Editor’s note: Ursula Rozum is running for Congress on the Green Party line.
Ed Griffin-Nolan’s May 2 Sanity Fair column “Game Changer” accurately describes 25th District Congresswoman Ann Marie Buerkle as a “budget-slashing, climate change shoulder-shrugging, pipeline-hugging, Pentagon booster.” Ed goes on to predict that my candidacy will serve “as handmaiden for a GOP victory” and asks, “Is that what the Greens want?”
Maybe if Ed had interviewed me (or another Green) we could have responded. The role of the Republicans in the two-party system of corporate rule is to scare the hell out of progressives so they will vote for the other corporate party, the Democrats, out of fear. So, Ed, you’ve fallen right into their trap. Big business finances both parties so they get the pro-corporate economic and militaristic foreign policies they care about no matter which party holds the balance of power. Your case for Dan Maffei comes down to “At least he’s not Buerkle!”
The problem is that the Democrats in power are also budget-slashing, climate change shoulder-shrugging, pipeline-hugging, Pentagon boosters. Their difference with the Republicans is in degree, not direction.
Budget-slashing: It was President Obama, with no protest from Rep. Dan Maffei at the time, who called for a freeze on non-military discretionary spending in his 2010 State of the Union. The president later put Social Security and Medicare on the chopping block in the summer of 2011 in his “grand bargain” proposal in the budget negotiations with the Republicans on deficit reduction before signing the Budget Control Act of 2011, which requires $1.2 trillion of cuts in federal spending over the next decade. Yes, the Ryan budget would cut even more. But the difference is in the degree of austerity, not the direction.Green alternatives: We call for deficit spending and debt relief (mortgage and student) to increase demand in the depressed economy now so that we can grow our way out of the deficit. The centerpiece of deficit spending would be a Works Progress Administration-style jobs program in public works and services to put the 25 million people who are unemployed and under-employed to work at a living wage. The program would more than pay for itself in reduced safety net expenditures, increased income tax revenues, private job creation as demand rebounds, and sustainable energy, mass transit and broadband infrastructure that will be productive for decades to come.
Climate change shoulder-shrugging: Buerkle and the Republican leadership deny climate science. Maffei and the Democrats acknowledge the science but lack the courage to act on it. Instead, President Obama—again with no public dissent from Maffei—pursues his “all of the above” energy policy that promotes investments that lock us into decades of hydrofracking, mountaintop-removal coal extraction, drill-baby-drill in deep water and Arctic zones, and pipelines for strip-mined Alberta tar sands to U.S. refineries. In further homage to the giant energy corporations, at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa, last December, the Obama administration postponed a global treaty to limit carbon emissions until 2020 when it will be too late, the climate scientists warn. On the climate emergency, both Democrats and Republicans pander to the energy transnationals that want to extract every last fossil fuel they can as the planet hurtles past the tipping points of no return to climate catastrophe. The difference in degree here is mostly rhetorical. Substantively, the Democrats support inconsequential funding for renewables, while the Republicans want even less.
Green alternatives: We propose massive investment in public and private climate jobs that make our buildings energy efficient, our economy powered by clean renewables, and our people and products transported cleanly and energy-efficiently by electrified intra-city mass transit and vehicles and inter-city freight and high-speed passenger rails.
Pipeline-hugging: In August 2009, Obama—with no public dissent from then-Rep. Maffei—approved Enbridge’s Alberta Clipper Pipeline to move 450,000 barrels a day of Alberta tar sands crude to the Murphy Oil refinery at Superior, Wis. As for the Keystone XL Pipeline, Obama moved to expedite the southern portion of Keystone in March. For the northern portion, the administration is developing an alternate route around the controversial section over Nebraska’s Ogalala Aquifer for approval in 2013 after the election.
Green alternatives: Keep the coal in the hole and the oil in the soil and don’t pass the gas. Enact a World War II-scale emergency program to replace nuclear and fossil fuels with a clean renewable energy and transportation system over the next decade. The latest analyses out of the Tyndall Center for Climate Science Research show that the industrially developed countries like the United States need to peak carbon emissions by 2015 and reduce them 10 percent per year to zero-net carbon by 2025 if we are to keep planetary heating below the tipping point of a 2 degrees Celsius increase in global temperatures, a goal the G8 countries have accepted.
Pentagon booster: Among the member items that Rep. Maffei requested for military contractors were $4.7 million for Lockheed Martin for submarine sonar, $5 million for Syracuse Research Corporation for radar, $5 million for Defenshield for troop armor, and $2.7 million for Reaper Drone support at Fort Drum and Hancock Air Base. Honeywell and Lockheed Martin gave Maffei the maximum $5,000 corporate PAC contribution.
Green alternatives: Put Lockheed Martin and SRC to work designing and building clean energy and transportation systems. Enact a massive peace conversion program to transform much of the military-industrial complex into a clean energy and transportation complex in order to address the biggest security threats we face—climate change and resource scarcity—as the Pentagon’s 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review documented. Peace conversion must include a just transition program of income and benefit maintenance for military and defense industry workers displaced by peace conversion as they make the transition to alternate work. We can pay for peace conversion by reducing the military budget by 50 percent and by restoring progressive marginal tax rates on high incomes.
Real solutions can’t wait. Time is running out to address the climate crisis. Meanwhile, a whole generation of Americans is being shuttled to the ranks of the working poor thanks to bipartisan austerity policies that promote high unemployment, massive foreclosures, unsustainable mortgage and student debt, union busting, job outsourcing through corporate-managed trade agreements and privatized health care, schools and other public services.
So yes, Ed, I’m a “game changer.” It’s time to change the two-corporate-party game where progressive solutions are systematically excluded. I believe the 25th District’s majority prefer the Green alternatives to the corporate parties’ petty, tit-for-tat squabbling over degree, not direction, while they utterly fail to provide solutions to the big problems of environmental calamity and economic decline. If progressives don’t vote for progressive candidates with progressive programs, we will never get what we want.
Ursula Rozum provides an excellent exposition of the Green platform, which I and others have covered many times in these pages. What she does not provide is a clear answer to the question posed in my May 2 column: “Is (the re-election of Ann Marie Buerkle) what the Greens really want?”
In her rebuttal she ignores the electoral math that comprises the heart of the essay, and implies that it makes little difference, calling the space between Buerkle and Maffei “a matter of degree.”
For many voters, the difference between a pro-choice candidate and one who is on record as hoping for the overturn of Roe v. Wade is more than a matter of degree. A political party needs a sound strategy as well as a platform, and it is not out of fear that I chose to question the Greens’ strategy of running in a race that promises to be tight. My column was not “a case for Dan Maffei.” It is a question to progressives, including Greens, about the road to follow to gain the power to enact progressive political change. In any race the Greens would enter, they would be raising their issues. The question remains—why this race?
On a national scale, the Green candidate played a pivotal role in a very close presidential race in 2000. The argument was made at that time that the difference between George W. Bush and Al Gore was a matter of degree. More than 100,000 Iraqi civilian casualties and the deaths of nearly 4,500 American servicemen and -women resulted from Bush’s war of choice, one which Gore never would have ordered. Ralph Nader’s candidacy did not cause that war, but that experience makes it harder for a third-party candidate to argue that it won’t make any difference which major party her candidacy assists, intentionally or otherwise.