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David Sirota
David Sirota
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A Snow-Filled Glimpse Of America's Future


"Welcome to the New Normal."

Those words should be displayed at New York's airports as a welcome to bedraggled travelers during the Northeast's latest "snowpocalypse." Why? Because the Big Apple's much-lamented paralysis this week is a critical cautionary tale for everyone. The episode warns us about the kind of thing that's likely coming to the rest of America as we now willfully mix three toxic problems.

The first of those is global climate change. Though no single mega-storm is the fault of climate change, scientists agree that weather — including snow patterns — will become more intense as the planet's ecosystem is transformed by human-produced pollution. So while New York's near-record snowstorm may not be the direct result of unbridled carbon emissions, powerful storms like it will undoubtedly be more frequent thanks to our head-in-the-sand attitude toward the environment.

This might be slightly less alarming if our country were making investments to mitigate climate change's worst effects. But that gets to the second problem that the New York snowstorm epitomizes: America is still being eviscerated by conservatives' anti-tax, budget-cutting religion — a religion whose high priest is New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Like so many wealth-worshiping politicians across the land, Bloomberg spent the last few years focused on two priorities: He campaigned against proposals to replenish depleted public coffers via slightly higher taxes on Wall Streeters, all while citing those depleted coffers as a rationale for massive municipal layoffs. Those job cuts, which were particularly acute at New York's snow-removing sanitation department, have now predictably translated into an immobilized metropolis.

Bloomberg and other politicians who champion this pervasive tax-cut/budget-cut ideology will certainly employ rhetorical spin to distract from this cause-and-effect story. But with New York still resembling the ice planet Hoth, it's clear Mother Nature can't be spun, and even more clear that conservative economic ideology will probably deliver similar results all over America during future weather-related catastrophes.

But, then, how can such a bankrupt ideology persist in the face of such terrible consequences? Welcome to the third problem highlighted by the New York snowstorm: plutocracy.

We all know that American politics is dominated by money.

The U.S. Senate is a millionaires' club, and the politicians who aren't personally rich are typically bankrolled by corporate interests. Billionaire Mayor Bloomberg personifies this plutocratic order — and his declaration that "the city is going fine" during the blizzard because "Broadway shows were full" demonstrates what plutocracy means in practice. It means that when an emergency does not hurt the Blooombergs of the world, our government does not see any emergency at all.

Yes, as long as the Bloombergs' streets are plowed (as the mayor's was), as long as the all-important rich are enjoying their theater engagements, the plutocrats think everything is A-OK. They don't care that, say, an outer-borough newborn died because EMTs couldn't get to the baby's home for nine hours. They don't care that another outer-borough woman had to wait 30 hours for an ambulance after breaking her ankle. And those plutocrats certainly aren't about to change the conservative economic policies that help make these crises so horrific for the non-rich.

Again, this triple threat of climate change, economic conservatism and plutocracy is not limited to New York. It's the new ubiquitous normal in America, which is why the Big Apple's blizzard experience is so significant.

A real-time counter to demagogues' more sensational predictions of our doomsday, New York's winter trouble presents the nation's gloomy future in more banal — but equally troubling — terms. The blizzard suggests that America's decline will not look like an Armageddon-ish explosion in Washington. It will look like a traffic-snarling snowdrift in Queens.

David Sirota is a best-selling author whose upcoming book "Back to Our Future" will be released in March of 2011. He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado and blogs at E-mail him at or follow him on Twitter @davidsirota.



3 Comments | Post Comment
The war on poverty has cost billions. Is that war won? The war on drugs has cost billions. Is that war won? The FCC, having no real use in the modern world, reaches out to grab control of the internet. Shouldn't the FCC be de-funded? We pay lawmakers millions so they can ban baby cribs, regulate school lunches, regulate school curriculum, and now regulate light bulbs and our health care. At the cost of what, billions? Is this the proper role for governmnent?

Things are upside down because what government should do well it does poorly, and what govenment has no business doing it does even worse.

From Sirota's pulpit we hear of climate change. Not my belief and the discussion is not over just because the left says it is. From Sirota's pulpit we hear of economic conservatism. Look at the Federal deficit and tell us it is fiscally "conservative". Fom Sirota's pulpit we hear of plutocracy. This is so, but which side of the political spectrum demanded government involvement in issues the founders deliberately left out of its scope?

Scale back government, seriously scale back government in all of its incarnations, and you won't have to take more money from working people to avoid the "armageddon" predicted all through my life. New York and California merely prove that liberalism can't manage money or snowfall.

That's the real "crisis" we face.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Tom
Sat Jan 1, 2011 11:20 AM
Yeah, Tom's right! Science is just fantasy, snow is just a liberal conspiracy, plutocracy can be solved by defunding government and giving more power and money to the rich, black is white, up is down, and both New York and California are run by poor liberals! See? It all makes perfect sense (if you ignore the facts!)
Comment: #2
Posted by: A Smith
Sun Jan 2, 2011 9:33 AM
Re: A. Smith

Climate change is a theory, not a fact. California is broke and may file bankruptcy. That is a fact.

That de-funding many government agencies will give more power and money to the rich is conjecture. It might give more power and money to the middle class - a more plausible conjecture. New York has the highest tax stucture in the United States and failed miserably at clearing snow. Those are facts.

Black isn't white unless one is resorting to rhetorical caricature. Up is down only if you believe the "black is white" argument merited development and recapitulation.

New York and California are run by liberals, though I doubt they are poor.

Snow is a weather condition. I never claimed it was a liberal conspiracy. What an odd statement; It has no basis in fact. It doesn't even make sense. How could snow be a liberal conspiracy? Who would say such a thing? Snow is a liberal conspiracy.... no, I'm sure I never said that.

Better check your facts.

Comment: #3
Posted by: Tom
Mon Jan 3, 2011 11:23 AM
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