Money Over Sanity

Before the presidency of Donald Trump and the rise of the MAGA/QAnon crazies, I would sometimes need to search for a good example of bad public policy to discuss in my classes. Indiana supplied many of those, but if even the Hoosier state lacked an appropriate case of WTF, I could always depend on Texas.

An article from the New York Times I read a while back suggests that it isn’t only the Texas governor and legislature, or Texas’ outsized influence on textbook selection. The state evidently supplies all manner of nefarious actors seeking to shape federal policies in ways favorable to their bottom lines. The organization profiled by the Times operates beneath the radar, in a far too successful effort to protect fossil fuel companies from those silly laws intended to save the planet.

The Texas Public Policy Foundation is an Austin-based nonprofit organization backed by–and serving the interests of– “oil and gas companies and Republican donors.

With influence campaigns, legal action and model legislation, the group is promoting fossil fuels and trying to stall the American economy’s transition toward renewable energy. It is upfront about its opposition to Vineyard Wind and other renewable energy projects, making no apologies for its advocacy work.

Even after Democrats in Congress passed the biggest climate law in United States history this summer, the organization is undaunted, and its continued efforts highlight the myriad forces working to keep oil, gas and coal companies in business.

In Arizona, the Texas Public Policy Foundation campaigned to keep open one of the biggest coal-fired power plants in the West. In Colorado, it called for looser restrictions on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. And in Texas, the group crafted the first so-called “energy boycott” law to punish financial institutions that want to scale back their investments in fossil fuel projects, legislation adopted by four other states.

The article also notes that the organization spreads misinformation about climate science, producing  YouTube videos, sponsoring pundits to appear on Fox and Friends, and social media campaigns. The message–aimed at lawmakers and the public–is that a transition away from oil, gas and coal would harm Americans.

They have frequently seized on current events to promote dubious narratives, pinning high gasoline prices on President Biden’s climate policies (economists say that’s not the driver) or claiming the 2021 winter blackout in Texas was the result of unreliable wind energy (it wasn’t).

Foundation personnel travel widely in order to encourage lawmakers in various state to punish companies trying to reduce their carbon emissions. It sponsors an initiative called Life:Powered, that makes what the organization calls “the moral case for fossil fuels.” The basic argument–which doesn’t seem all that moral–is that “American prosperity is rooted in an economy based on oil, gas and coal.

The article quoted the chief executive of an Austin-based trade group for renewable energy companies, who pointed out that the Foundation, whose members spent decades advocating for offshore oil drilling, oppose offshore windfarms. It opposes subsidies for renewables. (Last time I looked, the government continues to subsidize fossil fuel industries to the tune of 20 billion dollars annually.)

They’re for looser restrictions on fracking and drilling, but greater restrictions for solar and wind. This organization exists to defend fossil fuels from any threat to their market share.”

On Thanksgiving, Jason Isaac, an executive at the group, tweeted “Today, I’m thankful to live a high-carbon lifestyle and wish the rest of the world could too. Energy poverty = poverty. #decarbonization is dangerous and deadly.”

The article goes on to describe the various ways the amply-funded Foundation influences policy and protects the financial interests of fossil fuel industries.It’s a textbook example of the way monied interests drive American policy.

There are several issues here, the most obvious of which is how these people can sleep at night. An overwhelming scientific consensus warns that continued reliance on fossil fuels threatens the Earth. Perhaps they don’t care about other people, but presumably many of them have children and grandchildren…

Less obvious, perhaps, but equally confounding ,is the ability of this organization and others like it–organizations that are pursing equally dangerous and/or dishonest goals (ALEC comes to mind, but there are hundreds, if not thousands, of others)– to wield dramatically disproportionate influence in America’s legislative bodies.

Ordinary citizens lack the resources to hire lobbyists, make significant campaign contributions and otherwise mount effective responses to these organizations. Worse still, the stealthy ways in which these organizations influence policy keeps most of us ordinary citizens from recognizing their existence or understanding what they are doing and how they are doing it.

It’s fashionable these days to attack capitalism, but America no longer has a genuinely capitalist economic system; it has corporatism— control of government  by large interest groups.


  1. Sadly, short term, maximized profits/Maximized shareholder returns are far more important to those opposing renewable and pushing fossil fuels than their own kids or grandkids are. I think you’ll find many are of the “rapture” school of Christianity that believes they have duty to bring about the return of the Christ and they hope it will be soon enough so they themselves can get raptured into Heaven ( and if they make a huge profit while waiting? That’s fantastic!) . Many support trump/trumpism so you know reason, honesty and reality aren’t exactly high on the list of their personal traits.

  2. There will always be a need and a use for fossil fuels; the problem lies with the “bottom line” being “Follow the money!” benefit reapers who care not the damage their greed has brought about regarding Climate Change and Global Warming. They, like the medical corporation today, do not want to share the profiteering which comes from maintaining their monopoly on fuel source world wide.

  3. So what’s the upshot?

    Moral turpitude isn’t an endangered species, but it is an extinction level event. Who needs asteroids or supervolcanoes? Who needs nuclear war, just look for those trying to line their pockets with the equivalent of blood diamonds!

    Polluting underground aquifers? Producing huge ponds of heavy metal polluted water, harking back to the days of burning rivers and endless stench, or when rolling smog would settle over valley towns choking the life out of citizens in their sleep? All historically documented if you believe your lying eyes and ears.

    How do you stamp out these human roaches? The infestation runs deep, the food source seems endless, sometimes the solution can be quite painful. These things are definitely doable. But, there is a huge fear of activating the dead man’s switch of authoritarian power to clean up a mess. Because no one trusts the aftermath! So, paralyzation continues until there is no respite.

    Woulda, coulda, shoulda, can be carved in stone for future visitations to this dead rock!

    Picture Charlton Heston on horseback riding on the beach with his mute mate and sees The torch of Lady Liberty sticking out of the sand. And then he realizes that man had destroyed himself as he wails and pounds the sand on the beach! So I guess we can wait for our planet of the apes moment.

    I’ll give you one more metaphor that really is not a metaphor.

    A man diving into 20 ft water to pull lures off of a log, ends up hooking his finger. He’s so afraid to rip that hook out of his finger that he drowns! This happened off of the pier of my uncle’s resort on lake Owen in Wisconsin.

    When a simple act of pain can save your life, fear lets you die! Home of the brave? Not hardly!

  4. For another example of corporatism/capitalism run amuck look no further than this mornings New York Times expose of the Ascension Hospital Organization. It is long past the time for this country to reform the entire non-profit tax rules that make a mockery of charity.

  5. The immoral and ludicrous Citizens United v. FEC decision by the Republican majority SCOTUS opened the door for legalized bribery. TPPF is nothing more than an influence peddling entity begun by the Koch family of corrupt morons.

    There will be no reversing this B.S. as long as the stockholders wagging the dog of the fossil fuel industry keep demanding more profits sooner and bigger. Destroying the planet is not even on their radar. I once lived about 50 miles outside Austin and communicated directly with TPPF a few times. They shamelessly thanked me for my concern but we’re going to continue doing what they do no matter what.

    Once again Republicans come to the rescue of anything good. I wonder if Texas Republicans will still vote for these idiots as they take their last breaths in terminally polluted air. Answer? Yes, they will.

  6. Vernon,

    You might have missed the news that in 2022 election cycle, the Democrats, more than Republicans, benefitted more by the dark money made possible by Citizens United.

  7. If you ever watched the wonderful dark comedy TV series, Six Feet Under, about a family with a funeral home in LA, you will recall each episode began with an event in which someone died. My all-time favorite began with a lone woman walking back and forth on the sidewalk of a busy multi-lane street carrying a sign about getting ready for the Rapture. Switch focus to an approaching pickup truck, the back of which is full of life-sized helium-filled sex toy woman-dolls tethered to the truck. The truck hits a major pothole, the toys break free and rise into the smoggy air in the City of Angels. As our sign-bearing woman turns again on her path, she spots them, drops her sign, runs into the street, eyes and arms uplifted, ready to join the “girls”. Sadly, before she can begin her own ascension, she is struck by the now empty truck and killed.

    True believers are dangerous and not just to themselves. No amount reasoning will change them. They walk among us with, in some cases, way too much money, power and influence.

  8. Click off another “operating right in our face” active, successful member of the Right Ecosystem. There is plenty of Big Money on the Left in the coastal elites. Suppose it was loosely confederated to fight the existential threats of authoritarianism and climate change?

    Nope. Why not? I have never understood…

  9. Paul,

    I did miss that because I don’t wrap myself in the Gordian knot of such things. The dark money, obviously, knew who was going to win, and they backed those winners….sort of. I’ll bet DeSantis didn’t have too much trouble raising funds.

  10. If we’re completely honest with ourselves, we all know there is no such thing as a non-profit business. It’s all hidden in two sets of books. One for the corporation, one for the tax man.

  11. The bottom line of those who like to call themselves “conservatives” is that they believe that wealth redistribution up is their right. They ignore the point entirely that “rights” can’t come at the expense of others.

    Corporations march strictly to “make more money now no matter the cost to anyone else ever”.

    The love affair between conservatives and capitalism is obvious and undeniable and not a right at all but the source of their power.

    Capitalism, as part of a well regulated by laws and competition mixed economy, is a good thing, perhaps the only economic system that we know that can work reliably.

    Everything in moderation. Extremism is the harbinger of impending failure.

  12. Satire Alert: Planet schmanet! We don’t need no stinkin’ planet. We’re about to colonize the moon. After that we go to Mars. Don’t worry about the need to breathe, we’ll find a way.

    Personally I’m just praying they don’t find oil on the moon or on Mars. We’d have to move to Uranus. Oops! My mistake The right wing already occupies that space.

  13. The article in the NYT that discussed the parity between dark money contributions by both parties in the 2022 election was enlightening.

    Some thoughts about the points made:

    The totals for the Dems were higher than for the Repubs. What the money was spent on was not the same.

    The aims of those contributions were clearly different. Most often the Rs used the money to support candidates and causes that allowed unfettered wealth accumulation to the 1% and suppressed voter access, among other things. That is ignoring the cultural issues they use as distraction as they rob the poor and minorities to increase the wealth and power of the entitled white supremacist power structure.

    The “both sides do it” argument ignores the fact that Conservatives initiated the strategy, insured its legality with the Citizens United decision before a corrupt SCOTUS, and now decries the tactic being used successfully to some extent by the progressives.
    It is an accelerating arms race and will ultimately destroy the system of democratic governance to be replaced with corporatism as the professor stated.

    The Times Article and those by the Brennan Center are all available to peruse. Once again, we see the “rights for me but not for me” rationale at play.

    Unless there is significant legislative action to close the loopholes and restrict the corruption of the power brokers, nothing will change. But that is asking the fox to guard the hen house.

  14. “We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob”—FDR 1936

  15. Corporate greed, Powell’s 1971 Memo to his friend (a vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce), ALEC, free labor afforded by slavery, a medieval minimum wage, Reagan’s final ending of all vestiges of the New Deal and his embrace of trickledown economics, and now fossil fuel embrace of profits over survival of the human race, are intertwined, and the collective result heretofore has been merely such atrocities as union-busting, state right to work laws, outsourcing in search of cheap labor, etc., but now involve survival of the race itself – a bridge too far by any measure.

    I frequently write that I (if fleetingly) think that capitalism with appropriate controls can work, but not as currently practiced (and well financed) by and for the few. I’m beginning to think in this connection that we need more Elizabeth Warrenism and less Mitch McConnellism to fashion an economy in which all players, i. e., all of us in our various capacities, are treated fairly. Examples of such unfair treatment abound, like today, when all of us players are paying the inflationary price for corporate greed, corporate inability to efficiently match supply and demand due to supply disruptions, chips etc., among other decisions by which we are bound but have no voice. Perhaps government intervention (our voice) in the marketplace in order to protect the interests of all the players is justified, especially when survival of the race (the final solution) is added to the usual atrocities above noted.

    Socialism? Whatever the ism defined by whomever for whatever reasons, survival of the race trumps both its real and supposed evils. We must first survive in order to have an economy governed by any ism. This economy is our economy; capitalists, like the rest of us, are mere participants in such a market-based arrangement, they as investors and the rest of us as owners, consumers, environmentalists et al., an arrangement (with the spectre of looming global suicide) we the people must amend lest the planet become uninhabitable and make that decision for us.

    When do we owners of our economy reform our economy to literally save the race from extinction? Per some environmental studies that say we may be already too late – yesterday.

  16. Gerald – I will add one more item to your detailed exposition.
    Supply chain

    Inventory = cost, so the brilliant corporations devised “just in time” supply, since they “knew” there would never be a need to keep any components in stock, they would just show up. CEOs got fat bonuses for this. Then there was the supply chain collapse, and the CEOs said, “Not our fault, let’s just jack up the prices for everything and blame it on the “not our fault” supply chain issue.

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