An “Accurate Translation” of the “Anti” Charge
“One commonly hears,” Noam Chomksy wrote thirteen years ago, “that carping critics [on the Left] complain about what is wrong, but do not present solutions. There is an accurate translation for that charge: ‘they present solutions and I don’t like them.’”
Chomsky’s point was and remains well taken. The Left has long advanced an extensive list of policy recommendations to make the United States and the world more just, sustainable, and democratic:
+ the public financing of elections
+ proportional representation in elected legislative assemblies
+ abolition of the archaic Electoral College in US presidential elections
+ breaking up giant corporations and placing corporations under popular control
+ making corporate directors personally liable for company crimes
+ limiting and transforming corporate charters in accord with social and environmental needs and priorities
+ the replacement of toxic corporate agribusiness with sustainable and organic agriculture measures to ensure conservation and ecological restoration
+ the replacement of fossil fuels with alternative renewable energy
+ the introduction single payer national health insurance for all – the de-commodification of health care
+ the development of rapid mass-transit
+ statehood for Washington DC
+ steep progressive income, wealth and business taxes
+ giant jobs programs to meet social and environmental needs
+ the re-legalization of union organizing
+ massive slashing of the giant Pentagon budget and conversion to a peacetime economy in which resources formerly dedicated to the military are directed to meeting social needs
+ repealing so-called free trade agreements
+ the progressive funding and reform of Social Security
+ a financial transactions tax and a carbon tax to help pay for renewable energy programs and other worthy social and environmental investments.
That’s a short list of enduring Left reform proposals. There is also no shortage of more radical ideas on what a post-capitalist society might look like.
From Too Little to Too Much
But calling the Left “antis” – people who are just against stuff but not for anything – is only one of the rhetorical mechanisms employed to slander and demean radicals and progressives. Another set of false accusations come into play when progressive solutions see the light of day and threaten to garner significant popular support. When that happens, it no longer suffices to say that the Left offers no alternatives. The slander shifts and portside activists and intellectuals are accused of calling for too much, not for too little. They are charged with authoritarian, even totalitarian overreach. At the same time, Left proposals are smeared as “unrealistic,” “fantastic,” “pie-in-the sky,” “dreamy,” and the like.
As with the “no solution” slur, this different set of allegations come not just from Republicans but also and most dangerously from the reigning corporate and neoliberal wing of the Democratic Party, assigned the task of defining and policing the narrow leftmost boundaries of acceptable political and policy debate in the United States.
Slandering the Green New Deal
For a useful test-case study in the bipartisan slander of Left ideas, look at the calumny heaped on U.S. House Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-NY) draft Congressional resolution on behalf of a bold if reformist “Green New Deal.” The Green New Deal (GND) is the early outline of an large-scale government program meant to democratically and environmentally transform America by achieving four things at once:
+ Giving millions of Americans safe, secure, decently paid, and meaningful work that serves the common good.
+ Dramatically reducing social and economic inequality while increasing opportunity and security for the working-class majority.
+ Vastly expanding the social safety with Single Payer health insurance among other measures.
+ Addressing anthropogenic (really capitalogenic) climate change by radically “transform[ing] how we get energy, move ourselves around, live in cities, and grow our food” (Naomi Klein) in ways that bring the nation to the now-technically and economically feasible goal of zero carbon emissions by 2030.
Terry O’Sullivan: It’ll “Destroy Workers Livelihoods”
The GND has naturally elicited the standard neo-McCarthyite charge of “radical” totalitarian and socialist “overreach” from the Republican right-wing. But “liberals” and centrists have also weighed in with condescension and alarm.
Terry O’Sullivan, president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA), calls AOC’s resolution a “fantasy manifesto” that “threatens to destroy workers’ livelihoods” and “increase divisions and inequality.” The labor misleader and fossil fuel champion O’Sullivan joins other union bosses in claiming that switching from an environmentally ruinous carbon economy to a sustainable green one will cost workers jobs. This ignores clear evidence that clean energy produces more and better paid jobs than does the fossil fuel industry. It is also blind to the fact that the GND contains a federal job guarantee and a universal basic income. All that aside, someone needs to tell O’Sullivan and his eco-cidal labor ilk that there’s no jobs on a dead planetand there’s no planet B.
Jonathan Chait: Obama had the Solution
The sneering liberal columnist Jonathan Chait calls the GND a “bad idea” filled with “empty sloganeering.” He argues that the GND’s call for free college and guaranteed jobs are “unrelated” to the climate issue. He derides the GND as the product of “people who believe capitalism is the root of all problems” and claims that the solution is “building on and scaling up Obama’s successful green reforms.”
Chait fails to grasp the elementary point that the GND includes employment guarantees and free college not just as good things in and of themselves but also to help address the economic insecurity and dislocation that might result from an environmental reconversion.
Chait’s “capitalism is the root of all problems” line is absurdist red-baiting. Still, if Chait doesn’t understand the critical core relationship between the chaotic, accumulation-addicted profits system and the climate crisis and he need for broad public planning beyond the rule of capital to solve the crisis, then he is woefully ignorant of the world in which he lives.
If Chait honestly thinks that Barack Obama’s calamitous “all- of-the-above” energy policy offered anything remotely close to a solution to the climate problem, then he is an abject dolt.
(As an aside, someone should tell Chait that capitalism kind of is the root of all problems.)
Mike Pesca: It “Will Never Work”
At Slate, liberal hit-man Mike Pesca viciously calls (in a piece titled “The Green New Deal Will Never Work”) the GND a Left example of the “Trumpian, big swing…post–reality…politics age.” He accuses the Ocasio-Cortez and the GND of “having impossible goals” and absurdly claims that “experts” never proclaimed Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal “unrealistic” (many business class “experts” did precisely that).
Ernest Moniz: It’s “Unrealistic”
Ernest Moniz ridicules the GND as “unrealistic” and accuses it of threatening to “to leave behind key constituencies” (workers). No surprise there: as Obama’s Energy Secretary, he was the main architect of the “all-of-the-above” scheme. He sits now on the board of Southern Company, a great leader in the field of carbon emissions.
Bloomberg: “Pie in the Sky”
The mega-billionaire Michael Bloomberg responded to the GND resolution’s rollout by sneering about how he is “tired of listening to things that are pie in the sky, that we never are going to pass, are never going to afford.” Bloomberg invests in fossil fuels.
Pelosi, Morning Joe, and Dick Durbin: “What is This?”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA, with a net worth of $72 billion) has belittled the GND by referring to it as “the green dream or whatever they call it.” She is joined in elitist, condescension by U.S. Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and neoliberal MSDNC morning television host Joe Scarborough. On Scarborough’s juvenile “Morning Joe” show recently, Durbin chucked as the host referred to “the new green deal, the green new deal, whatever they call it.” Scarborough’s wife and co-host Mika Brzezinski (daughter of the blood-soaked U.S.-imperial grandmaster Zbigniew Brzezinski) cackled loudly when Durbin said, “I’ve read it and re-read and I asked (GND co-sponsor Senator) Ed Markey (D-MA) ‘what in the heck is this?’” Joe and Mike loved that comment. “You sound like Nancy!” Scarborough chortled with eyes sparkling.
“Eat Shit and Die, Little Kiddies!”: A Wicked Oligarch of the West Tells Worried Children to STFU
Then there is the loathsome 85 year-old oligarch U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein, a California Democrat with a net worth of $94 million. She was recently confronted in her office by a spunky group of school children, girls mainly, who asked her to sign on to the GND after reminding her that Earth scientists now say that urgent action on a GND scale is required in the next twelve years if humanity is going to avert catastrophe. Here was Feinstein’s response to the children (stop and take a deep breath before you read this):
“Okay, I’ll tell you what, we’ve got our own green new deal. It’s not going to get turned around in ten years. Guess what?You know what’s interesting about this group? I’ve been doing this for 30 years. I know what I’m doing. You come in hereand say it has to be my way or the highway. I don’t respond to that. I’ve just gotten elected. I just ran and I was elected by almost a million-vote plurality. AndI know what I’m doing. So, you know, maybe people should listen a little bit. I’m trying to do the best I can, which was to write a responsible resolution…[if] you know better than I do… I think one day you should run for the Senate. In the meantime, I just won a big election.”
When the group told Feinstein that their generation will bear the brunt of current politicians’ policy choices on climate change, Feinstein asked one activist how old they were. Upon hearing that the youth was too young to vote, Feinstein coldly dismissed her, saying “Well, you didn’t vote for me.”
It is hard to fully process the depth and degree of the dismal, dollar-drenched malevolence on display with the uber-millionaire Senator Feinstein’s performance. It might have been more honest if Feinstein had just screamed “Eat Shit and Die, Little Kiddies!” at the top of her lungs.
It was curious how the ancient Senator kept returning to her latest election victory in her despicable dressing-down of children who have to inherit a world that has been poisoned by the big corporations who fund the ever more absurdly expensive campaigns mounted by Feinstein and her many fellow multi-millionaires in the U.S. Senate. Everyone who studies the U.S. electoral process in a serious and honest way knows that it is deeply captive to big corporate and financial sector money. Periodic time-staggered-narrow-spectrum-candidate-centered-big-money mass-marketed U.S. elections have nothing to do with democracy and the common good. We get to vote? Big deal. Mammon reigns nonetheless in the United States, where, the leading liberal political scientists Benjamin Page and Martin Gilens find, “government policy…reflects the wishes of those with money, not the wishes of the millions of ordinary citizens who turn out every two years to choose among the preapproved, money-vetted candidates for federal office.”
One of the young girls told Feinstein that “the government is supposed to be for the people and by the people.” Feinstein’s knows better.
Maybe the Senator ought to sit-down, shut up and listen to young people who have to try to grow up in a world that Feinstein and her fellow corporate totalitarians helped overheat and poison.
Feinstein’s statement that her job is to draft a “responsible resolution” and that climate change “won’t get turned around in ten years” revealed her belief that the GND is pie-in-the-sky. Congressional Democrats might be more likely than their insane white-nationalist Republican counterparts to accept clime science, but so what? Feinstein’s perspective, downplaying the urgent action required, is the standard “mainstream” Democratic perspective, befitting that party’s longtime status as the nation’s Inauthentic Opposition (the late Sheldon Wolin’s dead-on description of the deplorable corporate Democrats).
Who who needs right-wing enemies when you’ve got “liberal” friends like Pelosi, Feinstein, Durbin, Scarborough-Brzezinski, O’Sullivan, Chait, Pesca, Bloomberg, and Moniz et al ?
Equally representative of the Inauthentic Opposition party’s longstanding alliance with reigning corporate interests is its collaboration with the Republicans and the Trump administration in support of a coup to oust the democratically elected socialist government of Venezuela. The regime-change campaign Washington and Wall Street are mounting against the Bolivarian government in Caracas is meant among other things to help the United States and its transnational oil corporations maintain imperially proper control of the Latin American nation’s massive petroleum reserves (more vast than Saudi Arabia’s). It’s another bipartisan operation.
Drastic Times Call for Drastic Measures
Is the GND’s call for zero U.S. carbon emissions by 2030 ambitious? One would certainly hope so. The climate science consensus projections are truly dire. Absent transformative climate action in the next decade, the planet is certain to become radically inhospitable to human life, quite possibly to the point of extinction, in the near-term historical future.
The climate crisis is the biggest issue of our or any time. Nothing else is going to matter all that much it if isn’t radically addressed. A conversion to renewable energy and broadly sustainable policies and practices is urgently required and soon. .
Drastic times call for drastic measures. It is far better to err on the side of excess than on the side of caution when it comes to setting carbon-emission reduction goals now.
The most truly fantastic, pie-in-the-sky thing to believe is that we can continue living in a fossil-fueled dream world without suffering horrible consequences. The Earth is our witness. It is already starting to tell us otherwise.
At the same time, the GND addresses critical, democracy-trumping problems of inequality and plutocracy/oligarchy in a nation where the top thousandth (the 0.1 percent, not just the 1 Percent) possesses more wealth than the bottom U.S. 90 percent. Three absurdly rich U.S.-Americans (Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett) possess more wealth between them than the bottom half – this while 15 million children (21% of all U.S. children) live in families with incomes below the federal poverty threshold (a measurement that has been shown to be drastically below the minimally adequate family budgets families require to pay for basic expenses). The disparities and plutocracy/oligarchy are intimately related back to the climate crisis. All these issues are rooted (sorry, Jonathan Chait) in a capitalist system which requires endless expansion and destructionto keep the rate of profit sustainable for the investor class. Endless growth is the only imaginable “solution” this system can offer to the poverty and unemployment that it generates.
The Green New Deal is if Anything Insufficiently Radical
Which should remind us of something you’ll never hear from the GND’s right-wing and liberal detractors: it is, if anything,insufficiently radical, not excessively radical. It’s progressive- Democrat sponsors have yet to join serious eco-socialists in calling for the green transformation they rightly desire to be funded, as it will have to be, with resources garnered from massive reductions in the U.S. military budget, which eats up more than half of U.S. federal discretionary spending and sustains a global military empire that is itself the world’s single largest institutional carbon emitter.
At the same time, the GND’s sponsors have yet to call – as they will have to if they are serious about environmental reconversion – for their program to be funded and protected from capital flight by the popular nationalization of the United States’ leading financial institutions.
Sanders and AOC have yet – don’t hold your breath – to call (as do serious socialists) for workers’ control of production and of the workplace (where working-age Americans spend most of their waking hours) more broadly. They aren’t demanding the overdue public takeover of the aforementioned financial institutions. They aren’t calling for a general strike or a Gilets Jaunes-style rebellion of the proletariat and a call for a new national governing charter that replaces undemocratic bourgeois “representative” fake-democracy with majority rule and popular sovereignty. Those things, too, will ultimately be required if we are serious about ending the eco-cidal rule of the Lords of Capital, for whom the endless commodification of everything and everyone is the permanent goal no matter how dreadful the consequences for living things.
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