Richard Blakesley’s thumping of the Green New Deal (guest essay, March 13) is well-reasoned and entertaining. Unfortunately, it offers no solutions for our huge national problems, no inspiration and no vision. Only a steely determination to avoid “socialism” and enforce the status quo.
This is great if you’re in the top 10 percent. These folks have taken essentially all the U.S. income and wealth gains over the past 50 years. No wonder the middle class is angry. Yet Trump’s sleight of hand and animus have us blaming the poor, immigrants and progressives.
Where is our vaunted American exceptionalism? We were great in our revolutionary founding, building out a nation of enterprise, bouncing back from the Depression (thanks to 8 million “socialist” WPA workers), and saving and rebuilding Europe after World War II. We enjoy vast freedoms, democracy (though tainted by gerrymandering, voter suppression and PACs), colossal wealth and history’s most powerful military.
But the fuel of national greatness is character, not carbon. Thanks to the Great Recession, chronic war, executive greed, uber-partisanship, unwise deregulation, unrealistic tax policy, uncapped PAC money and unchecked Washington lobbying (20 registered lobbyists per congressperson), the American character is benumbed, sapped of vitality and nobility.
Life isn’t all about the stock market. We lead the world in prisoners, obesity, national debt, military spending, private guns, overdose deaths and pharmaceutical prices (300 percent more than Britain for the same basket of the top 20 drugs; so much for the “free market”). Not to mention resurgent white nationalism and racism.
None of this is exceptional. At the federal level we outright avoid the toughest issues. Instead, we passionately wring hands over misspelled tweets, kneeling athletes, White House drama and the wall. Talk about a red herring. We’re a modern Nero, fiddling while the earth burns and our republic’s services erode.
Don’t fret, conservative friends, the Green New Deal won’t fly as drafted. Even though the world’s seven “best nations” are all socialist democracies and the U.S. a joyless 17th in quality of life (U.N., Wharton School).
Regardless, the status quo still isn’t great enough. A nation this rich can afford basic health care for everyone (even keeping private insurance). Opportunity and a living wage job for every willing citizen (remember the WPA). First class, modernized infrastructure. And global leadership in mitigating (even drawing down) greenhouse gasses and resulting ocean life failures.
The ways and means? For starters, halt our $26 billion/year direct subsidies to fossil fuel and begin to phase in carbon taxes (reflecting total costs). And let the public claw back some of its money from the unpunished 2008 financial sector fiasco with a 5 cent per share fee on every trade (worth some $100 billion annually). Invest it in adult job retraining and veterans. Remember Ike’s warning about the military industrial complex? Find another $100 billion or more in the military budget.
If we are to be the greatest nation on earth, let’s start acting like it.
Paul Hudson is a Bloomfield resident.