Saturday's newspaper column:
In this, the season of giving thanks, let’s be grateful to Donald Trump. Confirming the failings of his version of capitalism, he and his excusers are proving, before it's too late, that unchecked melding of today’s Republican Party and Trumpism will render the world all but uninhabitable. Two recent publications make it clear.
Our government – Trump’s, ironically – just released a devastating report on current and future effects of climate change. Undeniably, increasingly, the US and the world are in trouble. Security. Infrastructure. Water resources. Food. Public health. Coastal cities. Peace. Counting on Americans’ preference for sale prices over considering not-fake threats to humankind, Trump tried to hide the report by releasing it on Black Friday. Like the CIA’s conclusion about who murdered Jamal Khashoggi, he says he doesn’t believe it. Middle-fingering the planet, he plans to promote fossil fuels at the upcoming UN climate conference. What embarrassing stupidity.
But he cares about average Americans, is making America great, his supporters insist, plugging their ears and shouting “La la la la la.” In part because Trump’s ill-considered tariffs cost them billions, Ford and GM have announced plant closings and laying off tens of thousands of workers. Trump’s predictable, accountability-deflecting response: attack and threaten GM’s (female) CEO. Meanwhile, farmers are burying unsellable soy beans or letting them rot in silos. Less than a tenth of the promised corporate welfare necessitated by Trump’s ego-driven trade wars has been sent their way.
Until President Obama, there’d been few rules requiring the testing of irrigation water for bacteria and other contaminants. Placing private profit above public need, Trump reversed the regulations. And there went the lettuce, along with the health of consumers.
Observing corporate donors to Republicans, demanding and getting deregulation at the expense of the public weal, offers a clear-eyed view of America’s trajectory. Unsustainable, unforgivable, Trump has uncoupled our economy from social conscience. Corporate greed, combined with his government’s disinterest in wise stewardship, have pushed us to a precipice. Members of his party don’t care.
Commissioned by the UN, an international group of scientists and economists just released a sobering report on the future of capitalism. The challenges of climate change, diminishing resources, rising population, failing infrastructure, and exponentially-increasing energy demands are exceeding the capabilities of traditional capitalism. A new economic model is necessary, the report concludes, one which places the survival of humanity and our planet higher than endless consumption and misdirected profit.
As America heads in the opposite direction, facilitated by dismissive rightwing and timorous mainstream media, Republicans turning to scapegoating and denialism, abandoning conservatism, offering ignorance and scorn (Santorum: scientists are in it for the money), but no utile solutions, optimism becomes a fantasy. Europe, less so.
Trumpic capitalism prizes short-term profit above all. Eschewing social conscience, it disregards the interest of average citizens, produces gargantuan budget deficits, is concerned only about maximizing income for CEOs and shareholders. It pollutes the land, poisons our water and crops, worsens climate change, consumes finite resources with no thought to the future. It institutionalizes destructive selfishness.
The fault is not with capitalism, per se. After all, it’s just a system managed by humans. The fault lies with those humans who sell, and those happy to buy, the idea that we needn’t think beyond ourselves. The ones who believe, or pretend, climate change is a hoax; or if it isn’t, it’s not worth addressing. Who approve farm and other corporate subsidies but consider recipients of social services freeloaders. The ones grateful to have a “leader” who makes ignorance and inaction acceptable.
Some corporations in our country have a conscience (unsurprisingly, they tend to have liberal ownership). Some countries on our planet have merged capitalism and moral sensibility, benefitting all citizens. Countries which also sit atop measures of health and happiness; which, understanding science, are switching to sustainable energy sources, a value derided and dismissed by Trump et ilk.
Ronald Reagan embedded in the Republican Party the idea that America is better off when it ignores the needs of the many in favor of the wealth of the few. Trump is his inevitable, if more heartless, successor.
Neither our Constitution nor economic theories accounted for or anticipated such rapid devolution, and too many Americans have been convinced it’s okay. In today’s political environment, it’s hard to imagine meaningful debate about these important, challenging topics, much less finding solutions. I can’t.
And I expect to hear from Trumpophiles who’ll prove me right.