There are two kinds of climate denial, one conservative and the other progressive.
Conservative climate denial goes something like this: Scientists tell us that, to avoid climate catastrophe, we need big government to limit our freedom and prosperity to protect life on earth. As conservatives, we hate big government, and love freedom, prosperity, and the free markets that bring them. If the science requires we sacrifice that, the science must be wrong.
Progressive climate denial goes something like this: Scientists tell us that, to avoid climate catastrophe, we need big government to limit corporate power and protect life on earth. As progressives, we hate big corporations, and love the shared sustainable prosperity that government can require of them. If the science requires that we regulate corporations, the science must be right.
Neither science nor logic tell us any of that. They indicate that climate change is real, human-caused, and potentially catastrophic. But they don’t conclusively tell us what to do about it, or the roles big corporations or big government should play.
Conveniently, however, both narratives deliver enormous profits to political and media power brokers. First, they keep the two sides at war, one fighting for freedom and prosperity, the other for justice and fairness.
Second, they guarantee that no matter which side prevails, the status quo will broker the deal.
Keeping One Eye Open
There was a time when conservatives and progressives could each see half of the reality we face. Conservatives, with only their right eye open, could see that we are out of money and deep in debt. Progressives, with their left eye open, could see that we cannot pay off our debt by extracting it from the poor, the middle class, or the environment. Put our left and right vision together, and most of us could see what was going on. Both sides are correct. We are going bankrupt — our economic and ecological spending are both out of control.
But living within our means is dangerous to a political and media system that thrives by skimming its share from the massive flow of power from nature and people to big corporations and big government. So long as the left denies economic debt and the right denies ecological debt, no governing majority can emerge to challenge uncontrolled spending. Power brokers decide what is politically feasible, and care little whether they call it capitalism or socialism. Their cash cow is the corporate state.
So how do we get our power back from them?
The first step is to realize there is no them. Corporations and governments are not people. They are institutions, legal constructs we create so we can better serve each other.
People pay taxes to government, to pay other people and corporations for services. We pay corporations so they will pay other people and government for more products and services.
When people demand more but won’t spend the money for it, our institutions have ways to make us pay anyway. They borrow the money, usually from other institutions. Then, because institutions aren’t people, people are responsible for the debt.
Officially, the national debt of the United States was about $23 trillion in Fiscal Year 2019. But we actually owe, some estimates say, more than 50 trillion dollars in government debts to ourselves — debts we will need to repay in the next couple of generations. How will we pay those debts back? Many say it doesn’t really matter since the debts are to ourselves. But are they?
Really, the debts are to our institutions. We owe domestic and international corporations, governments, NGOs, wealthy families, and all of the institutions of the political media money machine, all the money that they have spent on our behalf.
To pay them back, we now owe them our work, and our children’s work. We owe them a generous portion of our current and future labor, earnings, and savings, so that they can continue to provide the services that they perform for us. The question is, do we really think they’re doing as good a job at providing for our needs if in the process they have rung up this level of debt on our behalf?
At 50 trillion dollars, the debt would equals about $152,000 per man, woman, and child in the U.S. If you’re a family of four, that’s about $600,000 in debt. Different economists measure the debt differently, so you could cut that number in half or even by 75%. It’s still daunting. And it is not just theoretical. It is on the ledgers. We are indentured servants to our institutional selves. In the next two or three generations, we will have to work very, very hard to pay ourselves back for all the services provided for us in the past.
If we cannot cut spending enough to erase the deficit, what can we do?
The real way to end the deficit is not to consume value. It is to create it, by tapping the power of people and business to innovate. But for that to happen, we need to overcome the gridlock that divides the left and right.
Join us at In This Together and sign the declaration of interdependence — we are ready to come together.