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Busting the myth-buster

A response to Al Fonzi's latest rhetoric



I read with interest Al Fonzi's recent opinion, "Myth busting" (Sept. 10). I mean, I like "myth busting" as much as the next person, and I feel obliged to bust a few of the myths in this piece. But, first, I'd like to sincerely thank Mr. Fonzi for his military service to this nation. I strongly believe that our veterans and current servicemen and women are heroes, and I do not think they are "suckers" or "losers." Unfortunately, Mr. Fonzi's commentary employs a series of distortions and cherry-picked facts to bolster his contrarian worldview.

While it is true that during his administration, President Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) did not tackle race issues directly and was, like many presidents before him, basically apathetic to the plight of African Americans, it is a distortion to suggest that he had nothing to do with the civil rights conquests that would result from decisions made by his disciples, including Presidents Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson. Truman and Johnson, both New Deal liberals, made headway in civil rights by desegregating the military and passing the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act.

Fonzi descends into outright lies when he says, "Roosevelt's economic accomplishments were mediocre." This lie was originally fabricated by neo-liberal economists in the 1970s in order to villainize Keynesianism. Here are the facts: FDR inherited an economy with contracting GDP and 25 percent unemployment. During the nine years before the U.S. entered World War II and fully mobilized its wartime economy, average GDP growth was above 9 percent, hitting double digits in 1934, 1936, and 1941.

In the same period, the unemployment rate fell by more than 60 percent. In contrast, current GDP growth under what President Donald Trump lauds as the "greatest economy in history" has averaged 2.5 percent and that does not count the current economic recession, which will most certainly drive that average into negative territory. As for unemployment, it looks like at the conclusion of Trump's term, it will be nearly double what he inherited.

Moreover, FDR created Social Security, which raised millions of America's senior citizens out of poverty. Before Social Security was signed into law about half of America's seniors lived in poverty, by 1970 that number had dropped to 25 percent and by 2000 it was at 10 percent. In addition, FDR created the Fair Housing Administration, which enabled millions of American families to buy their own home by insuring those loans.

As for George Floyd, Mr. Fonzi claims that Floyd died from a drug overdose. This is wrong. An independent autopsy labeled Floyd's death a homicide, while the medical examiner's report claims he died from "cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression." We all saw it, it was murder. A cop kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes while he pleaded for his life.

With climate change, I know I'll never change the minds of the climate-change denialists, but Mr. Fonzi's rant on "climate hysteria" simply presents more disinformation. Fonzi says sea levels rose 7.5 inches between 1900 and 2010. But what he doesn't tell you is that half of that increase has taken place in the last 25 years.

Fonzi correctly claims there were more wildfires in the past, but he what he fails to tell you is that today's "megafires" are far more destructive. In fact, 11 of the top 20 most destructive fires in California's history have occurred since 2015.

Fonzi also claims the climate will "warm regardless of what we do." Climate scientists—and I would point out that 97 percent of actively publishing climate scientists believe that global warming is "highly likely" due to human activities—believe it is not too late to reverse current trends.

Renowned climatologist Michael Mann contends that with aggressive government action—exactly what Mr. Fonzi warns against—we could mitigate climate change. Again, contrary to what Mr. Fonzi posits, a focus on renewable energy would create good jobs and actually improve our economy. Δ

Michael Smith wrote to New Times from Santa Maria. Send a response to letters@newtimesslo.com.

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