On 28 March, US President Donald Trump signed the ‘Energy Independence Executive Order’. This will roll back more than half a dozen measures from the Obama Administration aimed at curbing climate change.
Trump claimed these were “job-killing” regulations. But one major media outlet accidentally exposed the real ‘job killer’. And it was spot on.
Trump’s climate war, and the real ‘job killer’
Once again putting his climate change denial into practice, Trump said his latest executive order would end the “war on coal”. And it certainly was a big boost for the fossil fuel industry, which was quick to praise Trump. One measure scrapped, for example, previously required states to slash their carbon emissions.
But CNN soon pointed out that it wasn’t green regulations which had been killing jobs in the US. It tweeted:
— CNN (@CNN) March 28, 2017
In its article, CNN wrote that “demand for coal in the United States has been declining for years due to capitalism”. And while true, the media outlet was not exactly seeking to overturn the global capitalist system with its piece. So the strength of its “blame capitalism” one-liner was perhaps accidental.
But the mention of capitalism was incredibly poignant.
People’s World wrote in 2011 about how capitalism was “more loyal to profit abroad than jobs at home”. In other words, hiring workers abroad was more attractive because corporations could earn much more in countries with fewer workers’ rights and lower wages. And that’s how the profit motive usually works in the capitalist system.
Alternet, meanwhile, stressed in 2012 that:
For the last four decades, U.S. corporations have been sinking our economy through the off-shoring of jobs, the squeezing of wages, and a magician’s hat full of bluffs and tricks designed to extort subsidies and sweetheart deals from local and state governments that often result in mass layoffs and empty treasuries.
In short, capitalism (and not green regulations) is to blame for the current job situation in the US; and in other wealthy nations for that matter.
Capitalism (and Trump) vs the climate (and the People)
But capitalism isn’t only responsible for ‘lost jobs’. It’s also responsible for climate change. So speaking of tackling unemployment by scrapping green policies is just wrong. We need to deal simultaneously with the root cause of both crises.
After Trump’s presidential victory in 2016, Naomi Klein spoke out to this effect. The author of This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate first outlined why ordinary people were so sick of the capitalist establishment:
a hell of a lot of people are in pain. Under neoliberal policies of deregulation, privatisation, austerity and corporate trade, their living standards have declined precipitously. They have lost jobs… They have lost much of the safety net that used to make these losses less frightening… At the same time, they have witnessed the rise of the Davos class, a hyper-connected network of banking and tech billionaires, elected leaders who are awfully cosy with those interests…, and they know in their hearts that this rising wealth and power is somehow directly connected to their growing debts and powerlessness.
So capitalism has brought us to where we are today. And Trump spoke to the pain it had caused. But he didn’t rail against the system. As Klein pointed out, he and other right-wingers simply answered people’s pain “with nostalgic nationalism and anger at remote economic bureaucracies”; and “by bashing immigrants and people of colour, vilifying Muslims, and degrading women”. And by waging war on the environment, of course.
How we need to respond
In response to the recent right-wing resurgence, Klein insisted:
what we know from the 1930s is that what it takes to do battle with fascism is a real left… An agenda to take on the billionaire class with more than rhetoric, and use the money for a green new deal. Such a plan could create a tidal wave of well-paying unionised jobs, bring badly needed resources and opportunities to communities of colour, and insist that polluters should pay for workers to be retrained and fully included in this future.
In short, she said, a left-wing alternative:
could fashion policies that fight institutionalised racism, economic inequality and climate change at the same time.
The truth is that, by picking on regulations aimed at tackling climate change, Trump is distracting his supporters from the real cause of economic inequality and lost jobs – capitalism. In reality, the fight for full employment, for economic equality, and against climate change is the same fight. And the sooner left-wingers around the world can come together and articulate that as part of an organised and united opposition to the resurgent right, the better.
See below the trailer for the film adaptation of This Changes Everything:
Featured image via Gage Skidmore