Author: telegraph

Three-Day Sanders Institute Event Details the Case: ‘Housing Is a Human Right’

“We can’t address the housing crisis by chopping the weed off at the top. We have to pull it out by the roots,” said one panelist at the intimate event in Los Angeles that looked at the issue from the local, state, and federal level.

Apr 09, 2024

We want to educate the public. We want to shift the narrative. We want to organize for transformational and lasting change.

Those were the stated goals and repeated themes at the heart of a three-day event in Los Angeles over recent days, a gathering focused on the national housing crisis organized by the Sanders Institute, spearheaded by co-founder Dr. Jane O’Meara Sanders and executive director Dave Driscoll.

While the policy discussion around housing has a reputation for being dynamic and complex—especially as an issue that straddles municipal, state, and federal governance—the human story at the center of what it means to have a home or be housed is simple and universal, a thread woven into over a dozen panels, presentations, and keynote speeches by progressive lawmakers, top experts, frontline advocates, academics, and community organizers.

In a conversation with Common Dreams, Sanders and Driscoll explained that everyone who attended the event—kept intentionally small and low-profile—was told that the focus would be on “concrete remedies” and “replicable policies” with the ultimate purpose of informing a national audience about not only how severe the housing crisis has become, but also the concrete ways to address it.

“We believe democracy requires an informed electorate and civil discourse and bold ideas. That’s part of our mission,” Sanders said. “And the purpose was to come at the housing crisis from many aspects—not all of the aspects, but many of them—with the goal of actionable solutions.”

“None of us are very interested in making small incremental change, which might mean building some more affordable housing or supporting this or that initiative. That’s not what this is about.” —Dr. Jane O’Meara Sanders, The Sanders Institute

But why housing? Why now? According to Sanders, the issue is potent politically because it’s an issue that is not just about the poor and unhoused, but also central to the working class.

“Everybody knows somebody that has a problem getting affordable housing or just affording their life and having to make different choices,” she told Common Dreams. “It’s middle-income people, it’s everybody having a problem with the housing crisis, and elected officials are getting pressure. Those lawmakers and politicians are hearing it more and more. And we said, okay, now’s the time to bring people together around this.”

Driscoll targeted private equity, Wall Street investors, and real estate developers that have used their outsized economic and political power to further skew the nation’s housing market in search of ever-larger profits, squeezing out low- or middle-income individuals and families in the process.

“It’s just another way in which the gap is growing between the rich and the poor and increasing inequality,” said Driscoll. “And that needs to stop.”

It is powerful interests most of all, says Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), who must be named, shamed, and overcome if any of the progressive solutions championed at the gathering—including rent control, social housing models, community land trusts, more climate-resilient communities, and proven efforts to curb homelessness—are to have any hope of being implemented at the necessary scale.

Weinstein—a driving force behind the event, a supporter of the Sanders Institute, and a major player in California’s healthcare and housing political landscape—agrees fully with Sanders and Driscoll that the moment, both in California and nationally, is ripe for an invigorating politics focused on housing.

Rent Control for All

Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, presenting at the Sanders Institute event in Los Angeles on Thursday, April 4, 2024. (Photo: © Bryan Giardinelli / The Sanders Institute)

During opening remarks focused on “perpetually affordable housing” and a 2024 ballot initiative in California that would end the state’s existing ban on local rent control ordinances, Weinstein said that he has argued for years that “the housing issue was not high enough on the progressive agenda.”

“This is a battle for the poor and working-class people in California,” Weinstein said of the Justice for Renters campaign, an effort funded by AHF, local unions, and others to see the Justice for Renters Act become law via a ballot measure this year.

“There are 17 million renters in California—that’s 45% of the population,” he explained. “There are tens of millions more renters across the country. Our primary job as progressives is to improve the lives of people and housing is their greatest need.”

If enacted, the law would remove the existing ban on rent control laws in California, encourage expanded rent control at the local level, and curb the power of “predatory landlords” who charge “unfair and unaffordable” rent.

While everyone at the gathering agreed more housing stock is a key part of the solution, Weinstein was among those who emphasized that the biggest obstacle is unaffordability of homes and rental units—a problem attributable to the greed of landlords and the investor class within an economy designed to siphon the wealth of workers into the coffers of the already rich.

“We can’t address the housing crisis by chopping the weed off at the top. We have to pull it out by the roots,” Weinstein explained. “And high rents are the root cause of the housing affordability crisis. It’s that transfer of wealth that’s causing the problem. And if we do nothing about rising rents, then nothing else we do in terms of producing housing or other changes will make a difference. If we continue to treat housing as a commodity, we’ll never be able to house everyone. It’s very similar to healthcare. If we leave it up to the marketplace, we’re lost.”

With the homeless population in Los Angeles estimated to be over 70,000—in a city of approximately 3.9 million—Weinstein said that L.A. is “not just the homeless capital of this country” but the “homeless capital of the world.” This, he lamented, is “truly shameful,” but also the reason why California has a vital role to play in showing people that the crisis can be confronted.

As a veteran healthcare advocate and the head of a nonprofit organization focused on AIDS, Weinstein rejected the accusation he sometimes receives from political opponents that he is somehow “out of his lane” by pushing so loudly and aggressively for rent control reforms. One reason that assessment is wrong, Weinstein explained, is that housing is the largest predeterminant of health, which is also why so many at the gathering rallied around the demand that housing be treated like the human right it is.

“But the main reason I’m involved in housing,” Weinstein told the audience at the gathering, “is that I feel the same outrage about the housing situation and homelessness today as I did in the 1980s about AIDS, where the benign neglect saw tens of thousands of people die needlessly.”

In his remarks, Weinstein stressed the crisis is a result of the most powerful in society refusing to meet the needs of its most vulnerable. But he said the galvanizing potential of housing—and the political potency and opportunities of social uplift embedded in the solutions presented at the conference—must be recognized.

“This is a cry for unity,” he said. “Unity behind rent control and unity behind opposing corporate real estate and unity behind housing justice. There’s no better time than now.”

Putting the Housing Crisis at the Top of the Agenda

Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.) said during the event that Democrats are ready to put housing back at the top of the party’s national agenda. (Photo: © Bryan Giardinelli / The Sanders Institute)

The sense of urgency felt by attendees of the event was unmistakable.

Speaking at the opening night dinner for the conference, Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.), who represents parts of Los Angeles County, said the creation of the Renters Caucus in Congress last year is a sign that lawmakers are beginning to take housing more seriously at the federal level.

The goal of the new caucus, Gomez said, “is to make sure that the renters agenda is at the top of the Democratic Party agenda.” This was a focus of all the members of Congress who attended the gathering in some capacity, including Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) as well as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), also notable as Jane’s husband. Driscoll is their son.

“Housing Should Be a Human Right in the Richest Country in the History of the World”

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass speaking with attendees at the event focused on the housing crisis, where she delivered an opening speech on the issue that focused on both the local battles for housing and, as a former member of Congress, the need for federal action. (Photo: © Bryan Giardinelli / The Sanders Institute)

Democratic Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, who left Congress to provide more local leadership, said she did so because she saw that the rightward political shift at the local government level was set to take the city backward on a numerous fronts, including on the issues of affordable housing, education, and homelessness.

Calling housing “one of the most important issues of our lifetime right now,” Bass praised the Sanders Institute’s focus on the crisis and for bringing the event to California. “I know that you are going to be the brains behind what we need, which is a national movement,” said Bass. “That’s the only thing that is going to bring about the type of fundamental change that we need.”

“What we need… is a national movement.” —Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass

Speaking after Jayapal—who had told the audience the battle for better housing policy in the United States should be viewed much like the battle for universal healthcare—Bass acknowledged there are things on the housing agenda that will require action by leaders at every level of government.

“But nothing takes the place of the grassroots day-to-day organizing that is needed,” she said, “so that we can win what Pramila said: Housing should be a human right in the richest country in the history of the world, just like healthcare should be a human right.”

According to Sen. Sanders, who delivered the keynote address and was an active participant throughout, the purpose of the gathering was to get beyond talk in order to get down to the real work of making change.

“Our task is to organize and to educate,” Sanders said. “It’s easy to come up with rhetoric—which I have done once or twice in my life—but when you’re the mayor of a city, you’re going to need some concrete plans. How do you do it? You’re going to have to bring a lot of smart people together to figure out the best way forward.”

Social Housing: A Solution That Works

California Assemblyman Alex Lee (D-25), center, and South San Francisco Mayor James Coleman, right, present on social housing models during the event in Los Angeles on Thursday, April 4, 2024. (Photo: © Bryan Giardinelli / The Sanders Institute)

A constant theme at the event was that not only does the housing crisis demand progressive solutions, but the implementation of those solutions are themselves opportunities to revive democracy, increase social cohesion, and expand the public imagination.

In their joint presentation on social housing, California Assembly member Alex Lee (D-25) and South San Francisco Mayor James Coleman, also a Democrat, detailed a vision for “social housing” which aims to demolish preconceived notions that tend to dominate understandings of “public housing” throughout the United States.

When it comes to defining the term “social housing,” Lee explained that he likes to “keep it simple.” Social housing, he said, “is beautiful, sustainable, and publicly led developed housing that is available to everyone and for everyone.”

The idea of universality, he emphasized, is critical in the U.S. context where public housing is typically subsidized housing only for low-income individuals or families. Social housing models across the world provide housing across economic classes, which creates more buy-in from communities and residents.

“There’s a very deliberate reason of why we stick to the term social housing,” Lee said, “even though it is three letters away from a scary thing that Americans fear.” But it is the term used around the world, he explained—both in highly capitalistic economies like Singapore’s as well as in the various social democracies of Europe and beyond.

Because it’s housing for everyone—the poor, the middle class, and even the upper-middle class—Lee and Coleman explained that “universality” and the lack of means-testing are core components of a model they believe can transform people’s understanding of what’s possible in this country.

“With social housing,” argued Coleman, “you’ll see broad spots of the public be able to look at it and say: ‘That is quality housing. I want to live there. I want my children to live there and I know I’m going to be paying lower rents than market rate.’ And when people start seeing that, then they’re going to want to continue to invest in social housing and we won’t see the decades of disinvestment that we have seen here in the United States for our public housing program.”

In an interview with Common Dreams, Lee offered a parallel example.

“In America,” he said, “there is no constitutional guarantee of education, yet every parent will wake up tomorrow not having a single doubt in their mind that their child will go to school.” Lee acknowledged not all children go to the same kinds of school, but said that people never doubt that education will be there for their families.

“But there is not the similar sense of options in housing—people don’t have that.” But they should, he said, and there are models out there—not just abroad but also examples in the U.S.—that show how it could work.

Citing housing construction in the post-war years, Lee said the country has shown it’s capable of amazing things when it comes to housing.

“We could end the housing crisis in four years, at true scale,” said Lee. “That’s why it’s really important to prove that this can work at the state level, especially in a state as populous as California. If we prove the concept here, we can show nationally how it can be done.”

Like the Housing Crisis, “The Climate Crisis Is Actually a Massive Health Crisis”

Actor and activist Jane Fonda and community organizer Nalleli Cobo speak to the audience at The Gathering. (Photo: © Bryan Giardinelli / The Sanders Institute)

During another session, actor and activist Jane Fonda presented alongside local activist Nalleli Cobo, a cancer survivor who has been fighting the oil industry that operates drilling wells in her urban neighborhood since she was a child.

Cobo, co-founder of the South Central Youth Leadership Coalition and a 2022 Goldman Environmental Prize winner for the activism that she initiated while still a teenager living in South Los Angeles, told the audience that the hard-fought victories she and her allies were able to win against the fossil fuel industry “were made possible because of a frontline community that was historically viewed as silenced, invisible, and disposable finally said: ‘Enough is enough. We deserve to open our windows and our home and we deserve to breathe clean air.'”

“This is the largest crisis humanity has ever faced. We’re running out of time and we have to fight back.” —Jane Fonda

Living her whole life in a home neighboring a fossil fuel operation beset Cobo with health challenges throughout her childhood and ultimately led to a cancer diagnosis. Now three years in remission, she said affordable and healthy housing is something that every single member of society is entitled to.

“They may not be drilling in your community right now, but they can be unless we stand up and fight back,” she said.

With nearly 3 million Californians living within a mile or less from oil and gas drilling wells, Fonda championed the courage and determination of Cobo to end this toxic practice, including with a ballot fight in California this year to ban such operations permanently.

“What Nalleli didn’t tell you,” Fonda told the audience when she took the podium, “is that at age 10 and 11, she and her mother had to be put into a witness protection program because of her organizing in the community to shut the oil well down; that at 19 she had to have a total hysterectomy; that her dream was to be a dancer and now that is no longer possible for her.”

People must understand, Fonda said, that “the climate crisis is actually a massive health crisis” for people living in communities made toxic by fossil fuels all over the country and around the world. A cancer survivor in her own life, Fonda said she was told by someone when she threatened to tattoo the phrase “climate emergency” on her bald head if the chemotherapy took her hair that “the cancer community doesn’t like to be looped in with other causes.”

“Causes?!” she recalled exclaiming in response. “Honey, the climate crisis is not a cause. This is the largest crisis humanity has ever faced. We’re running out of time and we have to fight back.”

Climate Resilience and Housing Justice

(From left): Author and labor organizer Saket Soni, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), and Consumer Watchdog’s Jamie Court. (Photo: © Bryan Giardinelli / The Sanders Institute)

Also on the climate front—which highlighted the intersectional style of the Sanders Institute’s gathering—Congresswoman Jayapal joined with author and labor organizer Saket Soni as well as Jamie Court of the California-based Consumer Watchdog, an advocacy group, to discuss the linked issues of community resilience amid extreme weather disasters and soaring insurance costs that have arrived hand-in-hand with rising global temperatures.

While Soni in his work has been at the forefront of building up climate resilience in communities for decades—both by helping to mitigate the impact of extreme weather and also working on disaster relief and rebuilding—Jayapal explained that she has a bill in the U.S. House—called the Climate Resilience Workforce Act—that would formalize processes and establish funding to make such work a more integral part of federal, state, and local planning.

Among others, one component of the legislation would be to make sure that people in communities “disproportionately affected by climate change are actually at the table” when federal funds are dispersed.

According to the panel, the increasing impacts of climate change are a key driver of housing costs but nothing will get better without a justice lens through which to see the crisis of housing in an increasingly hotter world that is resulting in more floods, larger fires, and too little accountability for the corporate interests profiting from those extremes.

“In the context of our climate crisis,” Soni explained during the panel discussion, “there is an opening for justice that Jayapal’s bill is trying to take and that we’re all trying to take. There is an opening where resilience is a framework that can accelerate housing justice, justice for the incarcerated, and justice for immigrants. And that’s what we should all be trying to do, is look at how resilience is a real majoritarian framework—maybe one of the last ones left in our country—and inside of that there is so much consensus that we can push justice forward in many, many ways.”

“There Is a Lot of Potential for Prop 1”

California’s Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom talks with Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) during the event in Los Angeles on Thursday, April 4, 2024. (Photo: © Bryan Giardinelli / The Sanders Institute)

On the state level, California’s Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom arrived at the event to champion the recently approved measure known as Proposition 1, which will, among other things, provide state revenue from a nearly $6.4 billion bond to build and service more treatment beds for those experiencing severe mental health and addiction disorders as a way to curb homelessness across California.

During a panel discussion with Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and California Secretary of Health & Human Services Dr. Mark Ghaly, both Democrats, Newsom said that Prop. 1 would allow for a “strike force” that could better confront the overlapping issues of housing, homelessness, mental health, and substance addiction disorders.

Acknowledging the potential for hyperbole, Newsom said he believes what’s contained in the new law “are the most significant” and far-reaching “behavioral health reforms happening anywhere in the United States of America.”

While the debate over Proposition 1 was heated in the state, including among progressives who landed on various sides of the initiative, a subsequent panel focused on the implementation mostly landed on the side of cautious optimism for what it could be and what kind of model it might represent.

“There is a lot of potential for Prop 1,” said Dr. Margot Kushel, professor of medicine at University of California San Francisco and director of the UCSF Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative.

“No matter where you stood on it before it passed,” Kushel added, “there is a lot of potential now that it’s here and we need to exercise that in the right way, which is that we need to be sure that it is used to enable these living-in-the-community, choice-driven, client-driven, but very supportive programs for people who are suffering terribly.”

The evidence for what it will take to solve the mental health crisis as it pertains to homelessness, said Kushel, is overwhelming. “You don’t need me to do more studies on it,” she said, “we actually just need to bring to bear that funding [supplied by Prop 1] to solve some of these really sticky funding issues so that we can create the workforce, sustain the workforce, and create the programming” that will really serve the unhoused population “with dignity” in the communities they live in.

Several researchers presented on the severe impacts that homelessness and housing insecurity have on students and young people, including those in the foster care system. Other presenters described how community land trusts and other innovative housing collaborations, including faith-based initiatives, are providing models that could be replicated nationwide. Separately, a panel focused on the struggle of homeless veterans told the harrowing tale of former U.S. soldiers denied access to housing and care in Los Angeles who remain in a protracted legal fight with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs over land set aside for exactly that purpose.

“We don’t suffer from scarcity in this country, we suffer from greed. We have enough money to house people and to create situations where people aren’t going to fear for what tomorrow’s going to look like.” —Rep. Pramila Jayapal

In her reflections as a presenter and participant of the gathering, Congresswoman Jayapal explained to Common Dreams that the event was significant because “it lifted up an issue that” has been central for progressives but too often ignored and neglected by those in the media and within both major political parties.

“We don’t suffer from scarcity in this country. We suffer from greed,” Jayapal said. “We have enough money to house people, and to create situations where people aren’t going to fear for what tomorrow’s going to look like.”

“We Need to Call Out the System”

Sanders Institute co-founder Dr. Jane O’Meara Sanders in Los Angeles on Friday, April 5. “We’re talking about transformational change,” she said about the event. (Photo: J. Queally / Common Dreams)

The germination of the gathering, Jane Sanders explained to Common Dreams in the wake of the three days, was like “peeling back the onion” as one area of focus led to another, and a discussion with one invited expert resulted in the introduction to another.

As she realized the issue of housing was such a “hornet’s nest” of intersecting issues, overlapping viewpoints, and innovative thinking, Sanders said it became increasingly clear that was exactly the reason to go forward with the event.

“We’re talking about transformational change,” she said of the work that she, Driscoll, and their colleagues are doing at the Sanders Institute. “None of us are very interested in making small incremental change, which might mean building some more affordable housing or supporting this or that initiative. That’s not what this is about.”

The Sanders Institute was initially in founded in 2018 with the goal of extending the energy, ideas, and political movement sparked during Bernie’s presidential run in 2016. When the senator decided to run again in 2020, Jane and Dave decided to pause operations and then went into full hiatus when the coronavirus pandemic hit. In this context, holding an intimate housing conference in Los Angeles was conceived as a reawakening for the organization and a chance to let people know the time has now arrived to continue their original mission.

Reflecting on his experience after the gathering had concluded, Driscoll said it had been great to see so many people—whether in government or through an organization or at the grassroots level—having the chance to connect, learn from one another, and hopefully collaborate in the future.

“Sometimes this can be a lonely fight, whether or not you’re fighting for housing or you’re fighting for healthcare, sometimes you feel like you’re not getting anywhere,” he said. “But when you bring all these people together like we did over the last couple days, I felt at times a real energy in the room. People felt good about a really tough fight. So I think it inspired and fired people up, and also gave people hope for the future.”

While they don’t have it pinned down yet—that was the admission of the gathering—the point going forward is to clarify what the progressive agenda on housing should be and help push out to others how that fits into the broader movement for bold and lasting change.

When it comes to the opponents of such transformational proposals—national rent control, expansion of social housing, ending homelessness, or forging the Green New Deal for public housing—Driscoll said it’s important that people understand powerful financial interests will fight such ideas with everything they have.

“We need to start calling people out like we did with tobacco money or with oil money,” Driscoll said. “We need to start calling people out and saying, you’re taking money from big real estate and developers that are causing this harm and stopping this progress.” As is true in so many other areas of policy and politics, he said, following the money will be key in the battles to come.

“I don’t like to call out individuals,” Sanders said, “but we need to call out the system.”

“It’s a systematic problem that we don’t say ‘housing is a human right.’ That’s not shared in a capitalist society,” she continued. “Not everybody would agree with that statement. We agree with that statement, but it’s not one of those accepted truisms in this country. So what’s our goal? That it become one.”

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?