A Series on Priorities for the Biden Administration
Joe Biden and company start work at noon tomorrow. Not that they have been idle in the runup. This is a team that is ready to hit the ground running. Good thing. There is so much to be done. As this blog mentioned last week, pay attention – history is unrolling before us, in very big and unpredictable ways. Dramatic and dangerous times are ahead.
Pillars for a Better America – Pillars 19-21
Today’s entries complete the Pillars list. It certainly is not all inclusive, nor is it in any priority – all of it is Category A priority. Biden and team can sort them out. The list notes both our both shortfalls and opportunities. It is built on our better nature and our dark sides. It is to encourage dialogue about what we want to be as a country. We have come to face some inspiring moments and ugly truths recently. Time to make the call – who are we, America?
What Do We Have So Far?
We have 18 of the 21 pillars laid out:
Pillar 1: Hunger is Not Allowed
Pillar 2: Affordable Care and Drugs
Pillar 3: Infrastructure and Broad Band
Pillar 4: Benchmarks Out of Poverty
Pillar 5: Civil Policing
Pillar 6: Court and Penal Reforms
Pillar 7: Transportation
Pillar 8: Education Costs and Access
Pillar 9: Education for Thinking
Pillar 10: Campaign Reform
Pillar 11: Childcare
Pillar 12: Medical Breakthroughs
Pillar 13: The Environment
Pillar 14: Civics + Civil Discourse
Pillar 15: Election Security/Voter Access
Pillar 16: 21st Century National Security
Pillar 17: National vs Local Standards
Pillar 18: IT Security, Writ Large
Let’s wrap this up – our last 3 today.
Pillar 19: Relook Economic Security Measures in National Crisis
The economic disaster of the pandemic, an ongoing disaster, highlights that our standard economic assistance and recovery models cannot do the job on this scale. Better models are out there.
Some countries quickly put into place distribution of resources to businesses that maintained the work force at full capacity and covered essential business expenses. This is orders of magnitude beyond our pitifully small and disastrously run Paycheck Protection Plan. The bolder plan provided continuity for everyone and stabilized both society and the economy.
On our side, the money flowed sporadically and unevenly. Everyone had to go through banks and endless delays. People had to apply for unemployment, a system in no way capable of handling this volume of disasters. Some communities pulled together resources to pay restaurants that otherwise would be going out of business to feed those in need.
Why not do that nationally? This is the kind of creative, solve two problems at once thinking we need. Going forward the emphasis should be on continuity of the nation’s life. We need more responsiveness, more flexibility, and better access. Disasters like this will pass this way again. Let us be ready next time.
Pillar 20: Electoral College + Senate Rules
Enough has been written about the evils of the Electoral College. Simply stated, it not only does not work – it is too easily used to foil national will. Proposals are out there, from eliminating it to mitigating it via changing how votes are allocated. Take your pick, but get it done. The risk of a president not chosen by the voters yet again is unacceptable. There is no reason to let things stand this way.
An equally archaic and undemocratic burden lies in the near absolute power of the Senate Majority Leader to decide what is accomplished – or not – in the Senate. Happily, a better Majority Leader takes office this week, but the fact remains that one person should not have such unbridled authority. Even the powerful Speaker of the House has less latitude.
The problem is not in law or the constitution, but in Senate rules and traditions. While the incalculable damage of Mitch McConnell is fresh in memory, build in some safeguards. Putting some limits on, if not eliminating, the filibuster, needs to be part of this discussion.
Pillar 21: Fix Social Media
I saved what might be the most difficult and perhaps the most important for last. Communication in a democracy, especially one this large and diverse, has always been important. Today, the process is broken on so many counts. Perhaps it started with the loss of the Fairness doctrine, then festered with the explosion of talk radio. Now with unlimited internet, the dark web, and cryptology, we are in a pickle.
People who mean harm to all we value have megaphones that reach millions instantly. We eventually will understand how all this nurtured the atrocities of January 6, and we will be afraid. We should be.
We Have to Crack This Nut
Somewhere between the First Amendment, civil liberties, and the verbal arson that surrounds us, there must be solutions. Government cannot solve this alone. Nor can society. Nor can those who provide the means of communication.
This one is going to take all stakeholders working over the long haul. It looks almost impossible. But try we must. Otherwise, our prospects of continuing as an advancing civilization are almost nonexistent.
We Have Our Pillars. Now Let’s Build Something
Let’s wish our new leadership team all the best. Most of us will be glued to our TVs tomorrow to watch the transfer of power take place. In spite of the worst efforts by some, that transfer is scheduled to happen much has it always has.
Keep your fingers crossed. No effort has been spared for security but making a thing like this completely secure is damn hard. The protectors have to be right and ahead of events every single time. The terrorist only has to be right or lucky once. Hope for the best. Let’s get back to work building a better America.
Stay tuned for the blog next Friday. This one will be quite different. The attempted insurrection on January 6 and what we are learning in its wake make it clear the problems are worse and deeper than many of us might have thought, the threat more profound. We have a fight on our hands. In some corners, a fight it will be with no way around it. More on Friday.
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