COVID-19 and anthropogenic climate change are creating new social environments to which economies must adapt. Connecticut’s revenue stream will depend on Hartford’s ability to adjust, especially through green energy job creation.
That was particularly difficult during the Trump administration because the former president relentlessly dismantled institutions, flouted rules and degraded the electoral process. Because capitalism, with all its faults, still depends on honoring contracts, America’s oligarchs weren’t about to let that happen. Knowing stability, not strife, predictably boosts profits, blue-chip companies are halting campaign donations to members of Congress who challenged 2020’s election. Corporations, however, will gladly cut workforces to prosper.
More and more machines, without transmitting diseases or pooling tips, are performing jobs considered human purviews: a robotics revolution. In past decades, when Asian and European mills made steel cheaper and better than American plants, Germany and Japan made better cars, and India bettered the U.S. in making pharmaceuticals, assembly line and service jobs picked up the slack.
Increasingly, robots and kiosks are performing that work at “nonliving” wages. In Japan, robots sometimes replace lovers and companion animals. Owners of socially responsive, computer-generated humanoids ─ less like enhanced machines than diminished beings ─ are exhibiting new classes of psychological anomalies. New technology even enables robots on assembly lines to cope with constant changes and irregular shapes more cheaply and dependably than humans. We’ve all seen robots cleaning and taking inventory in box stores. We know about driver-less trucks. Caterpillar has excavators that can move earth to exacting specifications without flesh-and-blood operators. Robots even patrol our borders, grow and pick produce, and performing religious rites.
We’ve come a long way from the Kanji symbol my wife and I received at the Knoxville World’s Fair, painted individually by Japan pavilion auto-construction automatons.
Even absent crises, hospitality revenues are less dependable than unearned wealth. So, Gov. Lamont’s “mansion tax” isn’t without logic. As proposed, exacted revenues will primarily affect the Gold Coast and well-heeled towns in Hartford County. The proposal calls for a one mill ($1 for every $1,000 of assessed value) tax on homes assessed greater than $300,000, or with market value exceeding $430,000.
Revenues from sports betting are more defensible because picking football teams against point spreads is someone’s elective. The same is true for taxing recreational cannabis sales, projected revenues from which are already budgeted. If legalized, Connecticut’s recreational cannabis sales could start May 2022, allowing adults (21 years or older) to possess up to 1.5 ounces, taxed at rates of $1.25 per gram dry flower, 50 cents per gram of trim and 28 cents per gram wet cannabis.
Lamont has called for half the cannabis excise tax revenues to go to cities and towns, hopefully lowering property taxes and improving services for everyone. Given how recreational pot is getting legalized in neighboring states, allowances here make sense so long as cannabis advertising is verboten near schools, stiff fines prevent selling to minors, and driving under the influence is punishable like alcohol. Law enforcement seems split on the booming cannabis industry, but State Police Commissioner James Rovella supports the legislation, citing improved safety of regulated product, revenues for police training and emptier prisons. Since medical cannabis was legalized in 2012, drawbacks seem relatively few. Meanwhile, chronic pain and suffering have been alleviated for thousands.
Scott Deshefy is a biologist, ecologist and two-time Green Party congressional candidate.