Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Emissions Reduction Survey 2019

I again carried out a contingent valuation study of climate change using my environmental economics class as respondents. The survey was exactly as in 2018. Participants could vote yes or no on proposals to raise the Medicare levy by 0.125% or 0.25% to help fund the Emissions Reduction Fund. I designed the survey to follow the NOAA panel guidelines. I also asked the students to explain why they voted the way they did.

The results differ from 2018. Only 42% voted for a 0.125% increase in the Medicare levy, while 53% voted for a 0.25% increase. Five people voted against the smaller tax and for the larger tax. So there was quite a lot of irrational behavior where the perfect could have been the enemy of the good if one person had voted differently on the higher tax. This kind of thinking is in large part, IMO, why Australia doesn't now have a carbon price...

Of those voting no on both proposals, there were a mix of responses. Only one seemed to be saying that they couldn't afford the tax given the benefit! And that is what such a survey is supposed to measure. Others objected to the payment vehicle, by suggesting that the government should price carbon or reduce the diesel rebate etc. or borrow/print money instead. I agree with the first two of these, but again that leads here to nothing happening on the climate front if that is what you care about. Others worried about the distributional impact. That is a valid criticism of the Medicare levy proposal, which is a tax on all ones income rather than a progressive or marginal tax. One person incorrectly thought the Medicare levy was unethical, as it was a tax on healthcare. Actually, it is just an extra income tax.

Of those voting yes to the lower tax and no to the higher tax, only one mentioned the cost. The others said that the government should find other funding (borrowing?) or polluters should pay – of course in the end it is the consumer who will pay to the degree that polluters can pass on costs…

Those voting yes on both proposals all said the tax increase was affordable, so they did consider actual willingness/ability to pay.

The bottom line, is that there is a lot of behavior going on in the responses to this survey which doesn’t fit with the model of paying for a public good model where people state their honest WTP, even with a supposedly state of the art design. There is some free-riding - other people should pay or the government should borrow – and on the other hand some altruism as well as protest votes about the policy design. There is also irrational behavior represented by voting no, yes, though we probably can assume that some of these didn't understand the potential implication of voting against the lower tax rate.

No comments:

Post a Comment