Letter: Set political priorities to handle work needed

Much of human behavior is petty: the most powerful person in the world tweeting nasty things about a 16-year-old environmentalist. Some of it is nonsensical: believing in an imaginary friend with magical powers. Some of it is disconnected from reality: denying the evidence of climate destruction.

I believe in freedom of speech and religion and I would defend anyone’s right to these things. That does not make them good, wise or helpful. While I defend the right to live in a religious cult, it is not OK for the cult to dictate the rules for others. I defend the right to say and believe stupid things but it is not OK to base governmental policy and regulations on falsities.

Everyone has the right to behave in irrational and stupid ways as long as it does not harm others. When policy, regulation, or law is based on beliefs inconsistent with scientific evidence, facts or reason it becomes harmful.

Life expectancy is dropping because of diseases of despair. Suicide, drug addiction, overdoses, mass shootings, depression and anxiety are increasing. Is it possible that wealth and income inequality, fears of climate destruction, loss of our democracy, unaffordable healthcare and education are driving some of this despair?

There is important work to do. Instead of doing that work, we are stuck watching a clown show as the sociopath in the White House increasingly unravels.

I would propose the following priorities:

1. Campaign finance and lobbying reform. #1 because we can’t fix anything else until we regain our voice. Surrendering the debate to corporations and economic elites destroys democracy. 

2. Environmental crisis including climate change, pollution and mass extinction. #2 because if we fail at this other issues won’t matter.

3. Financial inequality, tax injustice and national debt because democracy depends on equality of opportunity and voice. This requires a stable economy, and that everyone pay their fair share. Raise the minimum wage and raise taxes on the wealthy. 

4. Healthcare reform because the current system is draining our human and financial resources. Without comprehensive healthcare citizens cannot be productive and contribute to society.

5. Education reform, access, and affordability because ignorance is the real enemy. Without knowledge and critical thinking we cannot solve our problems.

6. Discrimination based on race, religion, sex and immigration status because as long as we are divided we cannot work together for the common good. What makes America exceptional is the idea that all people are created equal. We have never fully lived up to that ideal. The journey toward that goal is the real American dream.

7. Justice system reform because we have more people in prison than any other country. There is more punishment than crime. A total of 25 percent of people in the criminal justice system are mentally ill. Prison will not help them. The system is racist as evidenced by more severe sentences, for the same crime, for people of color.

8. Infrastructure rejuvenation because we cannot be a developed country building on a crumbling foundation. Redoing our energy system (Green New Deal) is part of dealing with climate destruction.

9. Threat of nuclear annihilation and military build up, because it is dangerous, bankrupting us, and we do not have the right to impose our will on the rest of the world. Spend 10 percent of the military budget to help people and we would not be so afraid because we would make friends instead of enemies.

In fairness the Democratically-controlled House has passed hundreds of bills that partially address some of these issues. Then they go to the Senate to be killed by Mitch McConnell who will not address anything except approving antiabortion, extremist judges.

The hypocrisy of the “party of small government,” the party of old, rich, white, Christian men attempting to maintain control over people’s bodies, bedrooms, religion, right to vote, economics and the environment is appalling.

Bryan Van Gorp