Climate change and inequality

Here’s an excerpt:

“Why are we failing to act?” He talked about how American democracy has been hacked, which is the subject of his latest book, The Future. One symptom of this is the influence of the largest corporations, and he brought up the now-famous quote by ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson: “what good is it to save the planet if humanity suffers?”

“I get the fact that their business model, and the other large carbon polluters’ business models are based on extending this artificial valuation of their subprime carbon assets for as long as they possibly can,” he said. “Our job, as American citizens, is to work for the formation of public policy based on reality. Based on logic. Based on reason. In support of the public interest, not private special interest. And because they have achieved so much control over the operations of our democracy, doesn’t mean that we cannot take it back.”

Today’s Op-Ed from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), The right way to make a federal budget.

Instead of talking about cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, we must end the absurdity of corporations not paying a nickel in federal income taxes. A 2008 report from the Government Accountability Office found that was the case with 1 in 4 large U.S. corporations. At a time when multinational corporations and the wealthy are avoiding an estimated $100 billion a year in taxes by stashing money in tax havens like the Cayman Islands, we need to make them pay taxes just as middle-class Americans do.

While Congress in January finally ended Bush’s tax breaks for the richest 1%, lower rates were left in place for the top 2%, those households earning between $250,000 and $450,000 a year. That must end.

At a time when we now spend almost as much as the rest of the world combined on defense, we can make judicious cuts in our armed forces without compromising our military capability.

And frankly, Congress must listen better. Some Republicans learned a hard lesson when the American people said it was wrong to shut down the government because some extreme right-wing members of Congress did not like the Affordable Care Act. Well, there’s another lesson that I hope my Republican colleagues absorb. Poll after poll shows that Americans overwhelmingly do not want to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

In fact, according to a recent National Journal poll, 81% do not want to cut Medicare at all, 76% do not want to cut Social Security at all, and 60% do not want to cut Medicaid at all. Other polls make it clear that Americans believe that the wealthiest among us and large corporations must pay their fair share in taxes.

It is time to develop a federal budget that is moral and makes good economic sense. It is time to develop a budget that invests in our future by creating jobs, rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure and expanding educational opportunities. It is time for those who have so much to help with deficit reduction. It is time that we listen to what the American people want.

Economist Joe Stiglitz has more, Climate change and poverty have not gone away.

In the shadow of the euro crisis and America’s fiscal cliff, it is easy to ignore the global economy’s long-term problems. But, while we focus on immediate concerns, they continue to fester, and we overlook them at our peril.

The most serious is global warming. While the global economy’s weak performance has led to a corresponding slowdown in the increase in carbon emissions, it amounts to only a short respite. And we are far behind the curve: because we have been so slow to respond to climate change achieving the targeted limit of a 2C rise in global temperature will require sharp reductions in emissions in the future.

Some suggest that, given the economic slowdown, we should put global warming on the backburner. On the contrary, retrofitting the global economy for climate change would help to restore aggregate demand and growth.

At the same time, the pace of technological progress and globalisation necessitates rapid structural changes in both developed and developing countries alike. Such changes can be traumatic, and markets often do not handle them well.

Just as the Great Depression arose in part from the difficulties in moving from a rural, agrarian economy to an urban, manufacturing one, so today’s problems arise partly from the need to move from manufacturing to services. New firms must be created, and modern financial markets are better at speculation and exploitation than they are at providing funds for new enterprises, especially small- and medium-size companies.

Moreover, making the transition requires investments in human capital that individuals often cannot afford. Among the services that people want are health and education, two sectors in which government naturally plays an important role (owing to inherent market imperfections in these sectors and concerns about equity).

These are the two biggest issues facing us today. And, as Al Gore, pointed out in the video, our political system as currently configured is unable to bring forth the solutions we need. A government captured by industries that profit off the current system, will not allow laws to be passed, that endanger their profits.

The only way to fix this is through citizen action. We should harken back to the first Earth Day as our guide. This is what it brought about, (from Hedrick Smith’s book Who Stole The American Dream?):

April 22, 1970—Earth Day—The largest single mass public protest in U.S. history. Twenty million Americans participate in marches, teach-ins, and other demonstrations to protest against pollution of the environment.

1970—President Nixon, responding to public pressures, establishes the Environmental Protection Agency. Congress passes the Clean Air Act in 1970, the Clean Water Act of 1972, and other strong laws to protect the environment. Nixon also sets up a Consumer Products Safety Commission, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and expands the powers of the Federal Trade Commission to protect consumers and curb the excesses of capitalism.

Only the American people working together can change our political system to one that enacts what we want.

Further Reading:
Can Climate Change And Poverty Both Be Defeated At Once?
Krugman, Addicted to the Apocalypse.

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