What is Saving the Earth Worth, Senator McConnell?
Needing all the victories he can get to counter his sagging poll numbers, President Biden received an unlikely booster in West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, who put aside his prior recalcitrance and announced last week that he would now support the president’s climate change and inflation reduction legislation. Of course Manchin’s vote did not come cheaply, as the bill includes significant concessions to the fossil fuel industry, where Manchin’s ultimate allegiance lies.
Any advancement to combat human caused climate change has to be welcome, even if certain compromises are required in the name of political expediency. But the bill still faces obstacles, not least the need for all Democrats, including the enigmatic Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema, to vote in favor. Synema has cast aside her reformist origins (perhaps being nudged by contributions to her campaign coffers by the likes of Goldman Sachs and KKR) and has joined with private equity and hedge fund billionaires to resist elimination of the carried interest tax loophole that would be weakened if not totally eliminated in the bill. That alone could be a game stopper.
Of course Republicans in the Senate are unanimously opposed. While they have shifted ever so slightly from total climate change denial to grudgingly admitting the fact that the Earth is burning up due to human action, the proposed legislation, like any idea that requires us to actually do something, “would raise taxes and raise consumer prices.” According to Senate Minority Leader, Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, the bill’s higher taxes, including tax credits to encourage renewable energy sources and its limits on use of the carried interest exception, would result in “job-killing tax hikes.” Yes, any limit on Blackstone’s Steve Schwarzman’s $150 million in annual comp may severely impair his lifestyle.
McConnell’s opposition on fiscal responsibility grounds is merely a smokescreen to sooth his conscience for his shameless support of the coal industry itself while failing to protect miners’ pensions and provide adequate relief for black lung disease sufferers. Now he has to answer for no fewer than 37 dead and hundreds missing as flood waters exacerbated by climate change ravage his state. So, the question, Senator McConnell, is: how are you going to explain to the families of those Kentuckians who lost their lives that the value of human life is less important than the corporate tax rate?
There are plenty of legitimate political issues to debate: the economy, inflation, gun control, even abortion. But climate change is the only true existential issue that should not be subrogated to corporate interests. Anything that comes with a price tag is worth a discussion about whether the cost (whether in dollars or restrictions on our freedom) is worth it. Except human existence. For that, no price is too high to pay. But, as usual, McConnell fiddles as the Earth burns.