Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Massachusetts carbon tax shift might create 81,000 new Mass. jobs.

Official Massachusetts unemployment figures currently run about 6.5-7%, but the percentage of us actually working is 49%. That's 3,240,000 working out of 6,646,000 of us. Now some of us are at school, others retired, but many of us have just been left off of the unemployed rolls. And the average work week of those of us working is only 33.7 hours. It's hard luck for us short of work, but it's also a missed chance for us all, as that's a lot of needed work not getting done lately. Now and in the future we will all suffer because that work didn't get done. What we could have made won't be available as tools for further building of infrastructure, etc.
How can we encourage private hiring by existing businesses? We could start by countering what discourages hiring. When bosses hire, they pay payroll, plus some payroll taxes to Uncle Sam. These payroll taxes on employers discourage hiring. Let's discourage something else instead. Let's rebate to Massachusetts bosses what they paid to Uncle Sam in payroll taxes.

Cleverly eliminating scarce labor use by using resources with technology was a brilliant solution in a world that was short on labor and full of resources, but now we're running out of resources and have plenty of eager workers. So to save some resources for our childrens' generation while creating jobs for us now, let's discourage resource use with taxes instead of discouraging hiring with payroll taxes. How do we do that here in Massachusetts?

We in Massachusetts can rebate to employers their Federal payroll taxes paid per hour worked, raising those revenues from carbon taxes.
What would happen? As businesspeople, we'd find it cheaper to hire than to use energy resources to the extent that we've used them before.
That would slow the loss of cash paid for energy imports to our state, so there would be more left in our state economy to spend again on each other.
Let's look at math:

The employer share of
FICA OASDI    6.2%        Social Security
FICA HI        1.45%        Medicare
FUTA        0.6% or less    Federal Unemployment
Total         up to 8.25%        of wages paid, is paid by bosses to Uncle Sam.

How much is that in Massachusetts?
With 3,240,000 workers earning $24.55/hr. average, over an average workweek of 33.7 hours, over 52 weeks of the year, about $139 billion in Massachusetts wages were paid, thus about $11.5 billion in taxes was paid to Uncle Sam by bosses. If we replace that with a carbon tax on the approximately 14 tons of CO2 we each used last year, with 6,646,000 of us releasing that carbon, we could rebate that private hiring tax payment with a carbon tax of $150 per ton of CO2. This would significantly inspire new hiring, and also significantly discourage resource use. Per year, it would cost us on average $2,100 in higher fuel prices, and pay bosses an average of $3,586 per worker per year working 33.7 hrs/week.

This would change our society for the better, and we can do it here in Massachusetts without federal co-ordination or permission. How much hiring can we expect by rebating that 8.25% otherwise paid by bosses to Uncle Sam? Well, in Hamermesh's Labor Demand, the consensus elasticity of labor demand is -0.3, so for every 1% decrease in wage cost to employers, bosses will increase jobs by -0.3%. Hence an 8.25% decrease in wage costs to bosses would increase hiring 2.5% If the average workweek were to stay the same, 81,000 new jobs would be created in Massachusetts.

Fuel costs would rise an average of $2,100 per person, with carbon-rich coal rising most in price. CO2's oxygen comes from air, and won't be taxed, so all the $150 will fall on the carbon sales, and carbon's percentage mass in CO2 is 1x12.01 /1x12.01 +2*16.0= 12/44, or 27%, so If coal is pure carbon, a tax of $150 per ton of CO2 would add to coal's price per ton a tax of about $556. This would vastly increase coal prices. In October 2010 coal sold for about $80/metric ton, so coal would increase in price about seven-fold.

Natural gas, if all methane (usually it is 70-90% methane, most of the balance being other hydrocarbons http://www.naturalgas.org/overview/background.asp), would have a mass ratio of about 3/4ths carbon and 1/4 hydrogen, so it's tax per ton would be about $417, or $0.068 tax/thousand cubic feet Natural Gas(http://energyworksus.com/carbon-calculator.html). Massachusetts residents averaged 58,400 cubic feet of natural gas per person per year in 2006(http://energyalmanac.ca.gov/naturalgas/per_capita_consumption.html), and so would pay $3,971 per average person per year as new carbon tax.

Electricity rates would rise as well. MA residents average 8,591 kwh/yr.(http://energyalmanac.ca.gov/electricity/us_per_capita_electricity-2010.html)
About 0.000742 tons of carbon dioxide are released per kwh, so through electricity use we of MA average 6.4 tons of CO2 released per year, which would be taxed (at $150 per ton) $960. Since coal is used to generate some electricity, these figures overlap somewhat.

These higher rates for energy would strongly inspire us to conserve resources by using labor, and to lead the world technologically with less carbon-intensive infrastructure, so we could export these valuable new technologies even more than we already do.
 The original article, corrected above, was based on an elasticity of labor demand estimate that has proven anomolous. The more accepted estimate is -0.3, so that 8.25% drop in wage costs would increase employment by 2.5%, not ~20% .

Friday, January 18, 2013

On Raising Massachusetts Revenues.

We check the forecast before traveling - Will we need an umbrella? When one makes plans, it's good to have an idea of the situation that plan will probably deal with. Mass. Governor Patrick's 2013 budget and transportation plans are built on some assumptions of how the future will be. There are projections of how much we will drive our cars, how much we will work, earn and spend, etc. To plan, we make assumptions about fuel prices and use, about employment, wages and interest rates, and about weather. If these are stated, we can discuss how these projections were created, how they match what we know of today's world and how it's changing. A ten year transportation plan expecting yesteryear's fuel prices would be like sunglasses for a rainstorm. "The Way Forward:" must have an expectation in mind of what the future will be like, but it's unstated in these plans. What's the forecast?
Usually we assume things will continue as they have been. But our future will not be like our past, because of what's going on in the rest of the world, where increasing numbers of people are earning and spending increasing amounts of money, and using increasing amounts of resources, emitting increasing amounts of carbon into air, increasingly altering the climate we rely on for our agriculture and food supply.
Our future in Massachusetts, the one we'll be traveling in, will either have rapidly weirding weather or rapidly rising fossil fuel prices, and probably both.
How would we respond to European-level transport fuel prices? Would we drive as much, or would we move closer to work, or work from home?
How will higher fuel prices affect the transport choices we make? Will we choose public transport instead of our cars, and to what extent?
These are difficult questions, but ignoring them won't help us plan well. It would be tragic if we fixed roads with borrowed money, only to find that we can not afford to use them as planned, because we can not afford to drive private cars as much as we do now. What we spend on new roads could be spent on new buses, or on new business's equipment.

Together, we, the people of Massachusetts, have made our home state a nice place. Hence most people moving or living here really want to buy land here. 'Location, location, location' they say, controls real estate value. That location is in relation to the rest of us, and in relation to the communities we've built together. It is that location that gives most market value to land, and it is that location which our communities made valuable in the first place. Returning a portion of the market value we have created through our communities to maintain our communities makes sense. A state tax on land purchases would return a portion of the value we created when we built these fine communities.
We tax retail sales at the state level, yet we haven't taxed real estate sales statewide. It's only fair that we tax purchases of the rich as well as purchases of the poor, if we are to tax purchases at all. The proposed 4.5 percent sales tax, applied to real estate sales, would generate about $1.5 billion, so state revenues would increase about 1/30th.

Outer space, where we can not breath, is closer to us on earth than Dorchester is to Medford. With only about 7.5 miles of air above us, and about 400 ppm of CO2 now in our air, there is no longer airspace above earth for all the carbon in the fuels we could burn. We need to encourage each other to burn less, so as to maintain the climate, the agricultural systems and thus the food we all rely on. Those before us, to eliminate labor, substituted energy resources, which was brilliant in a world empty of people and full of resources, but now we're running out of resources and have plenty of labor. It now makes more sense to use more plentiful labor and less rare resources, which will yield less pollution and more jobs.
Nothing says 'Slow down' like taxes. A carbon tax will encourage all of us to develop the methods and the equipment all the world will need tomorrow, for our food system to continue to yield our meals. So a state carbon tax can prepare our state to supply the world tomorrow with exports of goods and services. Carbon taxes inspire this needed change in technology to proceed faster, preserving resources, jobs and the environment. In Massachusetts, we each release about 14 tons of carbon dioxide per person per year. If taxed at $30/ton, as in British Colombia now, state carbon tax revenues would be raised by about $2.6 billion/year, or about a twentieth of existing state revenues.

These two new taxes would add about $4.1 billion to state revenues, about as much as higher ed. state revenues. These revenues would be relatively easy to collect. There are but a few sources of carbon entering Massachusetts; coal, natural gas, motor fuel etc. And real estate transfers are clear through county deed records.

As Massachusetts transitions to a more carbon-efficient future, access to public transit will be increasingly valued. One of the leading ways public transit is valued is through increases in real estate value due to nearby public transit access. This value increase is not due to the actions of the individual owner, but to the community's actions, is fair to tax, and taxing this neighborhood increase in value can pay for all or some of the cost of extending public transit into new neighborhoods.
To do this, laws forming special tax districts surrounding newly transit-served neighborhoods would pass, so land value increases occurring as new public transit arrives would be taxed.

 Brian Cady

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Yellow Vetch, Winter 2012-13

Young Yellow Vetch growing in the Fall of 2012, in Boston, MA USA. Now their half covered with snow, but still looking healthy where they're visible.