The Planet Is Burning

You can travel all over the world and never see anything as beautiful as California. And sometimes when the wind blows just right it smells of citrus.

California is burning yet again. In what is now the state’s deadliest wildfire, 48 are dead from Northern California’s Camp Fire, 3 are dead from Southern California’s Woolsey Fire and 228 are unaccounted for as infernos rage throughout the state. The entire city of Paradise lay in ruins after 7,700 homes were leveled. Air quality has deteriorated, residents are staying indoors, prompting Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to declare a public health emergency for all of California.

I have a lot of friends who live in Southern California, some of whom have now lost everything. So far, two guests of my program report their homes destroyed. 

I was born in New York, but California saved my life. And I believe it will save this country’s. I left New York years ago because it’s no place to grow. I find New York values misguided and unsustainable. Too much of New York is informed by what pleases Wall Street, and what pleases Wall Street is anything that sucks up all the financial oxygen while leaving the rest of America gasping for air. I have yet to figure out what exactly Wall Street actually does for America. I know what it does for Wall Street, I also know what it does to America. Not quite sure what it does for it.

To me California was always the antidote to Wall Street greed because out there people do more than just shuffle papers. In California they make things, they grow things and they invent things. Granted, California suffers from no shortage of pecuniary mischief. In fact California was created by sweet-talking pickpockets. But fraud was never celebrated the way it is in New York. In New York grifters wear bespoke suits and, as long as they chew with their mouths closed, they’re accepted into polite society. The Devil’s social calendar is booked solid so long as he remembers to slap his name on a wing at The Met and Lincoln Center. I’m talking to you David Koch.

I’m sure there are those who disagree, but I’m convinced the real American dream doesn’t exist in Manhattan, but is still very much alive in California.  California is on the cutting edge of green technology and, despite structural flaws in its political system, leaders in Sacramento are somehow taking Climate Change seriously by passing massive legislation ushering in the fastest transition from fossil fuels to renewables anywhere in America.

On September 10, 2018, outgoing Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill mandating that by 2045 California will rely entirely on carbon-free electricity. Thanks to this single piece of legislation, California, if it were a country, would now count as the largest economy in the world that’s totally committed to green energy.  All this despite the massive shale deposits that would make fracking so lucrative. But unlike Wall Street, California plays the long game. There are vast hidden costs associated with fossil fuels. And there are also the obvious costs like this week’s fires. If PG&E started the fire, and it looks like it probably did, the lawsuits will result in bankruptcy for a utility that was once a reliable dividend for pension funds. No more. Maybe that will wake Wall Street up to the costs of Climate Change. But Wall Street already knows that Climate Change is real, and they’re profiting off it by issuing collateralized debt obligations that bet against insurance giants. Win or lose, Wall Street wins.

California is also, for all intents and purposes, a sanctuary state that welcomes everybody, and will give you a free public education whether you’re a documented immigrant or not. The gangsters who work for ICE despise California, because the local police, the politicians and the citizens refuse to cooperate with Donald Trump’s cowardly thugs.

I wasn’t born there. But I moved there and worked there for nearly three decades. And while I paid state and local taxes, I can assure you I took more from California than I gave. That’s true for most Americans, even the ones who have never even visited California. California is a donor state, which means it pays more in taxes than it gets back from Washington. In 2014, California sent $369 billion in taxes to the federal government which in turn spent $356 billion in California on wages, retirement benefits and government contracts. California’s Democratic Attorney General Xavier Becerra says, “Without a doubt. California is a donor state to the federal Treasury. We always, as taxpayers in the state of California, pay more in taxes than we get back to our state.”

So we need California more than it needs us.  But that didn’t stop Donald Trump from blaming the wildfires on California’s poor forest management. He then threatened to withhold billions of federal aid in a response identical to his cruelty towards Puerto Rico after Maria because Puerto Rico, like California, isn’t Trump country.

Forty million Californians are waking up to the stench of airborne effluence knowing they are but one ember away from losing everything. And Trump pours gasoline. Needless to say, Trump’s accusation of California’s “poor forest management” were immediately debunked by the New York Times which reported that the wildfires aren’t even in the forests. 

Eventually the fires will be snuffed out, sadly the same is not true for this presidency which thrives no matter how spectacularly horrific it gets.

Trump isn’t going away, because the swindlers on both side of the aisle need him. As long as we have Trump the Pelosis and the Schumers don’t have to tackle Climate Change.

Look at the hurricanes. Look at the fires. We’ve neglected Climate Change for decades. Those fires and hurricanes are coming to a city near you.

People say we need a Manhattan Project to save the planet. But Wall Street is Manhattan. And Wall Street isn’t interested in saving the planet. It’s only interested in securitizing debt that bets for and against the planet.

The Manhattan Project, by the way, was a top secret plan to win World War 2 by developing a nuclear bomb that would not only destroy Japan and Germany but the planet as well. Wall Street and Manhattan have created enough damage. They gave us Trump. It’s time for a California Project.