Author: telegraph

The Plan For Transforming Public Safety And Policing In The U.S.

Communities all across the country are facing public safety crises. Crime is rising in ways that leave many people feeling unsafe. At the same time, police violence and killings of unarmed civilians demonstrate that pouring more money into more-of-the-same policing is not the answer.

Here’s some good news. There is a new road map for public officials who are eager for solutions. And there is a growing network of mayors and other officials who are ready to do what it takes.

All Safe: Transforming Public Safety” is a game plan for transformative change. This massive policy blueprint just published by People For the American Way is grounded in real-world data and the expertise of local elected officials, law enforcement experts, clergy, and other community activists.

There are two truths about authoritarian policing. They do not contradict each other. In fact, they point us toward the possibility of building coalitions that are broad enough to make change happen.

One truth is that Black Americans, Native Americans, and other people of color pay a disproportionate price. Black Americans are more than twice as likely as white people to be shot and killed by police officers. Racial profiling is experienced by communities of color throughout the U.S.

A second truth is that people of color are not the only victims of authoritarian policing. As with so many other issues, Black and Brown communities are the canaries in a much larger American coal mine. White people make up the second-largest group in our prisons, disproportionately low-income white men, and they make up a majority of people killed by police each year.

Four years before George Floyd died under the knee of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, a white man named Tony Timpa called Dallas police to ask for help during a mental health crisis. He was handcuffed and zip-tied and killed by an officer who pressed his knee into Timpa’s back for 14 minutes while Timpa cried, “You’re gonna kill me!”

Every community is put at risk by systems that resist accountability for those who abuse their power.

Every community is put at risk by a police culture that promotes and tolerates an aggressive “warrior” mentality among law enforcement officers.

Those problems are compounded by communities’ over-reliance on police. Over the decades, we have added additional burdens to police officers that distract them from their primary purpose. That leaves all of us underserved and less safe.

Transforming public safety requires policy change in four major areas: restructuring public safety systems to ensure communities’ underlying safety and social needs are met; holding unfit officers responsible and accountable for their actions; removing unfit officers, particularly those with a demonstrated history of violence, aggression, or other misconduct from police departments; and recruiting well-trained public safety personnel committed to serving and protecting their communities.

One transformative public safety plan is currently moving forward in Ithaca, New York. It will replace the current police department with a new public safety department that will include armed officers and unarmed crisis intervention specialists. It would allow police officers to be more focused and effective while minimizing the chances that police-civilian interactions will spiral unnecessarily into violence.

The “All Safe” roadmap for transforming public safety demolishes the false narrative often promoted by police unions and their political allies to resist change and accountability. They claim that public safety reform is incompatible with effective crime fighting. In reality, the opposite is true.

The system of authoritarian policing that we have inherited from our past is not aligned with our national ideals of equality and justice for all. It is a threat to our people, our communities, and even our democracy. And it is not working to keep us safe.

Making America safer and more just requires a commitment to address root causes of criminal activity and violence, including unjust laws, discriminatory enforcement, and insufficient effective investments in individual and community wellbeing. And it requires a lasting transformation in the U.S. public safety system, including mechanisms to hold officers accountable for excessive use of force.

We know what kind of change is necessary. Let’s make it happen.

Why Is The US About To Give Away $52 Billion To Corporations Like Intel?

Congress will soon put final touches on the Chips Act, which will provide more than $52bn to companies that design and make semiconductor chips. The subsidy is demanded by the biggest chipmakers as a condition for making more chips in America.

It’s pure extortion.

The world’s biggest chipmaker (in terms of sales) is already an American corporation – Intel, based in Santa Clara, California.

Intel hardly needs the money. Its revenue rose to $79bn last year. Its chief executive, Pat Gelsinger, got a total compensation package of $179m (which was 1,711 times larger than the average Intel employee).

Intel designs, assembles, and tests its chips in China, Israel, Ireland, Malaysia, Costa Rica, and Vietnam, as well as in the US.

The problem for the US is Intel is not helping America cope with its current shortage of chips by giving preference to producers in the United States. And it’s not keeping America on the cutting edge of new chip technologies.

Obviously, Intel would like some of the $52bn Congress is about to throw at the semiconductor chip industry. But why exactly should Intel get the money?

Among the other likely beneficiaries of the Chips Act will be GlobalFoundries, which currently makes chips in New York and Vermont – but in many other places around the world as well.

GlobalFoundries isn’t even an American corporation. It’s a majority-owned subsidiary of Mubadala Investment Co, the sovereign wealth fund of the United Arab Emirates.

The nation where a chipmaker (or any other high-tech global corporation) is headquartered has less and less to do with where it designs and makes things.

Which explains why every industry that can possibly be considered “critical” is now lobbying governments for subsidies, tax cuts, and regulatory exemptions, in return for designing and making stuff in that country.

It’s a giant global shakedown.

India, Japan and South Korea have all recently passed tax credits, subsidies and other incentives amounting to tens of billions of dollars for the semiconductor industry. The European Union is finalizing its own chips act with $30bn to $50bn in subsidies.

Even China has extended tax and tariff exemptions and other measures aimed at upgrading chip design and production there.

“Other countries around the globe … are making major investment in innovation and chip production,” says Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer. “If we don’t act quickly, we could lose tens of thousands of good-paying jobs to Europe.”

But who is “we,” senator?

John Neuffer, the chief executive of the Semiconductor Industry Association (the Washington lobbying arm of the semiconductor industry) warns that chipmaking facilities are often 25 to 50% cheaper to build in foreign countries than in the United States.

Why is that? As he admits, it’s largely because of the incentives foreign countries have offered.

As capital becomes ever more global and footloose, it’s easy for global corporations to play nations off against each other. As the then-chief executive of US-based ExxonMobil unabashedly stated: “I’m not a US company and I don’t make decisions based on what’s good for the US”

People, by contrast, are rooted within nations, which gives them far less bargaining power.

This asymmetry helps explain why Congress is ready to hand over $52bn to a highly profitable global industry but can’t come up with even $22.5bn the Biden administration says is necessary to cope with the ongoing public health crisis of Covid.

If they are publicly owned, corporations must be loyal to their shareholders by maximizing the value of their shares. But over 40% of the shareholder value of American-based companies is owned by non-Americans.

Besides, there’s no reason to suppose a company’s American owners will be happy to sacrifice investment returns for the good of the nation.

The real question is what conditions the United States (or any other nation that subsidizes chipmakers) should place on receipt of such subsidies.

It can’t be enough that chipmakers agree to produce more chips in the nation that’s subsidizing them, because chipmakers sell their chips to the highest bidders around the world regardless of where the chips are produced.

If the US is going to subsidize them, it should demand chipmakers give highest priority to their American-based customers that use the chips in products made in the United States, by American workers.

And Congress should demand they produce the highest value-added chipmaking in the US – design, design engineering, and high precision manufacturing – so Americans gain that technological expertise.

What happens if every nation subsidizing chipmakers demands these for itself?

Chipmakers will then have to choose. The extortion will then end.

Robert Reich On ‘Rubbish’ Inflation Fix

With inflation at a forty year high, the former secretary of state shares why economist Larry Summer’s proposed fix for inflation — rising unemployment — is wrong.


America’s Unstolen Election And Detachment From Reality

As important as America’s January 6th hearings in Congress may be in laying out for the historical record the facts behind the insurrection that attempted to violently overturn the 2020 presidential election, there are two reasons why it may also be an exercise in futility.

In the first place, we already know the essentials of what happened on that day and what former US President Donald Trump’s intentions were. We know this because we saw it unfold in real time and because Mr Trump has not stopped talking about it in virtually every speech he has made since then.

It is true that some new details are emerging during the hearings about what transpired in the Oval Office in the days leading up to the ratification of the election results by Congress, what the former president’s advisors and attorneys were telling him, and what his state of mind was on that fateful day. But these details only add to what we already know: that the former president sought to incite a violent insurrectionist mob to intimidate his vice-president and members of Congress and to discredit the results of an election he lost, thus enabling him to remain in office. There is no secret here. Mr Trump telegraphed his intentions in speeches before January 6th and in public remarks since then he continues making his case, describing what he tried to do, and justifying his behaviour.

What is new are the taped interviews with former White House insiders seeking to absolve themselves of personal responsibility by claiming that they told the president he was wrong or of their efforts to push him to change direction before and during the fateful day. What they don’t explain is why, if they knew how dangerous the president’s course of action was, it took them so long to come forward with their damning evidence of wrongdoing.

Even before the hearings, there were sufficient grounds to charge Mr Trump with seditious acts. A stronger case can now be made to prosecute him on this charge. However, it is unlikely that Congress will recommend this course of action, nor will the Department of Justice act to investigate and prosecute the twice-impeached former president.

Another reason why the hearings, as riveting as they may be, are futile has to do with the deep and disturbing divisions that exist in the American electorate. Our polity was once shaped by two parties, each with its own distinct political ideology. Today this has been replaced by two parties, each with its own reality.

For almost two decades now, some Republicans have harnessed the power of media (both traditional and new social media platforms) to project ideas and stories that have no grounding in reality. Recall the Tea Party and Birther Movement myths about former president Barack Obama being born in Kenya or being a secret Muslim. Despite all evidence to the contrary (his birth certificate, the statement by a nurse present at his birth, and the testimony of his Christian pastor), the myths took hold and carried sway. Even today, polls show that strong majorities of Republicans still believe that Mr Obama was born in Africa and is not Christian.

Mr Trump has elevated this ability to project a lie and make it be believed by his followers regarding issues both large and small. On his very first day in office, for example, he boasted that his inauguration gathering was the largest ever – despite photographic evidence that it was not; or that the CIA audience he addressed gave him repeated standing ovations – despite the fact that it was carried live on TV and no such standing ovations occurred. After being challenged on these repeated falsehoods, Mr Trump’s spokesperson summed up the president’s approach, referring to it as creating “alternative facts”.

Alternative facts regarding the size of a crowd, whether or not the president received a standing ovation, or the status of his health may be harmless exercises in themselves. But it is quite a different matter when that same ability, to project a lie and demonstrate the power to make it be believed by millions, is used to overthrow a democratic election. That is an entirely different matter.

On a deeper level, the crisis of January 6th is not just about what Mr Trump did or did not do. It is also about the 68 per cent of Republicans who believe that the election was stolen, or the one-half of Republicans who believe nothing untoward happened on January 6th, or the overwhelming majority of Republican members of Congress – many of whom early on denounced the insurrection and now dismiss it as a “peaceful protest,” or the more than 100 “election deniers” who have so far won Republican primary elections. These deeper issues, unfortunately, are not within the purview of congressional hearings.

I was struck by a quote from former attorney general William Barr that emerged from the hearings. After meeting with the president and listening to him describe his plans to stay in office, Mr Barr said he walked away saying “Boy, if he really believes this stuff, he has become detached from reality!” Since “detached from reality” can be said to describe the mental state of millions of Americans and thousands of elected officials – all of whom have come to believe Mr Trump’s claim of a stolen election, it will take more than congressional hearings to address how to move us away from the dangerous delusional path we are on.

Jeffrey Sachs Interview: Something Is Wrong With The American System. And In Human Nature

Jeffrey Sachs is one of the most popular economists in the world for his books on poverty and globalization, which are based on his research at Columbia University and his advisory work for the United Nations on how to combat climate change and achieve sustainable development. The 67-year-old was recently in Madrid, where the temperature had soared to 41ºC (105ºF), precisely to talk about this issue: how we are lagging in the fight against global warming. Instead of focusing on the war in Ukraine, he says, we should address the real priorities. In the Spanish capital, he took part in an event organized by the Spanish Network for Sustainable Development.

You have come to Madrid in the middle of a heatwave and are experiencing extreme heat directly. How do you feel?
It’s hot, yes, but in some places, it’s deadly. There were 50ºC days in parts of India this spring. It’s also a sign of how much human activity has already warmed the planet. We know that on average Earth is warmer now than at any time in the past 10,000 years. We know that we are about to exceed the 1.5-degree limit that we agreed to in Paris. We’re on an extremely dangerous path. The advantage now is there is scientific clarity about what to do. We have to decarbonize the energy system fast by mid-century. And the second piece of good news is that the technology to do that has come down in cost 100-fold. So it’s actually perfectly reasonable to do what we need to do. So the question for humanity is, are we perfectly reasonable or not?

And will we be?
That is the struggle: our rationality. Warming threatens to destroy the rainforest, which is close to a tipping point. Many species are going to the edge or to extinction. Many ecosystems are collapsing. So this isn’t how hot we feel walking outside. This is changing the way the Earth in its entirety is working. The so-called ocean circulation is slowing down. There are so many risks and tipping points. The melting of the sea ice in the Arctic means that the planet rather than reflecting sunshine from the ice, absorbs the sunshine into the ocean. The melting of the permafrost is another tipping point because it could release huge amounts of methane and carbon dioxide that were stored under the ice. In a short period of time, we’re changing the planet in ways that we don’t even recognize. When scientists are telling you every day at Columbia University: ‘This is worse than we thought, Mr. Sachs. It’s accelerating, it’s dangerous!” It’s enough to make you a nervous wreck.

A few years ago you said that meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was the equivalent of conquering the Moon in the Kennedy era. But we are not reaching that moon.
The greatest challenge is having our minds clear enough to do the right thing. We don’t lack the solutions. We don’t lack the need. We don’t even lack the basic values. But we are so constantly distracted and falling into our worst impulses. Now it’s war in Europe. What a tragedy and a waste of time! We could have negotiated with Russia and avoided this war. But we’re so bad at speaking with each other and now it’s devastating. So many people dying, so much destruction, so much migration, so much waste of money. My government just voted for $40 billion of emergency aid for Ukraine. If I had ever said $40 billion for sustainable development, I would have been laughed out of Washington. ‘How could we waste that money, Mr. Sachs?’ But for war, they do it. This is the confusion. It’s a kind of primitive thinking.

Do you really think the war could have been avoided?
Absolutely. NATO kept enlarging to the east and especially into the highly sensitive Black Sea region. [Then UN Secretary General] Kofi Annan asked me in 2000 to advise the UN on the SDGs. But then 9/11 came and the US said now we’re going to have a global war on terror. I thought at that moment: ‘This is stupid.’ Do we really have to invade Afghanistan? Iraq? Topple the Syrian regime? Libya? Is this really a good idea? Well, they did all that. And where were the Millennium Development Goals [international development goals established by the UN for the year 2015] after all that fighting, all of those trillions of dollars that the United States wasted on these wars? Well, the Millennium Development Goals were left behind.

So there’s always an excuse to avoid taking action.
There is something wrong with the American political system. And in our human nature. We’re ready to fight, but find it extremely hard to cooperate. We’re ready to throw weapons and lives in a fight. But investment in peace and development is highly controversial. It doesn’t make sense. But that’s the way it is.

Has capitalism failed?
Capitalism means a lot of different things. It’s a big term that includes social democracy and pure market capitalism. This in particular has failed many times, because it leads to so many social inequalities and environmental crises. Not only does the market not address these problems, it exacerbates them. But removing the market as the Soviet Union did is a disaster. So what we’re looking for is something that is mixed. That is an economy that has markets, government, civil society and a set of clear ethics. And it should be environmentally sustainable. Social democracy works much better than the Anglo-Saxon market model.

In any case, we have seen that global markets are more powerful than governments.
Well, there are many more complications in that. For a long time, we debated this within the so-called Western world and now we are confronting a lot more models. The way China thinks about these issues is really quite different. Sub-Saharan Africa is a whole different set of challenges, and a long legacy of the colonial era which left so much of the continent without even the basics of infrastructure and education. In an interconnected world, we need a tremendous amount of global cooperation in order to be able to ensure that every region of this planet finds its place, its role and its path to a decent life. It’s what I’ve worked on for decades. There’s not any part of the world that isn’t worrying about this set of issues. But unfortunately, the “us versus them” mentality is so deeply built into our politics and our psyches, that the idea of global cooperation is viewed with a lot of suspicion.

If we fail to meet the SDGs, what will the world look like in 25 years?
There are many kinds of risks and you can’t predict how the danger will manifest. In sub-Saharan Africa, poverty is extreme, climate change is extraordinarily dangerous and at the same time, the population is rising very fast. What is it going to mean for Europe when there are three billion people in Africa living in hugely unstable conditions and in the European Union, fewer than 500 million people? We need to be thinking ahead so that we don’t have to answer that question in the end. We should be investing today, right now. The EU’s highest priority should not be the war in Ukraine, which should be settled at the negotiating table, not by increasing the military budget, but by ensuring that every child in Africa is in school right now. It doesn’t cost very much, but it would change the future of the world. If the children are in school, there’s going to be an economy in Africa, there’s going to be jobs. That’s the most important thing right now.

Whitewashing History And Suppressing Voters Go Hand In Hand

There’s been a lot of news about the Democratic legislators in Texas who fled the state to prevent Republicans from pushing through sweeping new voter suppression laws.

Gov. Greg Abbott has threatened to have them arrested to force them to attend a special session of the state legislature. Now it turns out that voter suppression is not the only “special” project Abbott has in mind. He and his fellow Republicans are pushing a far-reaching “memory law” that would limit teaching about racism and civil rights.

Abbott already signed a bill last month restricting how racism can be taught in Texas schools. But he and other Republicans in the state don’t think it went far enough. The Republican-dominated state-Senate has voted to strip a requirement that white supremacy be taught as morally wrong. Also on the chopping block: requirements that students learn about civil rights activists Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther King Jr., Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta.

It’s not just Texas. Just as Republicans are pushing a wave of voter registration laws around the country, they are also pushing laws to restrict teaching about racism in our history, culture, and institutions. CNN’s Julian Zelizer recently noted that such laws downplay injustices in our history and lead to teaching “propaganda rather than history.”

Here’s a good example: Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said the new legislation is meant to keep students from being “indoctrinated” by the “ridiculous leftist narrative that America and our Constitution are rooted in racism.” If Patrick really believes it is a “ridiculous” idea that racism was embedded in our Constitution from the start, he has already put on his own ideological blinders. And he wants to force them onto teachers and students.

Some of these state memory laws specifically ban teaching that causes “discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress on account of the individual’s race or sex.” As educators have noted, that’s a recipe for erasing and whitewashing history.

“Teachers in high schools cannot exclude the possibility that the history of slavery, lynchings and voter suppression will make some non-Black students uncomfortable,” history professor Timothy Snyder wrote in the New York Times Magazine. Those laws give power to white students and parents to censor honest teaching of history. “It is not exactly unusual for white people in America to express the view that they are being treated unfairly; now such an opinion could bring history classes to a halt.”

Snyder also explained how new state “memory laws” are connected to voter suppression. “In most cases, the new American memory laws have been passed by state legislatures that, in the same session, have passed laws designed to make voting more difficult,” he wrote. “The memory management enables the voter suppression.”

“The history of denying Black people the vote is shameful,” he explained. “This means that it is less likely to be taught where teachers are mandated to protect young people from feeling shame. The history of denying Black people the vote involves law and society. This means that it is less likely to be taught where teachers are mandated to tell students that racism is only personal prejudice.”

As I wrote in The Nation, far-right attempts to suppress honest teaching about racism is meant to “convince a segment of white voters that they should fear and fight our emerging multiracial and multiethnic democratic society” and to “help far-right politicians take and hold power, no matter the cost to our democracy.”

That’s also what voter suppression bills are designed to do. We cannot tolerate either of these assaults on democracy.

Speech At The UN Food Systems Pre-Summit

Jeffrey Sachs at the UN Food Systems Pre-Summit, speaking about food systems transformation, colonialism, the CIA, the Republicans, the UN budget, and taxing the rich.


Our Responsibility To Climate Migrants

Last November, as the most active Atlantic hurricane season ever recorded ground to a close, the last two big storms – Eta and Iota – ripped into Central America. A Washington Post reporter covering their aftermath interviewed a Honduran woman named Blanca Costa, who was sheltering beneath a highway overpass. She supported her three daughters by working as a trash collector, and had three horses to pull her garbage cart. Except now the horses had drowned. “I’ll just have to go on foot now,” said Costa, 40, one of about 100 people finding refuge under the bridge. “But it will be more icult.”

The storms caused massive damage in Central America. According to early estimates, the economic toll in Honduras was equivalent to 40% of the country’s GDP. So, it should not surprise anyone that plenty of people from the region are now on the move.

When climate-driven disasters strike, the vast majority of people don’t need or want to move far. If drought drives a farm out of business, workers usually look for new jobs as near to home as possible. When extreme weather destroys homes, people seek a temporary escape, not permanent relocation. But as adverse climate events become more extreme – and they will – people will need to move farther for longer.

It is of course entirely unfair that Hondurans have done so little to cause the climate crisis that is now taking such a costly toll there. Someone who collects trash with a horse-drawn cart does not generate a lot of carbon dioxide emissions, in contrast to someone in the United States driving a 310-horsepower Ford Bronco SUV.

By any moral calculation, therefore, the US should be figuring out what its responsibilities are to Central American climate migrants. And, whether they cross international borders or not, it should be US policy to make their journeys as safe and humane as possible.

So, if the top priority is to limit temperature increases so that climate disasters force fewer people from their homes, the second priority is to manage the trauma of involuntary migration. Whether governments like it or not, millions of people globally are already resorting to migration to cope with the climate crisis. The US in particular must respond with more than walls, cages, or the stern warning issued by President Joe Biden’s administration to Central Americans: “do not come.”

But climate migrants aren’t heading to the US because they want to. They have no choice, and their journey is at least as traumatic as the storms that caused it. Families are torn apart, and people travel in difficult and dangerous conditions. Some die, others are killed, and many more are robbed, extorted, or assaulted.

The main cause of the danger, death, and suffering migrants face is often international borders. When desperate people are denied the right to cross a frontier safely and legally, they have no option but to do so under cover of darkness, across deserts and oceans, and over fences and walls.

Moreover, border militarization is now big business. Private security firms patrol borders for profit, having secured government contracts totaling billions of dollars to hunt, capture, and imprison migrants and refugees.

This militarization is an increasingly high-tech enterprise. Drones now patrol borders, while facial recognition tools and powerful artificial-intelligence systems identify and track people trying to cross them. Many tech companies that have cultivated feel-good corporate images are in fact deeply involved in surveilling people trying to escape some of the most difficult and dangerous conditions on the planet.

The firms currently profiting from turning borders into death traps will not simply walk away from this lucrative business, while governments hooked on their own “tough on migration” policies won’t back down without a fight. But those seeking justice for migrants and refugees have been fighting and winning immigration battles on the streets. In addition, activists and labor unions are pushing companies to ditch their border-surveillance and detention contracts – and investors are noticing, with Microsoft’s ties with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement the latest to be put under the spotlight.

The climate movement must now act in solidarity with migrant and refugee activists and be part of their efforts to ensure safe, legal migration. We should be thinking about how to support people making dangerous journeys, how to create meaningful work for them, and how to provide education, housing, and health care as they seek new places to settle. And we should be thinking about how to build communities that encompass both new arrivals and existing residents.

These questions have already roiled the politics of many countries. But they won’t go away – quite the contrary. For the sake of climate migrants everywhere, we must address them. Our CO2 emissions pay no attention to national borders, and nor should our compassion.

Climate Change Is About Greed. It’s Time For Big Oil To Pay Us Back

Four interconnected pieces of climate change-related news from the past two weeks reveal America’s predicament. And they also show the way forward, which ultimately must include oil companies’ paying restitution for damage that they have done to the climate and humanity for decades.

The first of the four pieces of climate news is the deadly heat wave hitting the western US and Canada, killing hundreds to date. According to the United Nations, there has been a “staggering increase” in the frequency of such extreme climate events. The earth is now warmer than at any time in the past 12,000 years.

The second is President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan. The Biden plan aims, in part, to join with other nations to build a new 21st-century infrastructure based on renewable energy, electric vehicles and other zero-carbon technologies in order to stop human-induced climate change. To achieve the global aim of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), the world’s energy system should be decarbonized by 2050, along the lines described in a recent report by the International Energy Agency on achieving net-zero by 2050.

As usual, Republican leaders lined up against the parts of the plan aimed at reducing carbon emissions. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell declared, “The total amount of funding it would direct to roads, bridges, ports, waterways and airports combined adds up to less than what it would spend just on electric cars,” and that “The far left sees a strong family resemblance between these proposals and their socialist ‘Green New Deal.'” The GOP was joined by Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, whose campaigns are amply funded by the oil and gas industry and coal mining.

The third is the wonderful new Greenpeace UK exposè on ExxonMobil lobbying. Posing as a headhunter, a Greenpeace activist secretly videotaped Keith McCoy, an ExxonMobil lobbyist, explaining the tools of his trade. “Did we aggressively fight against some of the science? Yes,” McCoy said. “Did we join some shadow groups to work against some of the early efforts? Yes, that’s true. But there’s nothing illegal about that. We were looking out for our investments. We were looking out for our shareholders.”

The lobbyist explained that ExxonMobil’s “support” for a carbon tax is just for show. “Nobody is going to propose a tax on all Americans. The cynical side of me says we kind of know that. But it gives us a talking point. We can say, ‘What is ExxonMobil for? We’re for a carbon tax.'”

Most importantly, the lobbyist compared lobbying to fishing for Congressmen. You “kind of reel them in.” “Because they’re a captive audience. They know they need you and I need them.” McCoy identified 11 US senators he says are “crucial” to Exxon and describes Manchin as “the kingmaker.” He said that he talked “to his office every week ” (Manchin’s office did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.)

McCoy apologized (though claimed some of his statements were taken out of context), while ExxonMobil’s CEO declared that the lobbyist’s comments “in no way represent the company’s position” on climate policy and its commitment to carbon pricing. Yet Harvard researchers have argued that ExxonMobil has a record of misleading the public that goes back decades. The company has denied that too, claiming the study was activist-funded.

ExxonMobil’s lobbying per se is not illegal. That’s part of the problem. We have a political system that promotes narrow corporate interests above the common good. By misleading the public over many decades, ExxonMobil has compounded the political failure.

Even ExxonMobil’s shareholders are in revolt against the company management’s disgusting resistance to reality. A hedge fund investor won a high-profile proxy fight this past spring to add three new members to the ExxonMobil board of directors who will advocate for the company to adopt a decarbonization policy. The hedge fund argued to the other shareholders that for ExxonMobil to continue down the path of carbon energy is a dead-end, a sure way to strand assets, and a majority agreed.

The fourth is the European Union’s consideration of plans to end the sales of oil-using internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles by 2035 and to replace them with electric and other zero-emission vehicles (such as hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles). In Europe, the oil-and-gas industry is much less powerful politically than in the United States. Recently, a Dutch court in The Hague ordered Royal Dutch Shell to slash the emissions from its products. The European Union as a whole is moving forward with a European Green Deal to decarbonize the EU energy system no later than 2050. In line with the European plans, Volkswagen recently declared its intention to phase out ICEs in Europe by 2035.

As in so many areas of public life, America is suffering from a broken political system that sells public policies to the highest bidders and the best-organized lobbies. The oil and gas lobby gave nearly $140 million in campaign contributions in the 2020 election cycle, $75 million through individual and PAC contributions and the rest in soft money. Of the $75 million, $63 million, or 84%, went to Republican candidates.

This is “fishing” for Congressmen, indeed. Yet as a result the companies are not merely making ill-gotten gains. Their products are killing fellow Americans and creating havoc worldwide. It’s time for them to pay for this repeated, long-standing, knowing and shocking malfeasance.

ExxonMobil and the other big oil companies owe not only a profound mea culpa to the world for pushing dangerous products, but also restitution for the damage they have caused. As with the drug companies that pushed addictive painkillers on Americans and tobacco companies that pushed killer cigarettes, it’s time for the oil industry to pay heavy penalties on ill-gotten gains, the flip side of which are the death and destruction caused by extreme climate events.

ExxonMobil has a market capitalization of around $260 billion. These and other oil and gas companies should be charged a corporate income tax surcharge to reflect the social cost of carbon of their oil and gas products, now estimated to be around $51 per metric ton of CO2 emissions. Tax penalties should include damages from past emissions as well as ongoing production. Up till now, as a result of America’s pay-to-play politics, the companies have received tax benefits instead of paying tax surcharges.

By charging an income-tax surcharge, the companies would not only pay restitution to society, but would face the incentive to change course before they create a complete disaster for the world. The funds raised by such a surcharge could then help to fund the modernization of infrastructure that America so desperately needs, including the shift to green technologies that protect the planet.

America still has a chance to save itself. Biden is on the right course. In addition to the scaled-down “bipartisan” infrastructure agreement that strips out clean energy, the Democrats are planning a reconciliation bill that includes Biden’s clean energy policy. The American people overwhelmingly support policies to limit climate change.

America’s test, therefore, has come down to the question of honesty, honor and survival. Can we overcome corporate greed and a broken political system to save our nation and our world?

Why So Much Wealth At The Top Threatens The US Economy

Policymakers and the media are paying too much attention to how quickly the U.S. economy will emerge from the pandemic-induced recession, and not nearly enough to the nation’s deeper structural problem – the increasing imbalance of wealth that could enfeeble the economy for years.

Seventy percent of the US economy depends on consumer spending. But wealthy people, who now own more of the economy than at any time since the 1920s, spend only a small percentage of their incomes. Lower-income people, who were in trouble even before the pandemic, spend whatever they have – which has become very little.

In a very practical sense, the U.S. economy depends on the spending of most Americans who don’t have much to spend. That spells trouble ahead.

It’s not simply a matter of an adequate “stimulus.” The $2,000 checks contained in the American Rescue Plan have already been distributed and extra unemployment benefits will soon expire. Consumer spending will be propped up as employers add to their payrolls. Biden’s spending plans, if enacted, will also help keep consumers afloat for a time.

But the underlying imbalance will remain. Most peoples’ wages will still be too low and too much of the economy’s gains will continue to accumulate at the top, for total consumer demand to be adequate.

Years ago, Marriner Eccles, chairman of the Federal Reserve from 1934 to 1948, explained that the Great Depression occurred because the buying power of Americans fell far short of what the economy could produce. He blamed the increasing concentration of wealth at the top. In his words:

“A giant suction pump had by 1929-1930 drawn into a few hands an increasing portion of currently produced wealth. As in a poker game where the chips were concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, the other fellows could stay in the game only by borrowing. When their credit ran out, the game stopped.”

The wealthy of the 1920s didn’t know what to do with all their money, while most Americans could maintain their standard of living only by going into debt. When that debt bubble burst, the economy sunk.

History is repeating itself. The typical Americans’ wages have hardly increased for decades, adjusted for inflation. Most economic gains have gone to the top, just as Eccles’s “giant suction pump” drew an increasing portion of the nation’s wealth into a few hands before the Great Depression.

The result has been consumer spending financed by borrowing, creating chronic fragility. After the housing and financial bubbles burst in 2008, we avoided another Great Depression only because the government pumped enough money into the system to maintain demand, and the Fed kept interest rates near zero. Then came the pandemic.

The wealth imbalance is now more extreme than it’s been in over a century. There’s so much wealth at the top that the prices of luxury items of all kinds are soaring; so-called “non-fungible tokens,” ranging from art and music to tacos and toilet paper, are selling like 17th-century exotic Dutch tulips; cryptocurrencies have taken off; and stock market values have continued to rise even through the pandemic.

Corporations don’t know what to do with all their cash. Trillions of dollars are sitting idle on their balance sheets. The biggest firms have been feasting off the Fed’s corporate welfare, as the central bank obligingly holds corporate bonds that the firms issued before the recession in order finance stock buybacks.

But most people have few if any assets. Even by 2018, when the economy appeared strong, 40% of Americans had negative net incomes and were borrowing money to pay for basic household needs.

The heart of the imbalance is America’s wealthy and the corporations they own have huge bargaining power – both market power in the form of monopolies, and political power in the form of lobbyists and campaign contributions.

Most workers have little or no bargaining power – neither inside their firms because of the near-disappearance of labor unions, nor in politics because political parties have devolved from giant membership organizations to fundraising machines.

Biden’s “stimulus” programs are fine but temporary. The most important economic reform would be to correct this structural imbalance by reducing monopoly power, strengthening unions, and getting big money out of politics.

Until the structural imbalance is remedied, the American economy will remain perilously fragile. It will also be vulnerable to the next demagogue wielding anger and resentment as substitutes for real reform.