No Reason to Make People Choose

Zero versus sum: 

The Green New Deal (GND) remains controversial within much of the labor community, particularly among those in the manufacturing and extractive sectors who fear mass job losses or the dissolution of their entire industries. For them, and for coal miners in particular, the focus is on the idea of a “just transition” — a means of transitioning away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy in a way that will create good-paying new jobs and viable career paths, and won’t leave them high and dry when the last mine closes.

The GND resolution does come with a universal jobs guarantee, but the thought of taking job-training classes or switching careers in middle age can be an understandably tough pill to swallow for someone who’s spent their entire working life underground. Despite these real complications, detractors of the GND often resort to the disingenuous, divisive tactic of pitting coal miners against environmentalists, as if it’s a zero-sum political game instead of gambling with the future of the planet. These critics act as though the miners as a monolith don’t care about the climate crisis, which certainly isn’t the case; while some unions still have their reservations, the growing support for the GND among miners and labor in general paints a different picture.

Here’s the thing. You could take what Jeff Bezos blows on lunch and use it to pay every single coal miner currently employed or on pension from a coal company their exact same salary for the rest of their natural lives, thus ensuring that nobody has to lose out when we need to save the dang planet or even move a factory.

There’s no reason why everybody who works someplace has to get screwed when an industry goes under. They wouldn’t even need to “learn to code” or whatever glib shit we’re yelling at people these days. They could retire right now and live lives they enjoyed for a little more than their bosses spend in Vegas brothels on the annual “company retreat.”

So sure, job training and health insurance and support for a career switch if that’s what people want, but let’s be realistic about what people need to live decent lives in the places they live, and just, like, give them that money as part of the cost of saving the earth. There’s no need to overcomplicate this and/or make it seem like a person who’s already their ass off down in the hole should now work even harder at something else for the last 10-15 years of their career.

We’re a very wealthy country and we could afford to say look, we recognize that it is not fair that you have to lose out on your livelihood because the companies you work for have exhausted their usefulness. We recognize that we are asking you to sacrifice more than most in order to change the way we do things, and we can compensate you accordingly.

We could give every coal miner in the United States $1 million for less than it cost to make that Avatar movie. We could afford that tomorrow and I’m tired of pretending we can’t so that people get mad at the Sierra Club or whoever, meanwhile we’re out here nuking the hurricanes.


2 thoughts on “No Reason to Make People Choose

  1. Coal mines can (and should!) be converted to use for pumped energy storage. It’ll take experienced miners to make that happen.

    Wind and solar needs to have some good energy storage, so fit the pieces together, GNDites!

  2. This is an interesting concept. I’m not a huge fan of paying people to exist, and would rather take an approach where the revenue taken from a region when, as in this case, the mines close, be injected into that regional economy instead of into the individuals. This would support multiplier effect jobs and tax revenues, both of which create more jobs themselves.
    I also feel that a completely new approach to job re-training is necessary. We are still where we were when Maryland (as well as other states’) farmers lost the revenue from tobacco production were told, ‘well, grow corn!’, with no consideration to the dollar yield from tobacco is so much higher that what it is from corn. We need to see that there is no simple solution to this.
    I doubt that one day will come and every mine will suddenly close. We have, therefore, a gradual immersion here, where time and other resources can be spent on this transition.
    The fact is that coal production has been going down down down for decades, so this transition has been happening on its own. We need to nurture it, provide resources and guidance.
    Lets us do get at it.

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