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Opinion | In Alabama, money is god


If you have ever participated in an organized cleanup effort of pretty much any piece of land anywhere in this country, you know one thing is true: plastic grocery bags are everywhere.

They’re stuck in bushes, half buried, clinging to other trash, in trees, floating in every body of water, and clinging to every barbed-wire fence alongside any moderately busy road. And they never go away.

Which is why some cities have started to either ban the bags or to tax them in order to pay for their eventual cleanup.

But not in Alabama.

In Alabama, our lawmakers, concerned that someone somewhere in this state might start considering the environmental cost of our current behavior and want to do something proactive to stop it, are on the verge of banning a ban (or tax) on plastic bags.

Apparently, MAGA doesn’t include the air, water or land of America.

If you’re wondering how this could possibly be — how any group of people in a state that proclaims to cherish so deeply its outdoors and outdoor activities could thumb its nose at the very idea of limiting the trash that blemishes those areas we love — there is but one simple answer.

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The answer is always money. It will always be money.

Money is why we are dead last in every single meaningful area of life — from health care to education to infrastructure.

It’s why we have one of the highest rates of smoking. Alabama lawmakers were some of the last to believe the “scientific” studies that labeled smoking harmful. Mainly because Alabama lawmakers — and southern lawmakers in general — received more contributions from big tobacco companies.  

It’s why we have one of the highest rates of obesity. Alabama lawmakers fought to keep restaurants from being forced to disclose calorie and other health-related information on their menus. Because the restaurant associations, fearing the loss of revenue to their clients if everyone knew that the fried chicken salad was 1,800 calories, dumped money into Alabama lawmakers’ campaigns.

It’s why we can’t swim in some of our lakes. Why we can’t eat the fish from our rivers. It’s why other states send their hazardous waste — and their human waste — to this state to dump. And it’s why we have coal ash ponds sitting within feet of waterways.

Money. Money. Money.

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The two guys sponsoring the ban on plastic bag bans — Republicans Steve Livingston and Nathaniel Ledbetter — explained their reasoning. They talked about the costs to stores that use plastic bags (It’s not less expensive to use plastic instead of paper) and they were worried about what this would do to their local businesses.

Neither Livingston nor Ledbetter discussed their donations from Koch Industries, one of the country’s largest plastic bag manufacturers and one of the biggest funders of efforts to knock down plastic bag bans in states all over the country. But then, I don’t guess they needed to.

Because … money.

You and me, we don’t care about plastic bags. Our groceries carry fine in paper sacks or reusable bags. If every store in America replaced plastic with paper tomorrow, it wouldn’t affect our lives in the least, from a practical standpoint. It would, however, make a hell of a difference in the amount of garbage that’s collecting in landfills and along roadways.

But that doesn’t matter.

Money matters.

And to be honest, I’m getting sick of the hypocrisy — sick of this bunch of Bible-thumping crooks (on both side of the aisle) selling out people and the environment left and right all while simultaneously pretending to be devout Christians so familiar with the word of God that they can justify their condemnation of other humans by reciting the most obscure passages.

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Yet, despite all of that churchin’ they never seem to land on the multiple passages — most of them highlighted in red — that warn against greed, the love of money, the indifference to human suffering. They somehow miss the instructions to care for the least of us, to take care of the children, to protect the earth.

Before you argue, might I present the evidence:

Our politicians have sold out sick children in Birmingham. They’ve excused away undrinkable water in north Alabama. They’ve pretended not to see the hundreds of thousands going sick without health insurance. They’ve turned a blind eye to prisons that we would close tomorrow if they housed dogs.

And those are just the most egregious. That list doesn’t cover the mundane, everyday malfeasance — the backroom deals, the brother-in-law setups, the no-show jobs, the wink-and-nod laws that serve to benefit one or two big mules, the bans on plastic bag bans.

We might as well admit it, because at this point, with all of the studies finding this state the most corrupt around, everyone knows our problem. We’re like a junkie trying to hide the track marks. And we should stop pretending. Stop trying to cover it up with religious pandering bills and photo ops with Bibles. 

Because it’s all phony. There is only one true god worshipped in Alabama.


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Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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