Green New Deal

TCI is not a climate solution

TCI is not a climate solution

By Paul Fleckenstein
January 7th 2020

In a recent op-ed in VTDigger, Vermont AFL-CIO President David Van Deusen argued against climate policies that hurt workers. Case in point is the proposed Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI) supported by Vermont Climate Solutions Caucus. TCI is a carbon cap and trade system that depends on a regressive fuel tax that will be passed down to workers at the pump.

Conservative columnist John McClaughry argued in another article that the TCI would actually do little to reduce emissions. In opposing the TCI, McClaughry also illustrates how easy it is for conservatives (who defend inequality and injustice) to mobilize workers against climate policies that target working class consumption.

To maintain its credibility with unions and working class people, the climate justice movement should oppose the TCI.

There is now adequate experience with carbon markets to conclude that they won’t work to address the climate emergency. Trade Unions for Energy Democracy has completed a comprehensive study demonstrating and explaining the failure of cap and trade schemes. Crucially, this report also explains how carbon markets don’t operate in the interests of workers.

The schemes are shaped by pro-market ideology and business priorities. They rely on carbon pricing and emissions caps determined by bureaucracies charged with protecting the profits and the competitive strength of the participating corporations. This limits emissions reductions, and doesn’t prioritize workers.

At best, carbon markets are designed for incremental changes over long periods of time that we do not have—completely the wrong tool for a climate emergency. Plus, carbon is only one of the environmental threats the planet faces. We urgently need to address biodiversity loss and extinction, as well as plastics and chemical pollution. We need comprehensive responses. Carbon markets are designed to be narrow.

For a climate policy designed to minimally disrupt the status quo, the TCI will maximize conflict over regressive taxation and impacts on working class living standards. The conflict is justified but unnecessary. It is an argument about how to arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic as far as emissions are concerned.  

This situation will not generate the working class support we need to win significant climate initiatives, but actually hinders it.  Cap and trade systems are not inadequate steps in the right direction, but counterproductive measures that waste valuable time. 

Science is clear that market gradualism will not avoid planetary catastrophe. Income redistribution and massive public, democratic spending and regulation are the only ways to quickly transition to a just and sustainable future. 

Fortunately, there is legislation in the Vermont Legislature that takes a step in the right direction. Senator Pollina’s (P/D) Green New Deal bill is a proposal that does two widely popular things and does them immediately: taxes the wealthy, and funds programs to both reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve working class living standards. 
This is a choice to follow Bernie and AOC and their New Green Deal approach that leads with supporting workers, justice, and wealth redistribution. This is the only way to win working class support and to succeed with effective and radical climate policies.

Paul Fleckenstein is a member of UAW Local 1981, the Vermont Labor Climate Committee, and the Champlain Valley Democratic Socialists of America.


Unite and Fight Racist Terror with Working-Class Power

Black, Latinx, and Muslim workers under attack

While racism and xenophobia are nothing new, it is undeniable that we have seen a dramatic increase in their expression as hate crimes. Even so, it is a mistake to attribute the lion’s share to Trump. In fact, ICE terrorism of immigrant and particularly Latinx workers was a staple of the Obama administration, which deported more immigrant workers than any other previous administration in history–including more than every other administration of the 20th Century combined.

Over the past several years, we have also witnessed a dramatic increase in police killings of Black and Latinx workers and youth, and intensified surveillance,scrutiny, harassment, and hate crimes committed against Muslims and those mistaken for Muslims. From 2014 to 2016 alone, there was a 600% increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes. Again, it is a dangerous error to assign sole blame for this to Trump, who simply exploited an already festering wound.

It’s not just Trump – it’s capitalism

Trump, Clinton, Obama, Bush, and the rest are merely symptomatic of an underlying disease: the capitalist system. Capitalism’s inherent and unceasing drive for the ruthless maximization of profits necessitates racism, sexism, militarism, and grinding poverty, all of which it creates and maintains. Without racism, it is impossible for the capitalist system to minimize the costs of production while preventing the class consciousness and working-class unity that could disrupt or overturn it. Racism, xenophobia, and sexism are the key to convincing one group of workers that they have more in common with their bosses than with their fellow workers of another place, creed, or skin tone.

Imperialism drives the refugee crisis

US imperialism abroad drives the refugee crisis through military, political, and economic mechanisms. Its thirst for profit spurs climate shift, laying the basis for the spread of disease and famine. Its wars–whether direct or proxy–lay waste to entire geographic regions. Its economic policies devastate whole countries. The refugee crisis faced by the world today is overwhelmingly the result, directly or indirectly, of US imperialism.

Militarism abroad and at home

Imperialist wars abroad, in which the worker of one nation are pitted against the worker of another for the financial benefit of the ruling class, are not the only manifestation of the evil of militarism. Just as the US military or its proxies ravage and occupy workers and farmers in foreign lands, US police forces act as occupying forces in major cities across the country, targeting Black and Latinx workers for especially brutal repression. At its worst, this involves summarily executing Black and Latinx youth in the streets in broad daylight; the killer cop never facing justice.

Police and US spy agencies conduct mass surveillance of Muslim communities, dream up terror schemes to target and entrap Muslim community members, while liberal politicians do nothing–except for tokenizing those communities when convenient, arguing American Muslims are mainly to be valued as snitches and informants. When Muslims in America are lynched and murdered, the police regularly refuse to investigate their killing as hate crimes, and instead blame road rage or parking disputes. Muslim women, and in particular Muslim women of color, are the target of racist, sexist,xenophobic violence by opportunistic cowards and gutter-fascists.

What can you do?

In your day-to-day life, you can make a difference by engaging with your coworkers, neighbors, and friends. Raise these political issues with them. And most importantly, don’t look away. The only thing worse than being under persistent attack, is to seen early everyone else around you going about their daily business as though everything were fine and normal. There is nothing fine or normal about the terrors of racism and xenophobia. Long term, the single most important thing you can do is help organize the working class. Join the DSA or any one of the many other socialist organizations in your area. Get involved with Black Lives Matter, Migrant Justice, Rights & Democracy, the Vermont Workers’ Center, or your local church, synagogue, or mosque. Piecemeal reforms won’t cut it. Throwing our lot in with the parties of the ruling class is a dead-end,and it is today clearer than ever that hoping they will see the light is wishful thinking. In the end, a total restructuring of our social,economic, and political orders are necessary: we must unite and fight to build working-class power. If we limit ourselves to organizing around single issues or defending the vestiges of previous reforms, we will only suffer further setbacks. The path forward is to link transformational reform struggles into a broader radical, fighting, socialist agenda.