Why Going Green May Be Good For Your Health
The Democratic party is the party of the people…Labor had but one friend in politics and this is the Democratic Party…Today we are now the defenders of …democracy and of equal opportunity, the haven of the ordinary people of the land and not of the favored classes or the powerful few. (Harry Truman 1948 Acceptance Speech, Democratic National Convention)
“And understand this if American workers are being denied their right to organize when I’m in the White House I’ll put on a comfortable pair of shoes myself. I’ll walk on that picket line with you…because workers deserve to know that someone is standing in their corner.” (Candidate Obama in 2008 promising a fair deal for labor that never materialized))
“I’ve come here to tell you that I’ve got your back…I will not rest, and I’m going to make sure that the leaders at every level of government don’t rest until every drop of the water…is safe to drink. [Pres. Obama’s remarks on his first trip to Flint Michigan 9 months after the poisoning of Flint’s children made national headlines. Nothing much has changed since)
“81% of the U .S. population is in an income bracket characterized by flat or declining income between 2005-2014” (McKinsey Global Institute, Poorer than their Parents? A New Perspective on Income Inequality)
“The Way We Were”
It’s been 68 years since Harry Truman assured a war-weary America that the Democratic Party was the only reliable friend of the people, the party of the people in fact. Since then five democratic presidents, JFK, LBJ, Carter, Clinton, Obama. have done their damnedest to prove him a liar. In 2016, McKinsey and Company (not a Progressive think tank by any means) released a report proving what most of us trying to keep our economic heads above water already knew —that the vast majority of us are taking two steps backward for every half step forward and are making do with a decade’s worth of flat and declining income. Let’s take a quick look at how some of the main demographic sectors in the population are doing after eight years of the “party of the people” as we get set to elect one of the duopoly to lead us for the next four years.
“Send in the Clowns…”
If you’re a millennial between 22 and 34, you may be one of the 43 million (and growing) who are facing a lifetime of debt peonage. You owe an average of $35,000 (2016 was the most indebted class in our history and will remain so until 2017) not dischargeable in bankruptcy thanks to some fancy footwork by two high-stepping democrats. Bill “I feel your pain Clinton” in league with the Gingrich-led congressional republicans (1998 bankruptcy legislation) made federal student loans non-dischargeable and “honest” Joe Biden shepherded the 2005 bankruptcy “reform” act through congress (making all student loans, federal and private, non-dischargeable). In Biden’s case, blood is thicker than principle when it comes to the state he represents, populated by a mass of criminogenic institutions AKA banks, one of which was paying his son big money to bring home the bacon i.e. slam shut every avenue of escape for young Americans whose debt spelled big profits for these rapacious institutions).
Unknown to most of the public, the feds make big dollars from the predatory interest rates on student loans, Senator Elizabeth Warren claims that, between 2007-2012, the fed slice of the profit pie topped $66 billion. What does Hillary propose to do about this government-sanctioned shakedown? Declare a debt jubilee as the Greens propose and wipe out student loan debt? Not exactly. She proposes to lower the interest rate on loans that would be predatory at any rate. The effect of this munificence? You will be on the payback hook for at least 20 years. After that, according to her campaign promise (and we know from experience how seriously incumbents take the promises they make as candidates), the balance of your loan will be “forgiven.” She’s also a big fan of income-based repayment plans that would stretch pay-back obligations to infinity and greatly increase loan size
The good new keeps coming. If Clinton becomes Madam President in November, those of you entering a public college a couple of years from now may be able to attend debt-free. As with all Clinton’s MSM (main stream media)-touted “progressive” programs, you best get out a magnifying glass to read the fine print. You will be eligible if your household income is below a certain amount, if your state agrees to partner with the feds on subsidizing the program and, here’s the biggie, if you agree to work for free a certain number of hours every week during the academic year. (Clinton’s way of making sure you, unlike her rich banker friends, have “skin in the game”) Picking up where Obama leaves off, she is also touting “free” community college education. Do we spy another corporate give-away masquerading as a benefit to overburdened family budgets? Here’s the “oh-by-the-way-wrinkle” — since most community colleges provide technical training to the future workforce, government sponsored technical ed programs at community colleges will wind up saving corporations hundreds of thousands of dollars that would otherwise have gone into training programs.
Student debt is not just a problem for the young. The fastest growth in student loan debt has been among seniors, 60+, who have seen their indebtedness rise nine-fold since 2004. “Student loan debt owed by older Americans includes debt borrowed or co-signed to help a child or grandchild pay for college as well as student loans for the borrower’s own education…student loans borrowed when returning to college to finish an undergraduate degree, to switch to a new occupation or to obtain a graduate degree.” (Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of Edvisors, a college financial planning website). How bad is it? In 2014, 156,000 seniors had their social security checks garnished because of student loans they’d defaulted on. That’s triple the 47,500 seniors who found themseIves in debt peonage to the government in 2004. Lest you think you have to be either very young or very old to face the rigors of debt peonage, think again. Borrowers 50+ hold 17% — $204 billion— of the $1.2 trillion in outstanding student loans.
The Green Party’s Plan? Free tuition at all public colleges (as is the case in most developed countries) and forgiveness of all student loan debt. Put the magnifying glass away. No fine print here.
“…Don’t Bother They’re Here”
Billing herself as a “progressive who gets things done,” Hillary’s controlled the majority of delegates on the democratic platform committee with her own three and the three of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, her bosom buddy. It was most definitely her way or the highway as Cornel West and the three other Bernie–chosen members soon found out. Whether you agree with NBC’s description of the 2016 version as the “most progressive platform in party history” or with many progressive groups who consider the process and the product major sell-outs, there is no doubt that the usual suspects —big donors with corporate interests to protect — got the biggest slice of the pie.
Let’s take a peek and see the alchemy that transformed potential green (for the environment) silver (for those of us longing for economic relief) into pure gold (for billionaires and corporations). The Clinton/Wasserman-Schultz delegates carried a lot of corporate baggage propelling them to defeat or criminally water down proposed progressive planks. To cite some of the most egregious examples of revolving door politics determining policy, take the case of Carol Browner. Who is she or was she? Head of the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) in Bill Clinton’s administration. As with all FOC’s (Friend of one or both Clintons), the revolving door was soon moving fast and furiously. After serving in both Clinton administrations, she hightailed it over to the Albright Stonebridge Group whose chairman is the former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright (the one who answered a question about the half-million Iraq children starved to death as a result of the US blockade of Iraq during the Clinton administration by insisting “we thought it was worth it.”) and whose clients include Coca-Cola, Walmart and Dow Chemical— big supporters of the TPP and other climate destroying policies. For reasons that can only be guessed at, Obama recalled her to be his Director of Climate and Energy Czar (i.e. shortened to Energy Czar or Climate Czar). Shortly after the BP disaster, she abandoned ship and went back to Albright Stonebridge. She is also the chair of the League of Conservation Voters, an organization that appears to be a lot more interested in conserving profits for the electric and natural gas industry than the consumer. Her votes on the platform committee were in line with her conservation in name only resume —voting down amendments to formally denounce the TPP, and to recognize climate change as an approaching catastrophe. For good measure she three in No votes on the $15 minimum wage (that plank later restored by the full platform committee) and single payer health care. Further proof if any is needed that public service is no hedge against voting down the peoples’ interest when big money tugs the other way.
More egregious still is Neera Tanden who goes back a long way with the Clintons. She was Bill Clinton’s associate director for domestic policy when he was cooking up the horrendous “end welfare as we know it bill” (which she alleges was not in her wheelhouse) and the 1994 crime bill. Her current claim to fame — head of the Center for American Progress (CAP) founded by Hillary’s long time alter ego John Podesta who is joining her as one of three co-chairs of the Clinton transition team. Describing itself as a progressive policy institute, CAP claims to “not just change the conversation, but to change the country “through “bold progressive ideas.”
It’s All About the Money
The contest between right and riches goes back to the bible [those] “who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not for filthy lucre’s sake” (Titus 1:11). Taking a leaf from that book, CAP accepts money from just about anyone willing to write a check. Progressive ideals poll well on the podium, but when it comes to winning the presidency the more “filthy lucre” the better. Who’s writing out checks to CAP? Almost everyone with a least $1 billion in assets: fossil fuel companies (e.g. Pacific Gas & Electric), pharmaceutical behemoths (e.g. Amgen, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson), right leaning foundations, Broad, Bradley and Gates, bankrolling the charter school and voucher movement, giant corporations, (Walmart, Apple, and Google), and criminogenic financial firms (Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Citigroup). In the contest between “filty lucre” and ideals, President Tanden is squarely on the side of “filty lucre.” In lockstep with her leader, Hillary, Tanden voted against virtually every progressive plank in the platform including a fracking ban, carbon tax, plank to keep fossil fuels in the ground, single payer health care, the $15 minimum wage, language referring to the Israeli “occupation of Palestine,” several proposals to halt climate change and an amendment opposing the TPP.
After the deliberations ended, after Bernie’s delegates slunk out of the room defeated on almost every progressive plank they put forward, what was left? Silence — on formal opposition to the TPP trade deal, on corporate welfare handouts especially among armaments and military hardware companies (think Boeing, Lockheed, Raytheon etc.), and on outrageous abuses by corporate lobbyists corralling votes with their checkbooks. On the occupation of Palestine by Israel, the division between rhetoric and reality is particularly stunning. The final platform language throws a bone to Palestinians upholding their right to “independence and sovereignty,”—sentiments endorsed by the entire world’s community for over thirty years. In another nod to an imaginary future Palestinian state, the platform also speaks in general terms about a “viable” Palestinian state. The platform fails to mention that a “viable” Palestinian state can only be achieved by reverting to pre-1967 boundaries (i.e. before the “six day war” between Israel and her Arab neighbors when Israel captured significant portions of Arab-held territory). That, unfortunately, is the end of the good news on Israel-Palestine. Reverting to its Israel-centric bias, the platform “oppose any effort to delegitimize Israel, including at the United Nations,” as though the struggle of the Palestinians to stop the unlawful Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and rollback equally unlawful Jewish settlements is an attempt to deny Israel’s right to exist. By persisting in that equation, the final plank on Israel-Palestine calls for a black-out of all discussion at the UN on Israeli occupation and settlements. Another provision deals a deathblow to the future of negotiations by specifying that talks on a two-state solution must be “negotiated directly by the parties.” Experience teaches that negotiations conducted solely by two opposing parties without intermediaries are doomed.
Given that Hillary and Wasserman-Schultz’s handpicked members voted down virtually every progressive plank submitted by Bernie-selected members, and given that these members were not going “rogue” but following orders, where does that leave the “progressive who gets things done?” Only on the subject of Israel is she to the right of her buddies on the platform committee. ‘I have stood with Israel my entire life…As president I will continue this fight…reaffirm the unshakeable bonds of friendship and unity between the people and governments of the US and Israel and I will do everything I can to ensure that it [Israel] has the qualitative military edge to defend itself…I will…invite the Israeli PM to the White House in my first month in office. (“How I Would Reaffirm Unbreakable Bond with Israel and Benjamin Netanyahu” Op-Ed The Forward, 11/4/2015)
The sentiments in her op-ed and in her campaign speech to AIPAC (Israel lobby) and in her statements in other venues all strike the same note —her unquestioning loyalty to Israel. Is this the candidate that once in office would uphold Palestine’s “independence and sovereignty” and work to make of the now occupied territories a “viable” state. Taking Hillary at her word leaves us to conclude that Palestinians would fare no better and maybe a good deal worse with President Clinton in the White House than with President Obama.
Time for a reality check to discover how Clinton’s promises and the planks in the official democratic platform compare. Although she veers to the right of the platform on Israel, her other positions, taken at face value, tend to be more left-leaning but surrounded with so many “weasel” words, carefully crafted exceptions, hedging and finessing conclusions, it is hard to pin down any of her promises to definable goals.
On the TPP, a corporate-rigged, crony capitalism trade deal masquerading as a free trade deal, her latest position (she supported it when she was Secretary of State) is like trying to figure out under which cup the ball is hiding in a shell game. On fracking her views are a bit more “nuanced” (translation: hedging her bets). At the Flint, Michigan debate with Bernie, after listing a whole bunch of mostly incomprehensible conditions, her bottom line “”By the time we get through all of my conditions, I do not think there will be many places in America where fracking will continue to take place.” Hardly the flat-out unconditional rejection of fracking the circumstances warrant.
So much for the environmental president. How’s she doing on the corporate kidnapping of the health care system via the Affordable Care Act? Judge for yourself: First the weasel words of the official 2016 democratic party platform: “We believe…that healthcare is a right and our healthcare system should put people before profits…[W]e took a critically important step toward universal healthcare by passing the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) which has offered coverage to 20 million more Americans.” Clinton’s take on universal healthcare in February— “Based on every analysis I can find, the numbers don’t add up and many people will be worse off than they are now” (the only analysis coming up with those results exists in Hillary’s brain). As the race for the nomination heated up this summer she “modified” her position announcing that the ACA was the first step toward the creation of a universal healthcare system. In some magic alchemy of which only she and her campaign staff are aware, a major corporate welfare program would become—you guessed it — universal healthcare for all Americans. “A step in the right direction” she calls it. Magical thinking we call it.
It’s taken 2500 words to peer into the window of the soul of a potential Clinton administration. What have we found? Business as usual, the corporate oligarchy enjoying a busman’s holiday with more trade deals promising bigger profits, corporate-driven health care at ever increasing cost, fear and terror breeding hate, 15 million children “food insecure,” student debt hollowing out the prospects of our next generation of citizens and voters, further insult and indignity to the planet and a top down economy where more jobs are contingent, pensions are non-existent, and wages continue to stagnate.
It’s not complicated to build a better world — more just, more equal, more peaceful. It takes 34 words for the Green Party to define their goals and there’s not a millimeter of daylight between their assurances and those of Dr. Jill Stein, their standard bearer — “My Power to the People Plan will end unemployment and poverty; avert climate catastrophe; build a sustainable, just economy; and recognize the dignity and human rights of everyone in our society and our world.”
For a people raised on the illusions and promises we are fed every four years, it sounds like the impossible dream. But on the chance that it isn’t, that the Green Party can make the world a better place for us, light years ahead of the bland promises, conditional plans, and convoluted solutions offered by both democrats and republicans maybe it’s worth voting our conscience and praying we get it right.
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