Money and Our Skewed Priorities

Money and Our Skewed Priorities

Back in March, I learned of a Wall St. Journal editorial published online, “A President’s Credibility / Trump’s falsehoods are eroding public trust, at home and abroad.” March 21, 2017 – that I wanted to take a quick look at, but the Journal’s website only shows three sentences, then tells you to either subscribe or sign in to view the rest of it. Strange. You would think they would want to make their editorials as accessible as possible. What did I do? I did what most people do when they have no time and face such annoyances; I left their website.

But you shouldn’t have that problem finding the editorial I will next cite. In today’s Sunday edition of The New York Times, there appears an editorial titled “Oval Office Etiquette: A G.O.P. Guide” (an online version, published a day earlier, goes instead by this title: “The Republican Guide to Presidential Behavior”). This editorial lists, in bullet point format, thirty-four things that “If you are the president, you may freely” do. This includes the following: “call the media ‘the enemy of the American people’ “; “demand personal loyalty from the F.B.I director”; “vacation at one of your private residences nearly every weekend”; “criticize specific businesses for dropping your family members’ products”; “review and discuss highly sensitive intelligence in a restaurant, and allow the Army officer carrying the ‘nuclear football’ to be photographed and identified by name”; and “promote family businesses on federal government websites.” But that is less than one-fifth of the items included in the editorial. And we’re only just a bit beyond the Trump administration’s first 100 days in office.

Something else that caught my attention, in today’s Times, was Robert Frank’s “Inside Wealth” column, in the Sunday Business section – “In Washington, the Wealthiest Settle In / Sales of upscale homes and goods rising with the Trump Administration in town”. In it, he states that there are 34 billionaires within a 25-mile radius of Washington; but then we also learn that 2,049 of the D.C.-area’s residents are worth $30 million or more. One 25-year-old is described as walking into a car dealership and plunking down $340,000 in cash for an Aston Martin Vanquish.

What goes through my head every time I read something like that? Here’s what goes through my head every time I read something like that: “He could’ve bought a perfectly good car for under forty grand, and gifted $300,000 to someone like me and slept comfortably every night thereafter knowing that because of his generosity, someone was working tirelessly, day and night, to save the planet.” Doesn’t that make so much more sense? But of course, no one ever thinks that way; and meanwhile, as things get worse, our prospects for saving the planet get bleaker and bleaker. And all the while I continue seeing in the paper more and more examples of someone buying a watch for $300,000, or a painting for several million, or gifting five or ten or twenty million dollars to fund education, disease research, or to help the poor or less fortunate. Environmental concerns are hardly ever on our radar. But that is where our focus needs to be. It is a matter of life and death, for our species and for the planet.

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