Most of the Republicans elected to serve in Washington are not stupid. Most have noted the overwhelming evidence growing every year showing that the Earth is being warmed by increased levels of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. And one would have to be a complete intellectual moron to not pay attention to what America’s scientific experts in this area are telling us. For these reasons, I happen to believe that only a minority of serving Republicans fit that description. Yet the Republicans in Washington have done essentially nothing to help our country address this problem. Why is that?
For some time now, I have thought I knew the answer to that question and then this morning I read an op ed in the Washington Post (see it at https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/republicans-want-to-fight-climate-change-but-fossil-fuel-bullies-wont-let-them/2017/01/10/177dbd4e-cc82-11e6-b8a2-8c2a61b0436f_story.html?utm_term=.9bc52a49db91 ) that reinforced my notions. This op ed was written by a person, Sheldon Whitehouse, who should know the answer: he has served in the US Congress over the last decade and has, perhaps more than any other Congressman, paid a great deal of attention to environmental issues.
In his op ed, Senator Whitehouse’s main points were the following. According to an estimate by the International Monetary Fund, the fossil fuel industries receive subsidies of about $700 billion per year and they gravely fear the loss of this revue. For that purpose, they spend several hundreds of million dollars for lobbying efforts every election cycle in order to ensure the continuation of those subsides. While such obscene levels of financial influence used to be illegal in the USA, in the post-Citizens United era in which we now live, there are no restrictions on the amount of money anyone or any corporation can “invest” in a given election. Thus, the halls of congress are literally awash with almost unlimited amounts of money to be used as needed in order to get the desired result. If an outcome in a given contest is uncertain, more money is simply poured into the fossil fuel preference. Thus, our Republican representatives in Washington and at the state levels know very well that they will be replaced in the next election cycle if they show signs of growing a conscience on the issue of climate change. Thus, they speak with each other quietly and only in private, not wanting even their staff to hear any personal thoughts they might have on this topic. In other words, they are still “bullied” into submission by the fossil fuel industries.
So yes, I believe that is about it. To argue that there is a lot more to it serves only to take needed focus off the most important cause. So yes, money does indeed matter and even determines – even when spent on the continuation of stupid and clearly self-destructive policies. In order to remove this malignant blockage, one or more of three things must happen. One would be that the shame-resistant CEOs of our fossil fuel industries step aside (and certainly not be appointed to the office of Secretary of State!). Another would be that our elected representatives either develop some intestinal fortitude or agree to single-term limits. Another would be to overturn Citizens United so that votes determine outcomes rather than dollars.