Trump and the Criminality of Climate Change

neighborhood-fire

If someone threw buckets of gasoline on the front and back doors and the windows of a home and lit it on fire in the early morning, those sleeping inside would likely perish, their escape routes blocked by the inferno. The arsonist would be hunted, hopefully caught, and face a long prison sentence if not the death penalty.  Consciously trapping people in life-threatening environments, taking their lives, these are the most serious crimes.

Those who deny the link between global warming and the burning of fossil fuels are lying. This link is not a matter of opinion; there are no legitimate opposing arguments because the science is overwhelming. The entire scientific community, people educated at the same top flight universities that teach us how to explore the planets and create cures for deadly diseases, these climate scientists are warning us that humankind’s ancient obsession with fire is the undeniable cause of global warming.

Due to human activity beginning with the start of the industrial revolution, atmospheric CO2 has climbed from 275 parts per million, a number largely unchanged for 800,000 years, to a dangerous 403 ppm today.  The last time that CO2 levels were this high, humans did not exist. And just as predicted by scientists over 50 years ago, Earth is warming dramatically.  The month of August, 2016, set the 16th straight monthly record for global average high temperatures and 2016 will have been the hottest year ever, again. In February of 2016, parts of the Arctic were more than 29 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than “normal” for February, bringing them on par with typical June temperatures. This train of back-to-back records stretching over 16 months is unprecedented in recorded history and signals a long-term, dangerous transition.

Now, every year shatters the previous year’s record for global average temperature, and each decade is hotter than the previous, with no end in sight. This is the “new normal”.  And this a disaster.  Among many, the results have been increased droughts, increased coastal flooding, record heatwaves, fastest-ever rates of glacier loss, record global loss of polar sea ice, and worldwide crop losses from drought and flooding.

Global warming has only just begun and left  unaddressed, will continue for centuries. We may in fact have entered a runaway state, where more warming melts more sea ice, causing the dark seas to absorb more heat and warming the planet further.  Warming is thawing the Earth’s arctic tundra regions, releasing more methane gas. Methane is roughly 80 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2, and will contribute to still more warming.  Extend this ramp largely unbroken for 25, 50, 100 years, and the result will be clear disaster.  Ongoing widespread loss of human life will be a certainty, due to unbearable heatwaves, crop losses, food shortages, sea level rise, and loss of fresh water.  And this disaster won’t be temporary. We are changing Earth’s climate fundamentally, creating a dangerous new Earth that is not remotely as hospitable as the one we’ve leaving behind.

President Obama has been the first president to take this threat seriously, but Trump has promised to demolish Obama’s energy policy. Trump plans to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, open more federal lands to oil and gas drilling and coal mining, slash existing regulations on fossil fuels, scrap proposed regulations on domestic drillers or “frackers”, kill the Clean Power Plan (which is President Obama’s plan to transition the nation to coal-free power plants), and eliminate or fatally hobble the Evironmental Protection Agency.  Trump has no environmental plan, other than to set the clock back to 1950 and give the fossil fuel industry free reign.

The deniers of human-caused climate change are engaged in a deeply cynical strategy to claim ignorance and state that more study needs to be done, all the while raking in billions in fossil fuels industry profits at the expense of humanity. The tobacco industry used this exact strategy to evade legal liability for decades, killing nearly half a million Americans every year, and that industry still kills millions worldwide while pocketing hefty profits. Big tobacco eventually paid out hundreds of billions of dollars to US states for their fraud, but with fossil fuels and global warming, the stakes are infinitely higher because we’re talking about the planet. People can chose to quit cigarettes or never smoke at all.  We can’t quit the planet.  There is no escape.

Like most Republican politicians, Trump says he doesn’t believe in human caused climate change.  He says it’s all a Chinese conspiracy to make the US less competitive.  As absurd as this sounds, for Republican deniers, believing or not believing is not even relevant to them because their only motivator is greed. It’s the “I want mine” mentality.  The point is, they don’t actually care. And because we all know what is at stake – the viability of Earth, the lives of many millions of people, the survival of countless plant and animal species –  the actions of the deniers are in fact, profoundly criminal.

Just like professional arsonists motivated only by money, the deniers –  the fossil fuel companies and their political conspirators including Trump, Trump’s likely new EPA director Myron Ebell, James Inhofe, and others – have soaked the windows and doors of this home we call Earth with gasoline, and they have lit the match. Humanity is trapped in their fire because we can’t quit the planet.  There is no escape.

Trump’s War on Women: Republican Silence is Complicity

It is, without any doubt, a disgrace that Donald Trump is the Republican nominee for president. Among many other reasons, no nominee in America’s history has shown so much blatant contempt for women and minorities.  The released audio/video and numerous other incidents reveal a profoundly narcissistic and debased man who takes joy in using his position of power to commit sexual assault, to objectify and degrade women, and to attack and intimidate those who resist. Through words and actions spanning decades, he has proven that he sees women primarily as objects to serve at his pleasure. Trump’s defense that his comments in the video were “locker room talk” is insulting. Such comments are debased, but perhaps remotely excusable for an immature teenager trying to impress his friends.  Trump was 59 years old at the time.

If Trump’s primary business is that of real estate developer, why would he be interested in owning beauty pageants?  From 1996 until last year, Trump owned the Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants, and according to various reports by contestants, he made a habit of invading dressing rooms while female contestants were changing clothes. At a Miss Teen USA pageant,  Donald Trump barged in on naked and half-dressed contestants, some as young as 15. Tasha Dixon, Miss Arizona in 2001, told CBS 2 Los Angeles that Trump walked into the Miss USA pageant dressing room.  “Our first introduction to him was when we were at the dress rehearsal and half-naked changing into our bikinis,” Dixon said. “He just came strolling right in. There was no second to put a robe on or any sort of clothing or anything. Some girls were topless. Other girls were naked.”

The Trump campaign has denied these reports, but Trump himself confirmed them. In a 2006 interview with Howard Stern, Trump bragged about invading pageant dressing rooms: “I’ll tell you the funniest is that I’ll go backstage before a show and everyone’s getting dressed. No men are anywhere, and I’m allowed to go in, because I’m the owner of the pageant and therefore I’m inspecting it. … ‘Is everyone OK?’ You know, they’re standing there with no clothes. ‘Is everybody OK?’ And you see these incredible-looking women, and so I sort of get away with things like that.”

Are these the words and actions of an American president?

As of this writing, my count shows that 16 Republican senators and 22 representatives have stated that they will not vote for Trump, and that many will vote for Hillary Clinton. Some have called for Trump to quit his campaign.  This is unprecedented in American history and reveals the disgust these Republicans hold for Trump’s candidacy. But that leaves 38 Republican senators and a stunning 224 Republican representatives who apparently have no problems with Trump’s behavior and still support him. Incredibly, many are still vocal supporters.  Following the video of Trump’s bragging about sexual assault, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama stated that Trump’s grabbing women by the genitals is not assault (even though the law is emphatic).  However, in a statement released the next day, Sessions agreed (perhaps after a conversation with his wife) that such contact is assault. However, this criminal behavior is apparently not enough for Sessions to drop his support for Donald Trump.

Throughout Trump’s campaign and his attacks on women we have barely heard a word from those 262 Republican representatives and senators in Congress who claim to represent the men and women of Texas, Arizona, Alabama, Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

To you quiet-as-a-mouse Republicans representing these states, are we to conclude by your silence that you endorse Trump’s debased behavior?  Do you believe that such disgraceful, even criminal behavior is what our president should model to our own children? Do our mothers, wives, and daughters deserve to be so thoroughly disgraced in this way, or will you defend the  values you claim to hold?  Note that standing up against Trump’s misogyny after he ends his campaign, if that should happen, will be too late – you took the coward’s way out.  You were silent when it mattered most.

Ultimately, what is “conservatism” if it embraces behaviors that reduce half of the population, all females, to the status of disposable sex objects?  You silent Republican politicians, are you willing to assault the dignity of all women, simply in order to “win”?

A political party that supports Donald Trump, and a nation that elects such a man, is telling its women that they will be treated only as sex objects, to be used and discarded by men, and that this is okay.  Well, it isn’t okay. Donald Trump’s perverted, disgraceful morality cannot be legitimized as the new “normal.”  The nation’s conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats, must come together and take a stand. Those who support Trump’s disgrace, openly or with their silent complicity, must be removed from office.

The American GOP: Spoon-feeding the rich, bankrupting the nation

Originally published June 2011.

The GOP has executed the largest transfer of wealth in U.S. history. Due to unfair tax schemes and an obsession for selling out to corporations while hobbling the middle class, the U.S. has record numbers of billionaires and people living in poverty.

The world’s most powerful political block is the U.S. Republican Party, a party that dominates American politics, is heavily funded by the world’s wealthiest corporations and individuals, and devoutly caters to their class. While progressive nations struggle with efforts to advance the quality of life for the average citizen, the U.S. Republican Party makes little effort to hide its true allegiance. In good economic times and bad, even in the face of dangerously high U.S. deficits, the Republican Party’s decades-old obsession is still to cut personal income taxes for the rich, cut corporate income taxes, cut capital gains taxes, and cut inheritance and estate taxes, all while slashing programs that benefit those truly in need.

After decades of fiscal mismanagement, the consequences are clear. Today the effective income tax on the wealthy is the lowest it’s been since 1932, nearly 80 years. The highest personal income tax rate is 35%, but because of numerous loopholes, most of which can only be used by the rich, the wealthiest Americans pay only 17 percent of their income in taxes (Atlantic Wire). The extension of the Bush tax cuts passed in 2010 will, on average, give $146,000 in annual tax savings to each of the wealthiest Americans. This is more than three times the income that the average American will earn in one year. (Mother Jones)

And it’s not just wealthy individuals. Despite trillions of dollars in sales, many highly successful of companies doing business in the United States pay no federal income taxes. This is because even though the corporate tax rate is set at 35%, the smorgasbord of Republican-favored loopholes and credits dramatically reduces or even eliminates the corporate tax bill. (Reuters News, New York times)

Two glaring examples are General Electric and Exxon-Mobil. In FY 2010 GE globally generated $149 billion in gross income and $13.8 billion in pretax income, with $5 billion of that earned in the U.S, but GE paid no federal income taxes. In fact, it recorded tax credits of more than $3 billion. Yes, American taxpayers gave GE $3.3 billion, almost the same amount that GE paid out in foreign taxes. (New York Times)

In 2010 Exxon-Mobil, the most profitable company in the world, earned over $30 billion in profits on gross revenue of over $350 billion and paid no U.S federal income taxes. In fact, the industry receives over $4 billion per year in direct taxpayer handouts to promote drilling – as if the energy industry needs to be motivated to drill. This contradiction is obscene. (New York Times)

Corporate taxes accounted for about 9 percent of all U.S federal revenue in 2010. At a paltry $191 billion, this is equal to only 1.3 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. Other industrial countries collect roughly 2.5 percent of output, or twice what the United States collects. Compared to the rest of the world, corporations in the U.S. are under taxed by roughly half. Yet the Republicans insist on cutting corporate income taxes even more. (New York Times)

Consequences

Nations are measured by the standard of living of their citizens, by factors like infant mortality, life expectancy, access to health care, income disparity between the rich and the poor, and real wage growth. Americans often claim proudly and naively that the U.S. leads the world in most of these metrics, but what are the facts?

Current tax laws, loopholes, and preferential legislation have made the richest Americans stratospherically wealthy, while middle-class wages have stagnated for decades and nearly 50 million Americans have slipped into poverty. Cuts to social programs such as student grants and low interest loans, child nutrition programs, low-income housing programs, and job re-training programs result in millions of lost opportunities to fundamentally change the status quo. In 1987, the average bonus on Wall Street was $30,000 (in today’s dollars). Shockingly, the average Wall Street bonus in 2007 was $180,000, a six-fold increase – while average American wages have stagnated.

Over the last 20 years, the average American’s income has remained flat, yet the wealth amassed by the rich has exploded. According to data from the Internal Revenue Service, in 2008, the top 3 percent of Americans earned nearly $25 trillion, equal to 30 percent of the total income earned in America. Additionally, the top 0.6 percent of returns, 1 million filers, accounted for nearly 18 percent of the nation’s total income, or $14 trillion.

The income gap between the rich and the poor is more severe today than at any time since the 1920s, just before the start of the Great Depression. According to the American CIA, income disparity is more severe in the United States than in 97 other countries, including China, Iran, Russia, Egypt, and all of Europe. Nearly 1 in 3 American working families is struggling just to meet basic needs. Except for the privileged top 3 percent, the United States is falling behind.

Fully 28,000 American children under one year of age die each year in the U.S. The infant death rate declined from 1950 until 2000, but has since remained at around 6.8 deaths per thousand births. In 2005, the U.S. was ranked 30th in the world for infant deaths, equal to Poland and Slovakia, and behind nearly all other industrialized nations including Canada, most of Europe, and Israel. The rate of infant deaths in Japan is 2.9, less than half of the U.S. rate. For the U.S, this is a travesty. (Reuters News)

According to data from the CIA, the U.S. ranks 50th in life expectancy against other nations, down from 11th place 25 years earlier. A person born in the United States in 2011 will live an average of 78.4 years, while the average age at death for a citizen in Macao is 84.4, and 89.7 in Monaco. (CIA World Fact Book)

Republican obsessions are not limited to giveaways to the wealthy. Following are some of the most recent examples of the long-term, legislative battle the party has waged on the health and well-being of the middle class and those suffering in poverty. One can go back decades and find hundreds of examples.

  • Senate Republicans block boost in minimum wageLos Angeles Times
  • Senate Republicans block minimum wage hikeReuters News
  • Republicans call for lowering, eliminating federal minimum wageExaminer
  • Republicans Block 9/11 Health-Care BillWall Street Journal. A bill to provide health care for sick Ground Zero workers failed a Senate vote, as Republicans remained united in opposition…
  • Republicans block child nutrition bill –  The Raw Story. Republicans block legislation to feed more children, improve school lunches.
  • GOP Senator Mike Lee of Utah: Federal ban on child labor is unconstitutional – The Raw Story. New Republican senator wants to throw out half-century-old child labor laws that have already been upheld by the Supreme Court.
  • House GOP Block Extension of Jobless BenefitsCBS News. Republicans in the House Thursday blocked a bill that would have extended jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed through the 2010 Christmas holiday season.
  • House Republicans want to cut WIC by 10%CNN. In the middle of the worst recession since the Great Depression, Republicans plan to cut funding for mothers in need of food assistance and related services provided by the federal Women Infants, and Children (WIC) nutritional program.
  • House Republicans’ Spending Bill Would Cut Pell GrantThe Chronicle. For millions of Americans, the only way out of a recession is education. However the Republicans pushed to cut the Pell Grant by $845 to each of the neediest students now, and make 1.7 million students ineligible for Pell Grants.
  • Republicans Move to Block COBRA Benefits ExtensionRollcall. GOP denies an extension of unemployment insurance and COBRA health care benefits to millions of unemployed.
  • GOP blocks Senate action on mine safety billCoal Tattoo. Following a decade that saw 70 deaths in six major coal mining disasters in the U.S., the Obama Administration proposed badly needed mine safety reforms. The Republicans quickly moved to block the rules, claiming they were too expensive and would hurt industry profits.
  • White House slams Republican offshore drilling billReuters News, May 2011… Following the Deepwater Horizon disaster that killed 11 and injured 17 workers and created the worst oil-related environmental disaster in world history, the Republicans moved to defeat new drilling safety reforms.
  • Republicans block investigation of BP oil spill – Examiner. In a stunning and grand display of irresponsibility and abuse of power, Senate Republicans blocked the subpoena power of the bipartisan commission investigating the infamous BP Oil spill. What possibly criminal behavior by BP officials did the Republicans not want to have discovered?
  • Republicans block attempt to repeal $21 billion in Big Oil subsidiesThink Progress. The oil industry is the most profitable in the world, yet the U.S. taxpayer subsidizes the industry to the tune of $21 billion. Republicans block Democratic attempts to eliminate these costly and completely unnecessary subsidies.
  • Republicans block Wall Street reform billTheHill.com. Following the most destructive meltdown in the American financial system since the Great Depression, senate Republicans worked to block a Democratic effort to bring needed reform and oversight to Wall Street. Who benefits? Possibly criminal bankers and investment houses.
  • Republicans Block Bill to Tax Firms That Export JobsNPR. Unbelievably, American companies are actually given tax breaks by the U.S. for sending job overseas. To correct this costly absurdity, Democrats proposed a Senate bill that would tax companies that send jobs overseas and reward those that bring them back. Republicans promptly blocked it.
  • Republicans block campaign finance disclosure billCNN. In the wake of a Supreme Court ruling that gave corporations and wealthy individuals the ability to secretly spend unlimited sums of money on political campaigns – thereby defeating over 100 years of U.S. campaign finance laws – the Democrats proposed the Disclose Act. The Act would have required the disclosure of all political contributors and their amounts. Of course, the Republicans reliably blocked passage of the Disclose Act.
  • Senate Republicans promise to block all legislation until Bush tax cuts are extended – Newsweek. Yes, you read it correctly. Republicans refused to consider all other legislation and effectively shutdown the U.S. Congress until the Democrats agreed to extend the Bush tax cuts. President Obama had already agreed to extend tax cuts for the middle class, but for the Republicans, tax cuts for the rich always take top priority.
  • Bachmann plan would cut veterans benefitsAir Force Times. Tea party favorite Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., has unveiled a plan for cutting $400 billion in federal spending that includes cutting veteran’s disability payments.
  • The end of Medicare/Medicaid: Republican cuts target Medicaid, Medicarecleveland.com. The Republican Medicare/Medicaid proposal would move seniors to private insurance carriers and eliminate Medicare and Medicaid as they currently exist.

Much of the decade’s increase in health care costs can be blamed on the insurance companies – the five largest carriers earned $11.7 billion in profits in 2010 – a staggering 51% increase since 2008. The Republicans think this is how health care should be managed for the entire country: Give it all to the insurance companies, who cut patient services, cancel policies when patients gets sick, push premiums through the roof, and pocket record profits and CEO bonuses. Republicans Protect Billions in Health Insurance

In such a severe recession, the millions of unemployed Americans who have lost health care, are barely living month-to-month, are unable to adequately feed their children, or are trying to advance through education, these millions of people are the least able to absorb cuts to services. Yet, the endless Republican drumbeat is to give away billions in tax cuts to the rich, who do not need the money, by slashing critically important social programs and exploding the federal debt. The stated Republican belief is that somehow, this free wealth will trickle down from the rich to the poor. This logic is not only absurd, it’s a callous expression of contempt for millions of Americans. And this dogma has been proved utterly false in this recession by a few simple facts: Many large corporations are now enjoying record profits but are NOT hiring because they have been able to squeeze even more productivity out of workers frightened of job loss. Businesses only hire when they absolutely must, not when they are moved by benevolence.

The giant tax refunds for the wealthy don’t go to purchase the necessities of rent, food, appliances, utilities, clothes, etc., but are simply invested in CDs, tax shelters, stocks, foreign investments, etc. These investments don’t stimulate the economy directly and may actually have a negative effect because money in foreign investments leaves the country. In fact, as reported in the Atlantic, testimony given by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office found in September of 2010 that the $100 billion in tax cuts given to those with income above $250,000 would no affect on reducing the unemployment at all. None.

Based on Republican priorities, we can’t help the poorest among us to lift themselves up, but we can give $21 billion to the wealthiest companies on earth. We can’t help our own young people get through college, but we can give billions in tax cuts to the wealthiest who do not need the money. We can’t provide needed nutritional and medical assistance to unwed mothers or afford to pay full disability to our veterans, but we can buy a new $8 billion nuclear-powered aircraft carrier (globalsecurity.org).

The rationale the Republicans use to keep throwing billions of dollars at the wealthiest while the nation sinks into economic despair is utterly broken, and decades of history prove it. And the message sent to our own fellow American citizens, many of them veterans of our ongoing wars? You don’t matter. This obstructionist, Republican dominated government simply does not work for you.