by Ralph Scharnau
Biden and his fellow Democrats now control the legislative agenda. The issues include the global pandemic virus, the climate crisis, the sluggish economy, the struggling wage earners, and gender/racial/ethnic discrimination.
The Biden administration has launched an aggressive campaign to vaccinate the American adult populace in the first hundred days of the new administration. Citing supply and personnel issues, Biden recently announced that there should now be enough vaccine for every adult by the end of May. The recently announced manufacturing partnership between Merck and Johnson and Johnson could push the availability timeline earlier. Halting the spread of the coronavirus still means wearing a mask, maintaining social distancing and avoiding large crowds.
Biden has taken executive action to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement. Biden clearly has prioritized ways to address recurring environmental crises. He has visited areas hit by devastating weather and formed a task force to study ideas to mitigate the resultant damage. The earth, after all, is more than simply a place to be surveyed and developed. It is the home of the human family.
President Biden’s $1.9 trillion economic rescue plan enjoys bipartisan support nationwide even as it moves through Congress with just Democratic backing. Polling shows about 7 of 10 people in the United States favor the Biden aid package. That includes three in four independents, 3 in 5 Republicans, and nearly 9 of 10 Democrats.
There are, however, deficit hawks who will balk at the price tag of the Biden recovery plan. They claim that the Biden package will bust the budget and lead to runaway inflation. Actually, for more than a quarter century price gains have been surprisingly low. And inflation has hovered around 2 percent over the last decade with no predictions for further increases.
President Biden’s emergency relief proposal is a substantial, responsible plan that would extend a series of important measures that are slated to expire prematurely. Millions still face real hardships in such vital areas as food, health, and housing and would welcome the help.
One critical plank of Biden’s plan is to raise the national minimum wage to $15 an hour. The proposed wage hike faces stiff Republican opposition in Congress, especially in the evenly divided Senate. The opponents include virtually all Republicans, but also a small group of moderate and conservative Democrats.
The current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour has not been increased since 2009. Many wage earners struggle to meet their living expenses. As many as 32 million work overtime and often hold two or even three jobs to get by.
They are essential workers in retail, health care, and construction. Hardest hit among the low wage workers are people of color and women. Complicating their suffering is the looming unemployment benefits that begin to lapse in mid-March.
The Democratic-led House of Representatives recently passed a bill, the Equality Act, that would enshrine LGBTQ protections in the nation’s labor and civil rights laws, but it faces an uphill battle in the Senate. The protections against discrimination include such areas as employment, housing, education, public accommodations, and loan applications. The bill ensures that every person is treated equally, regardless of who they are and who they love
It is time to build an economy that values people over profit and regards nature as more than a commodity. It is time for this generation of leaders to hear the people call for a strong, vibrant and inclusive democracy that protects all of us.
March 4, 2021