WE KNOW WHAT WE HAVE TO DO – BEYOND THE 2020 ELECTIONS
No matter what the outcome of the 2020 election, there remains much work to do. Our economy is wrong-sided, and we have to right-side it. Our tax code rewards the wealthy and penalizes others. Our regulatory system protects corporations, not people. Almost a hundred environmental regulations from the Obama years have been reversed. Schools have fewer protections than they once had. Workers have fewer protections, and unions are under attack. And the Supreme Court has been stacked to favor oligarchs, not everyday people. The very right to vote has been compromised with rules that marginalize too many people.
It is my fervent hope that the Biden-Harris ticket will prevail in this election, but even if they win, there is still much work to do. First, the coronavirus needs to be controlled. Mark Meadows, the 45th President's chief of staff, says the administration will do nothing to contain the virus, and their wanton disregard of essential public health tenets (hand-washing, mask-wearing, social distancing) reflects their casual approach to the virus. A President Biden would tackle this issue, but he will need to be pushed to ensure that the process is egalitarian and that those who have suffered disproportionally, like Black folks, will get more remediation than those who have not so suffered.
Economic recovery and economic expansion should be high on the agenda. Again, those who have suffered from covid and repressive economic policies need special attention. Biden-Harris must address the racial wealth gap, the relentless unemployment rate differential, and systemic poverty. Some of the employment situation can be addressed through an infrastructure improvement program. The American Society of Civil Engineers consistently grades our roads, bridges, water quality, and public buildings with substandard grades. The appropriate investment of federal dollars would not only be good for employment but also for the economy.
Our criminal justice system must be fixed, and federal initiatives to stop police brutality must be developed. Environmental issues must be vigorously addressed. Health care must be treated as a right, and it must be universal. The "do" list is long, and it may include expanding the Supreme Court's size. It's not court-packing, as some would suggest; it's right-sizing something that has gone wrong. The point is that a Biden-Harris victory may be cause for celebration, but it is also an invitation for all of us to roll up our sleeves and get to work, not only at the federal level but also at the state and local level.
I can hear my conservative friends already asking what all this will cost. We know the 2017 tax cut cost the Treasury trillions of dollars. We seem only to be interested in cost when we are looking at people on the bottom. There appears to be much less concern about programs designed to benefit the wealthy. Then, some of the work we have to do is to transform our mindset, decide what kind of economy we want, and then work to create it. That may mean a very different approach to our predatory capitalist system, and it may mean restructuring the system to make it more people-focused. It is a possibility!
Now we know what it is like to live with a graft-centered leader who has thrown our nation under the bus for his selfish gains. We have the opportunity to learn what it is like to live with a more people-centered leader. Still, we should be clear that Bidden-Harris leadership will be center-left predatory capitalism. They will need to be pushed, and we need to be prepared to push them. If we have learned nothing from the Obama years, we should have learned that a closed mouth won’t get fed. Black folk were so happy to have a Black president that we were reluctant to push him and his administration very hard. Much as we may like Biden-Harris, we must be willing to push them.
When he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King said, “I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down, men other-centered can build up.” Biden-Harris will move us closer to King’s dream, but they won't take us all the way there. Not unless we push. We know what we have to do.
Dr. Julianne Malveaux
Economist and Author
President, Economic Education