Okay. What Do You Want Me to Do About It?A Corporate Executive with Strong Ties to The Business Community and Federal Government
To the hundreds of people rallying outside the skyscraper where my multinational corporation is headquartered: I get it. The three or four minutes a day I catch on CNBC from those TVs that are always on in the office tell me as much.
Environmental catastrophe. Racial unrest. Inflation. Insurmountable debt. Stagnating wages. A global pandemic. All of this and more have revealed systemic inequalities from the distribution of wealth, access to affordable housing and health care, and quality education. I think you know this already, otherwise you wouldn’t be here holding up papier-mâché effigies of me with dollar signs over the eyes and money bags in the fists. I’m just as upset about these recent Supreme Court decisions as you are, despite the role my contributions to the Federalist Society played in getting all six conservative Justices confirmed.
But what can I do? Employ my power and remake society from the top down? Come on! I’m only one person with an obscene fortune and considerable influence in both the private and public sectors.
Climate justice isn’t inextricably linked to racial justice, the protection of democracy, civil rights, income inequality, fair housing, and fundamental human rights. What effect does a deteriorating ecosphere have on food scarcity, resource depletion, and disease? Do you think capitalism, a system that allows people like me to even exist, is the problem? I know more than one motion passed by the elected officials I’ve backed has contributed to our inaction. I’m also aware that one of them happens to be the current occupant of The White House. But what are you expecting? Do you want me to call up a man I’ve known for decades and say we need to expand the courts? And strengthen environmental regulations by codifying them into law? Or convince moderate Republicans we’re facing an existential threat? Do you think he’ll listen to me? Someone who has donated a total of ten million dollars to his campaigns and was an invited guest at his Inauguration? A man my adult children call “Uncle Joe” to this very day? With all due respect, I think you’re kidding yourselves. Stop confronting me with the checkered, contradictory, and self-serving history of my involvement in national affairs, begging me to atone for them by doing the right thing now before I die. You think I can’t take all this wealth with me? You’re right, of course, but I’ll die trying!
Do the actions of one individual matter if the world requires a complete overhaul? As a former business colleague of several sitting members of Congress in both parties, I certainly couldn’t discuss climate action with them, working in concert with business interests and public necessity. My friends Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin have told me privately that I’m probably the one person who could convince them to change their minds on the filibuster, but what would that accomplish? Do you think we can include language accounting for renewable energy infrastructure on this “Build Back Better” thing, creating millions of good-paying jobs in the process? Alternative energy wouldn’t be a wise investment, even if Biden did reverse Trump’s executive orders derailing solar energy projects, making them profitable and sustainable. Even if tens of millions of advocates and activists are demanding that our governments do something, like you are right now.
The Supreme Court I helped weaponize has limited the EPA’s ability to control carbon emissions. Don’t you think we should trust them, a group of glorified lawyers, about easily understandable scientific matters? One that is two-thirds composed of people installed to undo legally enshrined progressivism and solidify white supremacy? Five of them were appointed by presidents that lost the popular vote — they’re living symbols of the wealthy, but enlightened minority that rules this planet because they know what’s best for everybody! Hell, one of them is Black and another is a woman. They know the biases of this system better than anyone but watch as they fortify its inherent racism and sexism for a generation to come! One third of the men serving on the Court have been credibly accused of sexual misconduct, but who believes that nonsense? Who wouldn’t want to have a beer with Brett Kavanaugh? Or encourage their wife or daughter to have a Coke with Clarence Thomas?
I can’t convene a meeting of our board to reassess our activities in the Amazon rainforest, determining if our intrusion onto Indigenous Peoples’ lands is a violation of sovereign territory and a PR disaster to boot. I can’t refuse to enter any partnership or contract with far-right lunatics like Jair Bolsonaro, or anyone else setting fire to the lungs of the planet. I also can’t order a firm-wide audit of our annual carbon emissions with the goal of reducing them to zero by 2030, the year the IPCC has given the world as a deadline to get its act together and mitigate the worst effects of this crisis. I trust the science, but my limited power as Chairman and CEO of this multinational Fortune 100 company only allows me to do so much. How many other companies would follow my example, given that mine is at the very top, and imitated by everyone below us?
I appreciate you coming here and bringing all of this to my attention. Again. Let’s hold out hope that this will all work out the way it’s supposed to. A little faith never hurt anyone. Except, of course, that of the Evangelical Christian-led PACs partially bankrolled by me to essentially install a fascist theocracy. (By the way, have you checked out Chick-fil-A’s new menu? Très magnifique!)
If you’ll excuse me, there are representatives here from the World Health Organization and Amnesty International. They want to discuss funding humanitarian efforts to relocate people in island nations displaced by coastal flooding. I can’t imagine why. Who do they think I am, the richest person on the planet?