The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Issue no. 1096 — January 6 - 20, 2020

Oppose the Endless U.S. Wars in the Middle East

Jan 6, 2020

U.S. war tensions with Iran have been growing rapidly, especially after a U.S. Reaper drone fired a missile at a truck convoy in Iraq, killing the most powerful Iranian general, Qassim Suleimani. Thousands of U.S. troops are now being deployed to the Middle East to prepare for a possible new war against Iran.

Working people in this country cannot just blame these latest war threats on some sudden impulsive decision by Trump and his entourage of armchair warmongers. For decades, the U.S. superpower has invaded and bombed one country after another in a region that includes not just the Middle East, but parts of North Africa and Central Asia. In order to maintain its domination, the U.S. has built up military bases scattered throughout this region. Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, based in Bahrain, patrols the oceans and seas, with its war ships carrying tens of thousands more troops, bombers and artillery.

In its quest for domination of this vast region and its riches, the U.S. super power has systematically played one country against the other. It has divided entire populations against each other, promoting racism, hatred, bigotry, often through religious fundamentalism and fanaticism in order to blind and control entire populations.

This latest U.S. confrontation with Iran is only the latest example of this policy of divide and conquer. Close to two decades ago, the U.S. military had no choice but to seek the help of the Iranian military after the U.S. invaded Afghanistan and then Iraq. In later years, the U.S. military even worked with the Iranian military in its war against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. But once those wars were completed, the U.S. no longer needed Iran’s help. And it began to turn on Iran.

Because of it its size, resources and history, the Iranian regime is not completely dependent on U.S. imperialism. It has shown that it can carry out its own independent policy throughout the region. For U.S. imperialism that has been a problem ever since its puppet, the Shah of Iran, was overthrown 40 years ago.

So, the U.S. government moved to contain the Iranian regime’s power and reach. The U.S. carried out an economic war against Iran, banning the sale of its huge oil and gas resources on the world market. The U.S. government imposed this ban not only on U.S. companies, but any companies from any country. Any company that did business with Iran without U.S. permission was banned from the U.S. market.

This ban, this economic war, has strangled the Iranian economy and provoked military confrontations that have quickly escalated, from tanker wars in the Straits of Hormuz to rocket attacks against Saudi oil facilities. The latest confrontations have been in Iraq, where the U.S. continues its military occupation, run out of the biggest embassy in the world, a compound covering 114 acres, a U.S. city inside the Iraqi city of Baghdad.

After the U.S. had bombed and killed close to three dozen Iranian-backed militia members in Iraq in late December, Iranian-backed forces carried out a 48-hour siege of the U.S. embassy in Iraq. Nobody in the embassy was killed or even hurt. But the siege embarrassed the Trump administration, because this symbol of U.S. power had been shown to be vulnerable. So, the U.S. upped the ante by assassinating Suleimani, the top Iranian general.

Who knows what barbaric military actions will follow, leading to how much more death and destruction. But one thing is sure: U.S. working people have every reason to oppose this latest U.S. imperialist war, which we are paying for in every way possible.

Our real enemy is the U.S. capitalist class that is driving these wars to further its own domination and plunder, while exploiting working people in this country for their own profits. Our real allies are the Iraqi and Iranian working people and poor, who have been risking their lives, demonstrating and demanding jobs, bread and services, opposing the corruption and theft of their own government and leaders, and often even opposing the ethnic and religious divisions that have been imposed on them from on high.

By taking the road of struggle, those working people in Iraq and Iran are showing us, the workers in this country, the only way out of this barbaric trap that the capitalists have us in is our own struggle for what we need.

Pages 2-3

Democrats Agree to a Budget Deal

Jan 6, 2020

The Democrats made a deal with Republicans in Congress and Donald Trump on a federal budget for 2020.

The deal provides money for some of Trump’s pet projects. The Democrats agreed to provide 1.4 billion dollars for the construction of the border wall Trump promised to build and make Mexico pay for. The agreement also allows the military to continue to shift up to 9.5 billion dollars in defense funding for building the wall.

The budget deal also includes an increase of 22 billion dollars in military spending, raising the total to 738 billion dollars. That also includes more than a billion dollars in funds for Trump’s “Space Force.”

While the Democrats portray themselves as mortal enemies of Trump and the Republicans, through their attempt at impeachment and their campaign speeches, in actual fact they manage to find money for some of Trump’s most reactionary requests.

Capitalism Rewards Shareholders and Condemns Itself

Jan 6, 2020

Translated from Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group active in France.

In 2017, big international corporations paid their shareholders dividends 8% higher than the year before. In 2018, 10% higher. This year, dividends only swelled by 4%, but they still reached the total of more than 1.4 trillion dollars! One third of this is paid to U.S. shareholders alone.

Stock exchange indexes in the imperialist countries also reached record highs this year.

But this explosion of the profits of the few is not explained by any noteworthy increase in the production of material goods, not by any real new wealth, and not by any sensational discoveries useful for the progress of humanity. On the contrary, material production is stagnant. The mass of workers—the only producers of wealth—is impoverished. Whole parts of the world are going backward at full speed. Whole populations are plunging into misery. The economic war between the big powers spreads fear that local wars will grow and widen in scope. The capitalists are aware of the problems and risks their system creates. They have illusions that the world will return to a period of peaceful economic growth.

On the contrary, since the 2008 world financial crisis, governments and central banks have lent ever-bigger amounts of capital. As a result, debt has inflated monstrously. Banks and speculators operate with unprecedented power. The biggest buy up the smallest. Fortunes and businesses concentrate. Big companies even borrow from banks to buy back their own shares to increase the profitability of each share remaining in circulation.

Profits for a few big capitalist families feed the destruction of the living conditions of most of humanity.

ICE Detention Prisons

Jan 6, 2020

Recent news has revealed high levels of abuse in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers.

The investigation reported at least 29 deaths, including several suicides, more than 400 allegations of sexual assault, inadequate medical care, frequent use of solitary confinement, and more than 800 instances of physical force against detainees. Guards are using pepper spray and tear gas and brutal beatings against detainees for peacefully protesting the conditions. Detainees are not getting life-saving medicines like insulin for diabetes. Some have been in detention for years.

The U.S. immigration detention system has grown steadily over the past 40 years. It is now a three billion-dollar network of 222 facilities that detain more than 50,000 people who wait months or years for immigration court proceedings. ICE has also signed contracts with private companies to operate at least 60 facilities where 75% of all detainees are held.

These so-called detention centers are nothing less than permanent prisons, for people who have not been convicted of anything.

These conditions, which Trump boasts will persuade immigrants to remain in their own country, will not stop people from fleeing even worse conditions created by U.S. imperialism in Central America.

Rallying Reactionaries to Target Women

Jan 6, 2020

Some of the millionaires in Congress decided to ring in the new year and the 2020 election season by ramping up the attack on a woman’s right to full healthcare choices. In a letter, 200 members of Congress flaunted their reactionary ideas and urged their wealthy friends on the Supreme Court to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.

Ordinary people believe abortion should be legal in almost all cases, at the highest rates in 20 years—61% of Americans, according to the Pew Research Center. It is only 12% of the population—and their ringleaders in Congress—who want to see abortion criminalized.

As the saying goes, money talks and B.S. walks. Far-right billionaires have poured funding into state legislatures, creating a tsunami of new anti-abortion laws. But actions cause reactions. Protesters across the U.S. have begun to go into the streets to defend women’s healthcare rights and to expose these attacks.

The history of the massive mobilizations of the 1960s and 70s—the black movement, the anti-war movement and the women’s movement—shows us what it will take to back these outrageous attacks down.

Contrary to what “polite society” would have us think, for the working class and for the population in general, we advance our rights and possibilities in the streets and in workplace struggles.

We Pay Double!

Jan 6, 2020

Instead of rescuing all the people who had their lives destroyed by the California wildfires, politicians ran to the rescue of the utility companies! A new California law shifts costs of wildfires off utility companies and onto the population.

California utility consumers are required to pay into an insurance pool to compensate for damages caused by future wildfires. The new law creates a 21-billion-dollar insurance pool.

Half of this pool is supposed to be funded by the utility companies, but whether they will pay is hard to pin down. But the other half, the 10.5 billion dollars, will surely be paid by consumers through the utility companies charging fees on top of regular utility bills.

In addition, the new pooled insurance won’t replace private insurance that utility companies already purchase—and also charge ratepayers for. So, the new law allows utility companies to double dip into our pockets!

Countless past California wildfires were found to result from negligence and mismanagement by utility companies. According to the old law, if the utility companies’ actions were negligent, then the ratepayers must not pay for any costs resulting from that negligence. Every other state follows this same legal principle.

The new law started a new system. The San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E), Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), and Southern California Edison (SCE) all received “safety certifications” from the State of California after the law passed. With this certification, utility companies are protected by the State and allowed to charge the population for their misdeeds in causing wildfires!

As the icing on a multi-layered cake, State officials will issue billions in bonds to fund the insurance pool and pay claims to eligible fire victims. The costs and the interest on these bonds will be paid by the population!

This is not a law, but a permit for a highway robbery.

How Much Medicine Can You Afford?

Jan 6, 2020

On December 12th, the House of Representatives passed legislation to lower the rising cost of prescription drugs by supposedly empowering the federal government to negotiate prices with pharmaceutical manufacturers. But on January 1st, pharmaceutical companies raised the prices of hundreds of drugs an average of 5.8% for 2020.

Prices for scores of top drugs have gone up nearly nine times faster than inflation over the past dozen years. Included are drugs for breast cancer treatment, for arthritis, for diabetes, for blood clots. Humira, a drug used for rheumatoid arthritis, currently has a list price of $5,174 a month, compared to $2,914 in 2014. Lantus, a diabetes medicine, has gone up 24% in six years; Xarelto, for blood clots, up 54% in six years; and so on.

The pharmaceutical companies made 69 billion dollars in world-wide profits on $330 billion in sales in 2019. This 20% profit margin is about three times higher than the average across the largest 500 companies across all industries.

As if the price increases aren’t enough for the ordinary person, greater numbers of Americans are paying a larger share or even the full price of their medications with shrinking insurance coverage.

So what’s the solution to lower drug costs? Certainly NOT to wait on the politicians! According to a report in the January 2020 Consumer Reports, there were at least 50 separate pieces of drug-price legislation introduced in the Senate and the House in 2019, but not one of these has been signed into law.

No one proposes seizing these bloodsucking companies, clawing back their obscene profits, and turning them into public utilities in the interests of public health. Yet nothing short of that will provide necessary medications for all who need them, regardless of ability to pay.

Pages 4-5

Agriculture and Global Warming

Jan 6, 2020

Hundreds of representatives from around the world got together in Rome recently to resolve conflicts surrounding the United Nations’ International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources. The treaty was signed in 2004.

At the time of its signing, well-intentioned scientists and politicians foresaw possible threats to the very survival of the human race due to the combined effects of climate change and declining agricultural bio-diversity. They negotiated the treaty hoping to encourage the development of a wider variety of crops that would help maintain good soil quality, thrive in a warmer, wetter or drier world likely to be brought on by global warming, and have traits like drought- and pest-tolerance.

The problems that prompted the treaty’s signing certainly are real and growing. In large part, farmers worldwide currently cultivate fewer than 200 of 6,000 known food crop plant species, and of those, just nine account for 66% of total crop production. This lack of bio-diversity threatens the ability of farmers to adapt to changing climates. Wild food plants could potentially offer alternatives, but close to 1,000 of 4,000 wild species are currently decreasing in abundance.

For the most part, the treaty has failed to accomplish its signers’ goals. The treaty aimed to encourage countries and companies that signed on to share seeds that were under government control and in the public domain. Companies could patent newly developed varieties, but would then be required to pay a portion of their profits into a fund for global seed conservation.

This hasn’t happened. Signers of the treaty wound up agreeing to exchange seeds for only 64 crops, including for both human and animal food. Not surprisingly, given the capitalist nature of today’s agribusiness, most vegetables and the most profitable cash crops like soybeans and cotton were excluded.

As a result, industry money has not flowed into the seed conservation fund. The more powerful imperialist countries say genetic sequencing information shouldn’t be subject to the profit-sharing requirement, while developing countries interpret the treaty otherwise.

Naturally, a company like Monsanto that develops Roundup-resistant genetics is allowed to patent the trait and is not anxious to share its profits. Farmers needing to make more money from their crops need seeds like this. But as a result of their usage, in fact, the seeds’ high-profit potential further narrows the bio-diversity in farmers’ fields.

Solving the problems of climate change first of all requires preventing the catastrophe in the first place. In the long term, that requires overturning capitalism and putting the world on a different economic foundation. In the shorter term, it is certainly worth trying to protect and develop agricultural bio-diversity as the UN’s treaty attempted to do. But the realities of today’s profit-driven monopoly capitalism will continue to stand in the way.

A Struggle that Concerns All Workers

Jan 6, 2020

Translated from Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group active in France.

The strike by SNCF and RATP rail workers continues. The strike started to spread to refineries and could spread to teachers.

The most determined strikers set out to convince as many other workers as possible to join the strike, including at private companies. So politicians Macron and Philippe understand they have to do more than just wait for the strikers to get tired.

Working people massively reject the proposed pension cuts, and they support those who fight them. So the government is backing off in tiny, measured steps. It assured soldiers and police that nothing would change for them. The government also said air traffic controllers, firefighters, and prison guards will not be affected. Apparently negotiations are underway for truckers, fishermen, airline pilots, sailors, opera employees, and so on. Even before the strike began, the government made promises to hospital workers and teachers.

All of this is miles away from the fundamental demand of the strike movement: the complete withdrawal of pension reform. These baby steps aim to divide the strike movement, to try to separate groups of workers by making special proposals to them or the unions. The government game is to get the unions to distance themselves from the strikers or even to accept the pension reform in exchange for minor, verbal concessions.

So far the government will not back down on the main reform, a pension system by points. According to the Transport Minister, this would be the ideal framework and would allegedly avoid further pension reforms. The government would set the level of pensions by administrative decisions according to its cash flow needs. Each employee would become an individual case.

Big business demands this reform because it stands to gain in three ways. It would pay less in contributions. The government, by paying retirees less, would be able to subsidize employers more. And a new investment market would open up for pension funds. The only thing that could make the capitalists change their minds now would be the fear of the spread of the movement to a lot of private companies.

The government does not want to give in because it would be a political setback forced by workers on strike. Macron’s career as president could be jeopardized. Of course for the big bosses who put him forward, his personal ambitions do not matter. But these people do not like the state giving in to workers. This could paralyze government cuts for months, prevent further blows to the working classes, and undermine authority. Here again, only the fear of a spread of the movement can make the president, his government, and especially his sponsors back down—if they fear that by not yielding today they will have to yield much more tomorrow.

Macron and Philippe would prefer to be able to take pride in making the unions and the strikers give up. So the showdown continues between all workers with the SNCF and RATP strikers at the forefront, and the government acting in the service of the wealthy. More than ever, we must demand the complete withdrawal of the pension reform. It is up to all workers to give themselves the means to obtain this demand.

No Ceasefire

Jan 6, 2020

Translated from Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group active in France.

The people of Yemen continue to live through endless war. A bombing of a military parade in Daleh on December 29 killed several people and injured dozens more.

The representative of the southern separatist Security Belt Forces blamed the Houthi forces which are supported by Iran. A few days earlier, 17 people were killed and others injured during an air attack on the Raqw market in the northern Houthi stronghold of Saada. The government of Saudi Arabia acknowledged that operation, which follows two others. A total of 89 people were killed at that market in two months.

The Saudi-led military coalition continues to impose war on Yemen and its 28 million people, with the support of the U.S. and France. The Saudi blockade in the north caused hyperinflation and near-famine. The Saudi ally, the United Arab Emirates, partially withdrew its troops but actively supports the southern separatists.

The people of Yemen have been the target of bombings and shootings since 2015, and the number of victims keeps rising. NGOs count tens of thousands dead, more than three million people displaced, and millions more in urgent need of assistance.

Recently, Lockheed Martin sold Saudi Arabia four frigates for a billion dollars. Saudi Arabia sent warships bought from France, staffed with French technicians. Between June 2018 and June 2019, Saudi Arabia bought almost two billion dollars worth of French military equipment.

The American and French governments are using weapons of mass destruction on the Yemeni people, via regional dictators.

Protests against Prejudice

Jan 6, 2020

Translated from Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group active in France.

Protests of tens of thousands of people in India exploded when the legislature passed a discriminatory law proposed by prime minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Police repression of the demonstrations left 25 dead and dozens injured by Christmas.

The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) claims to make it easier for immigrants fleeing religious persecution in India’s neighboring countries of Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan to become citizens. But the law concerns only Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Sikhs. The law excludes Muslims on the absurd pretext that Muslims can’t be religiously persecuted in Muslim countries.

This discriminatory CAA outraged many Indians, and not only Muslims. It was so obviously intended to divide the Indian people.

Since taking power in 2014, Modi and his Hindu nationalist BJP have played on the prejudices of people supporting privileges for Hindus in order to push through anti-worker policies and attacks on the poor. They became bolder after winning elections last spring.

The CAA is yet another provocative discrimination against the one out of seven Indians who are Muslims: 201 million human beings.

The BJP government has an interest in diverting attention away from its unfulfilled campaign promises—economic growth one-fifth slower than predicted, corruption at all levels, unemployment, nine million jobs cut in six years, and poverty for 800 million people forced to live on less than three dollars a day.

After deadly repression targeting students, the anger of demonstrators in North East India and other main cities went beyond opposition to this one law. On December 22 Modi announced a campaign to meet millions of families at rallies and press conferences. But this didn’t deter protestors from gathering the very next day.

Pages 6-7

Maryland Prison Inmates Paid at Rock Bottom

Jan 6, 2020

According to a recent report to the Maryland legislature, there are roughly 18,000 people incarcerated in the 17 prisons and pre-release centers in the so-called Maryland Division of Correction. This does not include thousands more in local and federal prisons. About 12,000 of the state prison inmates work sweeping and mopping floors, washing clothes, cutting hair, preparing meals, and doing supervised maintenance work in the prisons.

This prison labor is very cheap. State inmates have been paid from 11 cents to 34 cents per hour for their essential prison labor.

Another state agency called Maryland Correctional Enterprises employs about 1,500 more prisoners making license plates, flags, college dorm furniture, printing state letterheads and performing services such as data entry for other state agencies. These inmates are paid from 17 cents to $1.16 per hour.

The state prison system defends its ridiculously low pay rates by claiming prisoners learn discipline and skills that will help them after they are released. But even if this is sometimes true, the state still uses these prisoners as virtual slave-labor while they are incarcerated.

The prisons are clearly not “correctional”. They simply punish, victimize and exploit working class and poor people, while helping to enrich the really big criminals at the top of this corrupt capitalist system.

Top Dog in Profit ... and Pollution

Jan 6, 2020

Amazon builds its giant warehouses near working-class communities, where jobs often simply don’t exist, or don’t pay enough for a worker to live on—thus making it easier for Amazon to find warehouse workers. Besides the back-breaking, low-wage work, there is another price people living in those areas pay: the noise and pollution that Amazon’s cargo airplanes and trucks produce.

In California’s Inland Empire, for example, every day more than 20,000 diesel trucks carry merchandise to the 21 Amazon warehouses in the area. In 2019 alone, the nearby city of San Bernardino has experienced 102 bad-air days.

As for airplanes, in 2018 Amazon’s cargo flights in and out of airports in Riverside and San Bernardino counties released an estimated 620,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. And Amazon is expected to build a huge air hub, called the “Eastgate Air Cargo Logistic Center,” which would add more than 20 cargo flights and 7,500 vehicle trips daily, 500 of them by trucks, to this already heavily polluted area.

This pollution, which causes all kinds of chronic, life-long health problems in the region’s residents, is one of the ways in which working-class people pay for Amazon’s enormous profits.

Got Car Payments?

Jan 6, 2020

Currently, U.S. car buyers owe more than a TRILLION dollars in car loans. Each car buyer owes on average more than $30,000 per car. It is so much money to pay back that one third of these car owners will end up getting another car, while still owing money on the previous car. At the moment, seven million car owners are three months behind on their loans.

Car manufacturers and dealers love this situation, as it makes their sales look better. In reality, the money they get back per car from the loan is three times as much as the money they make by selling a new car. They even have employees who do nothing but try to collect payments when people are late in paying.

Wall Street investors also love this situation, because they take bundles of car loans and turn them into bonds—which makes them profits.

It’s certainly a win for “everyone”—except the car buyer, paying $400 or $500 per month!

How They Spend Our Money

Jan 6, 2020

The U.S. Department of Education has pushed to open charter schools, spending at least 150 million dollars every year over the past 25 years for them. Some parents argued these charter schools would help because local schools were doing a poor job.

More than a quarter of this money was wasted—thrown away on “ghost” schools. These charter schools received grants of tax money but their owners took the money and never opened! On top of that, a large number of these charter schools closed. A recent report showed that among these charter schools, 41% in Ohio closed or never opened; in Tennessee almost 50% of the charters getting these grants closed; in California, more than one in three of these tax-funded charter schools closed.

The Department of Education demanded no accounting, so some states did not even keep track. Other states showed exactly how this money was thrown away. The state of Michigan wasted more than seven million dollars on more than 70 charters that never opened. The state of California spent more than nine million dollars on 60 charters that never opened.

Politicians at local, federal and state levels took our tax money for yet another scheme—against parents who just want a decent education for their children.

Page 8

Climate Change Approaches Global Tipping Point

Jan 6, 2020

The earth is heading toward a “global tipping point” if the climate crisis continues on its current path, according to the group of scientists who published a commentary in the journal Nature. The global tipping point is a threshold after which global warming, with a spiraling pace, starts to destroy the earth’s natural foundations beyond the point of no return, making the earth uninhabitable for humans. “The intervention time left to prevent tipping could already have shrunk toward zero, whereas the reaction time to achieve net zero emissions is 30 years at best. Hence we might already have lost control of whether tipping happens,” the scientists wrote. That is, we are reaching the catastrophic environmental change point much sooner than expected.

Current evidence for such catastrophic failure is simply staggering: widespread destruction of the Amazon, large scale death of coral reefs, melting of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets, thawing of permafrost, destabilizing of boreal forests, and a slowdown of ocean circulation.

Such very wide-scale destruction and change are interconnected. That is, one such destruction or change accelerates another destructive event at every turn. For example, increasing temperatures of the Arctic at least twice as quickly as the global average causes melting of sea ice at an ever accelerating pace. Since the ice is white, it can reflect the solar radiation back to space. But when the ice melts away, the solar radiation is no longer reflected back and instead is absorbed by the ocean or the land, causing temperatures to increase further. Then the Arctic soil, which used to stay frozen throughout the year, starts to warm up and release greenhouse gases that cause global warming, such as carbon dioxide and methane, into the atmosphere. Increasing levels of such gaseous pollutants further accelerate global warming. These cascading effects can quickly cause sudden collapse of whole ecosystems on earth.

“Countries collectively failed to stop the growth in global greenhouse gas emissions, meaning that deeper and faster cuts are now required … Incremental changes will not be enough, and there is a need for rapid and transformational action,” according to the scientists.

Betting against this scientific understanding is simply too risky. But the capitalist businesses, resting on large-scale exploitation of humans and nature to benefit only a few selfish rich people, can’t and won’t collectively organize the society to avert global warming. Such much-needed vital response can only be achieved by transforming society toward a social system resting on collective action that is beneficial to all.

Australia Wildfires:
Politicians Fiddle, While the World Burns

Jan 6, 2020

Australia is being wracked by unprecedented wildfires sweeping across the country. Since the beginning of November, fires have broken out in all six states of the country. More than 14.5 million acres have already burned—six times the size of the recent fires in the Amazon, and three times the size of last year’s fires in California. Twenty-three people are confirmed dead, with dozens more missing. Tens of thousands are being evacuated from their home areas by the Australian army and navy. Nearly half a billion animals have been killed, according to scientists’ estimates.

Australia has never seen such wide-ranging and destructive fires. And this is just the beginning of its summer fire season, with no end in sight.

Extreme climate events are becoming more and more common across the world. Last year saw record high temperatures in Europe and in India; record wildfires in California, Alaska and the Amazon; record flooding in the Midwest, and regular coastal flooding in Florida and along the east coast.

Scientists are clear: climate change has made these extreme events more and more possible and frequent. Australia has experienced a record three years of drought. Combined with record high temperatures of 100+ degrees and extreme high winds, it is a recipe for these out-of-control fires. And yet Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison continues to deny climate change’s role in these fires, or even to acknowledge that they’re unusually bad!

One of the most basic measures against climate change is to stop the use of greenhouse gas-emitting fuels like coal. But Morrison—and the opposition Labor Party—continue to support the industry. After all, coal mining corporations are extremely lucrative—and, they are major donors to all of Australia’s political parties!

We see the same pattern here in the U.S. and across the world. Some parties may completely deny climate change, while others dither and wring their hands. And even when they do something, like in the Paris climate accord, it’s in the most conservative, piece-meal way. After all, they say, we have to be “responsible.”

In other words, THEY are responsible—to corporate profit, first and foremost.

Virtually all climate scientists are adamant—something drastic needs to be done NOW, or it will be too late very soon. But that would threaten the profits of all of the industries that produce, use, and depend on fossil fuels. And those industries are not about to take that hit willingly. So decades have been spent where nothing has been done.

But if working people were in charge of the economy, we COULD make those necessary drastic changes now. The technology is there. The labor is available. And we could ensure that everyone is paid well, while we make those changes.

All that is possible—if we forget about keeping billionaires flush with profits.