by Bill Onasch
Because of another project, I’m a little later than anticipated in pulling together the last WIR of this tumultuous year. I had taken some time to update and fine tune a talk about the history of the labor party movement in the USA and its future prospects that had been scheduled this past Saturday. The audience was to be a group of young socialists, mainly campus based, in Connecticut via video hookup through Google’s Hangout.
Unfortunately, like many thousands of other events, and airline flights, around the country it got canceled. Early Saturday the convener in the Nutmeg State called to say a big storm was moving in to their area and asked if they could postpone my presentation to early next year. Naturally, I didn’t object. Kansas City got only a couple of inches of snow. But it was on top of treacherous black ice—leading to dozens of accidents and three fatalities—and overnight temps plunged to -5F, with gusting winds making it feel like more than twenty below zero.
Of course, snow and cold can be expected this time of the year in the Midwest and Northeast. But only in recent years have we heard terms like the Siberian Express and Polar Vortex introduced to weather forecasts. The snow dumped on my friends out in Oregon was not so typical. Nor were the tornadoes in the Southeast. And in southern California, suffering from years of drought and massive wildfires, there was serious flooding in Pasadena.
Climate scientists and a majority of meteorologists now believe increasingly common severe and freakish weather events are part of a climate being rapidly changed by greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels.
About this time last year I was explaining why I did not share in the optimism expressed by many about the “historic” Paris Climate Agreement that has now been signed by nearly every country. My pessimism has been greatly enhanced by the nomination for Secretary of State in the incoming Trump cabinet.
Rex Tillerson is the ultimate “outsider” employed by the same company—known today as ExxonMobil, America’s biggest fossil fuel company–since he graduated from the University of Texas in 1975. For most of that time, Exxon suppressed concerns of their own scientists about Global Warming while publicly denouncing climate change as “junk science.” He’s been CEO since 2006. Tillerson is scheduled to retire next year at which time he will receive 218 million dollars in company stock and a 70 million dollar pension.
While he has no government background, Tillerson has brokered many deals with governments abroad often valued in hundreds of billions of dollars. He has particularly good relations with Vladimir Putin—a life long government employee who managed to accumulate a personal fortune estimated in the billions. Putin honored Tillerson with the Russian equivalent of the Legion of Honor. Some of their biggest deals are on hold because of American sanctions imposed around Crimea/Ukraine. Secretary Tillerson could be in a position to solve that problem.
Rick Perry is the choice of the Denier-in-Chief Elect for Energy Secretary. The former Governor of Texas sits on several energy company boards and was briefly a rival of Trump for the GOP nomination. During the Republican debates he advocated shutting down the department he now wants to head.
Secretary of Interior goes to Congresswoman Cathy McMorris from Montana. That post controls permits and leases on public lands rich in oil and gas deposits. She has said that Al Gore deserves an “F” in science.
Heading up the Environmental Protection Agency is Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt. He at least is familiar with the EPA. He’s spent most of his time and a lot of Oklahoma taxpayer’s money suing the Agency to block regulations. He maintains that science is still divided about climate change.
The Trump transition team has demanded that the Obama administration supply them with the names of all government employees who have attended conferences, or written or spoken about climate change. It’s unlikely they will get such a handy enemies list but government scientists are frantically photocopying and e-mailing research results needed to tackle Global Warming to those who can still use them.
And we should not neglect the President Elect himself who favors a revival of coal and is known to have substantial personal investments in Shell, Chevron, and Halliburton.
Of course, environmental destruction is only one of many fronts in the war on class and climate. But as we prepare for the New Year, it’s important to reaffirm that Global Warming takes top priority. We can reverse unjust laws and even confiscate ill-gotten gains. But there’s no do-overs on climate change.
A Rising Tide Lifts All Yachts
A December 6 New York Times article began,
“Even with all the setbacks from recessions, burst bubbles and vanishing industries, the United States has still pumped out breathtaking riches over the last three and half decades. The real economy more than doubled in size; the government now uses a substantial share of that bounty to hand over as much as $5 trillion to help working families, older people, disabled and unemployed people pay for a home, visit a doctor and put their children through school. Yet for half of all Americans, their share of the total economic pie has shrunk significantly, new research has found. This group — the approximately 117 million adults stuck on the lower half of the income ladder —’has been completely shut off from economic growth since the 1970s’ the team of economists found. ‘Even after taxes and transfers, there has been close to zero growth for working-age adults in the bottom 50 percent.'”
Since 1977, the two official parties alternated control of the White House, twenty years each. The GOP mostly stuck to what became known as Reaganomics, or trickle-down, while the Democrats chipped in by launching deregulation, Globalization, austerity, and privatization.
It’s no wonder that a poll of Millenials nurtured during this period found a majority think capitalism sucks, and a third favor socialism. They were the shock troops of the impressive but short-lived insurgency of a “democratic socialist” within a party often trusted by the capitalists to govern.
In introducing the coming Trump administration, Monty Python would probably say—now for something completely different. The only past Republican presidents with whom he shares something in common are Rutherford B Hayes and George Bush II. All three managed to win elections while finishing second in the popular vote—in Trump’s case 2.7 million fewer votes.
That remarkable achievement was accomplished by the evil genius of a campaign manager who skillfully gamed the system—and probably reads a few pages from Mein Kampf every night at bed time.
Trump—who has no ideology other than self-promotion–needed the appeals to racism, xenophobia, and anti-semitism, hallmarks of fascism in the Breitbart playbook to win the election. Trump’s post-election rallies, his non-stop twitter feeds, and his intervention at Carrier, even before taking office also resemble some of the tactics used by Mussolini and Hitler as they evolved from putsch to power.
But the ruling class doesn’t need fascism today. As the Times article indicates, the uber-rich haven’t had it so good since the early days of Rockefeller, Morgan, and Carnegie. Of course, like Samuel Gompers—they want more. But few if any are considering financing armed gangs to attack unions and radicals—an essential ingredient in fascism. The Breitbart crowd, “white nationalists,” and neo-Nazis who recently shed their swastika logo, are kept strictly in reserve if/until needed.
President Eisenhower was accused of appointing a Cadillac Cabinet that included the CEO of General Motors. But he also appointed a former Plumbers union official as Secretary of Labor.
Trump’s selection of bosses, bankers, and brass hats, some of them billionaires, could qualify for the Rolls Royce Cabinet. For example: The CEO of “too big to fail” Goldman Sachs will chair the President’s Council of Economic Advisers. The CEO of a major Fast Food chain, who believes the current minimum wage is killing jobs, will be the new Labor Secretary. And the beat goes on.
The hubris of a President who finished second was exceeded by his opponent who was convinced she would win and neglected her party’s traditional base. Her party is worthless in combating the reactionary assault on all fronts. Jill Stein’s squandering of millions of liberal dollars on a recount that only gave Trump 131 additional votes in Wisconsin doesn’t inspire much confidence in the Greens.
The Trump regime is not fascist nor is it the Borg. Far from futile, resistance is urgently needed. But it needs to be our class against theirs. Petitions and lobbying will be futile. We need to draw on our strength in the workplace and the communities.
And, above all, as I hope to convince those young people in Connecticut, we need to build a party of our own—a labor party.
I’m now beginning my customary year-end holiday break. The next WIR will be in early January. I thank all readers for your support. Though I’m not religious, I won’t get mad at anyone wishing me a Merry Christmas or Happy Hanuka. I wish all of you, no matter your faith or lack thereof, a very Happy 2017CE.
That’s all for this year.
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