Monday, March 31, 2014

Americans Striking Out On Real Priorities

Regardless of how Mother Nature chooses to act today, the priorities of millions of Americans will be focused on the Opening Day of Major League Baseball, rather than whatever they're supposed to be doing at work. That simple fact only serves to drive home the point - priorities matter.

That truism was incredibly obvious over the last few days in states from Washington, to Nebraska, to New York.

In Nebraska, as we'd warned back in January, the priorities of the Republican Governor became blisteringly apparent over the weekend. Nebraska's Gov. Dave Heineman took out his veto pen over the weekend and gutted funding for job training and development in order to get a shiny new plane for the governor's office as well as tax cuts for the state's wealthiest landowners.

Unfortunately, the Democratic Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, wasn't really much better than his GOP counterpart in Nebraska. Cuomo and New York's state legislature did approve a state budget on Saturday that would provide $300 million for prekindergarten in New York City - a laudable accomplishment. However, Cuomo and his state legislature also approved tax rebates and tax cuts for some of the wealthiest people in New York state, while allowing most of New York state's highly corrupt campaign financing laws to continue.

Meanwhile, in Washington state, the death toll continued to rise, as volunteers and authorities continued to dig for the bodies of friends and loved ones buried by the massive mudslide last week. Even as more bodies have been unearthed, so have details proving the priorities of 'Evergreen State' officials have been more about greenbacks than green thumbs. Warnings about building and logging in the valley where the mudslide occurred go back decades. Yet, unsurprisingly, both developers and loggers were allowed to work and build in areas that scientific studies said they should have left alone - resulting in yet another completely preventable tragedy for dozens of families.

Don't even get us started about how unprepared L.A. is for another major earthquake - or how GM could have prevented a whole series of deaths years ago, but thanks to the corporate culture in America, hid their deadly defect instead.

That politics in America is broken should surprise no one. That Americans seem so ready to let our collective priorities slide so easily as we slip into a hereditary oligarchy, however, surprises even us. If you don't believe it, just check the horse race predictions for 2016. Rich Republicans are once again pushing to have Jeb Bush run for President in 2016, while Democrats are counting on Hillary Clinton to run - and win. The backup candidates for each major party aren't much better, as they include the son of longtime libertarian hero Ron Paul, and Andrew Cuomo, who we already mentioned.

From New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's gratuitous groveling before billionaire Sheldon Adelson, to the billionaire Koch Brothers pushing a wave of restrictive voting laws because Republicans today can't win fairly run elections with their extremist rhetoric, the new billionaire political bosses are trying to buy Democracy outright, and kill it.

Sadly, the stomach-turning reality too few have the courage to admit is that millions of Americans seem willing to let the top one-hundredth percent of the wealthiest buy their government out from under them - just as long as that 99.99% aren't prevented from watching their favorite sports or fantasy entertainment.

We understand and even laud the need to get away from the realities of life for a mental health day every once in a while - and opening day is a better time than many to play hooky in the collective opinion of our staff. Too many Americans aren't just playing hooky, though - they've almost permanently abdicated their responsibilities as citizen legislators.

As all the examples we focused on today clearly display: Americans need to get their priorities in order. The future of the country, and indeed the world, depends on it.