by Akim Reinhardt
I was about 10 miles up the road in Long Beach visiting my sister’s family when word came of last week’s massive oil spill in Huntington Beach, Orange Co., California. We were actually headed over to that very beach when my brother in law checked the conditions.
Ten or twenty years ago I might’ve made some tired, easy joke about how this state is a tragicomic carousel of disasters. Earthquakes, mudslides, droughts, riots, etc. Just add this oil spill to the list. But now it’s the entire nation that resembles a bad joke with punchlines you can smell long before they arrive.
And if this state is a microcosm of the larger nation, with about 12% of the U.S. population within California’s badly angled borders, then perhaps it has something to do with how money both creates and sorta solves problems, at least for some people. The wealthiest state in the world’s wealthiest nation, and neither can get out of their own way. They both stumble about, knocking everything over amid their ravenous search for profits, and then turn to the “regular people,” the actual workers with sigh-inducing lives and miserable commutes, and even the less fortunate, to foot the bill and clean it all up.
America, can’t abide by simple rules designed to keep a pandemic in check because you’re susceptible to the propaganda actively or passively spewed by profiteering TV networks and digital media? Then just spend lavishly to hog the world’s vaccine supply and ride out the worst of it while maintaining your freewheeling ways.
California, don’t have enough water to support both, 40 million people and an enormous, misguided agribusiness complex in a state that’s mostly desert or near-desert? Then spend decades building and maintaining massive hydro reallocation projects that wreak ecological devastation for hundreds of miles around.
America, can’t imagine a national healthcare system usurping your Cadillac healthcare insurance plan (without realizing that Cadillacs have been shit cars for decades)? Then leave the uninsured to wallow in Emergency Rooms, their unpaid bills spiking private insurance premiums even higher, and if you feel bad about it, support an ACA band aid that doesn’t address any fundamental systemic problems but merely drags more people into our broken free market healthcare shooting gallery.
California, can’t resist building bucolic homes in high risk wildfire zones? Shit, that’s like healthcare, just warmer; let the insurance companies and maybe FEMA take care of you, ultimately passing the bill on to everyone else.
America, can’t get over your fear of black and brown people? Then evacuate to some well-heeled, lily white suburb, leaving the cities (and more recently older, inner ring suburbs) to rot while county, state, and federal governments build, pave, and maintain the massive road complexes you need to live this wretched, homogenizing, atomizing, soul-sucking lifestyle.
California, can’t create sufficient affordable housing for the tens of millions of people betwixt your borders? Well then, cap the property tax rate so that all the people really making out on skyrocketing home prices never need to feel any real pain, and tax the fuck out of everything else so that people who can’t afford to buy homes, or buy nice ones, can help carry the load.
America, can’t muster any substantial national sacrifices for the wars to secure foreign oil and chase imperial interventionist fantasies? Just bloat the Pentagon’s budget, and recruit poor men and women into your “volunteer” military. But don’t dare draft the middle class. Instead, farm out more and more of the dirty work to paid mercenaries, oops, I mean “contractors.”
California, this whole thing ain’t working out for a lot of your people? Just cram the prisons full to the point of bursting until even the U.S. Supreme Court, which you deride for its Conservative ways, says enough’s enough, you need to get them back down to a mere 137.5% of capacity.
America, can’t manage to drive a vehicle that doesn’t burn through gasoline like an alcoholic binging on cheap vodka because you need your car to feel like a smart tech family room on wheels, or live in a home that never nudges a hair over 68 degrees when it’s 90 outside because one bead of sweat might be the end of you? It’s okay, you can count on every other nation in the world to take climate change seriously and then try to buy them off with clearance sales on bombs and the kind of free trade deals that foreign elites can cash in on almost as much as our own elites do.
California, Can’t resist pumping massive amounts of crude out of the ocean just a few scant miles from your overpriced shores despite all your enviro-hippie-dippie street cred? Then just leave it to taxpayers to mostly foot the bill for cleaning it all up when the inevitable happens.
And this recent oil spill is in some ways where California and the United States dovetail nicely. Cause as you might’ve guessed, there’s a system in place. One that sounds like a square deal where the guilty pay, but really . . .
Have the Coast Guard fund federal agencies, state agencies, and Native tribes to begin the cleanup process while the private companies responsible for the mess argue with insurance companies and federal mediators about whether they’re actually responsible. If the corporation(s) is found liable, only then will they reimburse the Coast Guard. And as you might’ve guessed, no matter how bad it is, there’s a limit on corporate liability. Any overages are covered by the Liability Trust Fund, which oil companies pay into every year, which sounds good, but of course they pass the cost of those payments on to consumers in the price of oil. And don’t forget, it’s not just planes, trains, and automobiles that run on petroleum (though that is about ⅔ of oil consumption in America). Oil is also a primary ingredient in countless industrial products, including plastic, which encompasses everything from what you recognize as conventional consumer plastics and may or may not dutifully recycle, to synthetic fibers such as polyester and microfiber, which you don’t.
So in the long run, even cycling vegans pony up for Big Oil’s ecology-soaking shenanigans.
It all seems so unnecessary and unfair. But perhaps it was inevitable given the United States, with only 4% of the world’s population, consumes 20% of the world’s oil. How unbecoming. But never you mind, because it gives back so much. For example, its self-proclaimed fruit basket, California, produces 80% of the world’s almonds (2 billion pounds annually) all by it’s little lonesome. And one acre of mature almond trees requires 1.3 million gallons of water per year. There’s a lot of back and forth on, really, how much water almonds need and consume. But that figure comes from the lib tards over the Wall Street Journal. As does the observation that almonds require about twice the amount of water as do vegetables such as broccoli or lettuce, much less the more drought-resistant crops generally suitable for California’s sunny, arid and semi-arid climate, often affectionately termed “Mediterranean,” because apparently that sounds better than “desert,” which, technically, much of the state, including a chunk of its Central Valley fruit basket, is.
Indeed, California, much like the rest of America, is a Garden of Eden, a paradise to live in or see. But believe it or not, you won’t find it so hot if you aint’ got the do re mi.
Akim Reinhardt’s website is ThePublicProfessor.com