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Will Bunch: Trump would sell your grandkid's future for $1 billion

Will Bunch, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Op Eds

Sometimes the movies that stay with you for decades aren’t the good ones, but the ones with an unforgettable ad or an utterly inane premise. That last category includes maybe the worst movie of Robert Redford’s long and distinguished acting career, 1993′s Indecent Proposal, in which a beautiful and desperately cash-strapped young wife (Demi Moore) reluctantly agrees to a one-night affair with Redford’s immoral billionaire for a $1 million payout.

It was a dreadful film, but the sequel is always worse. Last week, immoral billionaire-on-paper Donald Trump made his own indecent proposal to the barons of Big Oil who dined with him at Mar-a-Lago. The presumptive GOP presidential nominee told the energy moguls that he’s willing to get in bed with them and satisfy their wildest fantasies of crushing regulations, undoing the war on climate change, and cutting their taxes even more.

But inflation has ravaged even the world of political prostitution. Trump’s asking price was a cool $1 billion.

In a week that was dominated by wall-to-wall TV coverage of the 45th president’s felony election-interference-and-hush-money trial in Manhattan, Trump’s pay-for-play pitch to Big Oil was the biggest story on Planet Earth — even if the media didn’t cover it that way. Some who did follow the environmental story focused on the corruption angle, since a presidential candidate’s explicit promise to perform official acts like slashing federal regulations if the executives would fund his campaign sure looked like, well, a bribery solicitation.

That’s not wrong, but this politician who has learned how to talk like a mafia don also probably knows that without a more specific quid pro quo a jury would never convict him, especially in a corrupt America where Justice Clarence Thomas remains a free man. But the real problem, as I see it, isn’t so much the insane $1 billion asking price as what a former and perhaps future U.S. president is willing to sell off: A future in which your grandchildren can still breathe.

The “deal” — Trump’s own language, according to a couple of people at the dinner organized by oil billionaire and Trump donor Harold Hamm, as reported by the Washington Post — would involve reversing dozens of environmental regulations handed down by President Joe Biden. Most of those are aimed at halting the advance of climate change before it wreaks further havoc on U.S. coastlines and triggers inland drought, wildfires, and extreme flooding.

Trump and those around him continue to deny the seriousness and often the very existence of global warming. It’s hard to understand how. April was the 11th month in a row in which each month set a temperature record, with ocean temperatures at sizzling levels that have shocked climatologists. The five minutes of the hour that cable news doesn’t devote to Trump’s legal problems has usually been spent on the latest weather disaster, from floods swallowing small towns in Brazil to the flooding now inundating Afghanistan.

 

The Paris climate accords — from which Trump sought to withdraw before Biden reinstated U.S. participation — set a goal of holding the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2030, which requires about a 45% reduction in carbon pollution from 2005 levels. Even before his proposed corrupt bargain with Big Oil, Trump has laced his campaign with diatribes against wind turbines and electric vehicles. If the GOP candidate wins in November and avoids eating his terminal Big Mac, Trump will be in the Oval Office until January 2029, guaranteeing America will miss its climate goal.

In fact, a policy analysis by the site Carbon Brief suggested that a Trump victory over Biden would add a whopping 4 billion tons of carbon to the earth’s atmosphere by 2030, which it estimates would create an additional $900 billion in damages from climate change. That would be quite the negative return on Big Oil’s proposed investment in Trump — not for them, but for the rest of us. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but elections have consequences.

The question is whether 2024 voters will be pragmatic enough to see this. A new Siena College poll for The Inquirer and the New York Times found that despite...well, everything, Trump is still leading Biden in five of the six key swing states, including Pennsylvania. Some voters are put off by Biden’s age, some blame him for the post-pandemic price hikes, and some are mad, if not appalled, by his handling of the war in the Middle East. On that last issue, I am one of them.

But in November there will be only two serious choices. We know that Trump’s Middle East policies are even worse than Biden’s, and when it comes to climate change there’s simply no comparison. Peace between Israel and Palestine may look nearly impossible right now, but a steep rise in global temperatures could be irreversible. Soliciting bribes from billionaires ought to be illegal, but throwing away our planet just to win an election — the most indecent proposal ever — is simply unconscionable.

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©2024 The Philadelphia Inquirer, LLC. Visit at inquirer.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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