HOW WE GOT TO THIS POINT
In Part I I talked about those elements in free market thinking that puts job creation above other human needs and that those who take this tact use it for persuading voters to keep government “over reach” out of the free markets, a position that presumes that if left alone, an “invisible hand” of the market will create a level field and ultimately make life better for all of us
However the human element of greed has taken root in Capitalism and the vision that Adam Smith spoke to is now being exploited and allowing some to expand their wealth to the detriment of the rest of us. It has creeped into the very system of government that allowed the free markets to flourish and is changing our democracy to one of a plutocracy
“Yes, our regulatory agencies are incompetent. But they are incompetent by design.” –writer David Goldstein
During the Bush/Cheney years nearly every agency and department was staffed and chaired by people from the very industries they were supposed to monitor and check for abuses and excesses. Laws were watered down and in many cases overlooked to prevent what they felt was any undue hardship to corporate interests. One of the most glaring examples was failure of the Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf last year. The short cuts and omissions by management helped create conditions that led to this human and environmental disaster but government oversight was lacking and perhaps led to this lax state of mind by the industry
Bush’s Mineral Management Service Agency Director (now called BOEMRE, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement), Johnnie Burton, and her boss at the Interior Department are but two examples.
In July, Republicans the House Government Reform Committee accused [Ms. Burton’s] agency of stonewalling their investigation. In September, they accused [her] of going too far in making concessions to oil companies. That same month, the Interior Department’s chief independent investigator declared that “short of crime, anything goes at the highest levels of the Department of the Interior.
Under President Bush, the Interior Department’s top ranks were filled with people with close ties to industry. Most prominent were Gale A. Norton, a strong advocate of domestic drilling who [eventually] stepped down as Interior secretary and subsequently joined Shell Oil, and G. Steven Griles, a former industry lobbyist who became deputy secretary and now faces a possible indictment on charges of lying about his dealings with the disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
In November [of 2006], Interior officials announced that a new task force of outside experts would evaluate the royalty program. Officials named David T. Deal, a longtime lawyer for the American Petroleum Institute, to head the panel.
“[Under Bush], there [w]as … a clear agenda to promote oil and gas development wherever and however they can,” said Erich Pica, a policy analyst at Friends of the Earth, an environmental policy group. “Time and again, you [saw] the administration and its political appointees side with the oil and gas companies.” SOURCE
The problem of corporate cronyism under Bush was so prevalent that the sentiment expressed in 2005 by former EPA toxicologist, Deborah Rice, pretty much sums it up – “They [the FDA] really consider the fish industry to be their clients, rather than the U.S. public.” But this sort of relationship started long before George W. Bush became our 43rd President and has existed to some degree in most administrations. Shortly after we became a nation, men like Thomas Jefferson were already concerned about corporations and their influence in government.
“I hope that we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.” Thomas Jefferson, 1816
Even James Madison, a favorite of the TeaParty crowd, saw the encroachment of corporate power as a threat to the new republic.
There is an evil which ought to be guarded against in the indefinite accumulation of property from the capacity of holding it in perpetuity by…corporations. The power of all corporations ought to be limited in this respect. The growing wealth acquired by them never fails to be a source of abuses. -President James Madison
The complicity of ardent, laissez faire free marketers to over look the flaws and deception by corporate interests has reached a level that simply defies logic. The belief that individual liberties always supersede the collective good has led many political leaders paid by corporate lobbyists to promote their concerns even in light of serious issues where better judgement would pause and reflect on the wisdom or the lack thereof to follow through with them.
Take for example the current stand taken by those on the right towards the EPA’s efforts to monitor CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants. It has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt already that such sources of energy production create other toxic emissions like mercury and ash that have caused serious health issues with populations that live in close proximity to these facilities. CO2 buildup in the earth’s atmosphere is occurring at a faster rate than historical records have shown and yet corporate friendly congress men and women refuse to make provisions to keep in check such emissions from a source known to contribute heavily to this build up.
There are those within the industry that see the need to comply with efforts to keep our CO2 emissions at reduced rates to prevent their further impact on man-made global warming but the ardent laissez faire free marketers within that industry are spending millions to obstruct such efforts based purely on their ideological beliefs that it is not the government’s job to inhibit their production and thus their profits. Specious arguments are contrived by paid goons to dispel the threats of global warming by presenting arguments that have been aptly debunked by a consensus of climate scientists.
Critical thinking is abandoned by such strongly held views that refuse to look outside the box of their own thinking. It is one thing to hold to views that don’t require the use of tools at our disposal to attest to the veracity of such claims and another to ignore the body of evidence that reliably shows how the actions of “A” can lead to the consequences of “B”.
In religious views for example there are no measuring devices to better ascertain whether an unseen force uses evil to punish a wayward people as Jerry Falwell claimed on Pat Roberson’s 700 Club shortly following the terrorist attacks on 9/11, or the belief by many evangelicals that “God causes disasters and sometimes does so as punishment.” But we have the capabilities and tools to measure global warming’s impact on climate change through an array of measuring devices spread across the globe, on land, under the sea and in the air. Some skeptics, especially those paid by the fossil fuel industry, may refute or challenge the findings of these measurements but the countless empirical tests of numerous different hypotheses that have now built up a massive body of Earth science knowledge creates a consensus view that only a fool would deny.
” A real free market does not allow one person to damage another person with impunity.” — Michael Rozeff
It is equally dangerous to ignore the bigger picture where only one aspect dominates the thinking of authoritative figures over the total impact of a given decision. The outcry by ardent laissez faire free marketers regarding the delay of construction of the Keystone XL pipeline that will transfer oil from the Canadian tar sands in Alberta to the refineries in Texas is a case in point. They claim in this time of high unemployment that we should be doing everything we can to push for the types of jobs this pipeline will create.
It makes a good argument but overlooks the bigger picture we face for potential health and environmental hazards similar to what we suffered from not only the BP Gulf oil disaster but from the Exxon Valdez oil spill, BP’s TransAlaska pipeline, a million-gallon oil spill in Michigan, and a gas explosion that destroyed 37 homes and killed eight people in California. There are also the “14 other spills that have occurred from Keystone since the first phase opened in 2010”, says Vern Meier, the company’s vice president of U.S. pipeline operations.
“Much corporate environmentalism boils down to misleading statistics and hype.” –Business Week cover story investigating the impacts of corporate environmental initiatives
The environmental threats are worth noting, especially individual concerns that the pipeline’s path “would threaten the water for people in seven states and a third of irrigated groundwater for U.S. agriculture.” This could prove to be costly in the not-so-distant future for those municipalities in these areas, eating more into the already dwindling wages of most workers. There is also the very real possibility that constructing this pipeline as planned “will raise gasoline prices.”
I have not even mentioned the reality that this project extends our dependence on a source of fuel that directly impacts man-made global warming; warming that will melt the glaciers and arctic ice, raising sea levels that will devastate the world’s coastal cities and cover some nation islands. When these factors are included into the equation the long term health care and energy cost increases that will result are sure to outweigh the immediate need to create jobs today. When that time arrives will we have regretted our haste to achieve a short term goal that will leave our budgets even further strained had we thought things through more critically?
“The difference between what we are doing and what we are capable of doing would solve most of the world’s problems.” — Mahatma Gandhi
Job creation from sustaining the finite fossil fuel sources of energy today need to be weighed in terms that look beyond tomorrow. Increased costs for finding the more hidden remaining sources of oil and coal will not keep these sources cheap and their use will continue to create health issues as they also threaten our ecosystem, creating food and water shortages around the globe and opening us to the hazards of war to compete for these dwindling essentials
When such views hold that violent climatic changes are a sign from God and that immediate concerns should ignore long term consequences, you have to wonder if the thinking of the Dark Ages is not resurfacing.
The real owners of this country, the wealthy business interests … don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well-informed, well-educated people capable of critical thinking. That doesn’t help them. That’s against their interest. – George Carlin