The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It


I woke up a bit earlier than usual this morning (about 3:30 a.m.) and, as is my usual habit, turned on CNBC to see how the world was surviving the current European financial crisis. (I was pleased that we had held it together for yet another day).

Joe Kernen (senior co-host of the “Squawk Box” team), turned the conversation to President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone Pipeline Project which would have provided a few thousand jobs during the period of its construction. There are varied estimates as to the exact number but the most modest is that at least one thousand jobs would have been created.

There are legitimate concerns over the environmental consequences of embarking on this project. While I support the proper utilization of the earth’s resources, I do so only if there are not adverse environmental impacts. If I had ever questioned that position, it was laid to rest when I heard a song, written by an Australian singer/songwriter, Judy Small.

Ms. Small, in her song, “The Futures Exchange” describes the ravages inflicted on the land which was home to the aborigines (“the people of the dreaming”), in order to allow silver-mining operations to extract their ore. This is the chorus:

For the silver that the men have paid
Who think they own the land,
It is the silver of Iscariot
The silver of the damned.

It is part of the accounting
In which we all must pay,
Trading in our children’s futures
For false promises today.”

From the album, “Word of Mouth: The Best of Judy Small”

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this lady’s work I would encourage you to investigate her recordings. She has composed many songs that rival the poignancy of Bob Dylan in terms of their social commentary.

Having gone on record as an “Eco-friendly” person, I return to the title of this post.

Several months ago, CNBC’s “Squawk Box” team got a new addition, New York Times columnist, Andrew Ross Sorkin. Mr. Sorkin is the author of the best selling book, “Too Big To Fail” which expertly covered the banking crisis of 2008 and was subsequently made into a movie. I think it would be fair to say that of the co-anchors on the show, Mr. Sorkin is the most “liberal” – as one would expect from a New York Times columnist. He provides an alternate view to Joe Kernen’s bedrock strong capitalistic view of the world.

However, as the conversation on Keysone wound down, Mr. Sorkin made the comment that the impact on unemployment would be “de minimis” with probably only a thousand jobs or so created – and those for only a short while. I was struck by the superficiality of that comment – coming as it did from someone who is an esteemed journalist.

The people who might have been employed in Keystone most likely have families who look to them for support. So even if there were only one thousand jobs created, the number of people whose lives would have been improved is most likely closer to five thousand.

Still – consider the staggering rate of unemployment – that isn’t a lot of people. Unless you happen to be one of those who might have been hired for this project and is trying to figure out how to pay your rent or mortgage and buy clothes or food for your kids.

I forget who it was that said, “Only a rich man can afford to be a philosopher,” but it is a quotation that Mr. Sorkin would do well to remember. While I recognize that Mr. Sorkin intended to serve as an apologist for President Obama and his decision to put this project on hold, I wonder who will apologize to those five thousand people whose lives might have been positively affected had the program gone forward.

Perhaps Mr. Sorkin will think about that during his next luncheon at The Four Seasons.



Comments on: "“DE MINIMIS” THINKING" (3)

  1. I think the problem with the proposal was not forseeing the environmental arguement during the planning stages and providing alternate routes that would have negated the excuse that they are using now. They also could have included building a refinery in one of the northern border states allowing the creation of full time long term jobs and increased refining capability. That is the consequence of not having an energy plan that meets our long term and short term needs.

    • You hit the nail on the head, John. I’ve been hearing about our developing an energy program for decdes – and we’re no further along than we were twenty years ago. As to Keystone – I have environmental reservations – but my focus was on Mr. Sorkin’s dismissal of the number of jobs as being minimal. For those who need work to feed themselves and their family, measuring programs statistically isn’t very satisfying – and it doesn’t keep a roof over their heads. If we had people with the vision to create a meaningful jobs program – and neither the Congress nor the President has done that – I probably wouldn’t have written this post this way and would have spent more time on its environmental impact.

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