Schwab: What’s so funny ‘bout peace, love and Green New Deal?

Yes, it’s light on detail and has no shot in the Senate, but there’s value in its aspirations.

By Sid Schwab

Herald columnist

Atop the list of ironies soiling our divided political landscape is the right-wing claim that liberals are about “free stuff.” Pegging the irony-meter is their counterfactual assertion that tax cuts pay for themselves, so the nation can have what it needs without paying for it. That “free stuff” corporate tax-avoidance benefits us all. And, because government is the problem, we can ignore increasingly dire problems, cost-free. Market magic will fix them.

Enter the Green New Deal, decidedly not free. From the variety of attacks on it and its primary sponsor, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, one concludes it hits a little too close to the foundation of Republicans’ house of cards. “Her apartment is too nice,” they say. “No airplanes! Forced veganism!” they lie. “Communism” and “socialism” come up as often as cheeseburger burps in the Oval Office.

By some, knowledge is still considered good; those who so wish can read the actual bill (brief return to tinyurl) here: (tinyurl.com/gnd4u)

Let’s stipulate that, after the “Whereas-es,” which are factual, the proposals lack detail, even as they imply optimism that our system might still work. Albeit deferring to technological feasibility, its sky remains pied; and although its goals merit thoughtful consideration (a political oxymoron nowadays), it’s too sweeping to have a snowball’s chance in the Senate well. Perhaps, risking enlightenment, climate-change deniers might consider, before responding with the usual “climate has always changed,” and “in the ’70s ‘they’ predicted another Ice Age,” and “carbon-dioxide is good for plants,” and “scientists fake it for grant money,” taking the time, out of self-respect, to search “climate change science” and “debunking climate change denial” before jerking. Their knees. Where’s the harm?

Blame for climate-change illiteracy doesn’t fall entirely on the amateur denier: they’ve been played for fools by the most expansive and effective disinformation campaign since tobacco producers attempted to hide the dangers of smoking. They’re human, and it’s the exploitable weaknesses of humans that are targeted so precisely by an operation designed to be unrecognized as such by its victims.

Civilian deniers gain something by remaining misinformed — excuses for not modifying certain behaviors or paying more in taxes — the senators (including some Democrats) who refuse to debate the GND have gained much more; receiving, on average, $670,000 apiece from oil and coal companies. Which shows the incline of the uphill battle realists are facing.

If arguably overreaching, the Green New Deal properly reflects the existential seriousness of climate change, and the depth and breadth of responses it demands. Moreover, those responses are the opposite of socialism: they’re aimed, among other things, at improving the lot of the workforce, without which the system fails. Good jobs. Workers’ rights. Clean water and air. Health care. Infrastructure. Energy-efficient workplaces. The oil of the machinery of capitalism.

Nearly all Americans benefit from such things. To recognize who doesn’t, namely the oligarchs among us (except that, in the long run, they do), is to understand the reasons for the fierce pushback. Knowing the lengths to which fake news and disinformation are being pushed by the fossil fuel industry and the legislators they own, affords some sympathy for those in their thrall. On the other hand, since the truth is easily obtained by any serious person, and given the cataclysm furthered by continued ostriching, such sympathy is past its shelf life.

Naïve Ocasio-Cortez may be, but it’s only to the extent that she believes there’s hope that legislators, pushed by enlightened voters (or pushed out by them), can be made to act in the public interest instead of their own. She also presumes enough voters might come to recognize how they’ve fallen for cynically generated fictions.

Still angry that our government released a factual, dire report on climate change, Trump is trolling for a new group of “scientists” to “reassess” the threat it poses. Among those netted so far is a physicist with no climate science expertise who’s compared attacks on carbon dioxide to the murder of Jews during the Holocaust. “Only the best people,” indeed. Unsurprisingly, the group is carefully constructed around avoidance of public disclosure laws. Trump’s swamp has no drain.

If nothing else, Rep. AOC has provided a framework for honest discussion. It falls upon all of Congress and, even more, upon citizens, to acknowledge the reality beyond the lies. The time is now for detoxification from Foxification, and taking actions equal to the enormity of the crisis.

Email Sid Schwab at columnsid@gmail.com.

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