The U.S. economy is still weak, with 7 percent unemployment, many millions more underemployed and less people employed in November than there were six years ago. At the same time -- and not unrelated -- we are still devolving along a path toward increasingly ugly inequality, with 95 percent of the income gains since the Great Recession going to the top 1 percent of the income distribution.
Meanwhile, the crisis of global climate change is moving toward more irreversible catastrophic damage each year that the United States, which is responsible for more of the cumulative carbon emissions than any other country, procrastinates in making the necessary changes to reduce fossil fuel consumption.
There are feasible policy changes that can address all of these problems -- and we don't have to sacrifice employment or a more just and decent society in order to make progress on climate change. Here are five of them:
- A carbon tax: This one is so simple that it even gets overwhelming majority support among economists. If we tax the use of fossil fuels, less will be used and production and investment will shift to lower CO2 and more renewable forms of energy like solar. We can even use the revenue to fund alternative energy sources (as in France), or if that is not politically feasible, simply refund the money to the public or cut other taxes (as in British Columbia).
Some of these proposals may seem far from the political agenda, but remember that the Federal Reserve's quantitative easing to stimulate the economy was uncharted territory until they actually did it in 2008. It was accepted by all but the far right; and it has helped. The public is more than ready for new economic policies to civilize this country and save the planet from climate disaster.
This was distributed by McClatchy Tribune Information Services on January 22, 2014 and published on January 23rd by the Fresno Bee and other newspapers.
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