Afghanistan cost taxpayers over $2 trillion and counting, a meter continuously running because it includes veterans’ healthcare and unpaid interest on war-related borrowing. Considering results after two decades’ deployment, America’s pound-foolish effort to remake Afghanistan was just another interventionist march of folly. Even to a society habituated to yokes of debt, ranging from credit cards to mortgages; automobile to student loans, calling such sacrifice “investment” doesn’t wash. Neither does the $2.3 billion impact on America’s healthcare system, solely from hospitalizations of unvaccinated citizens in June and July. Further recalcitrance to get shots continues to overload ICUs in a perpetual motion of preventable suffering and loss.
Despite flaws in foreign policies and subcultures determined to undermine safety measures, government outlays can be sound investments, especially when avoiding or ameliorating disasters, improving qualities of life, and generating jobs and taxpayer savings long-term. The same levees breached by hurricane Katrina 16 years ago held against Ida because large-scale improvements and redundancies held back Cat 5 storm surges and kept New Orleans’ pump stations going. I’m proud my federal taxes supported that effort. The $3.5 trillion reconciliation budget, recently passed in the House and Senate, similarly lays groundwork for emergency transformations. The stage is set for a historic Reconciliation Bill to advance economic, racial and social justice, create millions of good-paying jobs, expand Medicare coverage, and, most importantly, make inroads to combat global warming and climate change, our greatest existential threat. The actual text of this crucial legislation is still in the works, but Republicans, between fear-mongering about Afghan refugees, are already grousing over Medicare expansion to cover vision, dental and hearing benefits.
To date, we’re the only industrialized nation on Earth not to include such comprehensive coverage in a single-payer format. The added cost to Medicare will be considerably less than projected rises in private insurance premiums, co-pays and deductibles instead. Faced with 1,000+ pages of accountability, corporate America desperately wants to decouple the infrastructure bill from climate and budget proposals. Progressive lawmakers must therefore pledge to vote against any infrastructure bill until climate and budget legislation passes beforehand. It’s no secret our feudal and profligate U.S. economy has hinged, for generations, on financial inequality and ecological destruction. More obvious still are greater frequencies and sizes of climate disasters battering this country and the world. Rising seas threaten coastal cities here and abroad. Drought and other weather extremes are cutting food production. Massive wildfires are burning in California, Oregon, Siberia, Turkey and Greece. July was the hottest month on record, and Italy and British Columbia experienced their deadliest heat-waves. Historic flooding inundated Germany and Belgium, India and China and many parts of the eastern and southern U.S. One degree Celsius of global warming increases atmospheric moisture by 7%.
Sad irony: to make large investments in clean energy, kleptocratic two-party politicians insist on funding roads, airports and other carbon-emitting sources conjointly. Powerful industry groups are buying them off to water down the infrastructure bill by excising polluter levies, higher taxes for corporations, oil subsidy prohibitions, and even provisions allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices. Parts of the Reconciliation Bill are industry hope chests: $10 billion for carbon capture and $8 billion for hydrogen production without stipulating clean energy to generate either. The bill prescribes $7.5 billion for electric vehicle chargers. But if progressive solidarity wavers, we could lose investments to retrofit homes and buildings against energy loss, rebates to purchase electric cars, and billions for greener agriculture, sustainable battery storage and stopgaps against warming and acidification of oceans. The boldest possible language to address climate change is requisite. Ignorance portends disaster, not bliss.
Scott Deshefy is a biologist, ecologist and two-time Green Party congressional candidate.