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Local View: GOP pushing inequality

America was not built on inequality. The promise of shared rights, teamwork, and hope has driven our success.

Bill MittlefehldtSo it feels odd when the president and GOP leaders push policies that increase inequality. We have witnessed this push toward disunity in the GOP's health care antics. More business leaders have said President Donald Trump is unfit for office due to his moral confusion about the murder in Charlottesville, Va., and U.S. racism — as he ignores climate impacts that contributed to the hurricanes in Texas, Florida, and elsewhere.

Moral confusion in GOP leadership can be linked to the creative destruction of the marketplace. As a global leader in energy production and consumption, we in the U.S. increased the pace of climate warming. It is time for us to reverse that process with American teamwork, innovation, and global collaboration.

Unfortunately, GOP leaders ignore facts while denying the increasing suffering and costs from climate warming. We have one decade to change our relationship with the ecosystem and the economy. This makes it an inconvenient time for the GOP to demonstrate such selfish ignorance, including ignoring data in the apparent attempt to make their delusions feel more true.

Four illustrations of the GOP's delusional thinking highlight our risks, while disunity in America erodes teamwork.

The first example is the Koch brothers' political activities. Each of their $40 billion seems related to fossil-fuel processes. After David Koch ran for vice president as a Libertarian, he invested hundreds of millions in political organizations that encouraged the GOP to adopt the libertarian logic: Government is the problem. This led to dramatic proposed cuts to the federal budget. The Koch brothers invested more than $1 billion of dark money, helping GOP candidates become more libertarian.

The second example is Trump's attempts to sustain his base with populist policies. His efforts to undo the Affordable Care Act demonstrated how he represents the very rich. In his campaign, he sounded like a populist ready to drain corruption from Washington. But after his efforts to dramatically cut health care services for millions of children, women, men and the elderly, even the least-informed recognized the reality of less representation and more lies.

The third example of delusional logic is tied to gerrymandering and Sen. Mitch McConnell, a career politician from a coal-producing state. The senator teamed up with former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove and the billionaires who fund super PACs to take over state politics in 2010 with redistricting maps. The emerging pattern saw Democratic candidates receiving more votes in more states while losing gerrymandered contests to GOP candidates. Using dark money allowed by the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, the GOP now has taken control of 32 state legislatures. Sen. McConnell has been a reliable partner in this morally and politically corrupt national process. More money means less representation.

The fourth delusion is found in Rep. Paul Ryan's tax plan for 2017. Rep. Ryan knows the U.S. is at its highest level of economic inequality. Yet he offered tax cuts to the wealthiest, which would aggravate inequality, helping billionaires turn the nation's politics into a blood sport of the haves versus the have-nots. At a time when the national debt is $20 trillion, Rep. Ryan urges us to cut income taxes, corporate taxes, and estate taxes. Each cut would erode American equality and teamwork.

GOP ignorance demands correction. Republicans have eroded public trust, increased division, and delayed a unified American response to climate warming. Our climate clock is ticking. More delay will rain unprecedented suffering and losses on our ecosystems and economy. We can do better together if we share our creative and committed energies.

Bill Mittlefehldt of Duluth is on the Food, Energy, Environment Team at Peace Church and is on the leadership team for the Arrowhead Network of Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light (mnipl.org).

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