All the Ways Decarbonizing will Save us Loads of Money and Create all Kinds of Jobs
THE CONVERSATION
10/02/2022

By Aled Jones, Anglia Ruskin University | –

The three most prevalent myths about tackling climate change allege that transitioning to renewable energy jacks up household bills, requires massive amounts of government subsidy and creates mass unemployment. These concerns are all (thankfully) false. 

With fellow academics, I studied instances from the past 30 years when governments succeeded in using public investment and regulation to rapidly scale up the deployment of renewable energy technologies like solar panels and wind turbines.

We found that the traditional approach to making energy policy – carrying out cost-benefit analyses, otherwise known as bean counting – tended to impede the roll-out of renewable energy because it misconceived the economy as something static which always operates in an optimal way. This perspective assumes that policy can do little to disrupt the structure of existing markets. The meteoric rise of entirely new sectors over the last decade, such as the global electric vehicle market and offshore wind, show that policy can in fact drive radical changes.

It’s time to debunk the myths which are holding back the transition from fossil fuels.

Myth one: decarbonisation will make electricity expensive

Subsidising low-carbon technology is an investment, not a cost. A recent study suggested it is an opportunity for the global economy with a potential return of US$12 trillion

Government policies, like offering research and development grants to companies experimenting with more capacious batteries or loan guarantees for firms developing riskier technologies such as concentrated solar power, create an incentive for private companies to invest in new ventures too.


Via Pixabay.

Investment eventually creates a tipping point in the market when the natural choice for investors or consumers shifts from a dominant technology like fossil fuel to an upstart one, like renewable energy, because the latter is suddenly cheaper or more profitable than the former. Once this happens, there can be an exponential growth in the deployment of these new technologies. This has already happened: the plunging cost of generating electricity from solar and wind power caused rooftop solar panel installation rates to soar across Europe alongside investment in large offshore wind farms. 

As more of these technologies are deployed worldwide, manufacturers can afford to build larger factories to service growing demand. Coupled with new supply chains, routes to market and the insight gained from making lots of a particular product, the costs of manufacturing drop dramatically. Making one solar panel or wind turbine becomes vastly cheaper over time, which in turn makes the production of a unit of electricity cheaper. These cost curves exist with most new technologies, but not mature ones (like coal power stations) which have been around for decades. 

There is also a hefty cost attached to doing nothing about climate change. Recent estimates show a potential global economic loss of US$7 trillion tied to the continued pursuit of growth powered by fossil fuels. 

Myth two: renewables need massive subsidies

Renewables over the past three decades have already benefited from government subsidies like feed-in tariffs. These give an additional payment to power companies for the electricity they generate from wind, solar and other renewable sources.

Renewables now compete with and even beat the cost of generating power from fossil fuels. Offshore wind, for example, produces electricity at about a quarter of the current price charged to consumers in the UK – a price set by the wholesale cost of gas. Building new wind turbines no longer relies on subsidies.

Meanwhile the fossil fuel industry benefits enormously from subsidies, receiving almost US$700 billion in 2021 alone. These include governments setting and then subsidising the price of petrol or cooking oil for consumers, giving tax incentives to companies importing or exporting fossil fuels and guaranteeing a minimum level of domestic purchase. These so-called brown subsidies lock countries into ever more expensive sources of energy, as fossil fuels are depleted and require ever more expensive methods such as deep ocean drilling or fracking to extract, which would require subsidies growing forever. 

Myth three: jobs will disappear

The transition from fossil fuels in energy systems will shed nearly 3 million jobs in mining, power plant construction and other sectors. But it is expected to create more than 12 million new ones in transport, renewable power generation and energy efficiency by 2030. 


Via Pixabay

Research also suggests that unabated climate change will cause massive job losses on its own, especially in agriculture and construction where extreme weather is likely to wreak havoc. Climate change is already expected to cause US$1 trillion in losses to business over the next five years. 

Plentiful green jobs aren’t inevitable, though. Governments must offer skills and employment support to help workers switch from drilling for oil and gas to deploying offshore wind turbines, for example. Such investment could support green jobs which pay 7% more than the average fossil fuel sector job.

The current approach to making climate policy is hindered by the prevalence of these myths. The truth is that investing in a green transition will lower electricity prices, free funding from entrenched fossil fuel subsidies and create new jobs all over the world. 

If we continue to fuss about the costs of action then by 2050 there won’t be very many beans left to count.

Aled Jones, Professor & Director, Global Sustainability Institute, Anglia Ruskin University

Opinion: Pass ballot initiatives to protect abortion rights, voting
Detroit Free Press Editorial Board

In a representative democracy, voters rely on their elected leaders to adopt laws and policies that reflect the public’s sentiments about the great issues of the day. Lawmakers who ignore or defy the people’s policy preferences risk losing their jobs when the next election cycle rolls around.

But Michigan voters have another recourse when legislators in Lansing turn a deaf ear to public opinion: the ballot initiative.

When state legislators ignore voters’ wishes, Michigan’s constitution provides a remedy.  In this year’s election, giving lawmakers a wake-up call is as easy as 1-2-3.

Placing a proposed law or constitutional amendment before voters is expensive and time-consuming. But in a state where partisan gerrymandering has insulated incumbents in both parties from electoral competition, the ballot initiative has become an increasingly popular way to get Lansing’s attention

Four years ago, voters overcame determined Republican resistance to adopt constitutional amendments that legalized recreational marijuana, put legislative redistricting in the hands of an independent citizens commission, and made absentee voting easier.

This November, Michiganders have the opportunity to approve three more significant amendments — including one that would largely forbid state legislators from intruding on the reproductive choices of Michigan women.

None of these ballot initiatives would be necessary if Republican legislative leaders were more responsive to what Michiganders repeatedly implored the Legislature to do:

∎ Make elected officials’ disclose their financial interest in the legislation and policies they support

∎ Make it easier for voters to vote and for election clerks to count votes

∎ Stop trying to criminalize abortion

But state legislators have done nothing to address these concerns; to the contrary, the Republican legislative majority has spent much of the last four years trying to confound election reforms voters adopted in 2018. So, for reasons we elaborate on below, we recommend that Michigan voters adopt each of the state constitutional amendments on this year’s election ballot by voting YES on Proposal 1, Proposal 2 and Proposal 3.

This Is What a Post-Putin Russia Should Look Like
Alexei Navalny
/
Washington Post

ALSO SEE: Russia Says Troops Are Leaving 
Key City a Day After Putin Laid Claim to It

What does a desirable and realistic end to the criminal war unleashed by Vladimir Putin against Ukraine look like?

If we examine the primary things said by Western leaders on this score, the bottom line remains: Russia (Putin) must not win this war. Ukraine must remain an independent democratic state capable of defending itself.

This is correct, but it is a tactic. The strategy should be to ensure that Russia and its government naturally, without coercion, do not want to start wars and do not find them attractive. This is undoubtedly possible. Right now the urge for aggression is coming from a minority in Russian society.

In my opinion, the problem with the West’s current tactics lies not just in the vagueness of their aim, but in the fact that they ignore the question: What does Russia look like after the tactical goals have been achieved? Even if success is achieved, where is the guarantee that the world will not find itself confronting an even more aggressive regime, tormented by resentment and imperial ideas that have little to do with reality? With a sanctions-stricken but still big economy in a state of permanent military mobilization? And with nuclear weapons that guarantee impunity for all manner of international provocations and adventures?

It is easy to predict that even in the case of a painful military defeat, Putin will still declare that he lost not to Ukraine but to the “collective West and NATO,” whose aggression was unleashed to destroy Russia.

And then, resorting to his usual postmodern repertoire of national symbols — from icons to red flags, from Dostoevsky to ballet — he will vow to create an army so strong and weapons of such unprecedented power that the West will rue the day it defied us, and the honor of our great ancestors will be avenged.

And then we will see a fresh cycle of hybrid warfare and provocations, eventually escalating into new wars.

To avoid this, the issue of postwar Russia should become the central issue — and not just one element among others — of those who are striving for peace. No long-term goals can be achieved without a plan to ensure that the source of the problems stops creating them. Russia must cease to be an instigator of aggression and instability. That is possible, and that is what should be seen as a strategic victory in this war.

There are several important things happening to Russia that need to be understood:

First, jealousy of Ukraine and its possible successes is an innate feature of post-Soviet power in Russia; it was also characteristic of the first Russian president, Boris Yeltsin. But since the beginning of Putin’s rule, and especially after the Orange Revolution that began in 2004, hatred of Ukraine’s European choice, and the desire to turn it into a failed state, have become a lasting obsession not only for Putin but also for all politicians of his generation.

Control over Ukraine is the most important article of faith for all Russians with imperial views, from officials to ordinary people. In their opinion, Russia combined with a subordinate Ukraine amounts to a “reborn U.S.S.R. and empire.” Without Ukraine, in this view, Russia is just a country with no chance of world domination. Everything that Ukraine acquires is something taken away from Russia.

Second, the view of war not as a catastrophe but as an amazing means of solving all problems is not just a philosophy of Putin’s top brass, but a practice confirmed by life and evolution. Since the Second Chechen War, which made the little-known Putin the country’s most popular politician, through the war in Georgia, the annexation of Crimea, the war in Donbas and the war in Syria, the Russian elite over the past 23 years has learned rules that have never failed: War is not that expensive, it solves all domestic political problems, it raises public approval sky-high, it does not particularly harm the economy, and — most importantly — winners face no accountability. Sooner or later, one of the constantly changing Western leaders will come to us to negotiate. It does not matter what motives will lead him — the will of the voters or the desire to receive the Nobel Peace Prize — but if you show proper persistence and determination, the West will come to make peace.

Don’t forget that there are many in the United States, Britain and other Western countries in politics who have been defeated and lost ground due to their support for one war or another. In Russia, there is simply no such thing. Here, war is always about profit and success.

Third, therefore, the hopes that Putin’s replacement by another member of his elite will fundamentally change this view on war, and especially war over the “legacy of the U.S.S.R.,” is naive at the very least. The elites simply know from experience that war works — better than anything else.

Perhaps the best example here would be Dmitry Medvedev, the former president on whom the West pinned so many hopes. Today, this amusing Medvedev, who was once taken on a tour of Twitter’s headquarters, makes statements so aggressive that they look like a caricature of Putin’s.

Fourth, the good news is that the bloodthirsty obsession with Ukraine is not at all widespread outside the power elites, no matter what lies pro-government sociologists might tell.

The war raises Putin’s approval rating by super-mobilizing the imperially minded part of society. The news agenda is fully consumed by the war; internal problems recede into the background: “Hurray, we’re back in the game, we are great, they’re reckoning with us!” Yet the aggressive imperialists do not have absolute dominance. They do not make up a solid majority of voters, and even they still require a steady supply of propaganda to sustain their beliefs.

Otherwise Putin would not have needed to call the war a “special operation” and send those who use the word “war” to jail. (Not long ago, a member of a Moscow district council received seven years in prison for this.) He would not have been afraid to send conscripts to the war and would not have been compelled to look for soldiers in maximum-security prisons, as he is doing now. (Several people were “drafted to the front” directly from the penal colony where I am.)

Yes, propaganda and brainwashing have an effect. Yet we can say with certainty that the majority of residents of major cities such as Moscow and St. Petersburg, as well as young voters, are critical of the war and imperial hysteria. The horror of the suffering of Ukrainians and the brutal killing of innocents resonate in the souls of these voters.

The war with Ukraine was started and waged, of course, by Putin, trying to solve his domestic political problems. But the real war party is the entire elite and the system of power itself, which is an endlessly self-reproducing Russian authoritarianism of the imperial kind. External aggression in any form, from diplomatic rhetoric to outright warfare, is its preferred mode of operation, and Ukraine is its preferred target. This self-generated imperial authoritarianism is the real curse of Russia and the cause of all its troubles. We cannot get rid of it, despite the opportunities regularly provided by history.

Russia had its last chance of this kind after the end of the U.S.S.R., but both the democratic public inside the country and Western leaders at the time made the monstrous mistake of agreeing to the model — proposed by Boris Yeltsin’s team — of a presidential republic with enormous powers for the leader. Giving plenty of power to a good guy seemed logical at the time.

Yet the inevitable soon happened: The good guy went bad. To begin with, he started a war (the Chechen war) himself, and then, without normal elections and fair procedures, he handed over power to the cynical and corrupt Soviet imperialists led by Putin. They have caused several wars and countless international provocations, and are now tormenting a neighboring nation, committing horrible crimes for which neither many generations of Ukrainians nor our own children will forgive us.

In the 31 years since the collapse of the U.S.S.R., we have witnessed a clear pattern: The countries that chose the parliamentary republic model (the Baltic states) are thriving and have successfully joined Europe. Those that chose the presidential-parliamentary model (Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia) have faced persistent instability and made little progress. Those that chose strong presidential power (Russia, Belarus and the Central Asian republics) have succumbed to rigid authoritarianism, most of them permanently engaged in military conflicts with their neighbors, daydreaming about their own little empires.

In short, strategic victory means bringing Russia back to this key historical juncture and letting the Russian people make the right choice.

The future model for Russia is not “strong power” and a “firm hand,” but harmony, agreement and consideration of the interests of the whole society. Russia needs a parliamentary republic. That is the only way to stop the endless cycle of imperial authoritarianism.

One may argue that a parliamentary republic is not a panacea. Who, after all, is to prevent Putin or his successor from winning elections and gaining full control over the parliament?

Of course, even a parliamentary republic does not offer 100 percent guarantees. It could well be that we are witnessing the transition to the authoritarianism of parliamentary India. After the usurpation of power, parliamentary Turkey has been transformed into a presidential one. The core of Putin’s European fan club is paradoxically in parliamentary Hungary.

And the very notion of a “parliamentary republic” is too broad.

Yet I believe this cure offers us crucial advantages: a radical reduction of power in the hands of one person, the formation of a government by a parliamentary majority, an independent judiciary system, a significant increase in the powers of local authorities. Such institutions have never existed in Russia, and we are in desperate need of them.

As for the possible total control of parliament by Putin’s party, the answer is simple: Once the real opposition is allowed to vote, it will be impossible. A large faction? Yes. A coalition majority? Maybe. Total control? Definitely not. Too many people in Russia are interested in normal life now, not in the phantom of territorial gains. And there are more such people every year. They just don’t have anyone to vote for now.

Certainly, changing Putin’s regime in the country and choosing the path of development are not matters for the West, but jobs for the citizens of Russia. Nevertheless, the West, which has imposed sanctions both on Russia as a state as well as on some of its elites, should make its strategic vision of Russia as a parliamentary democracy as clear as possible. By no means should we repeat the mistake of the West’s cynical approach in the 1990s, when the post-Soviet elite was effectively told: “You do what you want there; just watch your nuclear weapons and supply us with oil and gas.” Indeed, even now we hear cynical voices saying similar things: “Let them just pull back the troops and do what they want from there. The war is over, the mission of the West is accomplished.” That mission was already “accomplished” with Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, and the result is a full-fledged war in Europe in 2022.

This is a simple, honest and fair approach: The Russian people are of course free to choose their own path of development. But Western countries are free to choose the format of their relations with Russia, to lift or not to lift sanctions, and to define the criteria for such decisions. The Russian people and the Russian elite do not need to be forced. They need a clear signal and an explanation of why such a choice is better. Crucially, parliamentary democracy is also a rational and desirable choice for many of the political factions around Putin. It gives them an opportunity to maintain influence and fight for power while ensuring that they are not destroyed by a more aggressive group.

War is a relentless stream of crucial, urgent decisions influenced by constantly shifting factors. Therefore, while I commend European leaders for their ongoing success in supporting Ukraine, I urge them not to lose sight of the fundamental causes of war. The threat to peace and stability in Europe is aggressive imperial authoritarianism, endlessly inflicted by Russia upon itself. Postwar Russia, like post-Putin Russia, will be doomed to become belligerent and Putinist again. This is inevitable as long as the current form of the country’s development is maintained. Only a parliamentary republic can prevent this. It is the first step toward transforming Russia into a good neighbor that helps to solve problems rather than create them.

Dear Gov. DeSantis: Ian Isn’t a Once-in-500-Years Flooding Event, It Is the New Normal, and Your Policies Are Helping Cause It
Juan Cole
/
Informed Comment

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has abruptly been handed an honest-to-God crisis that may distract him from his usual antics of trolling Venezuelan asylum-seekers, firing elected prosecutors who disagree with him on coerced childbirth, and firing scientists who wouldn’t manipulate state COVID statistics for him.

DeSantis called Hurricane Ian a once-in-a-500-year flood event.

DeSantis, who hates people who know what they are talking about the way the devil hates holy water, shouldn’t be relied on for either science or history. The flooding caused by Ian could well be the worst for thousandsof years. The most recent warm era in the north Atlantic, the medieval warming period, around 900-1200, seems to have seen ocean surface temperatures that were still colder than today’s. It is our very warm surface ocean temperatures that feed monster storms such as Ian. Moreover, it isn’t going to be something that only happens once in a half-millennium. Massive hurricanes and floods are the new normal caused by humans burning petroleum, coal and fossil gas, which puts billions of tons a year of the dangerous heat-trapping gas, carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere.

This is the same DeSantis who signed a bill into law that forbade Florida municipalities from getting off fossil fuels and turning to wind and solar instead by restricting land use, banning fracking, or interfering with pipelines. The law was supported by the Florida Natural Gas Association. Sunny Florida, which could put in as much solar power as California if its government wanted to, is instead locked into getting 70% of its power from dirty fossil gas, which produces the CO2 that heats the oceans and calls forth monster storms like Ian.

This is the same DeSantis who according to the Orlando Weekly“wants to prohibit state investments that use ‘environmental, social and governance” ratings, which can include taking into account impacts of climate change.’” Kartik Krishnaiyer at The New Republic argues that although DeSantis has in the past paid lip service to acknowledging human-caused climate change, in recent years he has done nothing to abate it or prepare Florida for the ever worsening storms and sea level rise it will face.https://www.youtube.com/embed/MsdIqPbEwWE

So let us underline this policy. The governor of the most vulnerable state in the union to the climate emergency is pulling $250 billion of state investments out of corporations that have a social conscience, including ones working to stop the worst effects of climate change. His rationale? These companies are “woke.” DeSantis wants to be president so much that he is playing to the MAGA crowd in the Republican Party with these self-defeating stunts, mortgaging Florida’s future to his political fortunes. It is the textbook definition of corruption.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is full of people who know what they are talking about, explains the linkbetween hot, tropical ocean water and hurricanes. They conclude, “Recent studies have shown a link between ocean surface temperatures and tropical storm intensity – warmer waters fuel more energetic storms.”

NOAA notes that hurricanes subside when they go north over colder water or go inland, and lose the fuel of their hot water base. One problem we are now seeing is that the ocean water up north is no longer as cold, and there are more and more warm-water anomalies where water is 80 degrees F. (26.6C) or more so hurricanes can remain strong all the way up to New York, Boston and even Newfoundland. The water off Newfoundland used to be cold. It isn’t that it never got hit by a storm, but in the future the impact will be more severe and more frequent, according to the CBC.

Here is how a meteorologist explained the vast destruction that befell Newfoundland from Hurricane Fiona recently:

Hurricanes need +26.5° water for fuel. And as Fiona tracked north it moved over an area with some of the warmest sea surface temperature anomalies in the North Atlantic. This allowed Fiona to maintain strength for an additional ~400 km, before post-tropical transition. #NSStorm

Hurricanes need +26.5° water for fuel.
And as Fiona tracked north it moved over an area with some of the warmest sea surface temperature anomalies in the North Atlantic.
This allowed Fiona to maintain strength for an additional ~400 km, before post-tropical transition.

If Newfoundland is in trouble, you know Florida is under the hammer.

You know it. Ron DeSantis, one of the dumber and more sinister politicians now vying for the presidency — so that he can ruin the whole country the way he has ruined Florida — doesn’t.

Still Content Sucking On The Gas Pump? Get Ready For A Major Change

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Sept. 30, 2022 
Jeff Johnston, EGLE public information officer, JohnstonJ14@Michigan.gov, 517-231-9304

EGLE hosts Clean Energy Business Roundtable

Participants share ideas to advance Michigan’s clean energy and advanced mobility economy

Developing a skilled clean energy workforce in Michigan, leveraging federal funding, stewarding small businesses, and advancing equity were top of mind when more than 20 clean energy business leaders met with state officials representing Governor Gretchen Whitmer; the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE); and EGLE’s Office of Climate and Energy (OCE).

EGLE and OCE organized the Sept. 28 Clean Energy Business Roundtable at Walker-Miller Energy Services in Detroit to discuss the future of clean energy jobs, innovation, and economic development in Michigan and efforts to build a more sustainable, equitable, and prosperous future. The event is a part of the state’s efforts to engage the public and business owners to help implement the goals of the MI Healthy Climate Plan (MHCP), which Gov. Whitmer unveiled in April, and keep Michigan at the forefront of energy and mobility jobs.

EGLE Director Liesl Clark welcomed participants by noting that the recent passage of the federal Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA) opens new opportunities with $369 billion for climate and clean energy provisions nationwide – Congress’ largest climate investment yet. 

“We want to capture that momentum,” Clark said.

“Michigan needs to move quickly to meet the bold climate action goals in the MHCP, and clean energy businesses are critical to getting us there,” said Cory Connolly, OCE climate and energy advisor.

Several roundtable participants stressed that continued clean energy growth requires cultivating skilled workers and connecting with Michigan’s diverse communities, supporting career-track employment through mentoring, internships, apprenticeships, support services, and job training.

“We are in the midst of a transformative opportunity to create a vibrant clean energy economy that is intentional about including all Michiganders, while urgently addressing climate change,” said Carla Walker-Miller, CEO of Walker-Miller Energy Services. “We have the resources, the technology, and the will to do the most important work of this generation. Kudos to Gov. Whitmer and the EGLE team.”

Michigan works to accelerate clean energy and environmental justice

On Sept. 7 and 8, Gov. Whitmer signed executive directives to create jobs in Michigan by ensuring that state departments and agencies use tax credits and other resources in the IRA to build on Michigan’s manufacturing strengths, advance its energy and mobility leadership, and empower workers to succeed; and to lower the cost of doing business and make Michigan more competitive by reducing energy and supply chain costs and continuing to improve permitting processes.

Gov. Whitmer’s four bipartisan annual state budgets have invested tens of millions of dollars in clean energy improvements and upgrades for state facilities, families, local governments, houses of worship, and small businesses and have consistently invested in Michigan Saves, the nation’s first nonprofit green bank supporting small businesses and working families with financing energy improvements. The governor also has announced that 100% renewable energy will power all State of Michigan facilities by 2025. She has joined with governors of Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin to advance the Lake Michigan EV Circuit Tour, a network of electric vehicle chargers spanning more than 1,100 miles of drivable shoreline around Lake Michigan. 

Also this year, EGLE announced a $3.5 million grant to help facilitate the MiNextCities effort by NextEnergy, a Detroit-based leader in smart city technologies. Dearborn, Flint, and Marquette were chosen for the first phase of the three-year MiNextCities pilot project to address climate change, promote resiliency, improve infrastructure, and accelerate the use of clean energy, smart city technology, and efficient mobility solutions.

Recent large clean energy business investments in Michigan include:

With more than 113,000 jobs in every region of the state – the majority in manufacturing (57%) and construction (21.7%) – Michigan’s clean energy workforce leads the Midwest and is fifth overall in the nation. In August, the latest U.S. Energy and Employment Jobs Report ranked Michigan No. 1 in the nation for energy-sector job growth from 2020-21. And clean energy has rebounded faster than the state’s overall economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The MHCP sets an expectation that 40% or more of state and federal funding for climate-related initiatives will benefit disadvantaged communities as part of its focus on environmental justice.

In August, Gov. Whitmer joined the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) to announce Michigan Strategic Fund approval of more than $2.8 million in Training Center Equipment Grants to 74 training providers around the state. The funds will provide employer-driven workforce training, skills development, equipment training, and more. More than 100,000 Michiganders are enrolled in the Michigan Reconnect Program, launched in 2021 to provide free or reduced-cost community college tuition for students 25 and older who have not yet earned a degree. An additional $55 million allocation was recently approved with bipartisan support in the Legislature for fiscal year 2023. More information is available on the MEDC’s Michigan Workforce and Talent website

Join the clean energy and climate conversation

Council on Climate Solutions virtual meetings are open to the public, and anyone can send comments in writing to EGLE-ClimateSolutions@Michigan.gov.

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EGLE COVID-19 RESPONSE: For details on EGLE’s work during the pandemic, visit this webpage. Follow state guidelines at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus.

States Rights And The idea Of Intrusive Feds Goes Out The window When Disaster Strikes. Ask Ron DeSantis

More than 1.5 million Florida residents are without power as Hurricane Ian is pounding the southwestern coast and moving inland. The hurricane was close to a Category 5 storm when it made landfall about 3 this afternoon, with the predicted 12-foot storm surge materializing near Fort Myers. It has been slowing since it hit land, but the damage, including to this year’s orange crop, is already considerable. 

This destructive storm highlights the distance between reality and the ideology that calls for getting rid of the federal government.

As a newly elected congress member in 2013, now-governor of Florida Ron DeSantis was one of the 67 House Republicans who voted against a $9.7 billion federal flood insurance assistance package for the victims of Hurricane Sandy in New York and New Jersey. Now, with Florida on the ropes, DeSantis asked President Joe Biden for an emergency declaration to free up federal money and federal help even before the storm hit, and said Tuesday, “We all need to work together, regardless of party lines.”

Since the 1980s, the argument for dismantling the government has been that federal regulations hamper the operation of the free market, thus slowing economic growth, while the taxes required to maintain a bureaucratic system take money away from those who otherwise would invest in businesses. The avowed theory is that a freely operating market will free up money on the “supply side” of the economy. Flush with cash, investors will theoretically pump that money into new enterprises that will hire workers, and everyone will prosper together. 

Yesterday the Congressional Budget Office released a study of trends in the distribution of family wealth between 1989—immediately after President Ronald Reagan began the antiregulation and antitax push—and 2019. In those thirty years, total real wealth held by families tripled from $38 trillion to $115 trillion. But the distribution of that growth was not even.

Money moved toward the families in the top 10%, and especially in the top 1%, shifting from families with less income and education toward those with more wealth and education. In the 30 years examined, the share of wealth belonging to families in the top 10% increased from 63% in 1989 to 72% in 2019, from $24.3 trillion to $82.4 trillion (an increase of 240%). The share of total wealth held by families in the top 1% increased from 27% to 34% in the same period. In 2019, families in the bottom half of the economy held only 2% of the national wealth, and those in the bottom quarter owed about $11,000 more than they owned. 

The relative invisibility of these statistics after forty years under Republican ideology has enabled today’s Republicans to insist the Democrats are “socialists” who are trying to redistribute wealth downward even as our laws are clearly redistributing it upward. 

Last night, California governor Gavin Newsom, who is running for reelection, insisted on MSNBC’s Alex Wagner Tonightthat Democrats must push back against the Republican domination of culture wars. Newsom pointed out that 8 of the 10 states with the highest murder rates are Republican states and that the gun death rate in Texas is 67% higher than that in California. Newsom expressed dismay that Democrats aren’t better at advocating their policies.

That omission is likely a result of the fact that after World War II, it never occurred to most Americans that anyone here would need to defend democracy. And yet we are now facing the rise of “illiberal democracy” or “Christian democracy,” which argues that democracy’s protection of equal rights weakens societies by destroying their moral core and by splitting the people internally. Its adherents call for limiting the vote; privileging white, heterosexual Christian citizens; and standing behind an authoritarian leader who will stamp out opposition—that is, a system that is not a democracy at all. 

There is a direct correlation between growing economic inequality and the growing popularity of authoritarianism. Scholars of authoritarian systems note that a population that feels economically, religiously, or culturally dispossessed is an easy target for an authoritarian who promises to bring back a mythological world in which its members were powerful. 

But, having lifted strongmen into power, they learn that they were only tools to put in place someone whose decisions are absolute and who is no longer bound by the law.

Today the New York Times published a series of telephone calls from Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine. The men were poorly equipped, badly commanded, completely disillusioned, and utterly disgusted with Russian president Vladimir Putin, while their people back home complained that the economy was collapsing and the gains of the past 30 years were being swept away. 

Meanwhile, Russia has had to strip its troops away from its borders to replace the soldiers lost in Ukraine, and the situation does not appear to be improving. The calls published in the New York Times were captured before Russia’s current mobilization, which has prompted a mass exodus out of the country. Since last week, 53,000 Russians have fled to Georgia; more than 98,000 have fled to Kazakhstan.

In the U.S. today, Zachary Cohen, Holmes Lybrand, and Jackson Grigsby of CNNreported on footage taken by a Danish film crew that followed Trump loyalist Roger Stone for about three years for a documentary. The House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol has seen the footage and permitted the release of certain clips from around the time of the 2020 election and the January 6 attack. 

In July 2020, Stone was already saying that Trump’s team would not accept the results of the election, clearly expecting that Trump would lose. The day before the election, he said: “F*ck the voting, let’s get right to the violence.” Like Steve Bannon, Stone also said that Trump should simply declare victory, saying: “Possession is nine tenths of the law.” The filmmakers later recorded him asking for a pardon for his participation in the insurrection, noting that since Trump had already pardoned him once, after his conviction for lying to lawmakers about his actions and his relationship to Russia in the 2016 campaign, no one would care if Trump pardoned him again. 

Yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who presided over Roger Stone’s trial for lying to lawmakers about his ties to Russia during the 2016 election, called out “high-ranking members of Congress and state officials” for being “so afraid of losing their power” that they won’t contradict Trump when he lies that he won the 2020 election. She warned that the courts must hold the line against the lies and the violence Republican lawmakers are encouraging.

Meanwhile, Trump’s demand for a special master to review the materials FBI agents took from Mar-a-Lago on August 8 has put him on the spot. The demand for the review seemed designed to slow the examination of the documents with classification markings, but those have now been exempted by an appeals court, and special master Judge Raymond Dearie is puncturing Trump’s wild claims that he declassified documents or that the FBI planted them at Mar-a-Lago by asking Trump’s lawyers to put those claims in writing for the court.

Dearie has asked them to identify which of the 200,000 pages of documents not marked classified Trump wants to claim are covered by attorney-client privilege or executive privilege. If he wants to claim executive privilege, he also must explain why the executive branch, currently run by President Biden, has no right to see those documents. 

Dearie has also asked them to verify by Friday the inventory written by the FBI agents of what they recovered or to note what items on it were allegedly planted. So, the lawyers must either admit that Trump held classified documents or claim that he declassified them (there is no evidence that he did), assert that the FBI planted those documents, or lie. Instead, they are trying to avoid verifying the inventory. 

That review will cost Trump a lot. He has to pay a vendor to digitize the roughly 200,000 pages, then pay $500 an hour for the review, plus the cost of his own lawyers. 

While those machinations are taking place, today, for the first time since 1969, the White House held a conference on hunger, nutrition, and health. Biden is bringing together the private sector and government to try to end hunger in America by 2030. The 1969 conference under President Richard Nixon led to a big expansion in food assistance programs. Now, a variety of companies and foundations have pledged $8 billion to address food insecurity, while Democrats in Congress are calling for more free meals in schools and extending school food programs through the summer. Biden has also called for making the expanded child tax credit permanent.

Activists Flood Election Offices With Challenges

By Nick Corasaniti and Alexandra Berzon

  • NYTIMES Sept. 28, 2022, 3:00 a.m. ET

Activists driven by false theories about election fraud are working to toss out tens of thousands of voter registrations and ballots in battleground states, part of a loosely coordinated campaign that is sowing distrust and threatening further turmoil as election officials prepare for the November midterms.

Groups in Georgia have challenged at least 65,000 voter registrations across eight counties, claiming to have evidence that voters’ addresses were incorrect. In Michigan, an activist group tried to challenge 22,000 ballots from voters who had requested absentee ballots for the state’s August primary. And in Texas, residents sent in 116 affidavits challenging the eligibility of more than 6,000 voters in Harris County, which is home to Houston and is the state’s largest county.

The recent wave of challenges have been filed by right-wing activists who believe conspiracy theories about fraud in the 2020 presidential election. They claim to be using state laws that allow people to question whether a voter is eligible. But so far, the vast majority of the complaints have been rejected, in many cases because election officials found the challenges were filed incorrectly, rife with bad information or based on flawed data analysis.

Republican-aligned groups have long pushed to aggressively cull the voter rolls, claiming that inaccurate registrations can lead to voter fraud — although examples of such fraud are exceptionally rare. Voting rights groups say the greater concern is inadvertently purging an eligible voter from the rolls.