Ted Yoho & Small God Christians vs. AOC

Readings for 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Isaiah 55: 1-3; Psalm 145: 8-9, 15-18; Romans 8: 35-39; Matthew 14: 13-21

Nearly everyone is celebrating New York City Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’s (AOC) brilliant speech last week in response to two attacks by her colleague, Ted Yoho, a Congressional representative from Florida. Some are calling her speech the best statement of feminist (and even specifically Catholic) values in generations.

Both attacks on AOC occurred on the Capitol steps where Yoho first accosted her directly, calling her “disgusting” for suggesting a connection between poverty and NYC’s rising crime rate. He then turned from his flabbergasted colleague and within earshot of a reporter called her a “f_cking b_tch.”

Ocasio Cortez delivered her now famous response after Yoho offered what everyone described as a “non-apology.” It’s that pretense that I want to focus on here.

That’s because this week’s Sunday readings highlight the issue of hunger and poverty – the issue that precipitated Yoho’s anger. And following his disingenuous remarks the congressman was asked to resign from a position he held on the board of directors of Bread for the World (BftW), a Christian organization focused (according to its literature) on “working to make hunger, poverty, and opportunity a priority for candidates. We are moved by God’s grace in Jesus Christ to work for justice for hungry people in our country and around the world.”

Yoho’s words also deserve attention this Sunday, because of his self-identification with a type of Christianity that sharply contrasts with the Bread for the World approach.  Adherents to Yoho’s brand of faith might be called “small god Christians” – at least when compared with the immensely generous God depicted in today’s readings and embraced by BftW.

Yoho’s Non-Apology

Let’s start by recalling Mr. Yoho’s non-apology. Although his brief statement’s ambiguities and irrelevancies reveal an evidently hasty composition, Congressman Yoho’s self-defensive remarks might be fairly summarized in about a dozen points. Taken together, they unrepentantly underline his supposed respectfulness, innocence, heroism, and devotion to family, country, and God.

His Commitment to Respect  

  1. I apologize for my abruptness with Representative Ocasio Cortez.
  2. Political differences should not lead to disrespect.
  3. My 45-year marriage and fathering 2 daughters have made me aware of my language.

His Innocence

  • What I said to others about Rep. Ocasio Cortez was misreported and misinterpreted by the press.
  • And I apologize for the media’s error.

His Heroism

  • I am passionate about the poor.
  • My wife and I were once poor ourselves.
  • However, we pulled ourselves up by sheer hard work.
  • That proves that any else can do the same without breaking the law.

His Admirable Devotion

  1. Such passion and bootstrap convictions will continue to inform my positions in policy debate.  
  2. They also express my love for my family, my country, and God.
  3. There is no need to apologize for any of that.

Readers should note that in his “apology,” Mr. Yoho uses that key word three different times. With the first, he expresses remorse for his abruptness (not for actually calling his colleague a “f_cking b_tch”). He is also sorry for the errors of the press in reporting his words (i.e., for the alleged mistakes of others, not his own.) Thirdly, without helping his listeners understand the connections, Mr. Yoho actually refuses apology, as he says, for his passion, loving his family, his country, and God.

Small god Christians

It’s that reference to God at the end of his remarks that deserves special comment. In these Sunday remarks, the allusion contextualizes everything else. It also illustrates the tininess of the god worshipped by what I’m calling here, “small god Christians.” (Today’s readings call us to something infinitely grander.)

Notice that Mr. Yoho’s focus is on law, self-justification, family, his own district’s constituents, his nation, and even (with his dog-whistle disconnections between poverty and crime) on his race and class. Presumably, that too is the focus of the god the congressman and his faith community worship.

That’s what I mean by small god Christians and their sharp contrast with the biblical God described below in today’s biblical selections. Small-godders are ethnocentric. Unlike Jesus [who said law was made for human beings, not the reverse (Mark 2:27)] they are law-and-order people. The object of their faith is essentially concerned with “Americans,” and has little or no concern for others, especially if those foreigners belong to other religions – let alone if they are Muslims.  

Little-godders are also (according e.g., to the self-identification of Catholic Attorney General William Barr) “micro-moralists.” They are convinced that the Christian Gospel is limited to matters of personal morality and has nothing to do with social justice. Even more narrowly, they focus on the single issue of abortion as overriding every other moral concern.

Accordingly, small-godders find themselves able to support a candidate like Mr. Trump despite his lifelong problems with marital fidelity, his self-identification as a sexual predator, his association with and sympathy for convicted pedophiles, and his appointment of a Secretary of State who brags about lying, cheating, and stealing. All is forgiven, as long as any candidate is anti-abortion, which is nowhere in the Bible even identified as a moral issue.

That’s the small and morally challenged nature of small god Christianity.

The Generous Biblical God

Now compare all of that with the infinite reality some (as in the Judeo-Christian tradition) call “God.” Immediately below you’ll find his her/his description in this Sunday’s readings. I’ve “translated” them as usual but recommend that everyone read the originals here to see if I’ve got them right.

Note how that God has constructed what some have called a Gift Economy. In that arrangement, everything is free for everyone – with special emphasis on the poor, widows, orphans, and immigrants. Yes immigrants! Biblically speaking, they (the poor) are the special focus of God’s attention and Yeshua’s preaching of Yahweh’s Kingdom (Luke 4: 18). Those who justify themselves as self-made and self-sufficient are ridiculed (Luke 18:9-14).

Isaiah 55: 1-3: In God’s order everything is free for the poor and exploited. Our Mother’s is a gift economy prioritizing the needs of the destitute (not the rich) and insured through laws enforced by government. Water, bread, milk and even the finest wines are provided to everyone without charge.

Psalm 145: 8-9, 15-18: Yes, because She is gracious, merciful and kind, our Divine Mother feeds us and answers all our needs without charge, exactly as She does for the birds, animals, trees and grass. Free food is a matter of God’s generosity, justice and truth. We are all so grateful.

Romans 8: 35, 37-39: Yeshua embodied our Great Mother’s Gift Imperative. We love him for that; we love our Mother for that. So, even though the world’s contradictory ways impose anguish, distress, famine, nakedness, danger and violence, we refuse to abandon the ideal of free food and drink for everyone.      

Matthew 14: 13-21: You say it’s impossible? Recall Yeshua’s “miracle of enough.” When everyone was hungry in the desert, his example of sharing five loaves and two fish caused the provident Jewish mamas there to follow suit by sharing the food they brought along. They turned a desperate crisis into an unforgettable picnic. It was a miracle!

Conclusions

With its self-justification, ethnocentrism, single issue and unbiblical micro-morality, small god Christianity contradicts the One described and exemplified so marvelously in our readings for the day.

Granted that in the Bible’s “battle of the gods” as depicted in last week’s homily, we also find more narrow, ethnocentric concepts of God in that ancient Book’s description of Israel’s long drawn out search for what we’re all looking for – meaningful lives and right relationship with what’s ultimately important in the universe.

However, the Yeshua tradition clarifies the resulting confusion. The Great Master himself turns out to encourage everything that contradicts small-godders as represented in the words of Congressman Yoho and by less enlightened figures in the Bible.

As I pointed out last week, Yeshua incarnates the real causes of hunger and poverty – houselessness (at his birth), immigration (in Egypt), rejection by his community and family (Luke 4: 14-30, Mark 3: 12-20), investigation by the state, torture and ultimately, capital punishment.

That Yeshua has nothing to do with a small god.

As for Mr. Yoho and Bread for the World. . . We can safely assume that he brought his small god approach into board meetings at that organization too. That’s what the small-godders do in such venues. They attempt to shrink to size the generous God that non-profits like BftW promote. At their directors’ table, you can bet that he was as adamant about self-sufficiency, micro-morality, and American-centered law and order just as he’s been each day in the U.S. House of representatives.

Again, that’s the mission of small-godders. Don’t let it be yours.

Marianne Williamson: The U.S. Is 100% Responsible for the World’s Problems!

After the first Democratic Presidential Debate, Marianne Williamson generated a lot of interest.

On the one hand, her name ended up being the most searched on the internet. With language and demeanor vastly different from the other candidates, people wanted to know who she might be.

On the other hand, Williamson generated a good deal of ridicule. Seth Meyers joked that she clearly won’t be around this fall. Ha ha; who would be so foolish as to think otherwise! Kate McKinnon (pictured above) offered a woo-woo Williamson impression that had Marianne eliminating global problems by burning all the sage on the planet. TYT’s Brooke Thomas dismissed Marianne as a “vanity candidate” intent merely on selling her books.

All of that was itself laughable for those who know Marianne Williamson. We know she’s not a woo-woo lightweight; she doesn’t need to sell more books; and if people understand just who she is and grasp her fundamental message, she’ll definitely be around this fall.

And that’s because her absolutely radical approach to politics supplies the simple key we’ve all been looking for to solve the endless problems on our national list, be it climate change, the threat of nuclear war, terrorism, or immigration.

Let me repeat: her approach offers a key far more radical and easily understood than anything Bernie or Elizabeth even imagines or dares to say.

The key I’m referencing is basic to the teaching of A Course in Miracles (ACIM), which has been the guidebook for Marianne’s life and teaching for more than 40 years. Williamson herself describes the course as basic Christian mysticism. It’s not a religion; it’s not for everyone; it doesn’t even demand belief in God. However, it does respond to the universal human quest for ethical principle and spiritual meaning, whether the quest is understood as generated by God, Yahweh, Allah, Krishna, the Buddha, Ultimate Reality, the Ground of Being, Life Itself, or Nature with a capital “N.”

But what about that key I mentioned?

It’s simply this: take 100% responsibility for your problems and deal with them accordingly.

That’s it. And, though difficult to actually implement, that assumption of complete responsibility will go a long way towards eliminating not only personal and inter-personal problems, but all our political conundrums as well.

How radical is that?

It’s the opposite, of course, from the approach of Mr. Trump – and even of Marianne’s colleagues on the debate stage. In contrast to Marianne, every one of them adopts the standard cliched and stereotyped approach so familiar to all of us in our personal lives: I’m not the problem; she is; he is; they are.

In political terms it’s refugees, immigrants, people of color, welfare cheats, unprovoked “terrorists,” the Russians, Chinese, Iranians, Somalis, Libyans, Syrians, MS-13 gang members, and drug dealers. The list goes on and on and on. All of those included must be punished, subjected to sanctions, bombed, droned, or killed.

But we never find fault in ourselves. Never!

Pertinently and most recently, such unwillingness to accept responsibility was expressed by President Trump in his racist harangue against Congressional Representatives Ilhan Omar, Rashida Talib, Ayanna Presley, and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (AOC).  According to Mr. Trump all four representatives outrageously blame the United States the problems of terrorism, Palestinian oppression, public misinformation, and immigration problems. Here’s what Trump and his audience ridiculed as patently ludicrous:

  • Ilhan Omar “attacked our country” saying that terrorism is a reaction to our involvement in other people’s affairs. She even blamed the United States for the crisis in Venezuela!
  • Rashida Talib said that members of congress who support Israel have forgotten what country they represent.
  • Ayana Presley alleged that “ignorance is pervasive in many parts of this country.”
  • AOC compared U.S. border agents to Nazis running concentration camps and claimed that inmates in the camps were forced to drink water from toilets.

To such accusations, Trump’s followers bellowed loud dissent. How could anyone possible accuse Americans of ignorance, of terrorism, of supporting Global South coups, or of maintaining concentration camps or at our border, or of facilitating them in Gaza? After all, (in Mr. Trump’s words) we are the “greatest force for peace and justice in the world.”

But, Williamson and ACIM implicitly ask, what if every one of those accusations is true? What if terrorism is largely blowback? What if the United States has indeed routinely undermined governments in the former colonies, including Venezuela? What if members of Congress generally appear more loyal to Israel than to their constituents? What if many Americans are indeed ignorant, and if those cages on our border – those baby prisons and child detention facilities – are actually concentration camps?

If we seriously entertained those possibilities, dealing with the problems in question would involve change – not principally on the part of our designated enemies – but on our own part. (Imagine that!) It would compel us to terminate uninvited involvement in the affairs of other nations. It would have us cease and desist, for instance, from regime change strategies, from support of Israel’s oppression of Palestinians, and from abusing children by separating infants from their mothers.

In theological terms as understood in ACIM, accepting 100% responsibility for the world’s problems would involve:

  • Prioritizing the world as God created it, belonging to everyone and perfect before humans appeared – without borders, which (though useful for commerce and travel) are not part of the Love’s unchallengeable order
  • Admitting that we are not an exceptional nation – or as ACIM puts it: No one is special, while everyone is special
  • Forgiving those we habitually blame – meaning treating them exactly as we would like to be treated
  • Realizing that no one is attacking us without provocation
  • Yet being willing to treat genuine criminality (e.g. as represented by those cages on the border or by the 9/11 attacks) with humanely retributive imprisonment (and/or impeachment)

Put more practically (according to the points distinguishing Williamson’s platform from that of others who also advocate the Green New Deal, etc.), admitting our responsibility for the world’s problems entails:

  • Paying reparations especially to African Americans, but also to indigenous tribes and to the countries our unprovoked regime-change wars have destroyed.
  • Creating a cabinet-level Department of Children and Youth intent on making our schools “palaces of learning” and our libraries “temples of literature and art”
  • Funding a Department of Peace at the same level as the so-called Defense Department

Imagine a world in which we took 100% responsibility for climate change, nuclear disarmament, immigration, and all the other problems represented by those we habitually blame. Imagine a president using her bully pulpit to set a constructive national tone (vs. the destructive tone set by Mr. Trump) and helping us all to accept 100% responsibility not only for the world’s problems but for our personal conflicts as well. What would happen to our marriages, to our families, to our local communities?

Answers to those musings constitute the reasons why Marianne Williamson, far from deserving ridicule, is the very candidate our country needs.  

P.S. Watch how Marianne knocked it out of the park on Colbert last Monday night:

AOC & Joey B. (with apologies to Dudley Randall)

The present rift between establishment Democrats represented by Joe Biden on the one hand and progressive insurgents led by Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (A.O.C.) on the other, focuses on the Green New Deal. The debate seems to reprise a similar divide in the Black community between W.E.B. Dubois and Booker T. Washington. Their issue at the turn of the 20th century was education and whether African Americans were better served by a vocational curriculum or by the liberal arts. Dubois favored the latter approach, Washington, the former. In 1969 Dudley Randall wrote a famous poem encapsulating the controversy between cautious conservatives and more revolutionary leaders. It was entitled “W.E.B. and Booker T.” Here, I borrow heavily from Mr. Randall to similarly encapsulate the current debate between the Biden and AOC forces.

 “It seems to me,” said Joey B.
“It shows a mighty lot of cheek
“For someone young like you to speak                          
“Of Green New Deals and rising wage
“When all big donors shout with rage
“At Marxist thoughts of equal share
“Of voting rights and Medicare.
“That’s not the way to win the vote
“We’re better served to go by rote.
“And simply do what we’ve done before.”
 
 
“I don’t agree,” said A.O.C.
“We need new vision, words and plan
“Remember our loss when Hillary ran
“Saying words like yours so ‘tried and true.’
“She lost to Donald and so would you.
“And besides, Mother Earth has raised her voice
“To tell us all we have no choice.
“Time’s running short the experts say.
“My Green New Deal will save the day.”
 
“It seems to me,” said Joey B.
“That folks like you have missed the point
“Who tell us ‘Times are out of joint’
“And spend vain days and sleepless
“In uproar over workers’ rights
“Let’s keep mouths shut, and do not grouse,
“Be content to know you’ve won the House.”
 
 
“I don’t agree,” said A.O.C.
“For what can winning votes avail
“If all earth’s systems drown and fail?
“Unless we join to change our way,
“Your grandkids and mine will surely pay
“For the near-sight vision of pols like you.
“But as for me I’ll choose the New.
“I’ll take my chances that people know
“The Green New Deal’s is the way to go
 
“It seems to me,” said Joey B. –
“I don’t agree,” said AOC.

U.S. Concentration Camps Are Already Worse than Hitler’s

Recently Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (AOC) stirred controversy by characterizing U.S. immigration detention facilities as concentration camps. Critics said her comparison was over the top

It was an insult, some said, to families of Holocaust survivors. After all, none of the U.S. detention facilities is an extermination camp like Auschwitz or Buchenwald.

In response, AOC doubled down on her charge. Along with others, she was joined by historians, and even by the editors of The National Catholic Reporter in affirming her accusation. Concentration camps, they all said, are not synonymous with extermination camps. In essence, the former are locations where prisoners are held without charge. In that sense, the U.S. indeed maintains concentration camps, but nothing like German practice. The intention in making that distinction was evidently to distance U.S. camps from the horrors and death of Hitler’s infamous hell-holes.

The argument here takes issue with that distinction. It maintains instead that our burgeoning camps are every bit as brutal as Hitler’s. In fact, the number of deaths connected with the U.S. system dwarf the iconic number of six million incinerated, gassed, shot, or otherwise executed.

To begin with, we must first of all realize that U.S. concentration camps are not a new phenomenon begun with the presidency of Donald Trump. No, they have been with us at least since the end of the Second Inter-Capitalist War in 1945.

In fact, the argument can be credibly made that our country was explicitly founded on extermination, genocide and concentration camps. Using rationale supplied by John Locke, our Founding Fathers wiped out 90% of North America’s indigenous peoples, eventually confining survivors and their descendants in concentration camps (called “reservations”). They employed the same logic to enslave workers kidnapped from Africa imprisoning them in labor camps (called “plantations”).

For Locke, who inspired Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, the crucial and ironic pronouncement behind such operations was that “All men are created equal.” But note well that in his formulation, the statement had no liberating relevance for Native Americans, African slaves, women or propertyless whites. Instead, its expressed intention was to establish the right of imperialists like him and his cohorts to steal land and resources from the continent’s indigenous inhabitants and to exterminate resisters.

Locke’s point (as explained in my book, The Magic Glasses of Critical Thinking) was that just because the “Indians” were here first, they had no special claim on the lands they called home. That is, since (in Locke’s estimation) huge tracts were not being farmed as they would be in England, they were there for the taking by the Indians’ equals from Great Britain.

Locke said that a refusal by the Indians to recognize such equality amounted to a declaration of war against the British. So, the natives could be slaughtered with abandon – a task our country’s great Indian Fighters took on with enthusiasm and relish creating a holocaust that killed millions.

Adolph Hitler himself took inspiration from the examples just cited. He liked the concept of concentration and work camps. He was expressly impressed by the efficiency of U.S. extermination of our continent’s First Peoples. It inspired him and evidently the minds behind contemporary concentration camps.

With all this in mind, it is no exaggeration to say that the camps are reincarnating today before our very eyes. Our government has set them up world-wide. They are so ubiquitous and normalized that they remain practically invisible. But consider their contemporary equivalents in:

  • The U.S. prison-industrial complex itself for blacks, browns and poor whites transforming “Americans” into the most imprisoned population on the planet
  • Guantanamo Bay for holding “terrorists” who after years of internment and torture have yet to be charged with crime and which Fuhrer Trump promises to fill to the brim
  • Black Sites (sic!) concealed throughout the world where kidnapped Muslims and others disappear without a trace and are tortured without mercy
  • Fort Bliss (sic!), a concentration camp for immigrant children
  • Baby Prisons for infants as young as four months
  • Detention centers for refugees from U.S. wars of aggression in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and elsewhere
  • Family prisons for immigrant workers from Mexico and Central America as they await trials which can be postponed indefinitely  
  • The Gaza Strip, the world’s largest open-air prison for Muslim Palestinians, “the Jews’ Jews” – unconditionally endorsed by U.S. politicians of all stripes

In such hell-holes the criminals (often the guards) commit murders, rapes and inflict torture with impunity. Nonetheless, after Hitler, it is no longer permissible for such polite company to crudely incinerate victims in ovens or to poison them in gas chambers. (That would be too “inhumane” and reminiscent of the unspeakable.) So, today’s executioners murder and incinerate Muslims (today’s “Jews”), and others on site. (It saves the trouble and expense of packing them into box cars.)

In other words, the executioners travel to the victims’ countries of origin in the Middle East and Africa and do the dirty work there – often from 10,000 feet in the air, where the screams of incinerated Muslim children cannot be heard. They cremate their victims more humanely in the  targets’ own homes with napalm and white phosphorous. Alternatively, “pilots” seated comfortably in their air-conditioned “theaters” send automated Gestapo (killer drones) to decapitate those suspected of evil thoughts. In the process, the system’s butchers have massacred millions far exceeding anything imagined by that little man with the toothbrush mustache:

  • Already by 1978, John Stockwell, the highly decorated ex-CIA Station Chief in Angola, estimated that his agency’s “Secret Wars” had killed more than six million in its dirty wars against the world’s poor. In Stockwell’s own words, every one of those wars was illegal and “bloody and gory and beyond comprehension almost.”
  • Add to that
    • The hundreds of thousands slaughtered during the 1980s in El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Honduras
    • More than a million victims in the completely illegal war in Iraq
    • Untold fatalities in Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Ethiopia,
    • The 10,000 already killed in Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East – with the numbers increasing each day from cholera and intentionally-inflicted starvation

Again, the numbers are staggering – far beyond anything accomplished in Hitler’s death camps.

Meanwhile, at home, “Americans” are dissuaded from protest by a militarized skin-head police force of body-builders and thugs. “Dressed to kill” in their black or camouflaged flack suits, and anonymous under their helmets and behind polarized face-shields, they stand ready with batons, tasers, and AK47s – as well as employing surplus military tanks, and Humvees – to punish anyone who dares opposition.

So, congratulations to Ms. Ocasio-Cortez. She’s right again – this time about concentration camps. However, she and others are wrong to downplay the comparative horror of the U.S. system. It is every bit as horrendous as Hitler’s. To see the misery all one has to do is connect the dots. They’re there and though scattered are just waiting to be linked (exactly as they were in Germany during Hitler’s rise to power).

In fact, their presence is becoming more evident each day as is the emergence of Hitler-like fascism. We have only to open our eyes to see both phenomena, even though the camps, holocausts, and the system itself have been effectively renamed and camouflaged.

Thanks to AOC and others, the veils are beginning to fall; the issue is now before us. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s message: It’s high time for the rest of us to take note before it’s too late!   

Notre Dame in Flames: Its Image Evokes the Resurrection Our World Requires

It was religion in flames. It was a reminder of the conflagration engulfing our very planet. It should have clarified the relevance of the resurrection story that Christians across the world defiantly celebrate this Easter Sunday. It made me think of female prophets like Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and presidential candidate Marianne Williamson.

Notre Dame in Flames

Of course, I’m referring to the recent conflagration within the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Everyone’s heart went out to the people of Paris as they sang hymns to Mary while helplessly watching her beloved basilica burning on the other side of the Seine. We’re told that even the fire-fighters sang to the Grande Dame while dousing the inferno and risking their lives to rescue relics of Jesus’ true cross and crown of thorns. The spectacle brought the world to tears.

How like the rest of us, I thought, as we witness the Catholic church (and religion in general) hopelessly ablaze! Pedophilia, patriarchy, the antipathy of our children towards the faith that we elders once embraced so fervently have all contributed to the disaster. So has the successful counter-revolution waged by two reactionary popes (John Paul II and Benedict XVI) against the hopes enkindled by the ecumenical movement and Vatican II. Then there’s the heresy of know-nothing religious fundamentalists attempting to counter the creative ferment of liberation theology and of science itself . . . They’ve all done their parts to bring down the new church that John XXIII (and so many of us) once hoped for. Instead, the institution now lies in ruins, in putrid irrelevance. The strewn ashes embody our bleak despair. Only a miracle on the scale of Jesus’ resurrection can save us now.

A World Burning

But the combustion of Notre Dame presents only the palest reflection of our despondency before our very world in flames. That too was imaged forth in the cathedral’s conflagration. The climate chaos caused by our mad consumerism and worship of mammon, weapons, and war has set the planet ablaze. So, we stand there on the opposite shore of our own Seine, our mouths agape, the flames flickering against our mirrored eyes as we stand witness in hopeless impotence and despair. The stench of the ruins, the loss of our treasure, the cost of rebuilding . . . It’s all too much to think about. Mary help us!

And she does! She along with her sister prophetesses bring news of resurrection – just as they did for the male followers of Jesus’ who wallowed in the despondency following that first Good Friday. Yes, the women are here once again to save us with their news of resurrection and its impossible future!

What seems dead can return to life, they all insist. Another America is possible shouts the infant terrible, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Another world is possible Sweden’s teenaged Greta Thunberg repeats for all with ears to hear. Yet more: another God is possible proclaims Marianne Williamson with her invitation to a New Age characterized by the miracle of revisioning EVERYTHING. Naomi Klein, Maria Lopez Vigil, and (from their graves) Dorothy Day, Harriet Tubman, all those suffragettes, and Rosa Parks echo the message. In fact, an entire army of latter-day Jean D’Arcs broadcast the Good News that despite what the world tells us, resurrection – radically new life – is indeed possible. It’s the redivivus message of the goddess Miriam herself – of our Lady, of Notre Dame in flames.

If you want to actually see the hopeful vision of resurrection for America, watch again Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s video published just last week. Through the fascinating art of Molly Crabapple, AOC calls us to face head-on the sad facts of our planet’s Good Friday. Nearly 50 years ago those facts were researched, but cynically obscured and denied by Exxon and its supporting cast of male politicians. All that time they foresaw that without resurrection, disasters like Puerto Rico (devastated by a Hurricane named Maria!!) inevitably represents our common future.

AOC reminds us that devastation caused by an entire system requires systemic reform. That includes a new economy with decent salaries and the type of benefits the industrialized world once took for granted and aspired to – affordable schooling, healthcare for all, meaningful work, comfortable retirement – all in a context where polluters are assigned responsibility for the destruction caused by their decades-long denial allowing them to privatize profits while socializing costs. They owe us! Reparations are due!

Yes, the crisis of climate chaos changes EVERYTHING!

Moreover, it’s all been done before just as our young prophetess insists. In the face of the Great Depression’s and World War II’s lesser crises, FDR put together the original New Deal.

It changed the entire economy. It recognized that unions, full employment, environmental protection, decent jobs, recreation, art, music, dignified retirement, and strict regulation of greedy corporatists were all part of the clean slate the country and world needed to survive.

And it worked!  Our nation and the western economies prospered as never before, as countries across the industrialized world implemented what came to be called the welfare state.

Religion Flaming Out

For her part, Marianne Williamson calls us to re-vision the God of resurrection who makes fundamental change possible. Like no other presidential candidate, she puts her finger exactly on the spiritual transformation required to change everything. We need another God, she says in effect. Not the imperial one foisted upon us since Constantine in the 4th century. That’s an idol. What we need is the God of Jesus: the champion of working people, widows, orphans, and immigrants. We need the God reflected in the teachings of the one who taught that whatever we do to the least of the brethren, we do to him.

Yes, that’s the God of the Bible – a divinity who remains foreign to most. It’s as if we have all been imprisoned in Plato’s Cave. Nothing that the world (and very little that the church) tells us is true, especially about God. Another God is possible, Williamson insists. That God’s vision is 180 degrees opposite that described by our desperate politicians through their media minions. It’s the direct opposite of most of the drivel we hear from the pulpit.

And it’s here that Williams joins Ocasio-Cortez. Insisting that the resurrection we celebrate today is indeed real, Marianne calls us to support something like the Green New Deal. It promises new life for us here and now, including Medicare for all, gun control, higher minimum wages, the overhaul of public education, criminal justice reform, raising taxes on the rich, and repairing damage done by our history of racism.

Conclusion

“Impossible!!” the world shouts with one accord. “It’s too costly. Making changes like the GND proposed by our prophetesses would take decades. Such alterations could never be accomplished by 2030.”

And yet, when the world saw Notre Dame in flames, the money poured in. Already more than a billion dollars have been pledged. Artists and artisans from across the world have pledged their labor. And whereas initial estimates were that it would take 100 years to rebuild Notre Dame, France’s President Macron now assures us that the cathedral will be back to normal, even more beautiful than before in only five years!

That’s what happens when human beings commit themselves to achieving the impossible. As Marianne continually repeats, “There is no order of difficulty in miracles.” And she’s right. Miracles – fundamental changes in perception – are indeed possible. Our times demand them.

Yes, resurrection can happen. Easter calls us to make it happen to save our planet – and our church.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the Green New Deal: A Must-Watch Video

Here in Connecticut, Peggy and I are part of a Climate-Change activist group that is just getting off the ground. We’re planning on supporting the Green New Deal that I’ve written about earlier here and here and here.

In that connection, here’s the best short video I’ve come across on the topic. It’s co-written and narrated by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), the most dynamic new member of the House of Representatives. Please watch it and see if it confers understanding of the GND as it invites you to get on board with this important movement.

Don’t Be Cowed by the Right: Support the Green New Deal

With everybody finally talking about the Green New Deal, progressives should make sure that remains in the national spotlight. They should focus their efforts on improving and promoting the proposal which is now in early draft mode.

However, many seem reluctant to do so. Apparently intimidated by establishment nay-sayers, liberals have instead more often conceded to the shop-worn tropes of climate-change deniers and neo-liberal advocates of trickle-down economic theory. President Trump has characterized the proposal as “socialist.” House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi dismissed it “the green dream or whatever.” 

Such dismissiveness has some progressives repeating the right-wing canard that GND provisions like the following have no connection with fighting climate change:

  • Family-sustaining wage guarantees, especially for displaced workers
  • Enhanced Social Security for the elderly
  • Free higher education and the cancelling of student debt
  • Universal health care with adequate family medical leave
  • Affordable, energy-efficient housing for all
  • Remedies for systemic injustices among the poor, elderly, and people of color

In dismissing those provisions as “irrelevant to climate change,” “unrealistic” and “only aspirational,” liberals and progressives have been apparently cowed by climate-change deniers or at least to those whose remedies would principally benefit corporations, politicians, lawyers, and the infamous 1% instead of our country’s majority. Rather than fully commit to wind, solar, and geo-thermal technologies, the former would prefer retaining present economic arrangements while taxing, sequestering, and trading carbon pollutants.

Despite such diversions, the argument here is that the GND represents the best available response to the climate-change crisis. It deserves the full support of progressives because:

  • It’s already prominently “on the table;” everyone’s talking about it.
  • It boldly confronts the failed neoliberal economic model at its root – capitalism-as-we-know-it – supplying a green jobs-program-with-benefits that, in the past, have normally been associated with decent employment.
  • Far from being off the wall, its provisions are intimately connected with the inevitable dislocations produced by adoption of a carbon-neutral economy.
  • It has successful historical precedent.
  • The funding for its implementation is readily available.

The GND Is on the Table

I recently attended a meeting of climate change activists where some participants spoke as if we are still searching for some means of getting people to recognize and respond to the problem of climate change. Participants wondered, should we endorse the recommendations of the Sierra Club, or perhaps of 350.Org, or maybe the Environmental Defense Fund? It was suggested that we take the best recommendations from such NGOs and select the ones we’d like to endorse.

It was even proposed that our group author a “manifesto” in hopes that a celebrity like Oprah Winfrey might get behind it.

All such approaches fail to recognize that the problem of climate change is already very much on the table and has huge popular support. It’s there because we all know about the unprecedented multi-billion-dollar disasters like hurricane Maria and the uncontrollable California wildfires that have afflicted us in recent months.

And just since the beginning of the new year, a whole series of dispiriting reports have emerged from the scientific community to underline the point. The studies have scientists warning us that our window for response is closing rapidly. Current estimates are that we have no more than a dozen years before we reach the point of no return on a run-away train headed for a disastrous precipice. That’s the crisis staring us in the face as our train’s engineer commands: “Full speed ahead.”

All of that has already elicited massive support for the Green New Deal proposed by Senator Markey (D-MA) and Representative Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). Unlike any alternatives, the GND now has scores of co-sponsors in Congress. Every Senate Democrat running for president has endorsed it. The easy-to-understand proposal has 80% of Americans supporting its provisions.

GND and Capitalism

Perhaps the real reason for progressives’ fears about the Green New Deal is that its proponents dare to identify the elephant in the room – capitalism-as-we-know-it. Understandably intimidated by McCarthyism along with 75 years of pro-capitalist propaganda, liberals have a hard time following suit. They shy away from any positions that might be caricatured as critical of capitalism. They bend over backwards to assure debate-opponents that they are not (as one member of our activist group put it) “crazy socialists.”

Progressives need to put those fears aside. We need to follow the bold example of the youngest and most dynamic member of the House of Representatives and that of one of our most senior senators; neither ever backs down in the face of such epithets. In that, both AOC and Bernie Sanders are increasingly joined by Americans under the age of 35. According to Gallup polls, the majority of them prefer socialism over capitalism.

In any case, the Green New Deal is not socialist. Instead, it is merely a green jobs program with the kind of benefits that used to go along with every decent job. In fact, those benefits are what every employer and government official demands for himself or herself – including health care, sound retirement, and remuneration sufficient to buy a house and send their children to college without incurring life-long debt.

Moreover, all the benefits in question are associated with the severe dislocations associated with transition to a carbon-neutral economy: universal health care to remediate problems caused by the fossil fuel economy; universal post-secondary education to equip workers to participate productively in the new high-tech culture; low-cost energy-efficient housing that will accommodate those forced to move from old fossil-fuel-related jobs to new green employment opportunities perhaps far from their current homes; and reparation for the long-standing practice of locating polluting industries in poor and minority communities.

None of that is off the wall or disassociated from combatting climate change effectively.

New Deal Precedent

All the controversy is like what happened with Roosevelt’s original New Deal.

Back then, with their focus fixed firmly on Wall Street, Republicans objected to the apparent overreach of FDR’s proposals. What, they asked, do Social Security, legalized unions, unemployment insurance, minimum wages, and the “alphabet soup” of programs like the WPA (Works Progress Administration) with its FMP (Federal Music Project) and FTP (Federal Theater Project) have to do with reviving the Stock Market? To them such enactments seemed completely off-the-wall. They wanted top-down solutions that would focus on Wall Street – bail-outs, tax breaks, and government subsidies.

However, for Roosevelt and his constituencies none of the New Deal programs were far-fetched. What Republicans failed to acknowledge (but what Roosevelt saw clearly) was that those living on Main Street needed to believe that response to the national crisis of depression would take them into account as well as the rich who had little need of government assistance. Wage-earners needed jobs with benefits. They needed laws to improve their living standards. They needed a tax code benefitting them rather than the already wealthy. Enactment of programs based on those convictions got FDR elected four times in a row. After Lincoln, he’s generally remembered as the greatest American president.  

Funding the GND

But how will we pay for the Green New Deal?

In short, it should be financed in the same way FDR paid for his original program – by drastically increasing taxes on those most able to afford them. In Roosevelt’s time (and up until the 1960s) the highest tax bracket was 91% on incomes over $400,000. AOC has suggested a 70% tax on incomes over $10 million.

The truth is that enactment of some version of the GND with its transition away from carbon-based energy provides another rich income-source as well. The Green New Deal promises to make wars-for-oil obsolete. The elimination of such adventures will also go a long way towards eliminating blow-back in the form of international terrorism. As a result, our government should be able to shrink its military budget by at least 50% and to reinvest the resulting resources in GND programs.

Conclusion

Yes, we’ve finally arrived at a point where Americans have a proposal before them that they can both understand and whose provisions they overwhelmingly support. It’s got the public’s attention. So, progressives should make it their business to support its general direction and to take part in refining its provisions. Everybody needs to get involved in that project: wage earners, mothers, fathers, children, the unemployed and homeless, and not merely the usual suspects, viz. politicians, lawyers, economists, and business leaders.

Widespread citizen involvement should have progressives pushing for hearings on the GND throughout the country and well before the Democratic presidential debates. Then the suggestions of local meetings should be collated and processed into a final form that the majority can get behind.

To reiterate: this is not merely or even principally the job of professional politicians, but of our national community. After all, the Green New Deal is by no means a finished product.

The bottom line is that progressives should not be intimidated by gas-lighting nay-sayers, technocrats, politicians and lobbyists. Remember, their precise point is to discourage as unrealistic what the world needs to effectively meet the unprecedented emergency presented by climate change.

The Green New Deal is best understood as a green jobs program with benefits. It’s what we all need; it’s what we all deserve.  

Why Progressives Should Focus Exclusively on Promoting the Green New Deal

At last, the Green New Deal (GND) has our country debating climate change in an urgent and understandable way. Though the topic of environmental chaos was totally ignored in the 2016 election cycle, that definitely won’t be the case during the coming election season. We have Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY), and Ed Markey (D-MS) to thank for that.

With everybody finally talking about the Green New Deal, progressives should make sure that the conversation continues. Unlike its alternatives, the GND is easy to understand, and 80% of Americans support its provisions.

For that combination of reasons, scores of Democrats have already co-sponsored the Cortez-Markey proposal. Editors at the New York Times (NYT) have cautiously supported the GND proposal as “better than our climate nightmare.” The AFL/CIO has demanded inclusion in discussions about the scheme’s final shape. Republicans, of course, are generally ridiculing the proposal as too expensive and based on “fake science.”

This is what a national debate looks like. The Green New Deal has finally given climate change the attention it deserves.

Objections to the Green New Deal  

None of this is to deny that the debate has often been contentious even among those with unquestionable commitment to solving the problem of climate change. Some have characterized the GND’s general proposals as “off-the-wall.” They ask: what do issues like universal health care, free post-secondary education, fair housing, paid vacations, state-sponsored childcare, enhanced retirement, and increased minimum wage have to do with climate change? For their part, union representatives have expressed fears that the proposal will adversely impact the good-paying jobs of their rank and file.

Perhaps the NYT editors best expressed the currently prevailing skeptical approach when they asked, “Is the Green New Deal aimed at addressing the climate crisis? Or is addressing the climate crisis merely a cover for a wish-list of progressive policies and a not-so-subtle effort to move the Democratic Party to the left?”

In summary, contrarian assessment so far seems to be that the Cortez-Markey proposition is just too ambitious and disconnected from the actual issue of climate change.

My argument here will be that it is neither. To get what I mean, first of all consider the natural threat posed by climate chaos and then how the Green New Deal ingeniously attempts to meet that threat in ways that surpass any of its alternatives.

The Climate Change Threat

Never in history has the human race faced such peril. We all know about the unprecedented multi-billion-dollar disasters, like hurricane Maria and the uncontrollable California wildfires that have afflicted us in recent months. In January, the Rhodium Group identified unbridled economic growth and factory emissions as the main causes of such disasters.

Then, just since the beginning of the new year, two other dispiriting reports have emerged from the scientific community to underline the point. A study in the journal Science pointed out that the planet’s oceans are warming 40-50% faster than previous UN estimates. The result, we’re told, will be even more virulent hurricanes and other weather events (like tsunamis) in the near future. Meanwhile, the proceedings of the National Academy of Science warned that Antarctica’s huge ice reserves are melting much faster than predicted. As a result, ocean levels are about to swell and swallow up huge areas of coastal plain along with entire island-nations creating possibly billions of climate refugees in the process.

Alarmingly, scientists are warning that our window for response is closing rapidly. Current estimates are that we have no more than a dozen years before we reach the point of no return on a run-away train headed for a disastrous precipice. That’s the crisis staring us in the face as our train’s engineer commands: “Full speed ahead.”

Despite all of that, however, we shouldn’t be discouraged. After all, crises have two aspects. As President Kennedy reminded us 60 years ago, emergencies even like the one before us present a danger, but also an opportunity. I’ve just referred to the dangers; they are obvious to all but the willfully blind.

Incentives to Wall Street

The genius of the Green New Deal is that it highlights the opportunities. Instead of waving the banner of austerity, it upholds the flag of all-inclusive prosperity. It points out unprecedented prospects for improving life on our planet. Yes, it underlines astounding benefits for Wall Street. However, its main beneficiaries live on Main Street. They include our grandchildren yet-to-be-born.

The benefits for Wall Street are surprising but logical at least according to prevailing economic theory. Changing from a carbon-based economy to one based on wind, solar, and geo-thermal energy, promises to create opportunities for innumerable new businesses and entrepreneurs. The UN estimates that the transition will add $26 trillion to the global economy by 2030. Twenty-six trillion dollars! That’s good news for investors.

And they’re beginning to embrace the prospects. Nonetheless, the unaided market gives little indication of mobilizing fast enough or of being focused enough to avoid the impending train wreck. Inducing Wall Street to apply breaks, lay new track and change direction will take time.

Conventional wisdom holds that Wall Street’s market-based solutions will also require hard-to-understand, top-down remedies such as carbon taxes with rebates, carbon sequestration, and carbon trading.  None of those have much hope of gaining the popular understanding or traction needed to inspire the mass mobilization required to address climate change effectively.  

Additionally, market-based solutions necessitate powerful incentives from the government in the form of tax breaks, deregulation, and outright subsidies to corporations. While virtually no one has trouble with the logic of providing such incentives, the crisis at hand requires immediate action that cannot wait for stimulants to kick in any more than it might wait for market solutions to provide timely response to attack by a foreign enemy.

Incentives to Main Street

And that brings us back to the genius of the Green New Deal. The latter recognizes that government must step in to meet a threat much larger and overwhelming than any attack ever experienced in American history or the history of the world. Doing so necessitates government-directed restructuring the economy from the bottom-up. Washington must take charge just as it would during war time – just as it did during World War II. It means DC’s becoming the employer-of-last-resort in new enterprises that Wall Street has proven incapable of sponsoring or even identifying in timely fashion.  

The GND also extends to Main Street the incentives that conventional wisdom routinely offers businesses but is unwilling to distribute to wage-earners. GND proponents understand that responding effectively to the crisis of climate change will require an unprecedented mass mobilization of a population that as yet has exhibited little awareness of the problem’s immediacy. Moreover, the public has been subject to mind-numbing propaganda on the part of powerful climate-change-deniers funded by the fossil fuel industry and by politicians bankrolled by those interests.

GND advocates understand the impossibility of mobilizing an audience like that under the banner of austerity and reduction in living standards. Instead mobilization requires convincing ordinary citizens that responding to climate change will improve their lives and make them more prosperous. It entails providing incentives for them to get on-board just as we saw it might for Wall Street investors.

And no one should object to that. It’s like what happened with Roosevelt’s original New Deal.

Back then, with their focus fixed firmly on Wall Street, Republicans objected to the overreach of FDR’s proposals. What, they asked, do Social Security, legalized unions, unemployment insurance, minimum wages, and the “alphabet soup” of programs like the WPA (Works Progress Administration) with its FMP (Federal Music Project) and FTP (Federal Theater Project) have to do with reviving the Stock Market? To them such enactments seemed completely off-the-wall. They wanted top-down solutions – bail-outs, tax breaks, and government subsidies.

However, for Roosevelt and his constituencies none of the New Deal programs were far-fetched. What Republican cognitive dissonance failed to acknowledge (but what Roosevelt saw clearly) was that those living on Main Street needed incentives too. They needed to believe that response to the national crisis of depression would take them into account as well as the rich who had little need of government assistance. Wage-earners needed subsidies too. They needed laws to improve their living standards. They needed a tax code benefitting them rather than the already wealthy. Enactment of programs based on those convictions got FDR elected four times in a row. After Lincoln, he’s generally remembered as the greatest American president.  

Paralleling FDR’s response to the Great Depression, proponents of the Green New Deal recognize that climate chaos “changes everything.” It impacts our standard of living; it threatens our family life, our health and longevity; it makes irrelevant old kinds of jobs (e.g. in fossil-fuel-related industries); it calls for new kinds of homes adapted to new weather patterns. It calls for massive re-education, and for reparations to those victimized by the old fossil fuel order.

With that in mind, the GND provides new kinds of jobs to do work that the private sector has proven unable or unwilling to provide. It offers massive re-education that will emphasize not only science and technology, but the arts, literature, philosophy, and theology (where the wisdom and moral roots of human civilization are to be found). More specifically, to meet the severe dislocations related to understanding our changed world, to health problems caused by the fossil fuel economy, to energy-inefficient housing, to declining living standards caused by job-loss in a more traditional economy, and to the practice of locating polluting industries in poor and minority communities, the GND demands:

  • Free higher education and the cancelling of student debt
  • Universal health care
  • Affordable, energy-efficient housing for all
  • Family-sustaining wage guarantees, especially for displaced workers
  • Paid vacations for all workers
  • Adequate family medical leave
  • Retirement security for everybody
  • Remedies for systemic injustices among the poor, elderly, and people of color

Grandchildren as Overriding Incentive

As already indicated, all of that is easy to understand and far more likely to secure popular buy-in than cap-and-trade explanations or complex discussions of carbon sequestration or carbon taxes with mathematically calculated rebates for the poor. Everyone can understand higher wages.

However, what’s easiest of all to understand are the benefits such buy-in, popular mobilization, and rapid response will secure for our grandchildren whose very lives are threatened by the inaction rendered likely by those more arcane measures.

To begin with, the Green New Deal will secure for those younger ones we love not only a healthier planet, but longer lives less threatened by war and terrorism. That point is by no means trivial and even goes a long way towards answering the question: How will you pay for it all?

Certainly, the Green New Deal will have to be financed in the same way FDR paid for his original program – by drastically increasing taxes on those most able to afford them. In Roosevelt’s time (and up until the 1960s) the highest tax bracket was 91% on incomes over $400,000. AOC has suggested a 70% tax on incomes over $10 million.

The truth is that enactment of some version of the GND with its transition away from carbon-based energy provides another rich income-source that will benefit our grandchildren. The Green New Deal promises to make wars-for-oil obsolete. So, our descendants will not have to fight such wars or worry so much about the blow-back from “terrorists” created by those foreign adventures. That in turn will enable our government to shrink its military budget by at least 50% and to reinvest the resulting resources in GND programs.

To put a finer point on it: what we’re talking about here is a kind of inverted thinking about military spending. That is, to meet the challenge to national security represented by climate change, we must reduce and redirect rather than increase our bloated military budget. Meeting the financial challenges presented by an alienated and angry Mother Nature calls for a drastic disinvestment from the military and reinvestment in the provisions of a GND – precisely on national security grounds.

Conclusion

Yes, we’ve finally arrived at a point where Americans have a proposal before them that they can both understand and whose provisions they overwhelmingly support. It’s got the public’s attention. So, progressives should make it their business to support its general direction and to take part in refining its provisions. Everybody needs to get involved in that project: wage earners, mothers, fathers, children, the unemployed and homeless, and not merely the usual suspects, viz. politicians, lawyers, economists, and business leaders.

Widespread citizen involvement should have progressives pushing for hearings on the GND throughout the country and well before the Democratic presidential debates. Then the suggestions of local meetings should be collated and processed into final form. To reiterate: this is not merely or even principally the job of professional politicians, but of our national community. After all, the Green New Deal is by no means a finished product.

In short, our unprecedented climate crisis calls for New Beginnings – for a fresh start. That’s what the “New Deal” meant historically. It’s what the Green New Deal should embody today. None of its general provisions are “off the wall.” Each is connected to an actual dislocation caused by the switch to a non-carbon-based economy.

So, progressives should not be intimidated by gas-lighting nay-sayers, technocrats, politicians and lobbyists. Remember, their precise point is to discourage as unrealistic what the world needs to effectively meet the unprecedented emergency presented by climate change.

The NYT Casts Doubt on the Green New Deal’s Radical Objectives

Last Sunday, The New York Times published an editorial on the Green New Deal (GND). It was called “The Green New Deal Is Better than Our Climate Nightmare.”

Though its title purports to second the GND proposal sponsored by Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D NY) and Senator Ed Markey (D MA), the article actually damns the measure with faint praise. It also endorses remedies for the climate crisis much less comprehensive and closer to what corporate America favors than to the broad worker-friendly recommendations of the Markey-Cortez proposal.

By doing so, the authors obscure the proposal’s historical connections to FDR’s daring New Deal as well as those between climate change and a failed capitalist system itself. Finally, the article’s half-measures imply an unexpressed reservation about paying for the GND that shows little appreciation of the problem’s gravity and of the fundamental socio-economic changes necessarily connected with transition to a truly non-fossil fuel economy.

Faint Praise

Begin with the article’s faint praise. True, the Times editors rightly chastise the Trump administration’s policies as “boneheaded,” including its denial of the problem, rolling back of Obama-era limits on emissions, opening more lands to oil and gas exploration, weakening of fuel economy standards, and its formation of a special committee bent on debunking the climate crisis.

Granted: all of that reflects the thinking of GND advocates. So far, so good.

But then, the Times editors criticize the proposal first because its initial draft was poorly written by Ms. Cortez’s staff and, secondly, because the proposal is too extensive.

As one respondent in the editorial’s “Comments” section observed, the Times editorial devoted twice as much space (150 words) to critiquing the proposal’s initial “poorly written talking points” as it did to describing the actual resolution (72 words).

Comprehensive Solutions

And what about the Times’ disagreement with the broad character of the Green New Deal?

To answer, consider the (in progress) proposal so far . . . It suggests nothing less than a complete overhaul of capitalism-as-we-know-it. In doing so, it purposely parallels the measures implemented by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his original New Deal.

Following the Great Stock Market Crash of ’29, the latter didn’t content itself with bailing out banks and Wall Street. Instead it more comprehensively addressed the concerns of Main Street providing minimum wage legislation, unemployment benefits, government-funded jobs for the unemployed, and a Social Security retirement plan for all. It also legalized labor unions.

By adopting that strategy, FDR not only addressed the deep-seated problems of capitalism such as widespread unemployment, low wages and huge wealth-disparities. He also met the genuine needs of the country’s majority and secured their buy-in to the New Deal despite pressure by the elite to reduce the great depression to a technical matter solvable by the monied classes. The working class was won over; its members’ anger against the system was mollified; they put down their pitchforks, Roosevelt was elected four times in a row, and capitalism was saved.

This time around, the green version of the New Deal does something similar. It includes not merely a transition to a renewable energy economy powered by wind and sun, but rejection of any nuclear power options, of technology allowing fossil fuel plants to capture and store their own emissions, and of market-based solutions such as carbon taxes and cap and trade policies. As described by the New York Times, and in the spirit of FDR’s program, the GND proposal suggests:

  • Free higher education
  • Universal health care
  • Affordable housing for all
  • Remedies for “systemic injustices” among the poor, elderly and people of color
  • Family-sustaining wage guarantees
  • Adequate family medical leave
  • Paid vacations for all workers
  • Retirement security for everybody

Like Roosevelt’s measures, these provisions are aimed at securing the required support of the country’s majority who might otherwise be persuaded to continue ignoring the problem by the propaganda of elite climate-change deniers and by the forbidding specter of austerity measures. The generous GND provisions are intended to acquire buy-in on the part of those who also might otherwise be too distracted by simply trying to make ends meet than to comprehend and face up to the very real threats posed by climate chaos.

Failing to see all of that, the Times editorial board asks in effect, what do the social goals listed above have to do with meeting the climate change crisis? Wouldn’t it would be better, the authors imply, to be less radical and more focused on setting a national electricity standard, including the nuclear and carbon capture options along with wind and solar alternatives, providing tax incentives for electrical vehicles, improving the efficiency of buildings and the electrical grid, and intensifying efforts at carbon sequestration?

More specifically, the editors ask, “Is the Green New Deal aimed at addressing the climate crisis? Or is addressing the climate crisis merely a cover for a wish-list of progressive policies and a not-so-subtle effort to move the Democratic Party to the left?”

(See what I meant by “faint praise?”)

In other words, the Newspaper of Record, wants readers to focus narrowly on remediating climate change while overlooking what GND advocates identify as the root cause of the catastrophe. It wants its readers to ignore what Green New Dealers consider the indissoluble link between capitalism-as-we-know-it on the one hand and worker exploitation along with environmental destruction on the other.

The Capitalism Connection

Think about the connections first with workers and then with the environment. (Sorry: but doing so might evoke painful memories of ECON 101.)

With both workers and the environment, capitalists are forced by the logic of market competition to adopt exploitative practices whether they want to or not. That’s because, for one thing, wage workers in particular are compelled to enter a labor market whose compensation level is set by rivalry among laborers seeking the same job.

As a result, each prospective employee will bid his competitors down until what economists have called the “natural” wage level is attained. Marx for one, found this “natural” level below what workers and their families need to sustain themselves in ways worthy of human beings. In other words, wage competition represents nothing less than a race to the bottom. Capitalism’s unregulated labor market assures an inadequate wage for the working class.

Similarly (and this is the major point in the context of climate change) the capitalist system also necessarily devastates the environment. That is, the market’s reliance on competition all but eliminates the presence of environmental conscience on the part of producers.

Thus, for example, environmentally sensitive entrepreneurs might be moved to put scrubbers on the smokestacks of their factories, and filters on the sewage pipes to purify liquid effluents entering nearby rivers, streams and oceans. Doing so would, of course raise the costs of production, Meanwhile, however, competitors who lack environmental conscience will continue spewing unmitigated smoke into the atmosphere and pouring unfiltered toxins into nearby bodies of water. Their lowered costs will enable them to undersell the conscientious producers, and eventually drive the latter out of business. In this way, the market rewards absence of environmental conscience.

In other words, fighting climate change and protecting workers’ rights are intimately connected. They are both aspects of resistance to the destructive logic of capitalist competition.

According to proponents of the Green New Deal, such realizations uncover the failure of the market system itself. That system has proved incapable not only of addressing climate change. It has also failed to provide a living wage for its unskilled workers, jobs for those displaced by technology, affordable housing to the working class, and inexpensive health care – not to mention repair of the country’s crumbling infrastructure. That array of problems calls for remedies far beyond the band-aid solutions suggested by the Times board. It also requires extensive buy-in from the affected majority including those who work for wages. The GND achieves both ends.

Paying for the Green New Deal

Not far in the background of almost any criticism of the Green New Deal is the question unspoken or emphasized, how are we going to pay for such “generous provisions?” The incredible and ironic implication here is not only that it makes sense to do a cost-benefit analysis about saving the planet and the lives of our grandchildren. The implication is also that some price might be too high or some social change (like abandonment of capitalism-as-we-know-it) too drastic!

But overlooked in such mystifying thought processes are the considerations that, among other benefits, abandoning a fossil-fuel-dependent economy will:

  • In the end provide very low-cost energy to consumers
  • Save government subsidies currently extended to the fossil fuel industry
  • Make unnecessary the resource wars currently waged against countries in the Middle East and threatened in Venezuela
  • Therefore, render unnecessary the tremendous expenditures such wars entail
  • And remove a major stimulus to terrorism
  • In summary, necessitate a basic restructuring of our economy including precisely the provisions sought by GND advocates

Conclusion

It’s that fundamental restructuring of everything that the Green New Deal anticipates. The proposal of Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and Ed Markey recognizes that necessity far better than the editorial board of the New York Times.

As Naomi Klein has put it, the climate crisis “changes everything.” It calls for a comprehensive New Deal – for a new start beyond business as usual. It requires recognizing the intrinsic weaknesses of capitalism-as-we-know-it and remediating those weaknesses by incentivizing and including the working class in any solution that has the slightest hope of success.

The Missing Faith Dimension of the Capitalism vs. Socialism Debate

Jesus Communist

Democracy Now recently reported surprising results from a new Gallup poll about evolving attitudes in this country about socialism. The poll concluded that by a 57-47% majority, U.S. Democrats currently view socialism more positively than capitalism.

Let me offer some reflections sparked by those poll results. I offer them in the light of some pushback I received over my related blog posting about the capitalism vs. socialism debate. These current reflections will emphasize the faith perspective that has not only shaped my own world vision, but that should mobilize Christians to be more sympathetic to socialist ideals.

To begin with, the Gallup poll results are themselves astounding in view of the fact that since after World War II all of us have been subjected to non-stop vilification of socialism. As economist and historian, Richard Wolff, continually observes Americans’ overcoming such programming is nothing less than breath-taking. It means that something new is afoot in our culture.

On the other hand, the Gallup results should not be that shocking. That’s because since 2016, we’ve become used to an avowed socialist, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, being the most popular politician in the country.

On top of that the recent 14-point victory of another socialist, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, grabbed everyone’s attention. Recall that Ms. Cortez defeated 10-term congressional incumbent, Joe Crowley, in her NYC race for the Bronx and Queens seat in the House of Representatives.

Socialist candidates seem to be sprouting up everywhere. They advocate a $15 an hour minimum wage, Medicare for all, and tuition free college education.

Such promises seem to be somehow awakening Americans (at least subconsciously) to the reality that at least since WWII, similar socialist programs have become quite familiar. We’ve all experienced their efficacy since Roosevelt’s New Deal. We expect the government to intervene in the market to make our lives better.

In fact, since the second Great War, there have been no real capitalist or socialist economies anywhere in the world. Instead, all we’ve experienced are mixed economies with huge elements of socialism that we’ve all taken for granted.

Put otherwise, economies across the globe (however they’ve identified themselves) have all combined the three elements of capitalism: (1) private ownership of the means of production, (2) free and open markets, and (3) unlimited earnings, with the corresponding and opposite elements of socialism: (1) public ownership of the means of production, (2) controlled markets, and (3) limited earnings. The result has been what economists everywhere call “mixed economies”: (1) some private ownership and some public ownership of the means of production (exemplified in the post office and national parks), (2) some free markets and some controlled markets (e.g. laws governing alcohol, tobacco and fire arms), and (3) earnings typically limited by progressive income taxes.

What has distinguished e.g. the mixed economy of the United States from the mixed economy, e.g. in Cuba is that the former is mixed in favor of the rich (on some version of trickle-down theory), while the latter is mixed in favor of the poor to ensure that the latter have direct and immediate access to food, housing, education and healthcare.

My article also went on to argue that the socialist elements just mentioned have enjoyed huge successes in the mixed economies across the globe – yes, even in Russia, China and the United States.

“All of that may be true,” one of my readers asked “but how can you ignore the tremendous human rights abuses that have accompanied the “accomplishments” you enumerate in Russia and China? And why do you so consistently admire socialism over capitalism which has proven so successful here at home?”

Let me answer that second question first. Afterwards, I’ll try to clarify an important point made in my recent posting’s argument about the successes I alleged in Russia and China. That point was in no way to defend the horrendous human rights abuses there any more than those associated with the successes of the U.S. economy which are similarly horrific. But we’ll get to that shortly.

In the meantime, let me lead off with a that basic point about faith that I want to centralize here. Here my admission is that more than anything, I’m coming from a believer’s perspective.

That is, without trying to persuade anyone of its truth, I admit that my Judeo-Christian faith dictates that the earth belongs to everyone. So, boundaries and borders are fictions – not part of the divine order. Moreover, for some to consume obscenely while others have little or nothing is an abomination in the eyes of God. (See Jesus’ parable about the rich man and Lazarus (LK 16:19-31).

Even more to the point of the discussion at hand, it is evident that the idea of communism (or communalism) comes from the Bible itself. I’m thinking of two descriptions of life in the early Christian community that we find in the Acts of the Apostles. For instance,

Acts 2:44-45 says:

“All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.”

Acts 4:32–35 reads:

“All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had . . . And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.”

Jesus’ identification with the poor and oppressed is also important for me. He said that whatever we do to the hungry, sick, ill-clad, thirsty, homeless, and imprisoned, we do to him. The words Matthew attributes to Jesus (in the only biblical description we have of the last judgment) are:

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry, and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
There is much, much more to be said about this basic faith perspective. But for now, let that suffice.

Now for the second point about human rights:

• To repeat: no one can defend the obvious human rights abuses of Russia or China. They are clearly indefensible.
• In fact, they are as inexcusable as the similar abuses by the United States in countries which are or have been U.S. client states. I’m referring to Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Vietnam, and countries throughout Latin America and Africa. In all the latter, it has not been unusual for freedom of press to be violated, for elections to be rigged (think Honduras just recently), for summary executions to be common, for journalists to be assassinated in large numbers, and for dissenters to be routinely imprisoned and tortured. Christians advocating social justice have been persecuted without mercy. (Recall that infamous Salvadoran right-wing slogan, “Be a patriot; kill a priest.”)
• Moreover, while we have been relatively free from such outrages on U.S. soil, the events of 9/11/01 have been used to justify restrictions of freedoms we have historically enjoyed. Here the reference is to wiretappings, e-mail confiscations, neighbors spying on neighbors, and other unconstitutional invasions of privacy that seem to violate the 4th Amendment of the Constitution. It is now even permissible for the nation’s head of state to identify the press as “the enemy of the people.”
• 9/11 has also been used to justify the clearly illegal invasion of at least one sovereign country under false pretenses (Iraq) with the resultant deaths of well over a million people (mostly civilians). Other countries have also been illegally attacked, e.g. Libya, Yemen and Somalia without due congressional authorization. 9/11 has further “justified” the establishment of “black sites” throughout the world, the “rendition” of prisoners to third countries for purposes of torture, innumerable (literally) arrests without charges and imprisonments without trial. It has even led to extrajudicial killings of U.S. citizens.

Such observations make the general point that when countries perceive themselves to be under attack, they implement policies both domestically and abroad that defenders of human rights correctly identify as repressive, cruel, criminal and even homicidal. Russia, China, and Cuba have been guilty of such policies. But so has the United States in supporting friendly regimes throughout the world and by implementing increasingly repressive policies here at home.

Now consider the pressures that led Russia, for example, to implement its own indefensible repression:

• As the most backward country in Europe, its people had suffered enormously under an extremely repressive Czarist regime. [Czarism, in fact, was the model of government that most Russians (including criminals like Stalin) had internalized.]
• Following its revolution, Russia was invaded by a vast coalition of forces (including the United States). It was forced to fight not only the invaders, but Czarist sympathizers and anti-communists within its own population.
• The country had twice been invaded by Germany through Poland and saw itself as needing a buffer from its implacable enemies to the west.
• Its people had fought heroically against German invaders and though suffering 20 million deaths and incredible infrastructure destruction, it managed to defeat the German army and largely be responsible for winning World War II.
• During the Cold War, Russia found itself under constant threat from western powers and especially from the United States, its CIA, and from NATO – as well as from internal enemies allied with the latter.

My only point in making such observations was not to defend Russia’s indefensible violations of human rights (nor China’s, nor Cuba’s); it was, rather, to make my central point about the efficiency of economies mixed in favor of the poor vs. those mixed in favor of the rich.

As shown by Russia (and even more evidently by China), economies mixed in favor of the poor develop much more quickly and efficiently than economies mixed in favor of the rich. While both Russia and China became superpowers in a very short time, the former European and U.S. colonies in Latin America, Africa, and South Asia have remained mired in colonial underdevelopment. The latter’s organizing principle of “comparative advantage” has proven ineffective in enriching them, since it locks them into positions of mere suppliers of raw materials to industrialized countries. No country has ever reached “developed” status by following such principle. In other words, Global South countries are still waiting for that wealth to “trickle down.”

So, readers shouldn’t mistake the argument made by Wolff and others. It was not to defend the indefensible. (Even Khrushchev and Gorbachev recognized and denounced the crimes of Josef Stalin.) The relevant point is about capitalism vs. socialism. It was to indicate that the vilification of socialism overlooks the achievements of that system despite (not because of) restrictions on human rights that are common to both systems in egregious ways that no humanist or follower of Jesus should be able to countenance.

My conclusion remains, then, that it is up to people of conscience (and especially people of faith) to oppose such restrictions and violations wherever we encounter them – but especially in our own system where our voices can be much more powerful than denunciations of the crimes attributable to “those others.”