The following post, written by The Rev. Robert A. Franek, is a part of Politicus Policy Discussion, in which writers draw connections between real lives and public policy.
Always follow the money. It was never about the coal miners whose jobs are disappearing due to automation and the ever-increasing rise of alternative energy sources like wind and solar. It was not, as Donald Trump tried to say in his world salad gibberish of a speech, about making a better deal for America. The real deal had already been made. This deal had nothing to do with 195 countries coming together to address the planetary crisis of climate change. No, this deal was between the Koch brothers and their fossil fuel industry cronies and the Republicans in Congress who routinely forsake the values of the country they swore an oath to uphold to do these billionaire brothers’ bidding.
EcoWatch reported: “The 22 Republicans who sent a letter to President Donald Trump last week urging the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement received more than $10 million dollars in campaign funds from fossil fuel interests.” Noting that among the signers are senators from “coal/gas/oil/-rich states including, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, and Ted Cruz of Texas.”
Still, as EcoWatch notes citing the Guardian, this pales in comparison to the “at least $90 million in untraceable money that has been funneled to Republican candidates from oil, gas, and coal interests in the past three election cycles, according to the Federal Election Commission disclosures analyzed by the Center for Responsive Politics.”
Economics Professor Jeffery Sachs, who directs the Earth Institute at Columbia University, in an interview with Bloomberg made clear that this victory for the Koch Brothers and the fossil fuel industry was years in the making saying, “This is the victory paid and carried out for 20 years by two people, David and Charles Koch. They have bought and purchased the top of the Republican party. Trump is a tool in this.”
It makes sense that Trump is being used as a tool by Congressional Republicans at the behest of the Koch brothers. Donald Trump does not show the capacity for complex reasoning or political calculation, and it was made clear that he made the decision to take the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord by reasoning like a child.
This is the latest and among the most critical reasons to get big money out of politics by overturning Citizens United. In our democracy, a couple of fossil-fuel rich billionaires should not be pulling the strings of Senators and Representatives. This is especially dangerous now that these Republicans are also able to manipulate an incompetent president who with this act gave up the leadership of the United States in the global effort to address the climate change crisis.
Thankfully, dozens of mayors and business leaders remain committed to addressing climate change and reducing our collective carbon footprint. But this does not undo the damage done to the global standing of the United States by our petulant president.
One must wonder what kind of world these Republicans want the next several generations of children to be born into. Is it a world where face masks are a necessary accessory for being outdoors or one where earth’s entire ecosystem of life is out of whack because the glaciers melted, entire species went extinct, and the seas swallowed up coastal cities and villages from California and Florida to South East Asia?
It is no small wonder that morality is so easily monetized. It is hard to comprehend how the deepest shared values of our country can be commodified and vanquished for a campaign contribution.
These same Congressional Republicans love to lift up the Bible when promoting their version of “family values” or other policy plans from their (im)moral agenda. However, their twisted use of scripture is blatantly clear to anyone who has actually read the Bible and paid attention to the context of the text.
Unlike the current Republican agenda the scriptures are remarkably clear in being for the equality of all people whether women or immigrants or identify as LGBTQ. The poor and oppressed are routinely lifted up and given special consideration to the shame of the rich and powerful. Barriers of tribe and class are routinely broken down and healing is not merely physical but economic and social encompassing the restoration to one’s place in community.
Yet even before all this scripture makes clear in its first two chapters with two quite different stories of creation that the created world is made good and our vocation is to steward the earth and all creation. This stewarding reaches from the mythological garden of Eden to the complexity of addressing climate change today.
If our country is going to live up to its promise of guaranteeing life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to all people, the climate change crisis must be addressed as something to be understood and not merely believed. The debate must shift to strategies and solutions before life and liberty are lost to rising seas and more extreme whether events.
While for the moment Donald Trump has taken the United States out of the historic Paris Climate Accord, he and the Republicans along with their fossil-fuel funding from the Koch brothers cannot take the vocation to care for the planet away from the people. And with our protests and our votes we can ensure that the United States regains its place as a global leader in the effort to address climate change as a commitment to our value to care for this planet and our neighbors all around the world, especially the vulnerable who contribute the least to the world’s problems but are the first to bear the costs.
One need not accept the teaching of Genesis to accomplish this work, but if one does it is a commitment that ought to be so deep that no amount of money would lead to the monetization of this moral commitment.