Plastic Straws and Socialism as 2020’s Straw Man

by on March 12, 2019 · 10 comments

in California, Environment

By Doug Porter / Words & Deeds

California Congressman Devin Nunes (Ru-CA 22) took to Twitter on Saturday complaining about a waitress asking his table if they wanted straws for their beverages, ending his comment with “Welcome to Socialism in California!”

Nunes, who spent much of 2018 running interference for President Trump to minimize the scope and impact of investigations by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, was rehearsing the GOP’s main talking point in the 2020 elections, namely slinging the term “socialism” early and often.

His pitiful plea about having to request a straw stems from the Republican tenet holding dirty energy production as a benefit while ignoring the ongoing dangers of climate change. And, of course, the Congressman will get points from the Trumpanista camp for bashing California.

Last year Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 1884, prohibiting full-service restaurants from providing single-use plastic straws unless they are requested.

“It is a very small step to make a customer who wants a plastic straw ask for it,” Brown wrote in his signing message, “And it might make them pause and think again about an alternative. But one thing is clear, we must find ways to reduce and eventually eliminate single-use plastic products.”

Single use plastic such as straws, plastic soda cups and cutlery represent the greatest source of plastic pollution, with 18 billion pounds of plastic waste flowing into oceans annually from coastal regions. Roughly 8% of the world’s oil production is used to make plastic and power the manufacturing of it, a figure is projected to rise to 20% by 2050.

A major push is underway in the produce more plastics and other petrochemicals. The goal? To create new demand from industry for the raw materials produced by fracked shale wells.

Via Resilience.Org, an organization concerned with the interconnected environmental, energy, economic, and equity crises of the 21st century:

Virtually all plastic — 99 percent of it, according to the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) report — comes from fossil fuels. And a growing slice comes from fracked oil and gas wells and the natural gas liquids (NGLs) they produce.

The report concluded that plastics bring toxic or carcinogenic health risks to people at every stage.

People can be sickened not only when plastics are produced, in other words, but also while plastic is actively used by consumers and then again after it’s thrown out, where plastic trash often breaks down into smaller and smaller bits that can contaminate the food chain and make its way into people’s bodies.

Increasing plastics production also speaks to the dirty little secret about fracking, namely that even though the fracking industry has set new records for U.S. oil production, it continues to lose huge amounts of money.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Geoff Page March 13, 2019 at 12:12 pm

The Republicans are famous for using catchwords or phrases because it is simple and simple is what they need to appeal to much of their base. I think this one is a mistake because they will have to keep explaining what socialism means to a base of people who have no idea what it means. Of course, their explanation will be simple, it’s just bad.


Sam March 13, 2019 at 8:07 pm

But this is exactly the problem Geoff. We have to stop this condescending attitude toward those who are ignorant to the way things work. Rather than look down our noses at those who are less educated, informed or enlightened than people from our vantage point, we should embrace them and teach them how things are. Let’s show them the “light” and help them understand where things have gone off course.


Geoff Page March 14, 2019 at 11:17 am

Sam, that is a noble sentiment, I wish you luck with that. If you haven’t already seen it, I’d suggest watching Alexandra Pelosi’s documentary Outside the Bubble.


Bearded OBcean March 14, 2019 at 1:27 pm

I like this comment, and I honestly can’t tell if it’s said in jest or in ignorance.
“We have to stop this condescending attitude…” followed immediately by “…those who are less educated, informed or enlightened than people from our vantage point…”


Geoff Page March 14, 2019 at 3:20 pm

Good catch, Bearded.


retired botanist March 14, 2019 at 3:49 pm

Haha, good one, Bearded, I caught that, too!


Vern March 13, 2019 at 12:25 pm

It’s doubtful that the socialism Nunes refers to is the same as corporate socialism.

As David Cay Johnston once said, “Corporate socialism is where we socialize losses and privatize gains. Companies that have failed in the marketplace stick the taxpayers with their losses, but when they make money they get to keep it, and secondly, huge amounts of capital are given to companies by taxpayers.”

Example: Cabela’s (outdoor sporting goods) received $32 million in government subsidies to build, at the time, the largest outdoor recreational gear store in the country in Hamburg, Pa., while a local competitor who sold the same products at lower prices went out of business because of the deal.


Frank Gormlie March 13, 2019 at 12:33 pm

Someone – I forget who – once said: the rich have socialism for themselves and they force the rest of us to have capitalism.


Vern March 13, 2019 at 12:34 pm

Socialism for the Rich, Capitalism for the Poor:
Every time there is a crisis, the taxpayer is called on to bail out the banks and the major financial institutions. If you had a real capitalist economy in place, that would not be happening. Capitalists who made risky investments and failed would be wiped out. But the rich and powerful do not want a capitalist system. They want to be able to run the nanny state so when they are in trouble the taxpayer will bail them out. The conventional phrase is “too big to fail.”
Noam Chomsky.


ZZ March 14, 2019 at 11:09 am

I support the straw law. The first thing I do is take the straw out in my water or soda anyway when they are used at sit-down restaurants. What a waste.

I have also been to places that use cardboard straws. They aren’t as nice as plastic as they get soggy after a while. But that is hardly a reason to not use them, they still work fine for a few hours. Like with plastic grocery bags, we’ll get used to them after a year.

I don’t think the socialism label is useful to the left. They don’t mean Cuba or Soviet Russia, but that is what many people think when they hear the word.


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