly dividend checks will be a welcome offset.

And to make the dividend checks really useful to people, they should be paid out on a monthly basis, the same as Social Security checks. Moreover, that way citizens can be continuously reminded of what they're giving away, and what they're getting back for it.

Our atmosphere belongs to all of us. It seems only reasonable that corporations should have to pay to use it. The citizens of Alaska and Alberta, Canada get yearly dividends from the oil companies that take away their natural resources. Why shouldn't the same principle apply when industries use the biggest common resource of all?

It's great to see someone of relatively high profile pushing such a good idea.

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