Saturday, August 5, 2017

Global Warming

Dear Friends,

The human and economic costs of global warming are already immense and will continue to grow even if we take aggressive action to slow global warming.  While the estimates vary, 400,000 people currently die each year from the impact of global warming.  Projections indicate that number will at least double by 2030.  In fact, it is projected that 500,000 people will die from global warming's impact on agriculture alone each year by 2030.  The economic cost of global warming is also staggering and increasing.  Global warming is reducing worldwide GDP by about 1.6%.  By 2030, it will reduce US GDP by 2% and worldwide the projections of the negative impact of global warming on worldwide GDP by the end of the century will be 20-23%.  One cost benefit analysis indicates that the impact of global warming is reduced by $5 for every dollar invested in reducing it.

I cannot support a candidate for public office who does not acknowledge that human activity is causing global warming and who does not vigorously support aggressive actions to reduce it.  What can we do?

The cost of wind and solar power (unsubsidized) is now less than all kinds of fossil fuels.  Capital investment in renewable fuels has exceeded that for fossil fuels in each of the last five years.  Last year investment in renewable fuel power generation was 50% more than that in fossil fuels.  California hit a record one day last March when it generated over 50% of its electricity by renewable energy.  California currently has committed to providing 50% of its electricity needs from renewable sources by 2030. There are efforts underway to move that date to 2025 and to provide 100% of its electricity from renewables by 2050.

The efficiency of batteries and their cost are dropping rapidly as is the installed cost of solar panels.  The cost of electric cars is also dropping rapidly.  A dramatic switch to electric cars would have a significant impact on emissions.  India has committed that only electric cars will be sold there by 2030.  France will ban the sale of fossil fuel cars by 2040.  Britain will ban the sale of new fossil fuel cars by 2040, and all cars on the road will be emission free by 2050.  In Norway all new passenger cars and vans will be emission free by 2025.  Other countries are moving toward similar goals.  Volvo has indicated that as of 2019, it will only produce cars that are either all electric or hybrid.  The United States has done nothing of substance.

The biggest drawback to fully utilizing renewable energy sources is the state of the electric grid in the  United States.  Fortunately, fixing and upgrading the electric grid would have two great results.  First, it would allow for a more rapid expansion of electric generation by renewables.  Second, it would provide a lot of good paying jobs that cannot be shipped overseas.

It is estimated that 80% of all electricity could be produced by renewables by 2050 based on the technology available today.  But the technology is improving and becoming cheaper dramatically every year.  If you want to read one article about the future of renewables, I recommend "Can the World Run on Renewable Energy".  It is published by knowledge@wharton here.

All we are missing to quickly move to producing virtually all our electricity and much of our energy needs is the political will to do so.  Politicians must stand up to the fossil fuel industry and move us to all renewable energy.  I will not support any politician who is not committed to eliminating the use of fossil fuels in the next two decades.

Thanks for reading and please comment,
The Unabashed Liberal

Friday, July 21, 2017

What Candidates Should I Support?

Dear Friends,

I cannot bring myself to blog about President Trump or the Republican Party and what they are doing to this country and the world.  There is more than enough analysis and commentary about those topics.

I am, however, concerned about the Democratic Party and feel compelled to write about it.  We need a clear progressive vision for our country, and we need to advocate for that vision in all 50 states and all 3,142 counties in the country.  I have chosen a few a issues that for me are critical.  I will not support a candidate or a party whose views are not consistent with mine on these issues.  I will no longer support the lesser of two evils even though I might be forced to vote on that basis.

The idea that the Democratic Party needs to move to the center is a complete fallacy promulgated by the Democratic Party establishment to maintain its power and big money relationships.  The vision that I am proposing is not an extreme left wing vision.  Some of the issues are not really left or right political issues.  The individual policies to achieve the vision have broad support among the American people even though they have never been given the media coverage they deserve.  Today I will just provide the list with a short explanation.  In future posts, I will cover each one in more detail.

Global Warming
I put global warming first because it is the biggest existential threat we face.  Fossil fuels must remain in the ground.  We need policies that demand the use of solar, hydro, geothermal and wind power.  We must reduce our energy usage and dramatically increase our efficiency.  We cannot transition slowly to non-fossil fuels and being more efficient.  We must move forward immediately and aggressively if we are to save our planet for our children and grandchildren.  While the Paris Accord was a start, it was too little, too late.  We must move faster.

We must provide free high quality public education from pre-k through college, including the arts.  Education is essential to a happy productive life as well as to a functioning democracy.

Health Care
Health care is a right not a privilege.  The government must provide health care for all.  We must have Medicare for all now.

Income/Wealth Inequality
We must immediately enact policies that reduce income and wealth inequality.  Education and universal health care are part of the solution.  In addition, we must significantly increase taxes on the wealthy including income and estate taxes.  We must regulate Wall Street and big corporations to reduce their economic and political power.  We must enact a minimum wage that provides a living above the poverty line (i.e. $15/hour).  We must support unions to provide a level negotiating field for workers and managements.

Voting Rights
We need strong voting rights laws to prevent voter suppression and disenfranchisement.  We need to end gerrymandering.  We need to overturn Citizens United.  We need to understand that money is not speech.  In fact, money denies the speech of those without it.  We need to create a culture where everyone has the right to vote and everyone votes.

We must end discrimination of all kinds.  Our country fails to provide racial, gender, economic, social, or criminal justice, among others.  The current anti-discrimination laws must be strengthened and aggressively enforced.  Those laws must also be dramatically expanded to include types of discrimination that are not currently covered, particularly protecting LGBTQIA people's rights.  Notwithstanding current laws, we know we live in a society with deep, broad and intransigent institutional bias.  We must create a culture that eliminates such bias.

Financial Safety Net
We must be a society that ensures that all members of our society have an acceptable minimum standard of living, including food, shelter, health care, financial security, education and respect.  Our current programs are falling far short of this result.  They need to be strengthened and expanded.

The government can and should create jobs.  The best way to do so is by fixing our broken infrastructure, properly maintaining it and expanding it as new technologies and needs arise.  The government can use private companies to build and rebuild our infrastructure, creating lots of good jobs.  These jobs can help with some of the other issues discussed above such as developing green technologies and an efficient energy grid.  The government should also support research and innovation that will lead to new jobs and a growing economy.

We are a nation of immigrants.  Yet it seems that each new group of immigrants is treated poorly by those that came before them.  We have millions of undocumented people living in our country who belong in this country, who contribute to this country and who must have a path to citizenship, security in their lives and the respect they deserve as human beings.  The way we treat immigrants today is a travesty and flaunts every tenet of how a civilized nation should behave.

Foreign Relations
I realize I am giving this topic short shrift by putting it last and lumping all the issues together into only one paragraph.  However, I believe our foreign policy should flow directly from the values and vision espoused in our domestic policy.  All human beings deserve respect, freedom, justice, education, health care, jobs, etc.  If we base our foreign policy on these tenets, we would demand a two state solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, we would spend more time, money and effort on peacefully solving conflicts than on violently imposing our will, we would not back dictators because it is good for business, we would seek total nuclear disarmament, etc.

Thanks for reading and please comment,
The Unabashed Liberal

Monday, February 20, 2017

It's the Republican Party not President Trump that must be defeated

Dear Friends,

As I have said before (here), we, liberals, are fighting to defeat the Republican Party not just President Trump.  All of the attention is on President Trump and how incredibly incompetent he is.  While he is an incredible embarrassment, he is simply executing on the Republican Party platform.  Here is a letter I submitted to The New York Times which, odds are, will not be published.
David Leonhart in his column entitled "Liberals and the Trump Blame Game" says, "Liberals are not responsible for Trump. But they should be reflective about the fact that they haven’t yet come up with an effective strategy for beating him."  Unfortunately, liberals and the mainstream media are focused on President Trump.  He is a sideshow.  He is implementing the Republican Party platform, and the Republican Party and all of its Representatives and Senators are falling in line with everything that President Trump is doing.  It is true that from time to time a Senator or two or a Representative or two will dissent, e.g. Senators Collins and McCain, but they are meaningless because the Republican Party supports everything that President Trump is doing or trying to do.
From a policy perspective, we, liberals, are not fighting against President Trump; we are fighting against the Republican Party and their platform.  To focus on President Trump and not the Republican Party is to focus on the sideshow and miss the main attraction.  The Democratic Party needs to always link President Trump with the Republican Party and be clear that we are fighting against the policies of the Republican Party.  At the same time, the Democrats need to put forward a truly progressive vision for justice - racial, religious, economic and environmental.  In this way, the liberals can defeat the Republicans and their leader President Trump.
 We cannot afford to focus on President Trump, as enticing as that may be, we need to be clear to the world that he is executing the Republican Party platform.  We need to not only fight against the implementation of that platform, we need to constantly and widely promulgate our own progressive vision for our country and our world.  For two and half decades, the Democratic Party has lost sight of its progressive roots and has failed the people of this country who lack the wealth and power to improve their own lives.  Those people who we, as Democrats, have failed are the ones who elected President Trump, Congressional Republicans, and Republicans in state and local governments.  We can only win them back and with them the control of our country if we put forward positive plans for how to help them.  The Democratic establishment needs to move aside for new faces who are truly progressive and who truly support the core Democratic ideals.

We can win and take back our government and country if we truly believe in and fight for justice - racial, religious, environmental and economic.  In the days ahead, I will write about what I think it means to be a progressive.  The American people overwhelmingly support the policies that make up a progressive platform, they just are tired of the establishment never actually doing anything to give them a real chance for a better life.

Thanks for reading and please comment,
The Unabashed Liberal