Editor's note: This contribution by the late journalist I.F. Stone first appeared in our January 1975 magazine.
We hear a lot of talk from Republicans and tea partiers about cutting food stamps and unemployment benefits to workers who lost their jobs through no fault of their own. But when it comes to corporate welfare for giant, profitable oil companies, Senate Republicans are unanimously in favor of keeping big oil’s tax breaks alive.
Perhaps most troublesome is the fact that far too many members of Congress seem willing to base public policy not on sound science but on Glenn Beck, who has suggested climate scientists should commit suicide and compared Al Gore to Adolf Hitler. Rush Limbaugh, for his part, has said that global warming is “bogus” and the work of “pseudo-scientists.”
Adding insult to injury was the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which has allowed corporations to spend unlimited sums on ads to influence elections without even having to disclose who is paying for the ad. This 5-4 court decision is already wreaking havoc on our democracy, empowering the oil and coal industries to use their huge profits to punish politicians who vote against them. The Republicans filibustered legislation in the Senate to impose modest disclosure requirements on corporate election spending.
We must aggressively take on this kind of corporate bullying with a strong grassroots movement. In Vermont, we have dozens of towns with energy committees. These are just groups of engaged citizens who have decided they want to do something about energy independence, do something to lower their energy bills, do something to fight global warming. We need to take that spirit and build a broader national grassroots movement—like Bill McKibben and his team at 350.org are doing.
The bottom line in all of this is that, as a citizen, if you care about protecting the environment and fighting global warming, you have to fight the influence of the polluting industries. This type of effort is absolutely essential to help Congress find the spine to overcome the objections of corporate polluters and pass meaningful legislation to tackle the most significant environmental challenge of our time—global warming—and to transform our energy sector while creating millions of jobs in the process. They have the money and the power, and there is only one way to beat them: with an unprecedented grassroots movement.
This is an excerpt from Sen. Bernie Sanders’s essay in the Dec/Jan issue of The Progressive magazine. To read his article in its entirety, simply subscribe to The Progressive for just $14.97—75% off the newsstand price, by clicking here.