After an energetic start, the Biden administration is floundering. The administration has been paralyzed by existential threats beyond its immediate control. Three of them are the COVID-19 resurgence, decaying infrastructure, and climate change.
President Biden was not prepared for the anti-vaccination movement and other major resistance to dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. His proposal that all public service and industrial workers be vaccinated or regularly tested is more than reasonable. The howl raised by some governors that this is an abuse of power is not. This is a matter of public health as over 90% of the soaring death rate occurs in the unvaccinated. Unless the governors are woefully ignorant, they should know mandated vaccinations have been essential in curbing or limiting diseases such as the mumps, Yellow Fever, the measles, and smallpox. Moreover, all of their states require vaccination programs for the public schools.
Biden may be reluctant or incapable of using the presidential ‘bully pulpit’ in the fight against COVID-19, but he has to vastly improve his communications skills A weekly candid COVID-19 address to the nation is a possible option. Such a Biden offensive would also leave the GOP with the choice of responding with a realistic plan of their own or seeming fixated on how to win the bi-election.
Another option would be to have Vice-President Harris make a visit every week to one of the most severely affected states. Harris could use the local press and social media to take on uncooperative governors with facts rather than invective. She could stress to a local public that they are being victimized by a general health emergency as bed and personal shortages at some hospitals already have led to non-COVID patients being denied treatment.
The Senate and House of Representatives have agreed on infrastructure legislation. The bill is far more modest than Roosevelt’s comprehensive New Deal, but it is a much needed practical first step to beginning to bring the United States up to the standards of other developed nations. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi needs to stop delaying its formal passage. The new revenues would begin to address major problems, create a plethora of new jobs, and stimulate manufacturers of construction equipment such as Deere and Caterpillar to create new factories. All federal aid can be framed to keep production in the United States. Hopefully, it will not take a tragic collapse of a bridge to spur some action.
The Democrats would be big political winners by finally getting a highly popular, overdue major reform started. GOP moderates who supported the bill would also get a much-deserved spotlight that might encourage them to take other bi-partisan actions.
While not responsible for climate change, Biden is responsible for beginning to deal with it. The facts are that in 1990 there were 5.3 billion humans while today there are 7.5 billion. Thus, more of the finite resources of the planet have had to be drawn on to house, cloths, feed, and otherwise tend the needs of 2.5 billion more people. Planetary warming has been one consequence. Fires will continue to rage in California, hurricanes will continue to batter the Gulf states, temperatures will continue to soar nationwide, and once-in- a-century disasters will become annual events until there is an international effort to reverse global warming.
Americans are skeptical about international environment remedies. Often forgotten is the international success in dealing with problems like the ozone crisis and the modest lowering of the speed at which the planet is warming. Americans also need to remember that the federal government successfully mandated getting lead out of our gasoline and industrial pollutants out of many major waterways. That kind of resolve needs to be applied to abandoning fossil fuels and fully embracing the emerging technology of the present century.
Biden can begin by halting all new drilling for gas and oil, and then follow up by persuading Congress to switch subsides now given fossil fuel enterprises to those developing environmentally sound energy. The Southwest could be reshaped into a Silicon Valley of advanced solar production and research. To be emphasized is that alternative energy will generate more and safer jobs than the fossil fuel complex. Meaningful change also requires immediate facilities to retrain the workers who will lose their traditional job.
Space does not allow for discussion of the many other areas requiring action and possible solutions. What is imperative is that the major parties their stop foot-dragging and obsession with the next election and give Americans an imaginative vision of how to maximize the opportunities new technology offers. If the United States can begin to meaningfully cope with these issues, we will not only improve our own environment but we can become a beacon for the rest of the world. Right now, we are a Humpty Dumpty carelessly sitting on a cracking wall.