A Breakthrough Idea to Increase Jobs and Cut Greenhouse Gases?

A practical carbon “Fee and Dividend” policy to increase jobs and cut greenhouse gases is in the hands of Congressional leaders and their staff (see the article of the Citizens Climate Lobby event in this edition of the Empire Press). The “Fee and Dividend” (F&D) policy is detailed in a report co-authored by Scott Nystrom of Regional Economic Modeling, Inc. (REMI) and Patrick Luckow of Synapse Energy Economics.

Based on my information, F&D looks attractive to me, especially instead of carbon taxes or “Cap and Trade” policies.

Two citizens groups, the Citizens Climate Education Committee and the Citizens’ Climate Lobby commissioned the report and publicized it. REMI is a nonpartisan firm which has conducted econometric models since 1980. Synergy Energy Economics is a research and consulting firm that specializes in energy, economic and environmental issues.

The REMI model analyzed the economic impacts for 160 industries in nine Census Regions based on federal data and energy demand forecasts from 2016 to 2035.  The study compared results assuming no carbon fee versus results assuming energy producers paid a carbon fee of $10 per ton of CO2 emissions in 2016 that would increase $10 per year.

One hundred percent of the fees would be redistributed to households every month. The Alaska Permanent Fund collects taxes for oil producers and distributes dividends to qualified Alaska residents. The concept works.

Besides REMI’s proprietary model, the study used two well-established econometric models from energy research institutions, all with methodologies published in peer reviewed journals. The results were consistent across models.

The model assumes capitalism will motivate energy users to cut increasingly costly carbon costs with energy saving technologies and purchase existing alternative sources improved by investors, instead of complex regulations. The report didn’t presume benefits from unforeseen renewable energy sources.

The highlights of the results include positives and negatives by 2035. Positive results are significant declines in CO2 emissions, 227,000 fewer deaths from pulmonary diseases associated with nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides, increases in real disposable income per capita and a net increase of 2.8 million jobs.

Negatives results include higher costs of living until 2025 when energy costs begin to decline, although dividends estimated to be $288 per month by 2025, would cover cost-of-living increases. Some industries will suffer, such as coal mining, and there would be slightly negative impacts on the agricultural, forest, farming and ranching industries.

In my opinion the model understates economic and health benefits because it does not include the secondary costs of escalating CO2 emissions. Drought conditions would drop water levels and agricultural yields. Increased wildfires would pollute the air and cost lives and money. Reducing those costs would generate even more savings.

One question was why the F&D model predicts positive economic growth when other studies on carbon taxes, such as the May 2013 Congressional Budget Office report, showed job losses with a flat tax of $20 per ton.

The REMI study is a superior study. The F&D model is a revenue-neutral policy. Instead of capturing the carbon tax, the federal government redistributes 100 percent of it and people would spend it. Carbon tax models don’t assume an increasing fee to cut usage. Other models have not studied health benefits.

As a check on the REMI model’s accuracy, the co-authors used it to study the assumptions of the $20 flat rate carbon tax. The results were comparable to the CBO study, so the CBO and other econometricians should analyze F&D assumptions and compare results to the REMI study.

The report states, “The biggest take-home from this study is that there is no economic argument against Fee and Dividend. It creates jobs, grows the economy, saves lives and makes Americans richer. It does this while also reducing CO2 emissions.”

Encourage Congress to study a Fee and Dividend policy and see if we can agree to save money and lives and create more jobs.

Posted in Economics, Politics | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

The Glorious and Laudable Language of the Declaration of Independence

Re-reading the Declaration of Independence is like a glorious sunrise shining new light on the resolve, rectitude and humility of the signers, even 238 years later.

Those troubled founders had to rejoice at the far-reaching power of their total resolve behind the title, “The Unanimous Declaration of the 13 United States of America.”

The first purpose of their prose establishes the justification for the Declaration: “When in the course of human events …”.

The next paragraph continues with a magnificent vision, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” As triumphant as that equality was, even they would admit their vision was limited to men, and even relatively few of them. The error remind us to consider unseen limits on our visions.

“Governments deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,” is a profound confrontation to thousands of years of suffocating governments.

But they recognize barriers to winning consent. “Prudence indeed dictates that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes,” and “all experience has shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing …”

Most of the 56 signers were born to colonial families disposed to suffer, but eight were born in Britain. England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, or Northern Ireland.

Having declared the philosophical justification, the Declaration shifts “to a long train of abuses and usurpations” the people have suffered, beginning with the loss of precious rights and surprisingly second, death and destruction.

The loss of rights include, “the establishment of an absolute tyranny over the states;” legislation to force colonies to “relinquish their right of representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them, and formidable to tyrants only.” King George “refused … legislative powers, incapable of annihilation;” “obstructed the laws for naturalization of foreigners,” and “rendered the military independent of and superior to the civil power.”

The list of death and destruction charges King George had “plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns and destroyed the lives of people.” He was “transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation, and tyranny already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy, scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy of the head of a civilized nation.” And finally he has “constrained our fellow citizens taken captive on the high seas to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.”

General Washington read this inflammatory declaration in New York City streets on July 7, two days before the New York assembly agreed to sign it. Rioters pulled down the statue of King George with British Man of Wars in the harbor.

The third stage followed the inflammatory suffrage with a sad reminder their pleas for help gained nothing.

“In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms…”

“nor have we been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them … of attempts by their legislature to extend unwarrantable jurisdiction over us, appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred,” but “they too have been deaf to the voice of justice and consanguinity.  We must therefore hold them enemies in war, in peace, friends.”

Refusing to succumb to helplessness, they end by “Appealing to the supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions,” and claiming “the authority of the good people of these colonies,” they  “solemnly publish and declare that these United colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states.”

It makes three remarkable claims: blessings from God for a divine right, the unanimous authority of their governed, and their self-declared transformation into a free and independent united state — a phenomenal declaration in the history of humankind.

Each man staked everything on it: “with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”

Posted in Community Building, Doing Justice and Having Compassion | Tagged | 1 Comment

Wars, Wars and More Wars Are Not Working

I read we must send our troops and weapons to Egypt, Syria, Libya, Ukraine, Africa and now back into Iraq. If we don’t we’re too weak, our national security is threatened, our allies will lose confidence, USA contractors and citizens are at risk and our oil supplies cut off.

Why do we keep trying? U.S. military actions since 9/11 seem to repeat the same mistakes over and over. Who is challenging these calls for military action?

Tom Englehardt for one, a journalist who founded TomDispatch (www.TomDispatch.com) to decry our military actions since 2001 after twenty years as a journalist and editor.

In his blog post A record of unparalled failure, he asks whether our American-style warfare been successful since 911.  We’ve been at war in Afghanistan for 13 years, but doesn’t it have a “weak, corrupt central government in a country that once again is planning record opium crops?” Isn’t Iraq a “riven, embattled, dilapidated country … [with] some areas under the control of a group that is more extreme than Al-Queda?”

Instead of stabilizing countries, Englehardt says we destabilize countries. He said, “The U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 unleashed a Sunni-Shiite civil war in the region, requiring a surge in troops and an occupation of the country.” Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, Syrians, Lebanese have died and some survivors now ruled by new extremist jihadist groups.

Other countries have destabilized where we used our military, including Pakistan with a strengthening inside Pakistan and Libya ripped apart by brutal militias.

Englehardt says our U.S. military has been unable to win the wars demanded of it since WWII.  After winning every war since the American Revolution through WWII, the military has been stalemated by wars in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq.

In my opinion we shouldn’t blame the military. Its superiority toppled regimes quickly in Afghanistan and Iraq, but our government foreign policies have been unable to create an enduring peace or democracy afterwards.

We need to admit we don’t know what to do after the shooting temporarily stops because terrorists regroup to reshoot. Until we understand or can cooperate with an effective United Nations we should stop being a world-wide military command post.

Englehardt doesn’t answer arguments justifying military actions to prevent terrorist attacks on our soil. It’s a powerful argument because Afghanistan-based Al Qaeda attacks in 911 jarred our comfort about national security. And hasn’t the U.S. been successful in destroying Al Qaeda’s capability?

Yes the USA has, but not with the military style wars and interventions being asked of us in Ukraine, Libya, and again in Iraq, according to The RAND Corporation, a bi-partisan non-profit organization that provides research to improve public policy and decision-making.  RAND published a 2014 report concluding terrorism risks on our soil have declined. (See, www.RAND.org).

Al Qaeda has not had a major terrorist attack in five years. It’s been crippled by intelligence operations that killed and captured leaders, slashed money sources, destroyed schools and training programs in Afghanistan, Yemen and in other countries.

But the numbers of terrorist groups have grown by 58 percent since 2010 according to RAND, because Al Qaeda has evolved by affiliating with regional rebels mostly in the Middle-East and north Africa. Those groups focus on their own regions, such as creating a rogue state in the between Iraq and Syria, or driving out western influence from Africa. They raise money from illegal operations and recruit locally or lure back ex-patriots.

They’ll attack local U.S. facilities and personnel as they did in Benghazi with bombs and small arms that require less training, funding and complex logistics.

RAND concludes they provide little risk to our national security, particularly on our soil. These terrorist organizations need to be continuously monitored, leadership killed, money sources interrupted and training sites destroyed before they become larger threats.

In my mind those actions don’t require USA military wars in regions all over the world.

For me, the military actions we’ve tried haven’t worked and created deadly consequences. Let’s take a breather and rethink a totally new humanitarian approach.

Posted in Justice, Mercy and Humility, Politics | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Is the Washington Legislature Liable for Contempt of Court?

Remember how State legislators congratulated themselves about their bipartisan budget success when the 2014 session adjourned? They may have erred.

The Washington Supreme Court summoned the legislature to show cause why it should be held in contempt of the Court’s mandate in the Cleary decision to remedy its failure to fulfill “its paramount duty to make ample provision for the education of all children within its borders.” Oops, so much for legislative self-adulation.

To be fair, legislative hubris ended with an honest report on its progress. Quotes are from the Supreme Court’s summons after reading the legislature’s self-assessment of progress. The State “candidly admits the legislature did not enact additional timelines in 2014 to implement the program of basic education as directed by the court.” Uh, oh, it didn’t do its homework.

“The report acknowledges the pace must quicken.” Naughty, naughty.

“But the report recognizes that during the legislative 2014 session there was no political agreement reached either among the political caucuses or between legislative chambers on what the full implementation should look like.” This kind of report card could ruin the legislators recess this summer.

“And it offers no concrete reason to believe that the ‘grand agreement’ envisioned will more likely be implemented in 2015.”  Sounds like the court is going to tell legislators they need summer school to make-up a failing grade.

“The state is hereby summoned to address why the state should not be held in contempt for violation of this court’s order,” and if so, why seven forms of relief should not be imposed. Yep, the Court is mandating make-up homework by July 11 and after the Court grades it, corrections by August 25.

The seven imposable remedies are profound including, monetary sanctions, prohibiting approved expenditures, ordering the legislature to fund specific amounts or sell properties, invalidating education funding cuts and prohibiting funding of an unconstitutional education system. In other words, the Supreme Court could make a shambles of the legislature inept bipartisan budget.

To emphasize the profound implications of this summons, the source who sent me this public court document but prefers not to be identified, said Higher Education is not a constitutional education system. Could the Court mandate defunding the unconstitutional Higher Edcation? “It could get messy,” said my source.

It should get messy if legislators don’t do their job and cloak themselves in praise for bipartisan contempt of the State Supreme Court.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

A Specialist for Pyschological, Social and Emotional Healtcare

“People die completely different here.” That was the epiphany Ginny Heinitz experienced working in a hospital after years as a Hospice volunteer providing home care for patients before they died.

Heinitz,  https://www.facebook.com/ginny.heinitz?fref=ts,  began her career as a nurse in oncology in 1982 and became a Hospice volunteer in 1987. She later became an Eastmont school nurse before starting work at Confluence Hospital in 2010 to counsel people in the final stages of their lives. Asked if she was anxious about working in the hospital setting, she said, “I absolutely went with trepidation.”

She saw people brought into emergency and then to Intensive Care Units for aggressive treatment even though “The staff and I staff knew was not going to be helpful. People don’t realize it causes stress for the physicians and nurses” when people die with plastic tubes in sterile cubicles.

Heinitz said by 2000 growing concern about the problem led to development of palliative care to provide cancer patients with counseling and education aimed at the psychological, social and emotional well-being of the patients. Studies showed the combination of palliative care plus the best cancer care provided a better quality of life than just the best cancer care. Patients had fewer problems dealing with symptoms, less depression and less chemo-therapy. They also were more likely to die at home and lived several months longer.

At the hospital she and an MD trained staff about palliative care and requested referrals. After successful pilot tests at her hospital and Columbia Valley Community Medical Center, they adopted a training program called Having It Your Own Way: Getting the Right Care When it Matters Most. (See other programs in Conversations Before Knocking on Heaven’s Door on this blog and in the Clear Skies column on June 19 in the Douglas County Empire Press).

Palliative caregivers listen to patients and families share their wishes before or during treatments. The team describes options and prepares families to advocate for treatments and lifesaving efforts they prefer. Her initial consults take about an hour, which is more time than doctors usually spend with patients.

They hoped for 200 referrals in the first year, but staff referred 400 and two years later, 1200. Their department grew larger than any other department in Washington, a testament to the quality of local healthcare.

Heinitz realized patients need to understand palliative care before they come to the hospital. In 2013 she became the outpatient palliative care coordinator at Confluence Health, where she promotes palliative care in the community and works with out-patient referrals, some of whom eventually come off of palliative care.

Before our interview, a patient called her who’d been in agony after surgical treatment. She’d treated him to overcome his poor symptom management for pain. He had called to say, “You’ve helped me continue on and I don’t have as much pain as I had before.”

She said, “Eventually, I may have to say, ‘What if down the way, no further aggressive treatment is offered, would you like some information now?’”

Barbara Robinson, East Wenatchee, experienced palliative care from an oncologist at Confluence before her husband, Forest, died last December. She said the final stage started when “we found out the CAT scan showed his cancer had blown up in his body. He had three to six months and it was not going to pretty.”

They told their oncologist they had already talked about they wanted, and what they chose not to go through, and that he wanted to enroll in Washington’s Death with Dignity Act option. “Oh my God, it was very easy,” Robinson said.

The oncologist gave them a ‘do-not-resuscitate’ folder to post on the refrigerator.  Hospice was notified immediately. A physical therapist “was on it right away, replacing his wheel chair and getting the right pads.” Forest died exactly as he wanted, peacefully at home with family present.

Heinitz and local medical staff provide palliative care. Prepare for it and plan on it.

Posted in Enjoying the Retired Life, Mercy and Humility, Profiles, Rejoicing in Later Years | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Have Conversations Before Knocking on Heaven’s Door

Deeper conversations about dying are underway for Karen and me since we read Knocking on Heaven’s door: The Path to a Better Way of Death by Katy Butler. It’s the story of a prize winning journalist caring for her parents as they fought to die according to their wishes. The searing experience convinced Butler loved ones need early conversations about their final wishes to reverse the perverse deaths people frequently experience.

For years as the health of her father, Jeff, failed, the health of her care-giving mother, Val, also failed. To relieve their suffering. Butler plunged into researching why disincentives in medical care cause most people to die in hospitals although they want to die at home. Her book is a powerful memoir, a spiritual journey and a practical guide.

The good news is Butler believes patients are increasingly empowered by palliative care, the program defined as counseling and education for staff and patients aimed at the psychological, social and emotional well-being of patients in combination with aggressive medical care.

Jeff suffered a crippling stroke at the age of 79. Later, doctors recommended a pacemaker as a safety precaution during a minor surgery. The cardiologist didn’t understand the wreckage in the quality of Jeff’s and Val’s lives wrought by Jeff’s deteriorating heart. Butler describes the disincentives for lengthy counseling with the possible consequences of the pacemaker and aggressive best care.

Jeff lived long past the time he wished to live because his pacemaker kept working. Out of exhaustion Val finally asked Butler, “Please help me turn it off. It’s killing me.” Butler said, “I wanted to turn it off because I loved him.”

I have a pacemaker and the image of me mindlessly waiting while it ticks through its ten-year battery life frightens Karen and me. I received it two years ago after a cardiac specialist treating me for heart failure and atrial-fibrillation recommended it. Despite medications I had blacked out the month before and now had dangerously high heartbeats. After a 15-minute conversation about the advantages, a pacemaker sounded good to me. That night I told Karen about my decision.

It’s been good for me as my heart has improved. The recent pacemaker readings show my heart is performing so well the specialist gave it an A+.

But it won’t always go well. The battery will need replacement in ten years when I’ll be 83. At that age forty percent of people have dementia. I’m constantly at risk of a serious stroke, like Jeff had. Butler said patients with serious strokes usually have slight improvements for a year and then a steady decline.  If I have a stroke, do we want the authority to turn off my pacemaker or replace the battery?

Butler says, “You have a constitutional right to refuse medical treatment or ask for the withdrawal on your own behalf or on behalf of someone who has legally entrusted you with that role.”

Now is the time to talk, because we’re not as prepared for a crisis as we thought even with living wills. Under what conditions? How do we establish written authority in my records for someone to make that decision? Who will be willing? How do we even start that conversation?

Butler recommends starting that conversation through the Conversation Project (theconversationproject.org) initiated by Pulitzer-prize winning writer Ellen Goodman. After her mom died, Goodman told colleagues in media, faith and medical professions she had talked with her mother about everything except how she wanted to spend her last days. The website says eight out of ten people want to have those conditions in writing, but barely two in ten have written it down.

The website prepares each person to start the conversation by asking themselves, ‘What matters to me? ‘How involved do I want to be?’ ‘What should they do to fulfill my wishes?’

Other sources exist. At our local Confluence Medical Center, Ginny Heinitz is the nurse in charge of providing palliative care (see the article by Jim Russell on the Specialist for Psychological, Social and Emotional Healthcare in this issue of the Empire Press). She believes the need is overwhelming. “We’ve heading for a crisis if it hasn’t already occurred.”

Read the book and start your conversation. It’s liberating and loving.

Posted in Enjoying the Retired Life, Rejoicing in Later Years | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

CEO Pay Compared to Worker Pay and Household Income Compared to Teenage Allowances

CEO Pay. Corporate CEO average pay climbed to 257 times more than an average worker’s pay in 2013. Worker pay is too low compared to allowances for teenagers. Workers are paid a fraction of what teenagers’ allowances are compared to their parents’ household income.

The median household income from 2008-2012 was $53,046. Based on the CEO/worker ratio, the household income/allowance ratio would limit 13-year-olds allowances to $3.97 cents per week. But the average weekly allowance for 13-year-olds is $9.52 based on surveys posted on the kidsmoney.org website. And they get room and board in the deal.

Teenagers almost never get laid off or fired, no matter how much their parents feel they should be. True, teenagers may lose their allowance, but they’d have to lose it 30 weeks each year to get a measly $3.97 per week average.

I worry that revealing this will lead CEOs to reduce their teenagers’ allowances as a matter of equity.

The Christian Science Monitor says CEO incomes are rising faster than workers income. “Last year’s average CEO increase was 8.8 percent, while the average salaried worker’s increase was 1.3 percent.” Both pale compared to a 13-year-old’s projected 40 percent increase at the age of 14.

I worry that revealing this will lead CEOs to ask for larger increases next year.

The reason CEOs get more is they’re paid in stock bonuses. Why not pay workers with stock bonuses and let them share the wealth equitably since limiting employee incomes allows increased corporate profits and increases in CEO incomes?

Workers would be shareholders who could use their shares to boost CEO income because of their inspirational leadership. Or not. Hmm, maybe that’s why CEOs don’t pay workers with stock bonuses.

Well, since CEO pay is determined by Board members who are frequently CEOs of other corporations, companies could do the same for workers. CEOs could allow their employees’ wages be determined by recommendations from representatives of workers in other regional and competitive firms. Workers could increase other workers’ wages the way CEOs increase each other’s income until the system is equitable again.


Posted in Economics, Humor, Justice | Tagged | 1 Comment