Focusing On People … ALL People

There are numerous ideological differences between the two major political parties in the United States today, some are superficial, others deep-rooted.  But one of the main ones, I believe, is what their view of the purpose of government is.  The Democratic Party largely believes in investing in people, while the Republican Party is more concerned with investing in Profit … profit for the already wealthy, that is, not for the average Joe.

I have shared two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Nicholas Kristof’s work before, and his column yesterday in the New York Times is another that needs to be read, pondered and absorbed.  He makes the case for President Biden’s proposals for investment in the people of this nation, and he makes it well.  If the Republican Party chooses not to participate, then perhaps it’s time we leave them behind … for the greater good, the good of the nation and all of its people.

Joe Biden Is Electrifying America Like F.D.R.

By Nicholas Kristof

Opinion Columnist

YAMHILL, Ore. — The best argument for President Biden’s three-part proposal to invest heavily in America and its people is an echo of Franklin Roosevelt’s explanation for the New Deal.

“In 1932 there was an awfully sick patient called the United States of America,” Roosevelt said in 1943. “He was suffering from a grave internal disorder … and they sent for a doctor.”

Paging Dr. Joe Biden.

We should be cleareyed about both the enormous strengths of the United States — its technologies, its universities, its entrepreneurial spirit — and its central weakness: For half a century, compared with other countries, we have underinvested in our people.

In 1970, the United States was a world leader in high school and college attendance, enjoyed high life expectancy and had a solid middle class. This was achieved in part because of Roosevelt.

The New Deal was imperfect and left out too many African-Americans and Native Americans, but it was still transformative.

Here in my hometown, Yamhill, the New Deal was an engine of opportunity. A few farmers had rigged generators on streams, but Roosevelt’s rural electrification brought almost everyone onto the grid and output soared. Jobs programs preserved the social fabric and built trails that I hike on every year. The G.I. Bill of Rights gave local families a shot at education and homeownership.

Roosevelt’s Public Works Administration provided $27,415 in 1935 (the equivalent of $530,000 today) to help build a high school in Yamhill. That provided jobs for 90 people on the relief rolls, and it created the school that I attended and that remains in use today.

In short, the New Deal invested in the potential and productivity of my little town — and of much of the nation. The returns were extraordinary.

These kinds of investments in physical infrastructure (interstate highways) and human capital (state universities and community colleges) continued under Democratic and Republican presidents alike. They made America a stronger nation and a better one.

Yet beginning in the 1970s, America took a wrong turn. We slowed new investments in health and education and embraced a harsh narrative that people just need to lift themselves up by their bootstraps. We gutted labor unions, embraced inequality and shrugged as working-class America disintegrated. Average weekly wages for America’s production workers were actually lower in December 2020 ($860) than they had been, after adjusting for inflation, in December 1972 ($902 in today’s money).

What does that mean in human terms? I’ve written about how one-quarter of the people on my old No. 6 school bus died of drugs, alcohol or suicide — “deaths of despair.” That number needs to be updated: The toll has risen to about one-third.

We allocated large sums of taxpayer dollars to incarcerate my friends and their children. Biden proposes something more humane and effective — investing in children, families and infrastructure in ways that echo Roosevelt’s initiatives.

The most important thread of Biden’s program is his plan to use child allowances to cut America’s child poverty in half. Biden’s main misstep is that he would end the program in 2025 instead of making it permanent; Congress should fix that.

The highest return on investment in America today isn’t in private equity but in early childhood initiatives for disadvantaged kids of all races. That includes home visitations, lead reduction, pre-K and child care.

Roosevelt started a day care program during World War II to make it easier for parents to participate in the war economy. It was a huge success, looking after perhaps half a million children, but it was allowed to lapse after the war ended.

Biden’s proposal for day care would be a lifeline for young children who might be neglected. Aside from the wartime model, we have another in the U.S.: The military operates a high-quality on-base day care system, because that supports service members in performing their jobs.

Then there are Biden’s proposed investments in broadband; that’s today’s version of rural electrification. Likewise, free community college would enable young people to gain technical skills and earn more money, strengthening working-class families.

Some Americans worry about the cost of Biden’s program. That’s a fair concern. Yet this is not an expense but an investment: Our ability to compete with China will depend less on our military budget, our spy satellites or our intellectual property protections than on our high school and college graduation rates. A country cannot succeed when so many of its people are failing.

As many Americans have criminal records as college degrees. A baby born in Washington, D.C., has a shorter life expectancy (78 years) than a baby born in Beijing (82 years). Newborns in 10 counties in Mississippi have a shorter life expectancy than newborns in Bangladesh. Rather than continue with Herbert Hoover-style complacency, let’s acknowledge our “grave internal disorder” and summon a doctor.

The question today, as in the 1930s, is not whether we can afford to make ambitious investments in our people. It’s whether we can afford not to.

25 thoughts on “Focusing On People … ALL People

  1. Let’s hope this can be the new “old” America. The America that said “we all rise together or we all fall together.” But this time, hopefully it will be for ALL Americans.


  2. Conservatives often accuse me of being a materialist (which I’m not).

    When I look around, the conservatives are the real materialists. Those of us who are not materialists do focus on the people and do call for more investment in people. It’s the conservatives, the people who claim to not materialists, who focus on wealth, property and other material things.

    I’m really liking where Biden is trying to take us.

    Liked by 4 people

    • In my mind, it is the conservatives who are more likely to be materialists, given their almost worship of those with money. They don’t support taking care of those who need help, but rather giving to those who already have far more than they will ever need. Somebody has their priorities screwed up, and it isn’t you or me!

      Yes, so far I am VERY pleased with what Biden has done and what he hopes to do. I stand by him and hope that, despite the odds, he can accomplish much during his first term.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Jill, good piece. The only sound argument Republicans have is paying for all of this on top of the building debt. On the flip side, my former party had a chance to set the previous president on a better path from the outset, by focusing on an infrastructure bill, which has been needed for ten years. Dems would have supported the effort and said as much. Instead, the former president chose to take their health care away with some of the most god-awful bills and process, so says this retired actuary and benefits consultant. The GOP better be glad John McCain gave it a thumbs down as the base would have found out what it all meant the hard way. Keith

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thanks, Keith! Agreed, the price tag is staggering, but … if corporations and the wealthy had been paying their fair share all along, it would not even raise an eyebrow. I hate to say it, but I have at long last concluded that your former party cannot stop being hypercritical of all others long enough to put together a plan, a platform, or even a simple piece of legislation. They are tied at the hip to the former guy, whether they like it or not, and their loyalty is to the party and him, not to drafting legislation, finding common ground, or serving the people of their state/district. It used to be that, whether I agree with it or not, I could identify what the GOP stood for. Today, I have no clue … it seems their only goal is to be the party of “NO”. Or the party of Trump … which may be one and the same thing.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jill, when I left the GOP around 2007-08, I made mentioned that the party had a tendency to make things up, aided and abetted by Fox. Now, the party is built on a three legged stool of untruthfulness, conspiracy theories and fear mongering. To garner the base support, the sycophant leaders must swear allegiance to the Big Lie, that the former president won in the election. It is sad that Senator Mitt Romney is called a traitor this weekend, for his role in voting to convict the former president for his active role in inciting an insurrection on the Capitol. Romney is the traitor, not the person who emulated Benedict Arnold. Keith

        Liked by 1 person

        • Indeed, and we all know what is almost certain to he who sits on a three-legged stool while imbibing … SPLAT! It is sad that not only Romney, but Liz Cheney and others who stood against the former guy are being vilified by the ‘party’ for following their conscience. It also speaks volumes about the GOP, that they care only about fealty to a madman, not about policies to help the people who most need it.


  4. Makes perfect sense. The truth wealth of a nation is in its peoples, and they need to be invested in.
    Annnddd that will get the MAGA crew weeping and wailing about ‘Socialism’.
    Nevertheless a very deep, sensible and stirring piece.

    Liked by 2 people

      • You get that on the Left too.
        It’s one of the reasons why a Socialist government system never lasts…no one can agree of how to do it.
        When analysed, in practice it is a messy coalition of folk who don’t agree with the perceived opposite model.
        Go figure

        Liked by 1 person

        • Sigh. Human nature, preservation of self above the greater good of the whole. People like Dr. Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and others make a difference, but only for a short time and then it all reverts back. I think those large brains people allegedly have are maybe not such a good thing after all!

          Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.