Tiptoeing on the Perimeters

One week we’re told of the horrors of living in Donald Trump’s America. The next week we’re told why we should be scared to death of Joe Biden’s America.

What we’re not being told is how we can and must tackle national emergencies—and there are at least four of them—in your America, my America.

There are vague references to plans that will cure what ails our country. But scant details are offered. We’re only reassured there are “plans” that will fix everything. To the extent any specifics are provided, these plans tiptoe on the perimeters of the problems.

One national emergency is health insecurity. The pandemic obviously is one cause of the crisis. COVID-19 has infected millions in our nation, killed close to 200,000 and sickened many more. Another culprit is a fatally flawed health care system that leaves tens of millions of Americans without medical insurance and tens of millions more with insurance that is effectively useless because the deductibles and co-pays are so high that the insured end up having to pay for all their care out of pocket anyway. If their pockets are empty, they can’t get medical attention when they need it.

Poll after poll shows most Americans are ready for Medicare for All. But Medicare for All is not featured in either Donald Trump’s America or Joe Biden’s.

Another national emergency is economic inequality. Even before the pandemic struck, the poor in our country were getting poorer, the rich were getting richer and the middle class was gradually disappearing. COVID made a serious crisis far worse. Just since March when the pandemic hit our country will full force, the nation’s billionaires got billions of dollars richer while working class families lost jobs and in many cases their homes and life savings as well.

One week we’re told we’ll build back better and the next we’re told the pre-pandemic economy was the greatest of all time and will be again very soon. What we’re not told is that there will be an all-out war on economic suffering in the form of a modern-day equivalent of Franklin Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration or a national Basic Income Guarantee. We’re not even told that unearned income like capital gains will be taxed as much as earned wages in your America, my America.

A third national emergency is racial and social injustice. With mass protests throughout the land—sparked by George Floyd’s murder and more recently seven shots fired into Jacob Blake’s back and fueled by accumulated grievance over countless other atrocities—we’re told in no uncertain terms the police will not be defunded. We’re not told how policing could be reimagined or at least demilitarized.

The fourth national emergency we face is environmental insanity. As an unusually powerful hurricane pounds the southern border, wildfires rage on the west coast. There are hundred-year floods every year in one part of the country or another, and scorching droughts in other parts. Violent storms command attention, habitat loss doesn’t, but it’s another unmistakable sign of the climate crisis. We’re told a Green New Deal is just not feasible. We’re not told with any degree of specificity what would be.

The kind of politics needed to bring these four national emergencies under control has yet to show itself in your America, my America. The can keeps getting kicked down the road.

Mike McCabe

August 28, 2020