Poor and working class people are always the first to pay the price for ideology. Every day, as the abstractions of war are debated by policy wonks and high-priced desk-jockeys, we sit on the frontlines shooting and being shot at for their theories and their control of resources. Every day, as debt, deficits and the billionaire dog-whistle of austerity are chopped up and repackaged as so many numbers in a database somewhere, thousands of families get thrown out of their homes, millions of Americans lose years on their retirement and generation after generation of American falls prey to the student debt peonage that has risen to over a trillion dollars in America alone. Every day, as politicians use crooked studies from crooked think tanks to justify the poisoning of the planet, we sit on an environmental powder keg, the size of which the world has never seen before.
Right wing “values” are all about “profit values” –and nothing more. Whether poisoning our water, triggering a war or making us pay the receipt for their economic stupidity, when we talk about politics in America, we need to get beyond the abstract and into the reality of millions of lives and a world ruined by Right Wing ideology. These are the outcomes, every time, of Right Wing politics. All politics on the Right Wing tends towards tyranny on the top and suffering for the rest of the humans caught under that power-pyramid.
This past week, right-wing domination of our politics further reminded us that the mega-corporations know no safety-boundaries and no human decency in their eternal drive for profits. Whether it was in the wholesale buy-out of HR 4480 by the Dirty Energy Industry or the massive failure of the “Rio + 20” conference, the average human being, American or otherwise, was reminded of exactly where they stand relative to profit in Right Wing ideology. By examining some key similarities in both corporate efforts to dominate public decision-making, we can distill down to a true right-wing value: maximum profit at any and all non-financial expense.
While we’ve previously seen how the right wing conspires to deprive the poor and jobless for the sake of their billionaire sponsors, this week should remind us that the very environment and air all of humanity marinates and experiences itself in, is up for corporate sacrifice if there’s profit to be made. Cancer rates, poisoning of water tables, mass extinction of species, asthma rates, dead zones, disappearing glaciers? These are “externalities” to the corporate-powered right; costs that do not directly affect them and are thus removed entirely from their psychology and their accounting.
Since the Citizens United ruling, what was once a heavy influence of corporate fiat in politics has evolved into government as a publicly subsidized service for the benefit of big business. One glaring example is the blistering rate at which our current Right Wing-dominated Congress has voted to enrich Big Oil at the expense of the very air, water and earth we depend on. In fact, the political sellout (or corporate buyout) of our environment is literally happening at record rate. (via ThinkProgress)
The House of Representatives holds the title of the most anti-environment House in congressional history. Led by Republicans, the House has voted against the environment 247 times in the last 18 months, averaging one anti-environmental vote for every day the House has been in session.
What precisely is the corporate-colonized Congress prioritizing in its rapid-fire legalization of ecocide?
The House voted to enrich the oil and gas industry 109 times, a total 44 percent of its anti-environment votes. There were 38 votes to prevent clean energy deployment and 12 votes to expedite review of the Keystone XL pipeline.
Out of those 38 votes to prevent clean energy deployment, 13 were votes in the last few weeks alone. Far from “not picking winners and losers”, in the Right-Wing proposed Strategic Energy Production Act (SEPA), the GOP showed its hand by playing favorites with the corporations that bought their way into office.
Rather than balance out these [green energy] cuts with subsequent cuts to fossil fuels, the bill actually increases R&D spending on fossil fuel technologies by 60 percent. (via ThinkProgress)
Quite apart from right-wing propaganda about a supposed love of the “free market,” the key goal here is not some abstract concept of interchange and valuation–no, the goal is to enrich their sponsors, whether through the mirage of a free market or via a sort of corporate-Bolshevism for the 1%, wherein public coffers are leveraged for the profit of billionaires.
The financial sponsors of the political right wing, seeing such a return on investment, are perfectly fine with throwing a few million to some politicians and crooked think-tanks when trillions of profit are possibly up for grabs. What we view as a corruption of our government, Corporate America views as an investment into their business and the kind of world they want to see. The size of this investment is enormous. Just looking at H.R. 4480 (SEPA), one finds a distinct pattern between those who voted in favor of yet another massive give away to the Dirty Energy industry and those who were brave enough to vote against the sellout. According to ThinkProgress
The 248 pro-Big Oil votes received over four times more oil and gas contributions
over their careers.The 248 members — 229 Republicans and 19 Democrats — voted to pass the bill and enrich Big Oil. They received a total of $38.6 million in oil and gas campaign cash…
The House is on track to collect a record amount
of oil industry contributions this cycle, having already reached 2008
levels. This hike in Big Oil spending has been predominantly funneled to Republicans, who received 88 percent of the industry’s campaign dollars for the 2012 cycle.And these are direct donations only — it does not include Super PAC spending or other campaign assistance.Lobbying spending by both oil and coal reached $150 million
and $18 million
, respectively, in 2011…
And yet these millions of dollars pale in comparison to the trillions in profits extorted by dirty energy. In fact, around the world, the fossil fuels industries receive over a trillion dollars in government subsidies every year. So when Rio+20 took place last week down in Brazil, it was a similarly corporatized United Nations backdrop that environmental activists from around the world faced up against. To compact some of the failures of Rio+20, one can begin by examining the 50 page document, “The Future we Want,” produced by the conference. As the Telegraph (UK) explains
Any hope that today’s summit would do much about any of this died long ago. Indeed, it did not even set out to produce any new binding agreements: its ambition only extending to producing an exhortatory, aspirational document…The verbs tell the story. The word “encourage” appears 50 times, the phrase “we will” only five; “support” is used 99 times, “must” just three.
Why did a world conference addressing the need to save a polluted, poisoned and infected planet turn out such empty, non-binding verbiage? How could a meeting of the world’s most powerful bureaucrats turn out so few resolutions to step up to the single most pressing challenge of humanity’s existence? How do we drop the ball like that? As it turns out, the story of the Rio+20 conference isn’t politicians failing to defend their national communinties, but rather its a story of politicians successfully defending the commercial interests of their corporate sponsors. As explained at STWR
Many NGOs observed the growing influence of major corporations
and business lobby groups within the United Nations – one of the biggest differences between the first Rio Summit in 1992 and the latest gathering twenty years later, which is reinforcing policies that support the commercial interests of companies and preventing critical measures that serve the public good.
Much like America’s legislative and regulatory bodies have been colonized by the priorities of the 1%, so too has the international community’s legislative and regulatory bodies been colonized. Much like a colony serves the empire that financed it, so do our politicians serve the corporations that finance them. It’s a pattern that holds the world over. Some observers, like George Monbiot of the Guardian, have noted corporate colonization’s clear impact and limitations on how we deal with any public problem.
These summits have failed for the same reason that the banks have failed. Political systems that were supposed to represent everyone now return governments of millionaires, financed by and acting on behalf of billionaires. The past 20 years have been a billionaires’ banquet. At the behest of corporations and the ultra-rich, governments have removed the constraining decencies – the laws and regulations – which prevent one person from destroying another. To expect governments funded and appointed by this class to protect the biosphere and defend the poor is like expecting a lion to live on gazpacho. You have only to see the way the United States has savaged the Earth summit’s draft declaration to grasp the scale of this problem. The word “equitable”, the US insists, must be cleansed from the text.
Perhaps the only thing less surprising then a corporate-dominated environmental conference supporting a corporate-dominated environment, is that our American politicians (deeper in bed with Dirty Industry than anyone outside the Middle East) were heading the pack to de-fang any possible binding agreement or regulation.
Out of the thousands of environmental activists who flooded to Brazil to engage in what they believed was a good-faith negotiation to improve the fate of the problem, most of them were woefully disappointed and many even walked out in protest. But instead of just walking out and giving up on any hope of global solidarity towards a greener, healthier planet, the environmental activists engaged with who they thought actually cared about making a visible and lasting improvement to the eco-crisis: each other. They walked out of the doors of Rio+20 and into the doors of Peoples Summit for Social and Environmental Justice. This would become the counter-summit to Rio+20. The PSSEJ
“was held over a 10 day period to propose real solutions to the serious problems that humanity is facing. This was the forum where the true meaning of ‘sustainable development’ was discussed and understood, with obvious implications for our current way of life and patterns of production and consumption. Clearly, long-term sustainability requires an acceptance that infinite growth is impossible on a finite planet. And living conditions can never be equalised around the world unless the over-consuming nations – the 20 percent of the world population that consumes 80 percent of the Earth’s resources – learn to live more simply and embrace the principle of sharing.” via STWR
Faced by a system corrupted beyond the use of regular folks, activists from around the world decided to build a democratic alternative for themselves and each other around which to think up and project solutions.
From both the corporate colonization of the American government to the corporate colonization of international governance, we should be able to draw out the importance and power of our shared will and tax pool in the institutionalized form of government. The corporations already have. Our governments, on the local, federal and international levels, have fallen under the heavy influence of corporate fiat. In a democracy, a plutocracy maintains itself by institutionalizing it’s privileges into the structures of that democracy, whether it’s legalizing the buying of elections or freeing corporations of their tax responsibilities. This corporate plutocracy can clearly even affect our abilities to deal with the international eco-crisis that quite seriously threatens the course of modern civilization.
So what then? The problem has two inter-connected factors. On the one hand, whether in Brazil, Greece, Canada or the United States, the democratic process is now dominated by powerful corporations and their insatiable drive for profit. We have to wring that process free of the corporate grip. Unfortunately we cannot yet do this by voting them out or straight up majority street protest because of the second factor — namely, our lack of a critical mass, either nationally or internationally, that will not only impose its majority priorities onto ecological policies but also help generate the culture, values and leadership we need to sustain the struggle past the first few generations and the first immediate struggles.
Right Wing values coalesce inexorably around the centralization of power and in a country as driven by money as ours, that power-centralization tends towards a plutocracy of moneyed interests. This ideology has a very real impact on the very way we live and breathe.
Much like thousands of activists were over-powered in the political mechanisms of Rio+20, so to are we Americans side-lined by corporate and billionaire privilege by the very government whose bills we pay and whose legitimacy rests on our approval. Perhaps the center and left are convinced of the impending ecological crisis corporate America would like us to ignore. Unfortunately, that’s not enough. In fact, in a “democracy” so culturally and politically dominated by the voices of corporations, it’s going to take far more than even a simple majority to replace corporate interests in our politics with human interests.
Anti-environmentalism is if not a psychosis then certainly a type of sociopathic behavior. Cultivating the public will to destroy, poison and belittle the lives of our fellow human beings is a craven and malicious act, no matter the returns. The debate over the poisoning of the planet should be an “all-win” for us lefties. There is no honor, no morality, no intelligence and no humanity in destroying an environmental community that has sustained trillions of life-forms before us. Few acts of arrogance or moral nihilism can even begin to compare to the willful destruction of the planet. Billions of lives are on the line and we need to impact not just politics, but the majority of main-stream consciousness with a deep understanding of how we’re poisoning the world, and how we can starting choosing alternative routes to the future. Much like our activist sisters and brothers found out at Rio, we already have a democratic political apparatus far more responsive than the ones the corporations have purchased for themselves — we have each other.