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Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 04:48 AM PDT

Fracking is class warfare

by theupstatedemocrat

                You might be asking yourself how exactly is the process of natural gas extraction class warfare? Coming from a small town in upstate New York I have seen the devastation that the last 30 years of economic austerity can suck the life from a town. Hundreds of factories shutting down with no excuse other than it’s cheaper to manufacture goods outside of the country. Family farms being shut down because big Agriculture has taken over our system of farm subsidies has been overtaken by big agriculture. Rural America needs a solution that is more than just the attack on the rural working poor, we deserve the dignity to have clean water, and air. Rural America needs a solution not a band-aid, and unfortunately to some people Natural gas development or Fracking is that solution. But they are wrong and the advocates for natural gas development in the Southern tier, and other heartlands of rural America are really advocating for just one thing austerity.

                  Fracking does nothing to solve 30 years of economic austerity in the Southern of New York or any rural part of America for that matter. If anything it creates a systematic assault on the working rural poor and farmers. We as citizens of the rural heartland have been given an ultimatum. Somehow we are supposed to accept the fact that natural gas development is good, and will bring jobs to the Southern Tier of New York. Somehow that our counties on the tip of New York, the most impoverished counties in all of New York State will have to endure the economic and class experiment that is the Natural Gas industry. If one analyzes the closest example of what can go wrong in a town which the fracking industry has passed through, one only needs to look at Dimmock P.A. It is this town that is the model of what can go wrong with fracking, and shows how natural gas development is a class war against the rural poor. It shows that farmers who have no other alternative other than accepting natural gas development on their land, because these farmers have no access to capital. What this represents is rural working class families being forced into an agreement that not only destroys their lands but also their communities. When there is no alternative to natural gas development it shows that government will not do what it should to fulfill its end of the social contract. What fracking brings is ruin to small farmers, whose land is destroyed by methane contamination.

                 Make no mistake of it Fracking is class warfare, it presupposes the idea that because we live in an area that is economically depressed the effects of fracking can only be helpful for our communities. That is the same logic that leads to our roads being destroyed and crime increase within our communities. It pits the rural working class against a growing migratory working class that are subject to the pressures of loneliness and isolation. This class warfare stratifies our towns in a manner in which they have not been stratified before. It creates the class of migrant workers who do not connect to the local communities, which is why we see the increase of crime. The loneliness of disenfranchised and dislocated workers forced to work in the name of profit for a company which gives his family their only source of livelihood is our enemy as well. When Chesapeake Energy or Halliburton brings these workers whose communities have been put through the same processes, it is just a repeat game. Fracking divides the town even more into those haves and have nots, because it increases the amount of capital that some landowners may have. But that capital is cursed for these landowners cannot sell their lands once they are contaminated with methane.

            When the conservatives talk about a class war they are correct there is a class war going on in this country. But it is not a class war on big oil or big gas it’s a class war and disenfranchisement of the poorest people in this nation. People who have farmed land for generations and left to survive as best as they could when it was no longer profitable for companies to buy crops from American farmers. The class war is on them, and it is based on the simple fact, that our geographic and economic location makes us so desperate that we are willing to poison ourselves. While that may be true to some people it should not be a general agreement. This forced development of our communities into an industrialized wasteland will turn our economies into those of boom and bust. Do not accept the idea that we need to develop natural gas or face bankruptcy. We should be demanding factories in upstate New York, not letting Republican politicians funnel money into their own pockets while pushing the poisoning of our lands. Our families have as much right to water as people in New York city or any urban area. Make no mistake about Fracking and all that surrounds it is class warfare.

Paolo Cremidis


          Congresswoman Virginia Foxx is the higher education subcommittee chair in Congress. A few months ago she stated on talk radio that she could not tolerate people who accumulated student debt from going to a public university. In the same interview she stated that when she had gone to school she had worked off her student debt. Now everything in that statement is true, she cannot tolerate students who accumulate debt, and yes she did work off her tuition bills. But what Virginia Foxx does not understand is the different amount of tuition we have to pay off now as students. She does not understand why exactly she was able to work off her loans while many students that try to now are mired in interest costs, and other fees. Virginia Foxx represents the generation of angry old white people that somehow demand that students do not demand the same amount of funding and services that the older generation had to take advantage of.

           It is sad that Republicans made it a part of their national platform:

"The federal government should not be in the business of originating student loans; however, it should serve as an insurance guarantor for the private sector as they offer loans to students," the platform reads. "Private sector participation in student financing should be welcomed."

They openly encourage the creation of for profit colleges but it is even more of a contradiction. But this is an interesting part of the debate on higher education. It tries to define the Republicans who created this platform as people who pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps. If we look at the higher education budget cut hawks they went neither to colleges that were neither private nor for profit

Louie Gohmert TX 1st:  Texas A&M University 1975 B.A

Virginia Foxx NC 5th: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill B.A 1968

Jim Semsenbrehnner WI 5th: University of Wisconsin Law School Juris Doctor 1968

Steve Womack AR 3th: Arkansas Technical University B.A 1979

Keep in mind that these people graduated from college at a time, when Pell grants funded 69% of tuition at all Universities both public and private.

                Even if we look at Paul Ryan who went to a private University in Miami Ohio, he still saved money from federal benefits to go to college. So the question again becomes a rhetorical instrument of justification. Why is it ok that these Republicans and this generation were allowed to use tax dollars to go to Public Universities but ours cannot?  These austerity politicians literally got into Congress because of the public system of higher education or funding from the federal government. Either way we look at it; these people are trying to redefine the goals of the federal government, because they try to redefine the causes of problems. Is it some sort of generational contradiction? To me it seems like the majority of Americans would like to have public universities funded and properly. Which is why President Obama won his second term, it was at the Democratic National Convention that the issue of affordable education was included in the national platform. It was the democratic congressman Hansen Clarke that introduced the “End Student Debt Act” into Congress, but these politicians will not compromise on the issue of student debt. It is this generation of Republicans that are trying to destroy the legacy of their party. If history is considered a measure of progress in Higher Education then it was President Lincoln a Republican who should be revered as the father of Modern Higher education through the land grant act.

              This is the true problem of the crippling student debt situation in our country. The fact that a large part of the golden generation and baby boomers who lived through the prosperity of the New Deal programs. Virginia Foxx is one of the cases where elected Republicans are literally contradicting the way our education system works because of a false philosophical premise that even Republicans like Virginia Foxx did not use to “pull themselves from their bootstraps” In short these political arguments that we are having about student debt are not whether or not to “increase spending” on education. But whether or not to restore the prosperity of our nation by funding education through tuition payments and pell grants. We used to be the nation with the highest number of college graduates in the world, but at the same time Pell Grants covered 69% of tuition for the average students. Keeping in mind that tuition itself was on average $500 dollars a year for a student in the 1960s. It seems to me though that there is a structural problem with what exactly has happened with the issue of funding higher education.

        So while we keep arguing our way over the issue on how to pay down the national debt. We keep forgetting what made our nation great which was an equalizing system of public education. Right now as it stands it would cost $73 Billion dollars to fund tuition free education for all American students in this generation. Roughly speaking that is 45% of the total yearly of the Bush tax cuts. It is less than 1/10th  of the defense budget. This is a matter of national priority and security, because if our country is to be prosperous enough to maintain a skilled workforce then we need to address this issue. This is not a matter of rhetoric, the threat that student debt poses to our economy is very real. Recently graduated students cannot purchase on the same levels than previous generations that did not have student debt could. This attack on our purchasing power translates into the real economy of having less liquid capital for us the true job creators as a consumers to consume.

              While Republicans keep talking about the crisis of our national debt, they go quiet when the conversation becomes about student debt. This rollback of our education should have been characterized as austerity, because that’s what it was. From Reagan to Virginia Foxx these politicians talk about prosperity like it is a measurement of success for students. Any economist can tell you that in order to have a prosperous economy you need two things a skilled workforce and the creation of work. In a consumption economy both of those require skilled workers and a process of constant industrialization. What the right keeps talking about is not an issue of the debt; it’s an issue of privatization and deindustrialization of our nation. As more and more factories and more unions are busted there is an interesting correlation on how much more difficult it is to get a college education. It used to be that a college degree was the great equalizer, but we should be ashamed as a nation that no longer is true completely. So the solution is either we fund education to have a functioning economy, or we do nothing and let the status quo continue. Spending less than half the money we spend on corporate subsidies and tax cuts we can make public education tuition free for all students and restore this great equalizer

Paolo Cremidis


               We must remember as progressives that if the Democratic party represents us, and we use it as a tool to enact change that the debate we are having is not what that change is, but how the other side can attack us, as being not the party of the people but the party of elitist city borne ideology. That is what happened with the birth of the tea party, or rather it was the final punch in thirty years of regression, because the story of rural populism being regressed by the right does not begin in the Midwest but rather in rural manufacturing sections of the country like my hometown of Elmira New York. But the majority of voters who grew up under the new deal era became conservative when they got older so this shift in ideology only spans a lifetime in the majority of people, When people think of the populism in this country, they think of the Midwest and other regions of our country where populism prevailed.

                     What people fail to realize is that this populism had the certain cultural characteristic that redefined the left and in this modern age the Democratic Party. It is interesting that this populism came not from the Democratic Party but from the populist party among other groups. This might be strange to some but the state that gave FDR his biggest margin or 94% of the vote in 1936 was Mississippi, one of the few senators to oppose the new deal from the left was a southern democrat named Huey Long. It was the Midwest that supported the Socialist party of America during its existence was the Midwest with Wisconsin sending one of the only two socialist into Congress Victor L Berger. This state also sent to the Senate Bob Lafollete A Republican who ran as the Progressive Party candidate in 1912 garnering 12% of the vote. At this moment you might be asking yourself. What does this have to do with the Rebirth of Rural populism? If we analyze the shift of the white working class in this country it started to become increasingly conservative in our spectrum during the 1960s. So this shift has literally happened as the population had gotten older. But this is an anomaly in political ideology, because it was the Senior citizens in the 1930s that were part of the Townsend clubs (A movement created by Dr. Charles Townsend to ensure income for Senior citizens), vestiges of that movement are still alive in the AARP.

                    I recently had the chance to sit in a political discussion in a cigar shop a traditionally conservative atmosphere, as a progressive I could not really agree with them on social issues such as abortion or gay marriage, but demographics tend to defeat that argument in national circles. But the other part of the argument they can agree with me on is international trade, most rural politics tend to center around factory towns, and this is were we can take a stance on saying we represent the majority of people. Democrats could exploit the argument against free trade, if we did something about it such as renegotiating free trade deals, and this is something Conservatives can be won over on. Especially in states that have heavy industry and manufacturing, and usually this argument tends to be more bipartisan in agreement than message. All politics are populist no matter what side of the spectrum you are on, which is why the tea party was so effective in drawing around the cultural edges of the picture of existence in rural America. It was painting the argument of the "people" which the tea party represented or at least argued to represent against the elitist federal government and its special interest such as unions and the evil Planned Parenthood. The reason this argument worked is because it played to cultural attitudes within regions such as the south and midwest that flipped once thought safe democratic seats such as Chairman of the budget committee John Spratt's seat in North Carolina, anti NAFTA Mississippi congressman Gene Taylor among others. It is only an argument of rhetoric that Louisiana only has one democratic congressman even though the majority of their congressional districts are made up of what were considered once solid democrats. Now regionally there are several arguments that are populist in my hometown and the Surrounding Southern tier of Upstate New York its anti fracking, and it seems to have worked pretty well in unseating several Republicans such as Nan Hayworth and Ann Marie Buerkle. Both elected in the tea party wave of 2010. I believe that the anti fracking movement is key to the rebirth of rural populism, because it actually defines the rhetoric of populism perfectly.

                If we look at what politicians have made the fracking debate about, it is about the elites against the people and no matter what Republicans say or do. They have defined themselves as taking the side of the elite and this is a view supported by most people in upstate New York even if they are Republican. Now the fact that this debate has cemented itself in Upstate New York as a fight against the elite even with Republicans says alot about the natural gas industry and its political supporters. Often to conservatives it is not the environmental problems but rather the economic ones such as the increase in rent prices and traffic increase. But also there is a different appeal specially with traditionally Republican winery owners within the finger lakes region of the southern tier if fracking comes to this area then the grape industry will be ruined because of lack of water. Now the anti fracking movement has united the people against corporate elite interest just trying to profit from our homes and then leave.

               This rural populism is much more cultural and based on the self reliance of a region. There are other successful stories of where populist have won elections Jon Tester in Montana and Joe Manchin in West Virginia won elections in deep red states. The fact that a democrat won as a Senator and not as president in these states shows a big change in cultural attitude to their officials. I guess the label that all politics are local fits perfectly to how Democrats win and can win rural conservative leaning districts. It used to be that both Republicans and Democrats fought against NAFTA and other outsourcing policies. But Republicans tend to just want to play on the cultural attitudes of a rural area to win a congressional seat, which is failing because telling someone that banning gay marriage is somehow going to stop the outsourcing of jobs in America does not add up.

                             There are also several different demographic changes that will help democrats in places like upstate New York. If we look at demographics while rural areas seem to be emptying there is also a larger immigrant population. Within the 297 most rural counties within the States since 2000 immigrant populations have exceeded 5%. Generations in the future will mark this demographic trend. The outsourcing of jobs also tends to over affect rural America because 12.5% of the workforce in rural America is employed in manufacturing; this is a larger margin than farming. So this gives us progressives a better chance to fight against outsourcing of American jobs and it seems to be taking effect as well. This is why Republican senate candidates and Republican incumbent congressmen tend to lose their seats when it comes to these issues. There is no better example of this than the election of Pete Gallego in Texas kicking out tea party one term congressman Quico Canseco. The district they were fighting over was a majority latino rural district that stretched from the San Antonio suburbs to the Mexican border.

                       Now the antifracking movement in upstate New York is a temporary one since if we succeed there will not be fracking in New York State. But to keep this coalition alive you have to include people who have always voted Republican their whole lives. These people have already been convinced that Fracking is not a creator of jobs, so to keep this coalition alive people must be convinced that we need to bring manufacturing jobs back to the Southern tier of New York. This is how the populist would survive if fracking is banned. Not to mention that all of these rural areas contain several colleges, which are breeding grounds for activist. Furthermore the cohesiveness of a coalition lies not on its structure but on whether it can be continued by future generations. This can be replicated in several areas of the country which have bene gutted by NAFTA, CAFTA, among other trade agreements. It is isolating the enemy and creating a coalition to bring back jobs, by convincing the people. Fighting for the land rights of a landowner might not seem like a very progressive argument. But in upstate New York landowners who do not want to deal with the natural gas industry end up having to fight legal battles with gas companies. These landowners end up taking a position against fracking based on self-reliance and property respect.

                        Finally I want to highlight my own Congressional district the 23rd Congressional district in Upstate New York as a prime example of how rural populism can become instrumental in democrats mounting opposition to Republicans. A district that has a 2 to 1 advantage of Republicans to Democrats, the democratic candidate for Congress Nate Shinagawa only lost by 4%, in 2010 the Democratic candidate  retired Army Captain Matthew Zeller lost by 7.4% but the difference was the opposition to fracking, as well as several factories shutting down under Congressman Tom Reed's tenure as Congressman even though many of his billboards said " he was fighting for jobs". This along with Republicans turning against him on the issue of fracking showed that people can fight the elite at the ballot box. With that being said we were outspent 3 to 1 but still spread the message through grassroots efforts. There is no doubt that rural populism is reborn through the anti fracking movement and the fight against outsourcing jobs. It is also fascinating to watch the people's movements give birth to a new dialogue within rural America. While we may not agree with city liberals on gun rights and some trade deals, we do stand together against Fracking, against outsourcing, in taxing the rich. Rural America has again become a key part to the populist message

Paolo Cremidis

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