2016 in Review: Revisiting WC’s Wishes for 2016

WC should get a new photo for this recurring topic.

Once again, WC opened the year with wishes for the upcoming months. And once again, WC’s wishes and hopes were mostly dashed. Maybe “smashed” would be a better word. But with less than a week or so left in 2016, let’s look at the specifics (Wishes in bold face; outcomes indented below):

Overpopulation. Yes. Still at the top of the list. The root of much is what is wrong and going wrong on this tired, over-crowded and badly abused planet. Back in 2011, we rolled the odometer over to an estimated  7.5 billion. To a deplorable extent, especially in the Western world, the rate of population growth is a function of religious dogma. The Catholic church and the Latter Day Saints’ crazed obsession with large families would be two obvious examples. When religious dogma have counter-survival effects, it’s past time to change them. WC calls on all those latter day saints and infallible pontiffs to have a revelation: that further growth of human populations is terrible, and must be controlled, that more than two children is a sin by whatever definitions they use.

Never even reached anyone’s attention. Not even on the radar. Climate change may have displaced overpopulation as the world’s most urgent crisis – it’s hard to rank mega-disasters – but no one is seriously talking about this. A fail.

Anthropocentric climate change. Another repeat from 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015: the second great crisis facing humanity are the changes we are forcing on our planet’s climate. The way things are going, to paraphrase Pratchett and Gaiman, we are going to scourge all intelligent life from the planet, leaving nothing but dust, cockroaches and fundamentalists. The time for denying man-caused climate change is past. Can we at least shift the debate about how to deal with it? The Arctic Ocean will soon be ice-free. Can all the global warming-denying politicians who have sold their small, dark, crabbed souls to the fossil fuels industry have a look in the mirror and ask themselves, “Do I care about my grandchildren?” There will come a day when fossil fuel lobbyists and the politicians they have purchased will be held in the same contempt as Congressmen who defended slavery, or claimed tobacco was harmless. It’s past time to act. Why not now?

The evidence for the consequences of climate change is stronger every month. Vanishing polar ice, record high temperatures in mid-winter at the North Pole, rising sea levels, ocean acidification are all happening. There has been modest progress in reducing the rate of increase in CO2 pollution. And now even that is jeopardized by a U.S. President who is a climate change denier. Time is running out.

Our national government still remains broken. For the first time since the prelude to the Civil War, a political party has set its agenda as obstructing everything a president proposes. Up until the recent past, the “loyal opposition” meant cooperating with the guy who, you know, won the election. No longer. WC wishes that the Republican-controlled Congress would, just this once, place the interests of the nation above their own failed agendas. Obstructionism hasn’t worked. Shutting down the government didn’t work – any of the times it has been implemented. Why not try compromise as an alternative? The recent budget settlement demonstrates it is possible. There’s a horribly long list of critical issues facing Congress. So long as the Executive and Legislative branches of government remain divided, compromise is the only path to resolving those issues. Congress has repeatedly demonstrated it can compromise; it simply won’t.

The failure to act on the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy is proof enough that nothing has changed. If you didn’t think it could get worse, watch out for 2017. A fail.

The American people re-discover their values. As a people, we have lost our way. Out of fear, or revenge or some even darker emotion, we as a people have come to embrace things a generation ago we rejected as morally repugnant. First it was torture; the United States led the prosecution of torturers and war criminals after World War II. Now, seemingly, we endorse torture. A nation of immigrants – American Indians and Alaska Natives excepted – now talks of erecting Berlin Walls along our borders, of blocking refugees out of irrational fear, and turning back refugee children. The people that built a nation out of compromise – the U.S. Constitution itself is demonstrably the product of compromise – now embraces inflexibility and confrontation. Ideas and proposals antithetical to our core values and our society, that would have been derided 25 years ago, are now taken as beacons. We must re-find our true selves.

Exactly the opposite happened. Trump supporters seem to embody the very worst of American traits: racism, sexism, the cult of personality, and corrosive hate. A fail.

Find a path to reduce income inequality. In the United States, income inequality is at its greatest extreme since the Gilded Age. The middle class in America is vanishing like the polar ice. The share of total U.S. wealth and total U.S. income commanded by the top 1% of the population has increased every year since the start of the Great Recession. The problem isn’t limited to the U.S. It’s international. But in the U.S. the increasing income disparity could be resolved by a change in tax policy. The chances of that happening in the current Congress is effectively non-existent. Which seems to WC to imply an increasingly harsh government and some kind of revolution. Perhaps WC’s readers can see a better path.

Income inequality worsened over the last year. And, if the economic and tax programs of the president-elect are implemented, income inequality will move to a whole new level. Worse than a fail.

Reform Campaign Finance and Lobbying. It’s more than the deluded ideas the supreme court espoused in Citizens United. It’s even more than the ludicrous claim that major campaign donors don’t have out-sized influence with the candidates they support. If you think that a politician who has accepted a six-figure contribution in her last campaign, making a call to that donor for a contribution for the next campaign, won’t do what the donor wants, well, WC envies you your pink, fuzzy, warm delusions. We must move to publicly financed election campaigns. It can be financed by a tax on the richest 1% – not only can they afford it; they are spending the money already. Political action committees must be abolished. The gross abuse of §501(c)(4) exempt organizations for political fundraising must be stopped.

There was never much chance that this would happen in a Republican-controlled Congress, and it didn’t. We continue to live with the consequences although, in fairness, the Trump phenomenon can’t be laid at the feet of our broken campaign finance laws, or maybe only in small part. He’s the runaway consequences of Tea Partyism. But this wish is still a fail.

Six wishes. Five fails and one modest success where even that modest success is now jeopardized by a buffoonish president-elect. It’s worse than that, really; on many wishes, we actually retrogressed.

Maybe, you say, WC aims too high or expects too much? But if you don’t aim high, you can’t reach high.

Another unmitigated disastrous outcome for WC’s quite moderate, entirely reasonable wishes. Again. It’s enough to make even an optimist a bit gloomy. But not gloomy enough to not make a wish for 2017 in a week or so.

We’ll move on from where we are.