Opinion: Will “Enough Is Enough” Politics Eclipse Dems’ Futile Hopes for Bi-Partisanship?

“Folks [are] supposed to have common sense.”

These are the now well-known words of Alabama’s Republican Governor Kay Ivey when she called out those hesitant or downright resistant to getting vaccinated, declaring that “it’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks. It’s the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down.” read more

Jayapal to Biden: Nation Can’t Afford to “Wait for Republicans to Have Some Awakening on Climate Change”

Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) says the country cannot afford to “wait for Republicans to have some awakening on climate change.”

Let’s not water down a bill for a party that’s not actually interested in bipartisanship or wait for Republicans to have some awakening on climate change,” she said. “Let’s move with the urgency and boldness that this moment calls for.”

Let’s not water down a bill for a party that’s not actually interested in bipartisanship or wait for Republicans to have some awakening on climate change.

Let’s move with the urgency and boldness that this moment calls for.https://t.co/XRiG4fzumC read more

Greta Thunberg to President Biden: “Treat the Climate Crisis Like a Crisis”

Climate activist Greta Thunberg urged President Joe Biden and his administration to “treat the climate crisis like a crisis” during an appearance on MSNBC.

“Just treat the climate crisis like a crisis,” she said. “They have said themselves that this is an existential threat, and they’d better treat it accordingly, which they are not. They are just treating the climate crisis as [if] it were a political topic among other topics.”

Thunberg, who often criticized former President Donald Trump and his administration for gutting environmental regulations and asserting that climate change is a man-made hoax, noted that reactions to the climate crisis are intensifying, and acknowledged that this places politicians in a difficult position.

“I understand it’s difficult, and to be honest I would not want to be in a politician’s position right now. I can’t imagine how hard it must be,” she said.  “How can you expect support and pressure from voters … if you are not treating the crisis like a crisis?”

Thunberg said the president, who re-entered the United States into the Paris Climate Accord and has rolled back some of his predecessor’s deregulatory actions, has a responsibility to get people involved.

“So what we need now is to raise awareness and to create public opinion to treat the crisis like a crisis. Because if people are not aware of the crisis that we face, of course they wouldn’t put pressure on the elected leaders. So I would just tell him to, to tell the situation as it is,” she said.

You can watch Thunberg’s full interview below.

”If Joe Biden called you and said he could wave a presidential magic wand, what you tell him to do?”

– Nothing. Because that would be undemocratic and democracy is the most precious thing we have.
My interview with @mehdirhasan @MehdiHasanShow on @MSNBC#FaceTheClimateEmergency pic.twitter.com/mOM1xt2oVd read more

World Leaders Praise Biden as U.S. Returns to the Forefront in the Battle Against Climate Change

World leaders praised President Joe Biden after he signed an executive order authorizing the United States‘ return into the Paris Climate Accords, signaling to the global community that the country has returned to the forefront in the battle against climate change after four years of regressive action under the Trump administration.

French President Emmanuel Macron was one of the first to praise Biden, writing, “We will be stronger to face the challenges of our time.”

To @JoeBiden and @KamalaHarris.
Best wishes on this most significant day for the American people!
We are together.
We will be stronger to face the challenges of our time. Stronger to build our future. Stronger to protect our planet. Welcome back to the Paris Agreement! read more

Trump Administration Rejects California’s Request for Disaster Relief to Tackle Wildfires

The Trump administration has rejected California’s request for disaster relief funds to tackle wildfires and to help residents displaced by a string of fires that have impacted the state.

“The request for a Major Presidential Disaster Declaration for early September fires has been denied by the federal administration,” said Brian Ferguson, a spokesman for the governor’s office of emergency services. read more

Trump Calls Kamala Harris “This Monster” During Fox Interview

President Trump called in to “Fox and Friends” for an interview this morning, during which he referred to Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) as “this monster” and criticized statements she made about fracking and climate change during last night’s vice presidential debate.

“This monster who was on stage with [Vice President] Mike Pence, who destroyed her last night by the way, this monster, she says, ‘No, no, there won’t be fracking, there won’t be this,’ everything she said is a lie,” he told host Maria Bartiromo.

“Take a look at the manifesto,” he said, referencing the Green New Deal, a package of legislation aimed at addressing climate change and inequality. “They agreed to that with Bernie Sanders and AOC [Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez]. ‘AOC plus three,’ I call it, and all the killers.  They agreed to it. In fact, AOC is having a fit this morning because they’ve disavowed it. They agreed to the manifesto: Open borders, crime pouring into our country. They want to have thousands of people that are murderers, rapists just pour into our country. They could be very sick people. Our borders are sealed right now, except if you come in legally.

You can watch the interview below.

On Fox & Friends, Trump calls Kamala Harris "this monster" and begins ranting lies about "the manifesto" with "AOC plus 3, all the killers" letting murderers and rapists into the country. pic.twitter.com/MGordbWeoE read more

Trump Goes Into Nonsensical Rant About European “Forest Cities” When Asked How to React to Climate Change

Speaking to the hosts of “Fox and Friends,” President Donald Trump said “European forest cities” do a better job of handling climate change than the state of California, who he appeared to blame as wildfires continue to ravage the American West.

“What is the right to act, to react to climate change within reason without destroying the economy?” asked host Brian Kilmeade.

“You have forests all over the world. You don’t have fires like you do in California,” Trump said. “In Europe they have forest cities. You look at countries, Austria, you look at so many countries, they live in the forest, they’re considered forest cities, so many of them. And they don’t have fires like this and they have more explosive trees. They have trees that will catch easier but they maintain their fire, they have an expression, they thin the fuel. The fuel is what’s on the ground, the leaves, the trees that fall, that dry, they’re like a matchstick after 18 months, if they’re on the ground longer than 18 months, they’re very explosive stuff, they have to manage that stuff.”

You can watch the segment below.

Brian Kilmeade asks Trump "the right way" to react to climate change, and he focuses on European "forest cities" with "more explosive trees" that don't burn like California, because "they thin the fuel … the leaves." pic.twitter.com/YOGgXp9vbZ read more

20 States Sue Trump for Weakening Regulations on Methane Emissions That Worsen Climate Change

Trump refuses to answer when asked about QAnon at press conference

Twenty states have filed a joint lawsuit against President Donald Trump and his administration for weakening regulations on methane emissions from the oil and gas industries. The plaintiffs say the fires raging on the West Coast are an example of the dangers of climate change.

“Our climate emergency is increasingly a public health emergency. The toll of the natural disaster we face from unprecedented wildfires is increasingly measured in human life,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement announcing the lawsuit. “How many wake-up calls do our nation‘s leaders need to take climate action?” read more

Opinion: A Full View of the Economy Reveals Trump’s Betrayal of Americans

Polling indicates that Americans still give Donald Trump an edge over Joe Biden when it comes to their faith in either candidate to manage the economy.

While it’s true that, according to a late-August Reuters/Ipsos poll, Trump’s approval rating on the economy has dipped 14% since March, putting him in negative territory with 47% approving and 48% disapproving of his management of the economy, voters nonetheless see Trump as a better bet when it comes to serving their economic interests—despite the fact that the same poll revealed that 58% of respondents believed the economy was on the wrong track. read more

Barack Obama Subtly Criticizes Trump and Calls on Voters to ‘Demand Better’ in 2020 Elections

Former President Barack Obama appeared to criticize President Donald Trump’s response to the Coronavirus outbreak on Tuesday. Obama tweeted about the pandemic without mentioning Trump by name.

The former president shared a Los Angeles Times article about clean air rules. The Trump administration is rolling back environmental regulations that Obama introduced.

The rules required automakers to manufacture more fuel-efficient vehicles.

“We’ve seen all too terribly the consequences of those who denied warnings of a pandemic,” Obama wrote.

We've seen all too terribly the consequences of those who denied warnings of a pandemic. We can't afford any more consequences of climate denial. All of us, especially young people, have to demand better of our government at every level and vote this fall. https://t.co/K8Ucu7iVDK read more

Opinion: Fuller Picture Shows Trump’s Policies are Devastating to Americans’ Economic Well-Being

 

In response to news that the economy created 266,000 jobs in November and the unemployment rate dipped to 50-year lows, CNN editor-at-large Chris Cillizza rehashed the tired but nonetheless damaging and deceptive narrative that “the economy” is indeed strong, providing Trump a clear path to re-election if only he were politically deft and disciplined enough to stay on it.  Cillizza suggests he isn’t and that it is precisely his inability to stay on point about the success of the economy that threatens his 2020 re-election bid.

We have heard this narrative again and again.

What is damaging and deceptive in this narrative is the premise. The assertion that the economy is strong is, if not entirely wrong or untruthful, problematic and distorted.  As I’ve written elsewhere in PoliticusUsa, democrats would be wise not to concede this premise and, in fact, to make Americans’ economic well-being a central issue in 2020.

“The economy” is not the same thing as people’s economic life and livelihood.

As Steven Horwitz, Distinguished Professor of Free Enterprise at Ball State University, reminds us, “The economy isn’t a thing.” He explains, “Things are not ‘good/bad for the economy.’ They are good or bad for the people . . . Trump’s policies may well enrich many firms, but they will impoverish the average American.”

When we paint a fuller, more detailed, and indubitably more accurate picture of the economy, we can see very clearly the way Trump’s policies on healthcare, education, the environment, taxes tariffs, food stamps, and more, have inflicted and promise to inflict more pain on Americans’ pocketbooks and lives.

One place to start in providing a more accurate view of Trump’s handling of the economy is with the deficit.

Reports indicated that in October the federal government’s budget deficit ballooned 34% from a year earlier to $134.5 billion, projecting that the annual deficit will top $1 trillion for the first time in eight years.

Hmmm. If the economy is booming, shouldn’t the federal government’s coffers be filling up and not depleting?

We can certainly understand how in a time of recession the government would need to provide economic stimulus and thus run a deficit, but when the economy is supposedly experiencing record performance?

When Trump slashed corporate tax rates from 35 to 21 percent, we were told, as usual, that these tax cuts would pay for themselves, create an economy that enriches us all.

But deficits actually take money from Americans. How? Well, first, more of our tax dollars are diverted from paying for services and infrastructure (education, healthcare, roads, etc.) we all use and need, to simply paying interest for which we receive nothing in return.

The American people, then, thus receive less for each tax dollar. Our tax dollars are going to enrich corporations and the wealthy rather than pay for the services and infrastructure we are used to receiving for those same dollars.  It’s like going to the grocery store and having the cashier take your milk and bread, which you can typically afford with your budget, when you check out.

Consider that Trump’s proposed 2020 budget called for significant cuts to education and services, even though we know, for example, that investing in education promises to serve the health of the economy overall as well as helping individuals increase their earnings over the course of their lives, thus also creating more tax revenue. In short, these cuts are harmful to ordinary citizens as well as the overall health of the economy.

And the ballooning deficit resulting from the Trump tax-cuts, for example, cultivated a fertile context for Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell to loudly renew their insistence that cuts to Medicare and Social Security are necessary to address the out-of-control deficit their own policies immediately exacerbated. Far from benefiting Americans, these tax cuts, which were supposedly to trickle down, just keep cutting Americans and increasing economic precarity, not prosperity. How about we measure that?

And while we need to support farmers for our national and individual well-being, the reason taxpayers are contributing $28 billion to bail them out is precisely because of Trump’s failing trade war with China and the tariffs he has levied.

Again, this is $28 billion dollars effectively taken out of Americans’ pockets for which they receive nothing in the return. In fact, they will lose more, as these payouts lead to cuts elsewhere as well as rising deficits.  Now that cashier just took your bag of apples as well.

And consider healthcare.   Last year a federal judge in Texas threatened millions of Americans’ healthcare, declaring the entirety of the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional. The Trump administration effectively supported the suit, doing nothing to support or defend the federal law.  As of yet, despite promises, Texas legislators have done nothing to develop a replacement should the Affordable Care Act disappear in Texas.

Healthcare is an economic issue for Americans.  Is Trump doing anything to improve their financial well-being through healthcare policy? No, he is only undermining people’s ability to secure affordable and quality healthcare, hugely impacting Americans’ lives.

And consider the costs of his hostility to addressing climate change in meaningful ways.

Trump’s own  scientists issued a report on climate change in November 2018, focusing on its environmental and economic impacts, highlighting the need for urgent short-term action to ensure our long-term survival. Among many alarm bells, the report warns,

“Extreme weather and climate-related impacts on one system can result in increased risks or failures in other critical systems, including water resources, food production and distribution, energy and transportation, public health, international trade, and national security.” read more

Trump’s Refusal to Dream Devastating to U.S. Economy, Environment

President Donald Trump, in comments made at the recent G-7 summit in France, positioned himself as the protector of United States’ wealth, justifying his refusal to address, much less believe in, climate change on grounds that investing in green energy production would damage the nation’s economic standing.

The U.S. has “tremendous wealth,” Trump told reporters. “I’m not going to lose that wealth. I’m not going to lose it on dreams and windmills, which, frankly, aren’t working that well.”

A reality check is necessary here on a couple of counts.

First, green energy production is not a dream, but a substantial reality in nations around the globe, including China, Denmark, and Germany, and, yes, the U.S.

Second, windmills, actually, seem to be working quite well in the U.S. and around the globe.

Just take Iowa as an example. Trump might think about Iowa as a “Field of Dreams,” but the state is actually a field of renewable energy production reality.  While states such as New York and California have passed aspirational legislation requiring their states to achieve 50 percent renewable energy use by 2030, and Hawaii has aggressively legislated that utilities must get 100 percent from their electricity from renewable sources by 2045, Iowa has been a trailblazer in creating this reality, generating 40 percent of its energy from renewable sources.

And, according to the United States Energy Information Administration, “One-third of Iowa’s net electricity generation comes from wind, the second-largest share of any state.”

From wind!

And Iowa’s continuing infrastructure investments in windmills promise to lift that level of energy production from wind to 40 percent by the end of 2019.  In 2008, only four percent of the state’s electricity generation was sourced by wind.

Additionally, farmers are eager to install wind turbines alongside their corn and garner additional income.

Denmark offers another example of the environmental and economic successes of windmills. The nation generates a whopping 42 percent of its electricity from wind, and the wind energy industry is a billion-dollar industry in Denmark and an export success, whether it be through wind farms, turbine production, or off-shore installation.

And other countries, including the U.S.’s top competitors, are keenly aware that the greening of a nation’s economy, represented in Trump’s phrase “dreams and windmills,” does not result in a loss of wealth but is in fact essential to nation’s ability to maintain and grow wealth and remain economically competitive in the global arena.

Germany, a nation that already generates 41% of its energy from renewable sources, recently announced a plan, expected to be adopted by the government, to shut down all 84 of its coal-fired power plants by 2038 in order to meets international commitments to address climate change. This plan came on the heels of a previous decision, made after Japan’s 2011 Fukushima disaster, to shut down all its nuclear power plants by 2022 (12 of 19 have already been shut down).

Germany also introduced the world’s first zero-emission passenger train to be powered by hydrogen.

Similarly, China has invested heavily in electric buses, and is positioned as a global leader.  They have deployed a fleet of

421,000 electric buses. read more

Opinion: Trump Screams at Shadows as the G7 Acts To Save the Rain Forest from Conspiratorial Ignorance

During the G7 summit, we saw Trump figuratively screaming at shadows while the responsible countries decided on a plan to save the Amazon rain forest.

The world laughs at America as the madman occupying the White House continues to spout insane conspiracy theories and obsesses over getting Putin readmitted to the G7.

It’s ironic that Trump of all people would criticize the G7 host, French President Macron, of focusing on “niche issues.”

The planet’s future rests in the power of a man who thinks hurricanes should be nuked.

As Axios recounts, Trump once ejaculated:

“I got it. I got it. Why don’t we nuke them?” according to one source who was there. “They start forming off the coast of Africa, as they’re moving across the Atlantic, we drop a bomb inside the eye of the hurricane and it disrupts it. Why can’t we do that?” read more

Democrats Must Resist Recession Narrative and Critique Narrative of Trump’s Economic Success

This week’s stock market antics and the occurrence of an inverted yield curve have provided compelling evidence portending another economic recession.

These economic indicators, in addition to spurring stock sell-offs and turbulent market volatility, also sparked a firestorm of debate and commentary regarding how a potential recession would impact Trump’s 2020 re-election bid.

The word on the street, from such sources as The Washington Post and ABC News, is that Trump himself and his administration are fretting over the prospect of a recession and the threat it poses to his re-election, banking on a strong economy as their key platform.

And the media pundits, of course, are out in full force, prematurely anticipating a recession and signaling the doom of Trump’s 2020 bid.

The narrative born from this past week’s hubbub is not just that a recession will hurt Trump but also, implicitly, that if a recession is avoided, Trump will be in a position to base his re-election bid on the performance of the economy and his handling of it, as if this economy has in fact been a success in terms of making the majority of Americans’ lives better.

As I’ve written about repeatedly in the pages of PoliticusUsa (here and here and here, for example), Trump’s policies have inflicted severe damage on the economy and, by extension, the lives of many Americans.

That the media continues to buy into the narrative of a successful Trump economy thus far, even if it is threatened by recession, paints an erroneous picture that is politically dangerous for Democrats and which they must resist.

Instead of criticizing the Trump economy for the potential failures looming on the horizon, which may in fact never come to pass, Democrats would be better served to highlight and explain how this current economy, touted by Trump as a seeming success, has in fact failed masses of Americans.

Here are just a few talking points:

*Take his tax cuts, which we know benefited the wealthy and did not trickle down, despite Trump’s promises that companies would invest in workers and not cut jobs. Companies like AT&T, Wells Fargo, and General Motors lobbied for them, promising to re-invest their tax savings in their workers and companies to the benefit off the nation as a whole. And yet all of these companies have engaged in massive layoffs or plant closings. AT&T has eliminated over 23,000 jobs since the tax cuts went into effect, despite receiving a $21 billion windfall from the tax cuts with the prospect of cashing in an additional $3 billion annually in tax savings. In November 2018, GM announced it would be closing five plants, eliminating 14,000 jobs in communities across Ohio, Maryland, Michigan, and Ontario, Canada, while buying back $10 billion in stock and earning a net profit of $8 billion on which the company paid no federal tax. Wells Fargo did raise the minimum wage of its employees, though the tax savings for the company were 47 times larger than the cost of that pay raise to the company; and the company announced its plans in September 2018 to eliminate 26,000 jobs, at the same time that it has raised health insurance costs for its employees.

*And what about healthcare, a huge economic issue for Americans? Has Trump created policies to secure affordable healthcare for Americans?

Since Trump took office, according to the Congressional Budget Office, over one million Americans have lost health insurance. Additionally, a recent study from the American Cancer Society reveals that 56% of American adults, about 137 million, have experienced serious financial struggle, even if insured, because of high deductibles and otherwise skyrocketing healthcare costs.

The Commonwealth Fund reports that 44 million people are under-insured, which means they often forego necessary care because of costs.

What is the Trump administration to address this major economic hurdle to health and well-being for millions of Americans?

Well, last May 1 while Congress held hearings exploring the possibilities of Medicare For All, the Department of Justice, under the direction of embattled Attorney General William Barr, was busy in court suing to abolish the Affordable Care Act in its totality. If Barr and Trump prevail in this suit, millions of Americans will lose the health insurance they currently have, including 52 million who have pre-existing conditions. Trump and Republicans have presented no alternative healthcare plan, despite promises.

*And what about those tariffs that are supposed to benefit the American economy and bring prosperity?

Trump’s tariffs are devastating American farmers. The trade wars Trump has instigated has not only led to the

lowest incomes American farmers read more

Cooked: Survival by Zip Code Re-Defines Poverty, Racism, and Climate Change as Disasters

Trump’s controversial tweet about sending the squad of four— Representatives Ayanna Pressley, Alexandra Ocasio Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar—back to where they came from has certainly captured the media’s attention the past week, recycling seemingly endless and pointless debate about whether or not Trump is a racist

Don’t we have bigger issues of racism to address other than adjudicating if Trump is racist?

In the midst of Trump’s latest intentionally self-inspired ruckus, I viewed the documentary Cooked: Survival by Zip Code, a co-production between Kartemquin Films and Judith Helfand Productions produced by Fennell Doremus,in its Chicago premiere as it makes it ways across the nation.

While it might be ironic to say the film offers a breath of fresh air in this political climate, given the film in part treats a deadly heat wave that struck Chicago in the summer of 1995, Cooked: Survival by Zip Code, directed by Judith Helfand, does in fact offer fresh and vital perspectives for understanding and addressing racism, poverty, and climate change, doing so by asking us to re-think how we define, respond to, and seek to prevent disasters in our nation.

Helfand’s brilliance in Cooked: Survival by Zip Code is precisely the way she shifts and re-orients our entire social mentality and approach to thinking about racism, poverty, and disaster. She asks us to think about and re-define racism and poverty as, indeed, disasters.

The film argues that if we devoted as much political will as well as social energy and resources to addressing poverty and racism as we do to preparing for so-called “natural” disasters, those disasters would inflict much less devastation on human lives and, more importantly, the quality of human life and the humanity of our culture overall would be exponentially increased for the better. Indeed, we could effectively eliminate poverty and racial disparities, if not racism itself, through more socially conscious, thoughtful, and intentional use of resources.

Opening with Helfand’s personal and family experiences preparing for Hurricane Sandy, underscoring the financial resources individuals require to prepare for a natural disaster, the film moves quickly into the heat wave that struck Chicago in the summer of 1995, accounting for deaths of 739 residents.

Her representation of the disaster and city’s response puts in stark relief the film’s perspective, provoking us to re-think conventional, yet deeply embedded, ways of thinking about death and disaster.

At one point, we see Mayor Richard Daley speaking at press briefing on the heat wave, and we hear him give an update on the number of “nonviolent” deaths resulting from the heat.

Helfand, of course, pressures this characterization of these deaths as “nonviolent,” as the film demonstrates that many of these deaths weren’t so much the result of heat but of poverty and racism; and Helfand moves us to understand poverty and the effects of racism as preventable forms of violence. (On leaving the theater, I was able to pick up a postcard to send to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, asking her to declare a racism a disaster; declaring an event or phenomenon a disaster can qualify a city to receive funding to address the damage done.)

The film expands its scope to provide detailed analyses of the city’s poorer neighborhoods, particularly those inhabited by people of color, to highlight the racial disparities at work in the city. We see neighborhoods that have little access to healthy food (sometimes called “food deserts”) or healthcare, or that don’t receive the same upkeep and services from the city such that they become havens for crime and unsafe. We learn about the racist effects of redlining that prevented African Americans from owning and keeping up homes to create stable neighborhoods.  The lack of safety in neighborhoods prevented people from opening windows and going outside during the heat wave, and the lack of an overall healthy environment weakens a body’s ability to withstand the impact of intense heat.

In contrast to these representations of poverty and racial disparities, Helfand documents how resources are used to respond to and prepare for disasters. For example, in one scene she depicts how Chicago had to rent several enormous refrigerated trucks to store all the corpses during the heat wave, while the living received little help from the city to cope with the heat, highlighting the ridiculously inhumane and racist devaluation of life, particularly Black lives, evident in the way social resources are allocated. This point is compounded in a later moment when Helfand attends an event celebrating a nearby city’s receipt of a grant to prepare for such future disaster.  She provides images of enormous vehicles that cost millions of dollars, including vehicles to refrigerate corpses (that one person interviewed calls “victim containment units”), underscoring the illogical use of resources to deal with the effects of a disaster rather than address the present disaster of poverty and racism.

Indeed, in one scene, we learn that Chicago received a $250,000 grant to deal with tornado relief, even though over the past six decades the Chicago area averages one death per year due to tornadoes (30 years ago a tornado hit a southwest suburb causing 60 deaths). The film compares this number to the 3200 African America women who die of breast cancer in this region annually, highlighting the horror of our priorities and, again, the inefficient and inhumane allocation of resources.

She also highlights the millions of dollars the government spends to prepare for a Midwestern earthquake along the New Madrid fault line extending from Illinois, though Kentucky and southward.

Throughout, Helfand attends conventions for the burgeoning disaster-preparedness industry. As she asks people if they’ve ever thought about poverty as a disaster, we see that people just haven’t thought about it, largely because our cultural narratives condition us to blame individuals for poverty, not larger structural or systemic processes.

Cooked: Survival by Zip Code urges us to rethink poverty, to re-define disaster, and to explore—and insist on—allocating resources to support all lives, to challenge racism and its effects, and really deal with these everyday disasters we have not had the mentality to yet define and address as disasters.

 

 

Trump’s Economic and Environmental Policy: In the short term, we’re all dead

British economist John Maynard Keynes famously wrote in 1923, in a tract on monetary policy, “In the long run, we’re all dead.”

Economists have debated the significance of this wry theoretical phrase. Some have critiqued him, along with other economists who sought to moderate the austerity policies of governments during times of intense economic retraction, as not caring about the future or future generations. They accuse Keynes of being willing for short term benefit to enact policies that would damage the economy in the longer term, leaving ruinously burdensome debt, for example, that would debilitate the future economy for following generations. One critic even went so far as to suggest that because Keynes was gay and didn’t have children, he simply didn’t care about the future and could afford to adopt a recklessly short-termist approach to the economy.

Putting aside the fact that it’s laughable for capitalist economists to accuse anyone else of dangerously short-term thinking, as I’ll discuss below, I take Keynes to mean by this historically lightning-rod statement that, simply put, an economy is successful only if it serves the needs of those living within it.

In other words, we might understand his position as propounding that people don’t exist for the economy but rather the economy exists for people. If now and then, as has been an historical inevitability with capitalism, the economy experiences a sharp downturn, a whole generation can actually be sacrificed, subject to a life of austerity, waiting for the indifferent market to correct and revitalize. Keynes didn’t cotton to such thinking.

What is the point of sustaining an economic system that doesn’t meet people’s needs but offers, indeed ensures, them suffering?

Keynes’ enduring quotation has been in my mind lately because Trump has stubbornly persisted in his strategy of imposing tariffs on China, despite the damage his actions have inflicted on American lives, insisting in the long term this trade war will reap benefits for the American economy.

The short term negative impacts on the lives of those living in the United States has been devastating. Farmers’ incomes are the lowest in generations, and bankruptcies among farmers are hitting record highs. In economic terms, they are dying.

And, frankly, for the soybean farmers dying in the short term, even if they survive for the long term—a survival that is severely in doubt—the long term promises no relief. Indeed, what these farmers anxiously presage is that the relationships they have carefully cultivated in Chinese markets are permanently ruined beyond repair.

But it’s not only in this area of the economy that we see Trump inflicting death in the short term such that the long term does not even matter. Trump’s version of Keynes’ precept might aptly be written thusly: “In the short term, I’m doing all I can to kill you so you don’t have to worry about the long term.” Not pithy, I know, but I think it captures Trump’s character and practice.

Take one of his recent actions with regard to environmental policy. Last February Trump signed a resolution to repeal an Obama-era regulation known as the “stream protection rule,” which mandated strict guidelines for coal mines dumping their waste to ensure that in fact they were not polluting water sources and poisoning streams. Study after study highlights the deleterious and even deadly impact on people’s health coal companies’ dumping practices had caused in destroying 2,000 miles of streams.

Nonetheless, even in the wake of former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s authoritarian policies that led to the poisoning of Flint’s water supplies, Trump and the Republicans had no problem reversing policy put in place to protect and preserve human life in a most basic way, by ensuring clean and safe water. They had no problem creating conditions that threaten and undermine human life to serve coal companies and, supposedly, to save jobs and help the economy. Again, in the short term, people will die or have their health severely compromised before the long term arrives, and the very conditions that make human life possible are allowed to be severely compromised.

Of course, Trump’s own government scientists issued a report on climate change last November, focusing on both its environmental and economic impacts, highlighting the need for urgent short-term action to ensure our long-term survival. Among many alarm bells sounded, the report warns,

“Extreme weather and climate-related impacts on one system can result in increased risks or failures in other critical systems, including water resources, food production and distribution, energy and transportation, public health, international trade, and national security.” read more