America is on Fire

The economics of stupidity and why we might not recover this time

Rostin Behnam was nominated by President Trump as a Commissioner of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Last week, he said that the financial risks from climate change were comparable to those posed by the mortgage meltdown that triggered the 2008 financial crisis.

“If climate change causes more volatile frequent and extreme weather events, you’re going to have a scenario where these large providers of financial products — mortgages, home insurance, pensions — cannot shift risk away from their portfolios,” he said. “It’s abundantly clear that climate change poses financial risk to the stability of the financial system. (Major Risks to Financial Markets)”

When addressed in economic terms, even conservatives wise up — but not all.

Stupid People leading the Dumb

“There are stupid people and there are dumb people. If I thought you were dumb, I’d leave you alone. But I don’t think that. I think you are just stupid.” These loving words were spoken to me when I was 13 years old. Sure, to the untrained ear, they sound pretty harsh; but from the mouth of my grandfather, they were the most loving ones I would get.

A very successful farmer in the western part of Pennsylvania, Leon’s pastures were so pristine that he actually beat out the Amish a few years in a row for the “greenest pastures” award. Beating the Amish at farming is not an easy task.

Leon was a harsh man. He loved positively and loved negatively — meaning, he tortured you because he was trying to make you better. I fell into the negative love/“tortured” category. Today, when I look at the criminality being perpetrated against our country and the world by right-wing politics and conservatives in terms of climate, Leon’s words take on new meaning

In Leon’s world, a “dumb” person stumbles into success not understanding how the good fortune came his way. A stupid, who fails to become successful, knows why and obviously made stupid mistakes along the way. Dumb people don’t really make mistakes because they don’t no any better. The stupid make them and then are apt to say, “damn, I knew that would happen.” This is the classic phrase that burns in the veins and sticks in the craw (something we humans don’t have, by the way).

Rupert Murdoch, while the king of the stupid, is very smart man. All of his holdings (800 in 50 countries) sit under the umbrella of New Corp. and actively report that climate change is either a hoax, not backed up by science or in some instances even a conspiracy designed to wreck the US economy. All of this reporting — and most prominently Fox News — is utter stupidity. Murdoch, however, has an agenda. By making climate change a rallying cry, he guarantees that his media holdings will always attract both the stupid and the dumb.

Citing survey data, the author, Dana Nuccitelli, wrote that “Republicans who watch Fox News are more than twice as likely to deny human-caused climate change than Republican non-viewers, and 62 percent of Republicans watch Fox News.” Nuccitelli added that the data “suggests that the presence of Fox News and other conservative media outlets may be the primary explanation for why climate denial is more prevalent in the United States than in other developed countries.” (How Fox News Is Helping To Destroy The Planet)

The stupid are not as reliable, however, as the dumb. Being stupid is often a temporary slip or a choice for, perhaps, some hidden and nefarious reason. The dumb, however, are just dumb and are more brand-loyal. A stupid person can at any given moment “wise up” and opt out of accepting the News Corp. narrative. A dumb person doesn’t realize there is an alternative to the narrative and so in order to completely ensure that the dumb remain loyal, the “lie” needs to be honed and evolved, pushed non-stop and packaged into easily understood and repeatable slogans.

It’s just so frustratingly obvious when a dumb Fox-News watcher regurgitates New Corp. talking points: the science isn’t there; it just hasn’t been proven; humans exhale CO2, are we all supposed to stop breathing? These people trying to sound smart are the same ones who think Mountain Dew is a healthy alternative to juice in the morning.

Dumb people have a hard to time seeing the consequences of an action; when Fox News speaks about a UN report citing that one million species will soon go extinct due to climate change, the information just doesn’t register with them because it can’t — it might as well be 1 trillion. Actually, saying 5 would be better because the bigger numbers force the brain to react, to work and assess the information — not a forte of the dumb. Fox News knows this and that is why the 2017 UN report was not something that scared New Corp. — uh, they caught us — but rather it was something that sent Fox News producers into giggling fits — “Silly, tree-huggers, facts are for smart people.”

The Cost of Stupidity

There are many “strong and beautiful examples” from the past showing how the stupid easily lure the dumb down roads of tragedy. The most successful of these strategies is the way Big Tobacco’s covered up the scientific evidence that smoking causes cancer.

Smoking: “The science just isn’t there to confirm that smoking (insert climate change) causes cancer” they stated over and over again (Smoking Kills). 480,000 Americans die each year from smoking. $300 billion is lost annually from the US economy due to smoking. In a 2016 Atlantic piece, David Heath writes: “On December 14, 1953, the CEOs of the six largest cigarette makers met secretly at New York’s Plaza Hotel to discuss a strategy for countering the bad publicity. What developed over time, as Kessler’s opinion details, was a joint strategy to twist science and mislead the public about the dangers of smoking.

The CEOs, driven by greed, acted stupidly and led dumb people down the road to death. Based on the numbers above, since 1954 smoking has killed 31.6 million Americans directly; and an additional 2.1 million have died from second-hand smoke. The cost to the US economy has been $19.8 trillion! Now let’s use what we know about smoking and the deceitful cover-ups and apply it to climate change.

The economic impact of climate related damage to the United States is astronomical and increases each year. Just last week, the Trump Administration rather surprisingly released a report about the effect that climate change will have on the financial markets (Future Markets). The first of its kind, and one done so by openly conservative politicians, is shocking in how it predicts that unless something is changed fast, America will become rather quickly a scene out of Mad Max.

Quite often after nightmarish mass shootings, the stupid will ask the question: “why does this keeping happening in our society?” 400 million guns, that we know of, are in circulation in the US. News Corp. will instruct its anchors to mock proponents of gun control: “and of course, the liberals will tell us that it is the guns that resulted in this latest mass shooting. As if the guns themselves walked into the school and pulled the trigger.” Snickers and winks abound and 60 million Americans will have just received their talking points. Or this one, “it’s not a time for politics but for prayer and reflection.”

Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, Harvey and Irma alone have cost the US tax payers $450 billion — a conservative estimate. This year there have already been 18 named hurricanes. The stupid will say something like, “what you telling me there weren’t hurricanes before climate change?” No, of course there were, but what climate change does is it makes the storms more frequent, more intense and slower moving causing more catastrophic damage (Hidden Costs of Climate Change).

With each passing month, year and decade that the stupid continue to lead the dumb away from doing something about climate change, we further doom not only our country but the world. 2020 will break all previous records in the terms of economic and human costs caused by the increasingly severe droughts, floods, hurricanes, wildfire, tornado and blizzard.

The actual costs for shifting the US economy from the fossil-fuel one it is today to a predominantly green and thus sustainable one is absolute peanuts when compared to the costs of post-weather event clean-ups since 2017 — when Trump became president. The so-called loss of jobs will be not “economy wrecking” as the stupid instruct and the dumb repeat because new industries will be created; and, the businesses and economic activity wiped by the catastrophic storms will still be in place.

The scenes we see on TV of Americans sifting through the rubble of their former homes, of watching their towns burn or float away have become so common that they barely shock us anymore. Remember the first 1000 Covid deaths? We were all sad and its now 200,000 and Fox News and its dumb followers say stupid — even vile — stuff like, “this is an acceptable number”.

We have become desensitized to the arrogance of the stupid people destroying our nation and many just shake their heads and say, “oh, what an idiot.” It is now time to prove to our future that we weren’t dumb as well.

A writer, a father and a student of history, the past holds the answers to today’s problems. “Be curious, not judgmental,” at least until you have all the facts

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