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The Seventh Generation Principle


The Seventh Generation Principle                         Gerry O'Shea

The Seventh Generation Principle conveys a core belief of Native Americans. It states that in every serious decision we make at all levels of society, we should give priority to considering how it will impact our descendants, seven generations into the future.

The Republican 2018 budget involved massive tax breaks that almost entirely benefited corporations and rich people. It was sold to the public on the bogus assertion that the huge advantages for the rich would gradually trickle down to help ordinary workers and the poor.

Who would pay for this massive budgetary giveaway as well as for increased military spending of around 750 billion dollars?  Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary, assured the nation that "not only will this tax cut pay for itself but it will pay down the debt as well."

This rationale for tax cuts goes back to the Reagan years; they call it supply-side economics and it anchors the conservative budgetary philosophy that when the rich get richer, everybody benefits. It is an interesting theory but it has never worked! Since Mr. Mnuchin's promise, the annual deficit is up a massive 17% over 2017.

 Back in the seventies when the late George Bush  was competing with Ronald Reagan for the Republican nomination for president, he memorably dubbed his opponent's supply-side budgetary approach as voodoo economics, but he lost and what came to be called Reaganomics prevailed  - and with it a burgeoning national debt.

The clear unfairness and immorality of this situation cries out for redress because today's citizens have no right to pass on debt to future generations. Until President Reagan was elected in 1980 deficit budgeting was vigorously opposed by all brands of conservatism. In fact, it was decried as an irresponsible Democratic tactic, and indeed liberals often approved of borrowing money for major infrastructure projects, especially during periods of economic recession.

When President Clinton left office in 2000 his mature approach to budgeting brought about a surplus of 236 billion with a national debt of just 6 trillion; Trump's budget deficit is close to 800 billion driving the national debt to a stunning 21 trillion - and rising.

 Mind blowing figures that are impossible to imagine but economists agree that the bills will have to be paid with interest by our children and grandchildren, and they warn that continuing to add to the trillions we already owe may well cause major economic disruption, including a sinking dollar, in the next  ten years or so.

Another policy area where the importance of the welfare of future generations is sacrificed for quick profits involves fracking, a process mainly used to facilitate the production of natural gas. This has major short-term financial benefits for big oil and gas companies, but it has serious long-term  negative effects on the environment.

Hydrofracturing or, as it is more commonly called, fracking, is a very serious abusive intrusion on the natural environment. It involves millions of gallons of water, plus multiple chemicals and sand, being pumped at very high pressure into the ground in order to access gas or oil. Some of the hundreds of different kinds of chemicals used, including some known carcinogens, are poisonous and dangerous.

 Frequently the hydraulic drilling is carried out through drinking water aquifers risking spreading poisonous chemicals. There are reports of water contamination and  illnesses in the communities affected.

The companies will make their big bucks but what about the harm done to families, especially to young people. Who will compensate the children for the medium and long-term damage of exposure to toxic chemicals? Fracking is reckless behavior for the environment that should be banned  by all levels of government.

The  National Climate Assessment, required by Congress, published the day after Thanksgiving, highlights  the biggest inter-generational issue of our time: climate change. This report draws on the work of hundreds of scientists and  is endorsed by eleven federal agencies - including NASA and the Department of Defense. It ominously warns that drought and rising sea-levels could cause severe humanitarian crises by the middle of the century.

This government report is a damning indictment of  the damage that fossil fuel emissions have wrought: "It is very likely that some physical and ecological impacts will be irreversible for thousands of years while others will be permanent."

The National Climate Assessment echoes the findings of a United Nations report published a month earlier in October. The UN document warns that the science is so compelling  on climate change and on the cataclysmic damage that has already been done, that without dramatic changes in the use of fossil fuels, the future is bleak for today's children and, even worse for subsequent generations.

There is some hope because people are gradually becoming more aware of the looming ecological catastrophe identified by nearly all scientists. Parents and grandparents are increasingly fearful for their grandchildren when they see, for instance, the deadly wildfires in California and the frightening flooding and storm surges from Hurricanes Florence and Michael.

 Democrats who will have a strong majority in the House of Representatives in January are talking of a "New Green Deal." Radical remedial actions in the area of climate change have to be a top priority in the new Congress.

 Meanwhile, amazingly, not only President Trump but also Senator McConnell and Congressmen Ryan and McCarthy continue to live in a fool's paradise, asserting they just don't agree with the scientific findings or are not convinced by the evidence. They have even abandoned the modest Paris Climate Agreement and, unfortunately, they pay no heed whatever to the profound wisdom of the Seventh Generation Principle.

 

 

 

 

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