Everyone should read “Capitalism vs. the Climate,” Naomi Klein’s fine article on a wide range of climate change issues in the November 28 issue of The Nation.
First Klein presents a lively history of how the right wing has reduced the percentage of Americans believing in man-made climate change from 71% to 44% in a mere four years, pointing out that virtually all of this historic shift away from science has come among card-carrying Republicans.
In the next part of this very long article, Klein admits that the right wing is correct to fear the changes that we must make to halt climate change and deal with its ill effects. The rightwing values the free market above all else, even above the well being of others, and to address climate change we will of necessity have to impose government solutions on society and the free markets, the result of which will be a redistribution of wealth from the wealthy downward to the middle class and poor. I have made this connection between fixing the environment and government intervention on a number of occasions for more than two years, and I’m delighted to see that Klein and others agree with me.
Klein offers six strategies which government must pursue to address climate change, and again, OpEdge has proposed all of these strategies over the past few years:
- Reviving and reinventing the public sphere. Klein wants to reverse the 30-year trend towards privatizing government functions. To quote Klein, “Climate change is a collective problem, and it demands collective action.”
- Remembering how to plan. Klein calls for world, regional, state and local governments to develop environmental plans that are realistic and effective.
- Reining in corporations. Amen, sister!
- Relocalizing production. Transporting goods long distances raises their environmental cost. Relocalization, which simply is buying locally-produced goods, will not only cut fuel costs, over time it will diversify local economies everywhere, making them inherently stronger.
- Ending the cult of shopping: As I frequently point out, Americans consume too many resources.
- Taxing the rich and filthy. Often, they’re the same people, as with the case of Koch brothers and other executives and owners of large companies that pollute the environment.
Klein’s last strategy—to tax the wealthy—reminds me that I haven’t commented yet about the slow-mo train wreck called the Congressional Debt Reduction Special Committee. Despite rumors of deals earlier in the week, as of this writing the committee is still deadlocked with no solution in sight and the deadline before a solution is enforced on the country is Wednesday at midnight.
The main impediment to a deal, as usual, is the obstinacy of Republicans who, like spoiled five-year-olds who can’t get their way, refuse to admit that it’s mathematically impossible to reduce our debt without raising taxes on the wealthy.
As the National Priorities project computes, the value of the Bush II tax cuts to the wealthiest 5% of the population is more than one trillion dollars and counting, with more than $715 billion going to the top 1%. Judging from recent surveys, the public’s positive reaction to the Occupy movement and stories in the mass media, more and more people are coming to realize that one of the two main reasons for our current fiscal crisis is that these temporary tax cuts were passed 10 years ago (the other reason being that we waged expensive and useless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan). If we just let these temporary tax cuts expire, we would go a long way towards solving the debt crisis.
I also like the idea of reducing the maximum value of mortgage deduction. I’m not sure why the federal government ever got into the business of subsidizing the housing market in the first place. Guaranteeing viable loans I can understand; giving a tax break to every home owner seems inflationary. All it does is fuel increases in prices, as people can afford to buy more expensive homes with the tax break. Curtailing the deduction will hurt everyone with a mortgage, but the entire country will benefit as the additional taxes raised can be deployed to create real jobs and/or pay down the deficit.
Now the idea of ending the corporate deduction of health care benefits that I’ve also heard is bad, bad, bad. It would drive many if not most employers out of the business of providing healthcare insurance to their employees. Like it or not, our current system of healthcare insurance relies heavily on private coverage by employers. As of today, we don’t have anything to replace it except a still infant market for private individual insurance policies and government-paid insurance for the poor and elderly. Until we have more viable alternatives to employer-sponsored healthcare, we need to keep the deduction in the tax codes.
But I’ve drifted lazily into wishful thinking and indolent day-dreaming. I’m just wasting my time and yours, since it’s nothing more than a pipe dream to consider any of these tax increases given the ostrich-like ability of Republicans to stick their heads in the sand and ignore the necessity of raising taxes on the wealthy.