Morning Fizz

A "Two-Way Relationship Between [the] Environment and Inequality"

Caffeinated News featuring a WA state climate change report, a federal parking subsidies report, and a FB fight.

By Morning Fizz November 18, 2014

1. "The environment/ Climate change" was nearly a non-issue in recent statewide polling (just 2.9 percent of voters listed it as "important" to them in the Washington Poll released two weeks before this month's election; in contrast, education got 23.7 percent.)

It's no wonder the findings of Gov. Jay Inslee's Carbon Emissions Reduction Taskforce (CERT) study didn't generate big headlines when they were released yesterday. And frankly, while Gov. Inslee's original announcement about the taskforce last April  set the stage for a carbon cap or carbon tax , yesterday's study was inconclusive (and undramatic) on both ideas simply saying that "pricing carbon" was "an effective way forward," his spokeswoman Jaime Smith acknowledged. 

However, one member of Inslee's 21-member citizen taskforce, Remy Trupin, the executive director of the lefty Washington Budget & Policy Center think tank, came out with a statement later in the afternoon stressing the relevance of the the findings on reducing carbon emissions: It's intertwined with income inequality, he said. (FYI: "Fixing the economy/recession/jobs/unemployment" got 21.1 percent on the Washington Poll last month.) 

Why should you care about the environment (beyond the increasingly convincing warnings about the apocalypse, like the latest one earlier this month from the U.N.) ? Because, CERT member Trupin said "the two issues [climate change and income inequality] go hand in hand."

How so? Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz has a great article outlining why there is a "two-way relationship between [the] environment and inequality" explaining not only the obvious fact that poor people are hit hardest by climate change, but also the related idea that "inequality can also contribute to environmental degradation." (The economic straits that trap poor people force them into a survival mode that can undermine environmental protection, Stiglitz explains.)

Trupin's statement declared: "As a member of the Carbon Emissions Reduction Taskforce, I am encouraged to see strong language in the final recommendations on crafting a carbon pricing policy in Washington state. Equally important to achieving our state’s long-term carbon reduction goals is addressing income inequality."

The harsh irony for poor people, though, is that while poor people and people of color are hit the hardest by climate change (rising food prices, rising energy costs, displacement), rich people—with their disproportionately large carbon footprints are doing much more to create global warming.

And on this score, the CERT report gets it. "Climate disruption is inequitable: those who have done the least to cause it generally suffer the worst of its consequences – not only financially, but from a human health standpoint," yesterday's CERT study notes. 

Mindful of the economics and class breakdown of climate change, the report lays out a number of ways that a carbon pricing strategy can "minimize cost impacts to consumers and protect low-income communities from increased energy costs."  

After stating that "Climate policy must be designed to ease rather than exacerbate that inequity. ... Climate policy cannot further disadvantage low-income residents and communities of color," the CERT report recommends that 25 percent of revenues from any type of carbon charge be "set aside ... for the benefit of disadvantaged communities;" "allocating funds to customers eligible for low-income energy assistance programs;" "Use revenues to invest in targeted mitigation strategies that help vulnerable communities meet the increased cost of basic needs;" and help with transportation costs.

Many of these ideas were outlined in a paper that Trupin, along with another class-conscious taskforce member, Service Employees International Union 775 VP Adam Glickman, published earlier this month. The paper, which began—"Addressing income inequality is crucial to reducing carbon emissions"—added a few more unified theory theories about the overlap between the environment and income inequality: Assistance purchasing fuel efficient cars; building new energy infrastructure in depressed areas; improving public health infrastructure; free or low-cost energy retrofits for communities with low incomes; and expanding public transit and transit oriented development. 

Of course, with Republicans gaining numbers in the state house and firmly controlling the state senate now, a class war spin about climate change might do very little to advance Inslee's cause; the governor told the Seattle Times yesterday that the CERT findings "set the stage" for some sort of carbon pricing policy.

 The Republicans already sank Inlsee's climate change agenda last session

 2. OK. Read this report. Now. 

Summary: The transit advocacy group Transit Center crunched the numbers on the federal tax breaks for commuter parking and transit and recommends that the feds get rid of the tax subsidy for parking and upgrade the transit pass subsidy.

From the executive summary: 

The effect of the tax benefit for commuter parking is to subsidize traffic congestion by putting roughly 820,000 more cars on America’s most congested roads in its most congested cities at the most congested times of day. It delivers the greatest benefits to those who need them least, typically upper-income Americans, and costs $7.3 billion in reduced tax revenue ...The tax benefit for commuter transit only weakly counteracts the negative impact of the parking tax benefit. The transit tax benefit reaches too few people, and the drop in its value compared to that of the parking tax benefit at the beginning of 2014 limits its potential to get cars off the road.

3. King County Young Democrats leader, Chiho Fox, is running for chair of the King County Democrats.

However, Fox was uninvited from the 46th Legislative District Democrats' county chair forum this week by the 46th's state committeewoman Sarajane Siegfriedt who said he was not a serious candidate. 

Facebook blew up

Fox, a young, gay, Asian—who reportedly got an apology from a state rep in the 46th—took to FB writing: 

Apparently I have been un-invited from participation in the 46th LDs chairs forum this week. Their representative Sarajane Siegfriedt sent me this message earlier today moments ago.

"I do not consider you a serious candidate. I have to subtract 1/ 3 of their times from the other candidates. This is grossly unfair. I hoped you would care enough about Betsy to withdraw. I only invited you on the condition that you are a serious candidate. Therefore I withdraw the invitation. Say whatever you want about me. Not one of your friends says you are serious."

I am disappointed and offended that she did not reach out to me, or what part of the 46th LDs rules allow for an individual to decide who is a "serious" candidate and who is not? Can someone clarify for me how this is democratic, fair, or justified. I will not attend an LD meeting at which I am not welcome at, however my belief is that as democrats we should be encouraging people to participate and not excluding interested parties.

Siegfriedt tells Fizz this morning: "It was bad judgement on my part. I was worried about time constraints. I've apologized. I asked him repeatedly to call me. I'd wanted to work this out in private, but he copied my message into his public feed."


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