As we hang our holiday lights for a media programmed return to “normalcy”, it appears we’ve become nonchalant about a pandemic that’s still killing 1,000 Americans a day. The corporate news tells us we care less about this once in a century mass death event, and the gross society inequities it laid bare, than we do about the price at the gasoline pump or the per pound price for turkey.
The way things are now aligned, with inflation being firmly established as the only issue voters care about, Democrats are on a glide path to disaster in 2022 with the restoration of Trump white minority rule in Congress.
The wounds to the Democrats that will make this possible will have been largely self-inflicted.
Consider Gov. Phil Murphy’s near political death experience and the down ballot losses that shrank his party’s majorities in the state legislature and the defeat of political titan Senate President Stephen Sweeney.
Former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli came close to beating the former Goldman Sachs partner after Murphy opted to take his family to his exclusive Italian villa in August, ever as the U.S. State Department was advising Americans NOT to travel to that country over concerns about the global pandemic.
President Obama’s foundation cheerfully accepts a gift $100 million from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, whose company was charged by the National Labor Relations Board with illegally retaliating against employees it fired after they tried to organize a union.
Then there’s President Biden who’s been portrayed as being out of touch with the average American family’s sticker shock for groceries and fuel.
Where does he go to spend Thanksgiving but at the $30 million Nantucket estate owned by private equity billionaire David Rubenstein, co-founder of the notorious Carlyle Group. According to the Center for Public Integrity , this global colossus pioneered in investing in companies that were defense contractors that profit off of the proliferation of armed conflict around the world.
JOE’S LUXURY ISLAND?
As Fox News correctly pointed out, Nantucket was identified as one of four counties in Massachusetts that saw their projected food insecurity rates for struggling families increase by over 70 percent, according to the Nantucket Community Health Needs Assessment . Overall, according to the same report, Massachusetts was projected to see an 81 percent increase in food insecurity statewide.
The Nantucket Community Health Needs Assessment is published by the Nantucket Cottage Hospital, the island’s vital health care facility. Its “Mind the Meal Gap 2020 report” flagged that one in four of the food-insecure children on the island were living in “homes that are ineligible for public assistance programs” because of their undocumented status.
Perhaps nowhere in the U.S. reflects the obscene nature of our growing wealth divide than Nantucket Island, 30 miles off of Cape Cod. Sixty percent of the island’s land has been set aside for conservation and the median home price is $2.55 million, and often held as an investment by some of the nation’s wealthiest families.
Close to 70 percent of the island’s housing stock is usually vacant, while 90 percent of the people that live there year-round, often serving the super-wealthy, can’t afford to buy a home with half that population struggling to pay their rent, according to a 2015 analysis.
“Not surprisingly, COVID-19 was a primary health concern for communities and exacerbated underlying inequities and social needs,” reported The Nantucket Cottage Hospital in their 40-page health needs analysis. “The pandemic brought to light the capabilities and gaps in the healthcare system, the public health infrastructure, and social service networks.”
The island hospital’s analysis notes the squeeze play so many of Nantucket’s year- round families face citing an Economic Policy Institute family budget calculator that “found that a two-parent family with one child would need an annual income of $101,224 – not including savings or discretionary spending. High costs often translate into lower-income families having to balance between rental payments or food purchases or result in residents sacrificing sleep to take on a second or third job to cover housing costs.”
Beltway Democrats will blame their likely 2022 drubbing on the rise of right-wing racist reactionaries and the Fox News One America News calliope. Yet, they will have no one else to blame but themselves. When there was a choice to be made between flipping America’s oppressive tax pyramid that has crushed America’s working families for decades, while enabling the creation of vast dynastic wealth, the Democrats picked their donors who nest atop the pyramid’s pinnacle.
This was accomplished when they opted to downsize President Biden’s $3.5 trillion Build Back Better agenda to the current anemic $1.7 trillion iteration. All it took was for their campaign donor class and their Wall Street wealth managers to push back on the White House’s initial strategy to raise hundreds of billions in new revenue by taxing mega fortunes at the point in time when they are passed from one generation to the next.
The cover story was that conservatives Democrats led by New Jersey Rep. Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) and West Virginia’s Senator Joe Manchin, as well as Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema were pushing back over concerns that Biden’s initial Build Back Better was too ambitious and required too much government spending that would accelerate inflation and derail the alleged recovery.
As reported by the Intercept and the Guardian, the Democrats who aligned themselves with this anti-progressive faction were rewarded with millions of dollars in campaign cash from the very interests that want to keep the great American wealth pyramid intact.
It’s just as plain as that. Folks in a privileged position by virtue of being elected by the people, use their position to amass ever greater wealth.
This betrayal of the tens of millions of working families, which Rev. Dr. William Barber refers to as a “sleeping giant”, comes as study after study confirms the linkage between the pandemic devastation in communities of color with our nation’s accelerating wealth inequality and health care disparities.
Perhaps Nantucket Island’s gated privilege portends what lies ahead for an entire nation where wealth concentration continues to accelerate unabated as some Democrats continue to only do the bidding of their donors.
BUDGETS REFLECT WHAT WE VALUE
“As Democrats negotiate the Build Back Better bill from $3.5 trillion (over ten years) down to $1.75 trillion over ten years, priorities like paid leave, free community college, and Medicare expansion for affordable prescriptions, dental, and vision care are all on the chopping block,” wrote Lindy Koshgarran for the National Priorities Project. “Meanwhile, over the past ten years, the U.S. has handed over $3.4 trillion (or $3.7 trillion in inflation-adjusted terms) to Pentagon contractors without headline-making congressional negotiations. It’s part of the larger $7.2 trillion (2021 dollars) that we’ve handed over to Pentagon contractors almost unquestioned since 9/11.”
Koshgarran’s analysis continues. “For that money, the U.S. has gotten many copies of a supposedly cutting-edge military plane that has spontaneously caught fire at least three times, has heavily subsidized average CEO pay of $17.7 million at the top military contractors, and allowed corporations to rake in profits even while they failed wildly in the effort to reconstruct Afghanistan.”
“The spending on contractors continues today at the same rapid clip, accounting for more than half of average Pentagon spending each year,” according to the National Priorities Project blog post. “And with Congress poised to approve a $778 billion one-year spending package (that would be around $7.8 trillion over ten years, even without further increases) for the military, the contractors stand to gain again.”
Meanwhile, we will hear from “fiscally conservative Democrats” we can’t afford paid leave or free community college.
Bending over backwards to protect America’s dynastic fortunes is going to cost us all dearly.
HANGING UP ON 911
Consider the Axios report that in their drive to shrink Build Back Better, the House Energy & Commerce Committee opted to slash a $10 billion proposal to upgrade the nation’s antiquated 911 call centers to just $470 million.
In 2018, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported such an upgrade to digital from analog would cost $12 billion, with industry experts suggesting a full upgrade could run even higher.
Currently, half of the nation’s 911 call centers can’t receive text messages, much less video, that could greatly improve first responders’ situational awareness.
“Public safety officials fear the nation’s 911 centers will continue to languish in the analog era, after Democrats slashed proposed funding for a digital makeover in their social spending bill,” Axios reported. “The potentially life-saving ability for people to send texts, pictures or videos to 911 centers, and for centers to seamlessly share data with each other, remains out of reach for many of the country’s 6,000 centers.”
Build Back Better indeed.