Exxon Puts Up $1 Million to Campaign for a Carbon Tax

Rare donation to fight climate change represents a break with fellow oil giants—and with the Trump administration

Exxon Mobil Corp. is committing $1 million over two years to promote a tax on carbon emissions by corporations, one of the few times an oil company has given money to make fighting climate change a political priority in Washington.

Exxon sees a carbon tax as an alternative to patchwork regulations, putting one cost on all carbon emitters nationwide, eliminating regulatory uncertainty hovering over Exxon’s business in states that might seek to target oil companies, the person said.

.. Exxon’s contribution will go to Americans for Carbon Dividends, a new group co-chaired by former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott. It is promoting a carbon tax-plus-dividend policy first proposed by two former secretaries of state, James Baker III and George Shultz, last year. All three figures are Republicans.

The idea is to discourage companies from emitting carbon through the tax, but to avoid burdening consumers by returning the money to Americans through what the group calls a “carbon dividend” that it estimates could be as much as $2,000 annually per family.

On climate change issues, Exxon finds itself in unlikely opposition to many in the Republican Party, at a time the GOP holds the White House and majorities in Congress. Republican leaders there have often derided the idea of global warming and shown contempt for taxes as a solution.

While the Baker-Shultz plan is designed to be revenue-neutral by sending all of the money directly back to Americans, critics say it is too nuanced and complicated to be palatable.

.. “I don’t think the base would believe that, even if it were true,” said George David Banks, a former adviser to Mr. Trump on climate issues. “Not only are you asking the base to support climate policy, but you’re asking them to support a tax. You’re asking them to support a double whammy.”

General Motors Co. , Johnson & Johnson , and other oil companies, including BP PLC, are founding members of the Climate Leadership Council, the organization fine-tuning the details of the Baker-Shultz plan.

.. It pledged this year to cut its methane emissions 15% by 2020, it has touted its research to make fuels from algae and its chief executive

.. If big companies—especially fossil-fuel companies—make climate policy a lobbying priority, it could open the door to an eventual solution or compromise, though it may be years away and not include this plan or any carbon tax.

.. “This is an interesting and important signal shift. For years, Exxon’s political effort was all on the side of climate denial and obstruction,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D., R.I.). “At least Exxon money is now on both sides of the fight.”

The Breakdown of the Capital-Labor Accord and Okun’s Law

we talk a lot about the “post-war capital-labor accord” and the golden age of the 1940s-1970s. In these years, inequality went down, unions flourished, civil rights laws were passed along with LBJ’s Great Society programs like Medicare, etc. Corporations saw themselves as not just profit-seeking nexuses-of-contracts but also as institutions with duties to their stakeholders – employees, local community organizations, etc.

.. Then everything went to hell in the 1970s. Oil shocks, poor economic performance, large increases in foreign competition, an overheated economy created by the meeting of increased social spending and increased military spending, all combined to create massive inflation and other sorts of economic upheaval.

.. union contracts were blamed for causing inflation and big business began to push for

regulatory changes (to fight the hated EPA and OSHA, along with unions) and increased layoffs.

Institutional investors, growing rapidly in size in part *because* of the prosperity of the “golden age” (e.g. the massive pension funds like CALPERS and TIAA-CREF), began to demand discipline from corporations unused to having to listen to anyone

.. Changes in financial regulations and institutions made possible the junk bond market and, in turn, a more active market for corporate control – suddenly, large firms that were used to making acquisitions became targets.

.. by the mid-1980s, the golden age had ended along with the capital-labor accord and something new had begun – perhaps we can call it the “neoliberal era

.. This era’s hallmarks include the dramatic decline in unions, massive increases in the share of wealth going to the top 1% and .1% (cf. Piketty and Saez), massive increases in the share of profits going to finance (cf. Krippner 2005), and an overall change in the way that corporations perceived themselves.

.. No longer institutions with obligations beyond profit-seeking, corporations became (thought of as) legal fictions that served the sole purpose of maximizing shareholder value

.. The old dominant strategy of firms was to “retain and reinvest”, the new mantra was to “downsize and distribute

.. The old model of the firm was GM – a massive, vertically integrated institution that dominated a market and did everything in-house. The new model was the “Original Equipment Manufacturer” (OEM), a firm like Nike that designs a product and markets it but outsources and off-shores as much of the actual producing, distributing, etc. The firm is now a brand, an identity demarcating a certain set of contracts, whose value is more about intangibles than men and machines.

.. Okun’s Law is an economic relationship between the magnitude of an economic downturn (in terms of real GDP) and increases in unemployment

..  if GDP (production and incomes, that is) rises or falls two percent due to the business cycle, the unemployment rate will rise or fall by one percent. The magnitude of swings in unemployment will always be half or nearly half the magnitude of swings in GDP.

.. The last downturns – 1991ish, 2001ish and the current moment – have all been characterized by “jobless recoveries” or, more broadly, much larger decreases and much smaller increases in unemployment than would be predicted by Okun’s law.

.. “businesses will tend to “hoard labor” in recessions, keeping useful workers around and on the payroll even when there is temporarily nothing for them to do”.

.. Manufacturing firms used to think that their most important asset was skilled workers. Hence they hung onto them, “hoarding labor” in recessions. And they especially did not want to let go of their prime productive asset when the recovery began. Skilled workers were the franchise. Now, by contrast, it looks as though firms think that their workers are much more disposable—that it’s their brands or their machines or their procedures and organizations that are key assets.

.. The 1980s saw a reordering of the world – a transition from a period governed by one set of rules that privileged the relationship between businesses and their employees to one that privileged (relatively speaking, in ideology anyway) shareholders.

.. What variables should we care about, if GDP seems to be connected less to welfare than it used to be?

.. the neoliberal period is marked by dramatic, mind-boggling increases in executive compensation without, as far as I know, any signs of better performance or increased shareholder value.

How a German Newspaper Became the Go-To Place for Leaks Like the Paradise Papers

Journalists working on the Paradise Papers had used iHub, for example, to coördinate research into Nike’s byzantine international registration arrangements. “Everybody went shopping,” Obermayer’s colleague Elisabeth Gamperl told me. Reporters in more than half a dozen European countries went out and bought Nike shoes. Using the tax identification numbers on the different receipts, and the information gleaned from the leaked documents, they were able to determine that sales revenues were not staying in the country where the shoes were purchased but, rather, being funneled to the Netherlands, which has become one of Europe’s tax havens.

.. Obermayer told me that his source for the Panama Papers, whom he refers to as John Doe, had tried to get the attention of several large international outlets, including a U.S. paper, before he got in touch with him.

.. Süddeutsche Zeitung has, in recent years, pulled even with, or perhaps surpassed, the Frankfurter Allegemeine as the daily newspaper of record in Germany.

.. The only strategy to survive in the long run in this very complicated and economically difficult environment is that we have to differentiate ourselves from others, so that people can find in our newspaper something they cannot find anywhere else,

.. Obermayer spoke about some of the criticism levelled against the Panama Papers—including the arguments that, because the first leak hadn’t contained revelations about major American figures, the documents must have been fake, or some kind of conspiracy.

.. U.S. intelligence agencies issued a report stating that Vladimir Putin believed the Panama Papers were an attack against Russia—and suggesting that Russia’s meddling in last year’s U.S. Presidential election may have been a form of retaliation.