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Climate Summit

Photo by Judith Lewis Mernit

Each week, LA Progressive’s editors pick what they regard as a particularly insightful comment from one of our readers, both to draw attention to one particular reader’s thoughts and to encourage more readers to weigh in with their opinions. This week’s pithy "Feedback Friday" response comes from Adam Eran, who commented on the article by Judith Lewis Mernit, "The Climate Summit’s Inconvenient Truth: People Need Jobs."

This repeats the narrative that it’s “either/or”… either environmentally friendly policies or employment for the workers displaced if such policies exist. To make this a bit of self-fulfilling prophecy, little by little, the neoliberals have been undermining the social safety net, so the transition out of old jobs remains perilous. Never mind the inadequacy of unemployment insurance, Bill Clinton, along with Newt Gingrich, ended welfare as we know it. That threw a half million adults off of food stamps. Before that “end,” 76% of those needing public assistance got it. After: 26%. Yep, Democrats…the party of the working class and poor! (Thomas Franks reports Clinton had a deal with Newt to privatize Social Security too, before the Great Recession would have decimated such accounts, but Monica Lewinsky interrupted that.)

The conventional narrative is that there’s some zero-sum game where environmentalists wins come at the expense of job losses, but that’s manifestly not true.

The conventional narrative is that there’s some zero-sum game where environmentalists wins come at the expense of job losses, but that’s manifestly not true. The transition worked better before Gingrich and Clinton got their claws onto it, but the real story is that “labor discipline” requires workers to fear the consequence of switching jobs, so the CEOs and creditors (i.e. the donor class) continues the propaganda.

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Could we guarantee every working age adult a $15-an-hour job with benefits without raising taxes. Heck, the Federal Reserve (“the Fed”) bought $4 trillion in Wall Street junk without raising taxes. Why not? In fact, the Fed issued $16 – $29 trillion in credit to cure the frauds of the financial sector in 2007-8…without raising taxes, and without inflation. For only $9 trillion, we could have paid off everyone’s mortgage…but the political class preferred to bail out the plutocrats and let the economy fail.

So…labor discipline requires the zero sum game. It’s false. It’s not necessary. It’s not true. But you had better take whatever crappy job is on offer, or suffer the indignities of poverty, even homelessness or starvation. That’s “labor discipline” for you…

One other example of how unnecessary is the supposed zero-sum game: Building pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use developments is exactly as expensive, and employs exactly the same number of contractors as building sprawl. People actually prefer living in such places (i.e. they are more valuable, and the market pays premiums for them). They also cut the vehicle miles traveled in half…and the carbon emitted too. The environmentally-friendly solution actually creates more value, rather than costing!

It’s going to take public policy that supports something other than the zero sum game to get things done without crushing workers…but believing the propaganda that such things don’t exist (“There is no alternative” — Margaret Thatcher), or believing collective action is impossible (“Society doesn’t exist, only individuals and families” — Margaret Thatcher…roughly the equivalent of saying “your body doesn’t exist, only cells and organs”)…those are obstacles to getting the needed work done.