Trump Is Helping the Kochs Kill America’s Solar Industry and Jobs

It was, or rather it should have been, no surprise that Donald Trump lied when he announced a tariff on solar panels early this week, especially his claim the move was an integral part of a new aggressive trade policy. The move had little to do with trade policy and everything to do with Trump and Republicans’ love affair with, and indebtedness to, the Koch brothers’ fossil fuel industry and the Republicans’ decades-long assault on renewable energy.

Although Trump is the culprit in putting a tariff on solar panels, Republicans in Congress have maintained a relatively steady assault on renewable energy since another dirty Republican, Ronald Reagan, declared war on clean power sources. That Republican war on solar power was gaining steam at about the same time China realized that the future of energy independence and a highly profitable and job-creating industry was in solar power. While Republicans were blocking progress on solar power, one forward-looking advanced nation  took the number one solar energy spot away from the world power that invented and developed solar panels while it was embracing more costly and dirty fossil fuels. Over two decades later, nothing has changed except an escalation in the Koch-Republican war on clean renewable energy.

First, Trump said imposing steep tariffs on solar panels was solely to “helps to create jobs in America for Americans.” That was a bald-faced lie and only a moron would believe otherwise.  The only result of Trump’s action will be crippling the solar industry by raising the cost of solar panels “in the years ahead and drastically slow adoption of the renewable energy technology and kill thousands of jobs.”

Experts in the solar energy field report that in America; “solar manufacturing now represents just a tiny fraction of the overall jobs that have developed around the solar industry.” The numbers don’t lie, and although way more than  a quarter of a million Americans are working in the solar energy sector, far fewer than 2,000 of those employed in the United States are working manufacturing solar cells and modules.

The great majority of those solar jobs, about 258,000 of them, are highly-skilled and manual labor installation and maintenance projects that the Solar Energy Industries Association say require expertise, are labor intensive and impossible to automate; unlike the manufacturing process. It is also noteworthy to mention that the two companies reportedly lobbying Trump for the high tariffs are subsidiaries of foreign companies. The two companies, Suniva and SolarWorld said they needed high tariffs on primarily Malaysian and South Korean competitors to help preserve the less than 2,000 solar panel manufacturing jobs in the United States. Trump has no interest in preserving the quarter of a million solar jobs affected by the higher cost panels, because the tariffs were not to preserve or create jobs; they are an escalation of the Koch-ALEC-Heritage Foundation war on renewable energy.

For some time now Republicans, with valuable aid from the Koch brothers’ American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Heritage Foundation, have been waging state-level wars against what is known as “renewable portfolio standard” (RPS). Those RPS have helped create tens-of-thousands of new renewable energy jobs, fill state coffers, and grow state economies as well as combat anthropogenic climate change. In states that attempted to expand RPS and create more jobs and bring in more revenue, Republicans have blocked the moves to earn hearty congratulations from ALEC and Heritage.

It is noteworthy that Trump, Republicans in Congress and state legislatures are attempting to do exactly what the Koch brothers tasked ALEC and Heritage Action to do; end renewable energy’s expansion by any means possible. Trump imposing tariffs on solar panels is part of the Koch war on clean and renewable energy, the environment, jobs, and economic growth to further enrich the fossil fuel industry. In fact, the Heritage Foundation has been touting victory for the fossil fuel industry and celebrating  “the death of the renewable energy movement” for a few years. In fact, Heritage recently praised the “colossal coal comeback” even as renewable energy, particularly solar power is a raging success in providing cleaner, cheaper, and ridiculously abundant energy from the Sun.

The war on renewable energy began when President Jimmy Carter installed solar panels on the White House roof in the midst of an oil shortage; Ronald Reagan removed the solar panels as a nod to big oil that renewable and inexpensive energy would not be allowed to impact fossil fuel profits. Republicans have never supported renewable energy because Koch brothers and their ilk cannot claim ownership of, or profit from, the Sun. If the Kochs could charge Americans to use the Sun, then every building in America would be fitted with solar panels and they would be furnished by the Koch brothers.

When Jimmy Carter unveiled the White House solar panels to the press, he said:

No one can ever embargo the sun or interrupt its delivery to us. A generation from now, this solar can either be a curiosity, a museum piece, an example of a road not taken, or it can be a small part of one of the greatest and most exciting adventures ever undertaken by the American people; harnessing the power of the Sun to enrich our lives as we move away from our crippling dependence on foreign oil.”

It is likely that President Carter never imagined in his wildest dreams that American politicians would deliberately block access to the Sun’s energy. Nevertheless, that is what Trump’s imposition of tariffs on solar panels was meant to do precisely like the Koch brothers’ attacks on voter-approved renewable energy standards. For their part, Republicans in Congress have religiously blocked national renewable energy standards while doling out a healthy $21.5 billion in taxpayer-funded  subsidies (corporate welfare) to fossil fuel every year.

It is a sad commentary that in a crusade to serve the interests of one specific industry, a technologically advanced nation like America is reverting to inefficient, costly, and dirty power sources. Of course it is tempting to blame Trump, but like nearly everything disastrous that happened over the past year, he is just a typical Republican doing the bidding of the Koch brothers and the Heritage Foundation.

Koch-Republicans Unleash Attack on Labor in Time for Labor Day

One might think there is some sort of irony in the news that Republicans and their Koch-funded belief tanks are attacking America’s labor force on the federal Labor Day holiday, but with an anti-labor government, it isn’t ironic, it is expected. If Republicans had any scruples, they would make themselves scarce today and avoid public celebrations of Labor Day like plague, but since they don’t have any scruples, they will likely show their greedy faces and offer worthless platitudes to the American worker.

Labor Day was created to acknowledge the organized labor movement (unions) and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It is allegedly meant to be a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

However, now that Republicans and the Koch brothers control the government, workers are facing some seriously barbaric assaults on any and everything to do with labor. Republicans and the Kochs have been on a tear to demolish workers’ rights and wages for nigh onto two decades. But now they have the means and authority to send the American workforce back to the early 20th Century. To achieve that important Koch goal, they recently announced a vicious assault on organized labor to accompany their attack on workers’ rights – including the right to a living wage.

According to several reports, as expected, a Koch-funded and ALEC-affiliated network of 67 conservative ‘belief’ tanks with activists in all 50 states announced a “breakthrough campaign” devised to “strike a mortal blow against the American left.” And they will commence their attack by “defunding and defanging” organized labor as an important first step “towards ensuring the permanent collapse of progressive politics;” and any labor protections for American workers.

The outfit taking the lead in assaulting the labor force is the State Policy Network (SPN). SPN is a national conservative organization closely tied to the Kochs, Americans for Prosperity, and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). It consists of 67 different “non-profit foundations” in the states with a mission, in its own words, to be “idea factories” for state-based conservative policies. However, they are “idea factories” pushing the Koch and GOP’s national anti-government policies to “innocent sounding state foundations” that pretend they came up with ideas of their own accord. The Center for Media and Democracy’s ‘Source Watch’ reported:

“In the states, SPN groups increasingly peddle cookie-cutter ‘studies’ to back the cookie-cutter ALEC agenda, spinning that agenda as indigenous to the state and giving it the aura of academic legitimacy. Many SPN groups have been accused of lobbying in their states in violation of IRS rules for non-profit ‘charitable’ organizations.”

The big push to abolish union labor will be spearheaded with a monumental attempt at passing right to work prohibitions in all 50 states, and theright to workcrusade will sound appealing to the stupid people who dependably elect Republicans. However, besides lowering wages, the goal is to destroy unions, and with no unions the concept of prevailing wage” will vanish. Oh there will no doubt be a “prevailing wage,” but instead of a living wage that lifts other workers’ pay, it will do the opposite and bring all wages down in line with whatever Republicans and Kochs decide is best for corporate profits.

No American should think this is an isolated attack on labor. In Missouri this past week the minimum wage workforce in cities that raised the minimum to $10 per hour saw their hourly rate slashed to $7.70 as dictated by the state’s Republican legislature and governor. Not to be outdone, wealthy business failure Trump cut a raise for federal workers.

Republicans in Congress have done their best to keep wages low by refusing to entertain a federal minimum wage hike, and some have called for abolishing the minimum altogether and allow corporations to set the minimum wage. A couple of years ago, House Republicans attempted to pass legislation eliminating overtime pay, and in Wisconsin, Republicans eliminated weekends to allow employers to work their employees without a day off to rest.

In fact, when Republicans get rolling, they will eliminate every worker benefit and labor protection going back to the New Deal. Without unions, living wages, benefits, and worker protections would have never been enacted; the Koch crusade to “defund and defang” unions is a critical step in taking America’s labor back to dire workplace conditions prior to the New Deal.

It isn’t clear if the Kochs, ALEC, Americans for Prosperity, and the State Policy Network believe that destroying unions and cutting wages to poverty level is going to make people stupid like the typical Republican voter, but that appears to be their strategy. Of course their goal, if accomplished, might deprive the left of support from organized labor, but it doesn’t seem reasonable that driving more of the population into poverty is going to endear them to vote for Republicans and against their own best self-interests. However, although Americans have demonstrated they are a productive workforce, they definitely aren’t the wisest voters. If  they had any sense of self-preservation they would not continue electing Republicans to cut their  wages, eliminate their weekends off and overtime pay, and eliminate their ability and right to collectively bargain with corporations for a living wage.

Workers should enjoy this Labor Day, and reflect on why they have lunch breaks, bathroom privileges, overtime pay, industrial accident coverage, weekends off, and a forty-hour work week; it is because of unions. It is difficult to know if there will be any reason to celebrate Labor Day next year. If the Koch brothers, ALEC, Republicans, and the State Policy Network have their way, the first Monday in September will be just another day Americans have to work for slave wages and without any workplace protections; it is exactly what the labor force has to look forward to with the Kochs and Republicans running the government.

SCOTUS Deals a Blow To Anti-Democracy North Carolina Republicans

 

At a juncture in the nation’s history when a corrupt fascist in the White House is beginning his own serious attack on the right to vote and democracy, this time in oppressing the right to vote, there was a surprising but welcomed bit of good news for voters; at least voters in North Carolina. The Republican dominated state and its anti-democracy legislature had led the nation in imposing Jim Crow-type laws specifically targeting African Americans voting rights because they are less-inclined to vote for Republicans.

Civil rights groups have spent no small amount of time and money fighting to stop the blatant vote suppression tactics favored by the Koch brothers’ legislative arm ALEC; particularly in North Carolina. The various democracy-loving groups were likely worried that when the conservative Supreme Court heard this particular case, their battle would be finished and Republicans would have prevailed even after losing at the appellate court level.

There is little doubt voting rights organizations tempered their celebration after the 4th Circuit Court struck down the Republican voter suppression laws as patently unconstitutional. Republicans, especially North Carolina Republicans, have demonstrated that they will not countenance any attempts or court rulings meant to advance the cause of democracy and rule against voter suppression tactics.

In a surprising decision, the Supreme Court left in place a federal appeals court ruling that struck down key parts of North Carolina’s hateful voting laws. The Appellate Court had found the Republican voter suppression laws unconstitutional because, like Jim Crow, it specifically targeted African American voters unfairly and “imposed cures for problems that never existed.” As anyone concerned about the failing state of America’s barely breathing democracy, to state that the High Court’s ruling is a major victory for civil rights groups, people of color and the democratic process in North Carolina is a minor understatement.

The High Court decision let stand the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling that North Carolina Republicans had acted “with almost surgical precision” to shut down African American voting rights in the state. In writing for the 4th Circuit striking down the law, Judge Diana Gribbon Mott said that not only did the ALEC-devised law “target African Americans with almost surgical precision,” it “impose[d] cures for problems that did not exist. Thus the asserted justifications cannot and do not conceal the State’s true motivation.” Of course the North Carolina Republicans’ “true motivation” was restricting voting rights of any North Carolinian who is not a white evangelical.

North Carolina led the nation in anti-democratic voting laws after the conservatives on the Supreme Court abolished a key section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act In 2013, and eliminated any federal oversight over the former Confederate states with a history of naked discrimination against African American voters. And according to the reaction from North Carolina’s Republican legislature, they are not finished building on their history of vote suppression and pledged to “enact new voting restrictions” despite the Courts’ rulings or any silly Voting Rights Act.

North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore (R) joined president pro-tempore of the Senate Phil Berger (R) and issued a joint statement saying:

All North Carolinians can rest assured that Republican legislators will continue fighting to protect the integrity of our elections by implementing the common sense requirement to show a photo ID when we vote.”

It is noteworthy that there have been absolutely zero cases of in-person voter fraud in North Carolina without the Republicans’ nasty law.  It is also worth remarking that the 4th Circuit decision noted that as far as voter identification is concerned, the N.C. Republican voter identification provision “retained only those types of photo ID held by whites and deliberately excluded, disproportionately, those held by African Americans.

The Appellate Court also said that Republicans “failed to identify even one single individual who has ever been charged with committing in-person voter fraud in North Carolina.” However, it did find a fair amount of evidence of fraud in absentee voting by mail; the preferred method “used disproportionately by white voters” because the voter ID law does not apply to mail-in or absentee voting.

Although anti-democracy Republicans were disappointed at the High Court’s decision, civil and voting rights groups were understandably pleased. For example, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs, Daniel T. Donovan said, “This is the law of the land in the Fourth Circuit.”

The Director of the American Civil Liberty Union’s (ACLU) Voting Rights Project, Dale Ho said, “An ugly chapter in voter suppression is finally closing.”

And North Carolina’s new Democratic Governor Roy Cooper issued a statement saying,

Today’s announcement is good news for North Carolina voters. We need to be making it easier to vote, not harder.”

Although this is good news all around for the democratic process in North Carolina, and a blow to North Carolina Republican attempts to suppress African Americans’ right to vote, it is noteworthy to mention that the fight to participate in democracy is not yet over for North Carolina African Americans. As Chief Justice John Roberts noted, yesterday’s decision not to hear or rule on the case does “not necessarily” set a legal precedent and does not mean the conservative court will not endorse and legalize Jim Crow laws in the future. In fact, history and conventional wisdom informs that the conservative majority will legalize Jim Crow to aid Republican electoral chances.

However, today in North Carolina there is reason to celebrate and in these darkest of days for America’s waning democracy, even a temporary blow to fascist Republicans is one all Americans should savor. Because with Trump setting his sights with an anti-democracy zealot Khris Kobach on making it nearly impossible to cast a ballot for anyone except white Christians, there is every reason to believe that North Carolina’s hateful voter suppression law will be the model for a national law criminalizing people of color even attempting to participate in democracy.