Sep 052017

  by Bill Onasch

Strong Character, Disastrous Model

It didn’t take long for the defiant Texas Strong to become a rallying cry in the aftermath of Harvey. It was embraced by immigrants from Michigan–and south of the proposed Trump Wall—as well as native Texans. It was skillfully exploited by the professional fund raisers of the American Red Cross. And it was incorporated in to plans by the capitalist class to spend whatever it takes of taxpayer money to rebuild Houston, and the smaller towns along the Texas Gulf Coast, just the way they were before being inundated by record rains.

The resilient character of most working class Texans is palpable and admirable. They deserve more than Trump’s National Day of Prayer to support their recovery. But restoring the Gulf Coast just the way it was would/will be criminal negligence.

Some aspects underlying my assertion are explored in an article in the Labor Day edition of the New York TimesIs Houston Still a Model City? Its Supporters Aren’t Backing Down. Emily Badger writes,

Houston is a prime example — of what depends on your point of view. It’s an example of development run amok, of how sprawl can devour nature. It’s what you get when everything as far as the eye can see is designed around cars instead of people. It’s an example, according to a very different interpretation, of how to create affordable housing. It’s proof that fewer regulations mean more prosperity, that the market knows better than any central planner.”

It will be some time before we get a final count of those who didn’t make it out in time.

An estimated 185,000 homes were destroyed or damaged in Texas. It will probably be at least another several days before the massive damage to infrastructure and workplaces can be even initially assessed in this region vital to the present national economy.

Loss of electricity set off explosions in chemical plants and failures in systems supplying safe water for drinking and bathing.

Learning nothing from the lessons of Katrina and Sandy, this is how the best model of deregulated Free Enterprise protected even their own investments.

Texas Strong implicitly rejects the notion that Harvey was divine retribution, like the Biblical flood that floated Noah’s Ark. While insurance companies will call Harvey an “act of God,” and the White House has labeled it an “800-year” disaster, the effects of climate change driving such super-storms are as plain as the grey on my head.

A Preachable Moment

Certainly, we should support desperately needed aid to the victims of Harvey in Texas—and Louisiana. Most unions are taking action to assist their distressed members.

As I write, the New York Times is warning of a new danger,

Just days after Hurricane Harvey devastated parts of Texas and Louisiana, another storm, Hurricane Irma, has strengthened over the Atlantic Ocean, threatening to batter parts of the Caribbean this week as ‘an extremely dangerous’ Category 5 storm, the National Weather Service said on Tuesday morning.

“There is a growing likelihood that Irma will also reach parts of Florida later in the week and weekend, though it is too soon to predict the effect of the storm, which has already earned its Category 5 status with maximum sustained winds of 175 miles per hour, according to the service.”

Among those threatened are two brothers-in-law and a sister-in-law of mine living in Key Largo–where there hasn’t been a hurricane since 1939.

I believe this is an occasion for one of those “teachable moments” that didn’t go nearly far enough after Katrina and Sandy. I think we have to turn it up a notch to become a secular Preachable Moment.

Fortunately for non-experts like me, scientists, environmentalists and economists have already done a lot of the heavy lifting–and much of it is available in literature and video using lay vocabulary. Working class organizations like the Labor Network for Sustainability, Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, and more recently US Labor Against the War, have made a good start in offering position papers, talking points, and timely news reports tailored for use in our unions, workplaces, and communities.

Those of us who are Labor Party Advocates are striving to flesh out the Just Transition approach adopted at the founding of the now defunct Labor Party we hope to help resurrect.

The evidence leads to the exact opposite of the Houston model of an unbridled capitalist market–still hailed by ruling class Think Tanks. It instead points to:

* the need to socialize the environmental and climate wrecking industries

* convert them to ecologically sustainable production and distribution

* democratic planning of the economy guided by scientists and environmentalists and managed by the workers in the workplace

* halt and reverse insidious Sprawl, reclaiming forests, wetlands, and barrier islands, and rebuilding safe, sustainable urban cores

* turn the freeways in to platforms for electric transit, phasing out internal combustion and diesel vehicles.

It is unlikely such preaching will win enough converts quickly enough to substantially affect the recovery from Harvey. But it can expand and strengthen the climate justice current within the only force in society that has both the power and the material interest to stop global warming short of irreversible climate disaster—the working class.

In Brief…

* I resumed posting of news on our companion Labor Advocate blog this morning after a long weekend break. Among the 27 stories that had piled up were several local accounts of Labor Day Fast Food strikes and demonstrations. About 300 turned up for an 8AM march and rally at a Kansas City MacDonalds and a similar number participated in a rally/march at Research Hospital in support of SEIU Health Care workers in tough negotiations with HCA.

* A Gallup Poll reported–“In the U.S., 61% of adults say they approve of labor unions, the highest percentage since the 65% approval recorded in 2003. The current labor union approval is up five percentage points from last year and is 13 points above the all-time low found in 2009.”

* I want to send best wishes to Barb Kacera as she steps down as the founding Editor of WorkDay Minnesota. WorkDay, a project of the University of Minnesota Labor Education Service, went online just a few months after was launched in 2000. I’ve watched its development in to the best local labor website.

* Labor Movie Night at St Paul’s East Side Freedom Library presents Plutocracy I: Political Repression in the USA tonight at 7PM. You can find a listing of more September Library events here.

That’s all for this week.

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