Less than two weeks ago America inaugurated a new president. Joseph R. Biden walked into the White House during a time of maximal chaos and disfunction, but he brought with him a sense of hope that was undergirded by concrete plans and programs.
The Republicans, however, much prefer the darkness of despair than the light of hope and they have launched a vigorous assault on anything that might change the state of our nation and improve the lives of our citizens. The have made it clear that they will use any rule or tactic that disrupts President Biden’s agenda. They would much rather have a dispirited and angry electorate than a happy, healthy and prosperous one when the 2022 elections roll around.
Just think about where we are as a nation: The pain of poverty is growing in parallel with the stubborn acceleration of Covid-19’s infection rate. Between 30 and 40 million Americans are at risk of eviction from their homes. More than 35 million of our fellow citizens live in food insecurity. There are between two and three million homeless children in America. More than 400 thousand Americans have died from Covid, and the number is increasing each day. The economy has been ravaged, layoffs are increasing, and more and more businesses are going out of business. American children across the country have suffered from inconsistent to non-existent schooling for parts of two academic years.
Amidst this crisis the defeated American president called for an insurrection, and the United States Capitol was invaded by violent thugs. They broke through Capitol security, wreaked havoc, destroyed property, ransacked offices, and sent Senators and Representatives into secure hiding places. Five people died. The insurgents were encouraged by the words and actions of the president and a few Republican members.
The former president was impeached during his last days in office, and a trial is set to begin in a week. Meanwhile, Covid-19 rages on. The Republicans are doing all they can to block the new administration’s initiatives for combating the pandemic, and for addressing the urgent need millions of Americans have for economic assistance.
Congressional Republicans would rather maintain the dismal status quo than work with Democrats. They would rather obstruct than address issues threatening the fabric of our nation––and, the lives of millions who suffer from disease, hunger, joblessness, and potential homelessness.
Time to Negotiate
The above is just a small slice of the state of our union. While I don’t think the Biden proposals are vigorous enough, they are a superb beginning that sets the stage for substantive negotiations. Responsible leaders in both parties must come together with a sense of urgency and find agreement on a package that can pass both houses.
My long-term hope goes deeper than recovery programs. I began this blog a year ago with my personal creed:
I believe that health care is a human right, not a privilege of wealth; that our system of education needs to look more like Denmark’s than like that of 1950 America.
I believe that climate change is a mortal threat to the future of my country and the world.
I believe that racial, gender and religious diversity should be front and center in all of our social, political and business institutions; that all children should live in safe neighborhoods, eat nutritious meals, and have access to high-quality early-childhood education.
I believe that these goals will only be achieved if their parents earn a living wage, have the necessary paid time off to care for their children, and economic and social support when needed.
I believe that the young immigrants we now classify as “Dreamers” should have immediate access to full citizenship; and, that America must have a regulatory system that promotes clean air and water, safe food and equitable workplaces as basic human rights; and, finally, we must have a tax system that raises the funds necessary to accomplish all of the above.
Bill Jamieson’s career has included leadership positions in business, government, and education. He was also an ordained deacon in the Episcopal Church and his ministry centered around advocacy for low-income families and children.