Home > Uncategorized > Elite Charade In Spades: Failed Coastal And Planning Groups Dodge Accountability For Their Collaboration With Gov. Christie’s “Rebuild Madness”

Elite Charade In Spades: Failed Coastal And Planning Groups Dodge Accountability For Their Collaboration With Gov. Christie’s “Rebuild Madness”

The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. ~~~ Audre Lorde

[Update below]

Today, NJ Spotlight reports that Despite Superstorm Sandy, Building in Risky Flood Zones Continues Unabated:

Superstorm Sandy wiped out thousands of homes at the Jersey Shore, but the increasing threat of devastating coastal storms like it has hardly deterred building in areas most at risk of chronic flooding as sea levels rise from climate change, according to a new analysis.

Confirming exactly the troubling Foundation driven news sourcing I wrote about just yesterday, Spotlight quotes sources from Foundation funded groups American Littoral Society and NJ Future:

“Overall, we only are half-paying attention to the lessons of Sandy,’’ said Tim Dillingham, executive director of the American Littoral Society, a coastal advocacy group. “For the most part, the decision was to stay put and live with the risk. We simply don’t want to face up to the actual degree of risk of building along the Shore.’’ …

“We haven’t gotten the message,’’ said David Kutner, planning manager for New Jersey Future, a smart-growth organization. “We have this cultural and unchangeable connection to the Jersey Shore. The threats to properties are enormous. It is going take some time to get to the point where we can’t keep building at the same intensity at the Shore.’’

Notice how Dillingham of ALS and Kutner of NJF both deploy the word “we”. We my ass!

Note how Dillingham uses the passive voice, as if there were no decisionmaker and government policy had no role in those irresponsible decisions: “the decision was to stay put and live with the risk“. Whose decisions?

That kind of evasive disingenuous rhetoric is no accident.

It is designed to obscure their own failed involvement in the problem and to dodge tough political accountability that might threaten their organization’s funding.

Specifically, both ALS and NJF not only failed to hold the Christie administration accountable for the policies that denied climate change and led to even more development in risky flood prone areas, both groups also received funding from the Christie administration to promote ineffective voluntary local “coastal resilience’ projects. (A Sham Charade identical in design to DEP’s outsourced, voluntary, private, grant fueled “Sustainable NJ” program)

(ALS’ most recent financial statement shows they received over $1.2 million in government grants, more than 20 TIMES the revenue they got from members. That is NOT an indicator of a democratic organization. No wonder ALS never bites the government hand that feeds them. ALS ED Dillingham was paid almost $117,000, which likely puts him in second place in the career compensation money game behind NJ Audubon CEO Eric Stiles, who brought down $126,000 in salary alone. The private sector corporate careerist greed is manifest in the Foundation world too. )

Those local, voluntary and politically safe “resilience” projects have failed miserably, as the Spotlight story and Report document.

In exchange for that Christie administration funding, ALS and NJ Future distracted the press and the public from Christie’s policy failures (e.g. provided political cover) and undermined more effective DEP Statewide regulatory solutions and new legislation to create a regional Coastal Commission.

I don’t know who Dillingham and Kutner are referring to as “we”. Not me. We called out Christie “rebuild madness” from day 1. (see:

Also compare how we speak about these issues in prior Spotlight stories:

“Restoring basic public infrastructure will be a critical first step toward the recovery of our cities and towns,’’ [DEP Commissioner] Martin said. “For emergency repairs, we cannot let bureaucracy get in the way. Red tape should not and will not hold up this vital work.’’ […]

“The [Martin] order amounts to a total abdication of DEP’s responsibility to supervise responsible planning and environmentally sound permitting of critical public infrastructure,’’ said Bill Wolfe, director of the New Jersey chapter of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a public watchdog group

ALS & NJF Provide A Classic Example of The “Elite Charade”

Writer Anand Giridharadas’ groundbreaking investigative book “Winners Take All – The Elite Charade of Changing the World” documents how elite philanthropists and private foundations have hijacked real social change and engaged in a corrupt enterprise.

I wrote a post back in August, based only on a radio interview, see: “The Elite Charade” – Philanthropic Foundation Fail. I’ve since read the book.

Elites engage in this charade by avoiding conflict or taking personal or career risks, and not calling for sacrifices like increased taxes, lower corporate profits, or more regulation. Elites evade politics and efforts to hold corporations accountable.

Instead, they push fake self serving private market based “win-win” solutions to public policy problems. The fake solutions not only fail, but at the same time they undermine democracy, constrain and replace government’s role, and perpetuate their elite advantage by locking in the status quo. Welcome to “MarketWorld”.

He writes:

when elites assume leadership of social change, they are able to reshape what social change is — above all, to present it as something that should never threaten winners.

Ironically and hypocritically, the same elites that create social problems by hoarding wealth, increasing inequality, and attacking government regulatory intervention and redistribution policies, feel that they are best suited to solve the very problems they create:

when elites put themselves in the vanguard of social change, it not only fails to make things better, but also serves to keep things as they are. [That] takes the edge off some of the public’s anger at being excluded from [economic] progress. It improves the image of the winners. With its private and voluntary half measures, it crowds out public solutions that would solve problems for everyone…. We should recall Oscar Wilde’s words about such elite helpfulness being “not a solution” but “an aggravation of the difficulty…. Just as the worst slave owners were those who were kind to their slaves, and so prevented the horror of the system being realized by those who suffered from it, so in the present state of things ..the people who do the most harm are the people who try to do most good.”

The late emminent Princeton University political theorist Sheldon Wolin predicted all this is his classic early 1980’s essay written just after the Reagan administration assumed power: “The New Public Philosophy”:

What can hardly be doubted is that economics now dominates public discourse. It is now common practice to rely upon economic categories to supply the terms of discussion in legislatures, bureaucracies, and mass media; to frame the alternatives in virtually every sphere of public activity, from health care, social welfare, and education to weapons systems, environmental protection, and scientific research; and to function as a sort of common currency into which all problems have first to be converted before they are ready for “decision making.” “The methodology of public choice,” according to one standard account, “is that of economics.” Lester Thurow’s way of posing the problem of “environmentalism” is a representative example of the faith that practically any public concern can be reduced to economic categories. “Environmentalism,” he as- serts, “is not ethical values pitted against economic values. It is thoroughly economic.” Economics thus becomes the paradigm of what public reason should be. It prescribes the form that “problems” have to be given before they can be acted upon, the kinds of “choices” that exist, and the meaning of “rationality.”

Wolin not only predicted the dominance of economics and markets over government regulation, he also clearly saw the rise of the “Elite Charade”: the kind of fake solutions that protect the status quo provided by ALS and NJF. In closing that essay, Wolin wrote:

In their fury over welfare, abortion, sex, women’s rights, and school prayers, they furnish a substitute for politics, replete with solidarity, a sense of community, and a glow of moral superiority. And they leave the entire structure of power, inequality, hopelessness, and growing repression wholly untouched.

ALS and NJ Future make sure that NJ’s coastal and climate policies, coastal development patterns, and the economic and political power of the builders and bankers remain “wholly untouched”.

[Update: Read the book review by Jospeph Stiglitz – he gets it and writes it far better than I:

Like the dieter who would rather do anything to lose weight than actually eat less, this business elite would save the world through social impact investing, entrepreneurship, sustainable capitalism, philanthro-capitalism, artificial intelligence, market-driven solutions. They would fund a million of these buzzwordy programs rather than fundamentally question the rules of the game — or even alter their own behavior to reduce the harm of the existing distorted, inefficient and unfair rules. Doing the right thing — and moving away from their win-win mentality — would involve real sacrifice; instead, it’s easier to focus on their pet projects and initiatives. As Giridharadas puts it, people wanted to do “virtuous side projects instead of doing their day jobs more honorably.” …

At Davos and the other international conclaves where the muckety-mucks celebrate the new economic world they have helped create, which has rewarded them so amply, corporate leaders move seamlessly from sessions discussing the risks of climate change, growing inequality and financial instability, to dinners at which they praise tax cuts for billionaires and corporations and applaud proposals for deregulation. They conveniently don’t mention the increases in taxes on a majority of those in the middle, the Republican moves to eliminate health insurance for some 13 million in a country where life expectancy is already in decline, the increase in pollution, the risk of another financial crisis, the ever increasing evidence of moral turpitude — whether it’s Wells Fargo cheating its customers or Volkswagen cheating on its emission tests. Cognitive dissonance is intrinsic to MarketWorld.

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