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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 9/7/11

Workers and Environmentalists Unite!

By       (Page 1 of 1 pages)   1 comment
Message shamus cooke

When there are zero jobs available, any job will
do. This fact has been exploited by corporations now re-labeling
themselves "job creators," since being a job creator in a time of
depression brings a religious status similar to a rain god during a
drought. Democrats and Republicans have lavished eternal praise on the
"job creators" and in consequence have created a political atmosphere that
is rabidly pro-corporate "job creators" and anti-everything

In practice this means that ANY new law or regulation that
hinders the power or profits of "job creating" corporations is
instantly attacked as a "job killer." This type of logic is good for
bumper stickers and Tea Parties but bad for those who suffer under the giant
power of corporations, including working people, the unemployed, the
self-employed, and the environment.

For example, in Oregon a statewide measure was passed to
increase taxes on corporations and the wealthy to deal with the state's budget
deficit. The tax money was to be used to save social services and prevent
layoffs. Before it became law the measure was attacked viciously by a
newborn, well-funded group calling itself "Oregonians Against Job-Killing
Taxes." The message was simple: if you tax the wealthy and corporations,
they will punish you by leaving the state and taking their jobs with them;
better to simply accept their absolute power and sing their praises while
reducing their taxes and destroying environmental regulations that impede their

Obama recently surrendered to this philosophy when he
reneged on a promise to adopt stricter air quality standards around ozone
pollution (against the recommendations of scientists from his own Environmental
Protection Agency).  Less ground-level smog would prevent thousands of
deaths while reducing lung and health issues in general, cutting health care
costs by billions. But the interests of the corporate "job
creators" won out in the end. The Huffington Post reports:   

"The White House has been under heavy pressure from
GOP lawmakers and major industries, which have slammed the stricter standard as
an unnecessary jobs killer...Obama said his decision was made in part to reduce
regulatory burdens [on corporations] and uncertainty [for corporations] at a
time of rampant questions about the strength of the U.S. economy."  

How did corporate America react?  

"Thomas Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of
Commerce [a giant corporate lobby group] said the move was "an enormous
victory for America's job creators, the right decision by the president and one
that will help reduce the uncertainty facing businesses." (September
2nd, 2011).    

This dynamic is now the new normal. The same logic was
used after the Gulf Coast BP disaster, when Obama temporarily banned offshore
drilling in response. But this practical and necessary measure was instantly
attacked as a "job killer" and Obama quickly changed his tune and
ended the ban.  Dangerous deep-sea drilling continues and politicians and
the media alike have hushed-over the issues until the next disaster
occurs. The incredible shock and outrage that working people voiced over
the BP oil spill has been ignored in favor of the interests of the "Job

Not only was the BP disaster ignored, but some corporations
used it to their benefit. Since deep sea drilling was dangerous, some
corporations admitted, better to focus on the ever-expanding realm of land
drilling for natural gas.  As the excellent documentary Gasland shows,
drilling for natural gas (also called Liquefied natural gas, or LNG) is
causing catastrophic environmental damage while the Obama administration has
repeatedly encouraged its expansion as an alternative to "foreign
oil." The Environmental Protection Agency has virtually ignored this
now-gigantic industry as corporations like Halliburton pump hundreds of
poisonous chemicals into the ground and air for their personal profit.   

Corporations also won out when it came to
environmentally-sane logging strategies in the Pacific Northwest and the
horrifically-destructive act of Mountain Removal for the mining
industries. Yet another recent victim was the Canadian Tar Sands pipeline
that Obama agreed to, which will run from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico,
carrying oil that was especially destructive to mine. In all these cases the
corporate "Job Creators" attacked the so-called "Job
Killers" for wanting to impose regulations that would help prevent
environmental disasters.    

In addition, corporations quietly sidelined Obama's
campaign promise to set the first-ever limits on the specific pollution blamed
for global warming. At a time when most working people are educated and
deathly afraid of the near-term effects of global warming, the President has
simply stopped talking about the issue. Any respectable climate scientist
will tell you that unless massive environmental changes are made very soon
there will be unstoppable climate change that will have dire consequences for
all humans, not just the ones most immediately effected in areas devastated by
droughts, flooding, and other extreme weather patterns.   

All working people have an interest in ensuring that their
children and grandchildren can live a life without such carnage. Some, however,
are tricked into thinking that the immediate need for jobs overrules any
consideration for the environment, since not eating today is more important
than a global environmental crisis that will strike tomorrow. In reality
there is no such contradiction. Now is actually the perfect time to brush
this corporate-created myth aside and demand what is sorely over-due for both
working people and the environment.   

It should be painfully clear to even the most reality-blind
politicians that the private sector has no interest in creating jobs; they are
quite content sitting on their mountains of cash until wages fall low enough --
due to massive unemployment -- for them to hire more labor. Working people
cannot afford the patience or the low wages. The jobs' crisis demands that
governments on the city, state, and federal level create jobs' programs similar
to the programs enacted during the last great depression. But not just any jobs
will do.   

Given that our society is facing an energy crisis and a
related environmental crisis, only a green job program will do. This
means not only fixing dilapidated bridges and roads, but investing massive
amounts of money in alternative energy -- solar, wind, hydro, etc. -- while
improving and expanding alternative forms of transportation -- high speed
trains, buses, electric cars, etc. It also means massive investments in home
and building weatherization, recycling infrastructure, public education
campaigns, research and development for alternative energy, and a variety of
other measures that will help fundamentally change our culture's relation to
the environment, all of which will create massive amounts of jobs.   

Obama's stubborn refusal to do anything of substance for
labor, the unemployed, and environmentalists creates an opportunity for these
groups to work closely together for a better world. Because politicians
are refusing to respond to society's most pressing needs, new tactics need
to be employed. Lobbying politicians and organizing small rallies cannot
have the same effects they once did.     

Only a sustained campaign with massive mobilizations has
the possibility of achieving the united goals of the labor and environmental
movements. The demand for a federal jobs program that builds an
alternative energy infrastructure and other green public works has the ability
to inspire millions of people to act. To fund such a program demands must
be made to drastically increase taxes on the wealthy and corporations, since
they now have all the money, thanks to the expanding tax breaks for the rich
and corporations over the past thirty years. The era of issue-based
activism has come to a disappointing end. To properly address either the
jobs or environmental crisis all working people must unite in huge numbers with
inspiring demands.   

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist and writer for Workers Action (
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Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (
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