"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. As I show in my new newspaper column, 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.
To read my full newspaper column, go here.
ADDENDUM: I should add that only right-wing tin-foil hatters would have the gall to look at massive layoffs at New York's sanitation department and nonetheless make up a story that insists the city's paralysis is a product of a secret union conspiracy. Unfortunately, there are plenty of tin-foil hatters in the media - people like Michelle Malkin, for example. Again, considering the massive layoffs at the sanitation department, you have to be a tin-foil-hat-wearing lunatic to even think this, much less make such a spastically bat-shit-crazy argument in a public forum. What the New York fiasco shows is simple: When it comes to city services, cities get what they pay for, and they don't get what they refuse to pay for.
NOTE: I appeared on MSNBC earlier this week making precisely this point. It was a good interaction - though some took issue with my argument. Watch it here: