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Desideratum: Heading Off the Prospects of a Dark and Tumultuous Future

We can no longer afford to wait as climate changes, economic systems malfunction, and enflamed social divisiveness bear down on humanity with unprecedented, irreversible consequences.

Donald Trump at Regent University on October 22, 2016 in Virginia Beach, Virginia

Donald Trump at Regent University on October 22, 2016 in Virginia Beach, Virginia. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

”This time, like all times, is a very good one if you but know what to do with it." 
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

In the face of an international crisis, we make an appeal to those who hold the reins of power and move the levers of control.  It will not be enough to simply reopen an economy. We must also confront the vulnerabilities and inequities that have haunted us for too long.  This plea further extends an appeal to the generation that came of age in 50’s, 60’s and 70’s to not leave behind a world in a state of social, economic and environmental decay. We can build something better.

The Pandemic of 2020 brought the country and the world to a complete stop. Economic systems have exploded, institutional structures have imploded, and individuals and families find themselves in dire straits. The fragility of our medical, social, economic, and environmental systems has been exposed. For many, there is grave uncertainty as to whether or not they will ever recover.  The impact on individuals and families has been devastating; the impact on the economic infra-structure overwhelming; and the impact on local, federal, and national institutional structures has pushed them beyond their limits. It is a vicious circle.

And despite inspirational calls for national mobilization, we are not really all in this together. Racism, discrimination, inequality, economic instability, hunger, ill-health, housing insecurities, poverty and educational inadequacies that have plagued this society for generations keep us apart and isolated from each other. We see anew the price of victimization, the mythology of “us” and “them”, marginalization, and the unfathomable consequences on individuals and families.

The generation before us endured the Great Depression and left us with Social Security, unemployment insurance and banking regulations that protected Main Street, not Wall Street.  Out of World War II came the GI Bill:  baby boomers were born into an economy where the working class had a stake and massive infrastructure investments were made to ensure a future.  Science and technology not only improved living standards but also unleashed lofty aspirations to advance humanity. Today’s crisis has accentuated the abandonment of these progressive approaches in lieu of political gain and profit.

We are now called on to achieve social cohesion, create a more fair and just economy and promote a healthy environment that will sustain humanity for the millennia.  These are not unreachable dreams or elite policy agendas but are critical choices we must make now as time is quickly running out. The Civil Rights Movements of the 60s and 70s, the end of the Cold War in 1990, the events of 9/11 and the recession of 2008/2009 all offered opportunities for profound change to create a better America.  All were missed. 

We now find ourselves in an America few of us imagined twenty years ago. A split and ineffective U.S. Congress has ceded much of its power to an authoritarian-inclined president unqualified to lead the Nation.  Across the political spectrum, a steady stream of voices rises up to speak out against the growing income inequality and the need to fix capitalism hoping they will finally be heard. 

Challenges

As western leaders learnt in the Great Depression, and after the second world war, to demand collective sacrifice you must offer a social contract that benefits everyone. For too long we have deferred needed actions on climate change and income inequality leading to desperate migration streams and an unpreparedness for a global pandemic.  This blatant neglect damns us to a dismal future.  We no longer have the luxury of muddling along or settling for political stalemate.  Before us are complex, intertwined global challenges that will no longer wait to unleash their fury.  

Science, though, must be the basis of their amelioration. In today's world, disdain for it runs rampant. The line between science-based evidence and ideological zealousness and subjective judgments is erroneously crossed using rhetoric that effortlessly displays them as comparable units. When the science is inconvenient, it is ignored or defied. What remains is reckless decision-making and the exploitation of lands and peoples for the advancement of corporate insatiability.

The Trump administration’s posturing and irresponsible disregard of verifiable truth has left the country, and the world, highly vulnerable to dangerous, long-lasting effects in almost every arena – medicine and public health, the environment, education.  Lingering is a legacy of ruined environments and human beings.

Beyond defeating the disease, the great test all countries face is whether current feelings of common purpose will shape society after the crisis. Pleas abound from across the globe to do more than simply reopen economies but to address long-standing political, economic, social and environmental dysfunction. In its appeal for mobilization, the Financial Times’ Editorial Board makes an urgent call to:

  • Build up and re-consider the social-care infrastructure to mirror the way people really live;
  • Encourage a deep structural transition to an economy that better values the work that is essential to sustain us as a country; and
  • Address the crises in healthcare, social, ecological and economic policies laid bare by the epidemic.

A return to normal is not an option. Normal did not work. 

Plutocratic Capitalism and Inequality

The shared prosperity we enjoyed from 1950 to 1980 has evaporated. After 40 years of plutocratic capitalism, we have arrived at slow economic growth, unprecedented levels of income and wealth inequality, deteriorating infrastructure and environmental quality, staggering levels of national debt and a breakdown in civil discourse and the efficacy of our political institutions.  Left to persist, this inequality will surely sink us.  Its origins are found in forceful and repetitious claims that cutting taxes for those at the top will unleash a torrent of job creation and prosperity; that inequality was simply a by-product of economic efficiency.  On both sides of the ideological spectrum, there is a restless feeling that we are no longer on the right track as a progressive and confident civilization. 

During the course of this pandemic, America's billionaires saw their wealth increase by $434 billion while 38 million people filed for unemployment – 47% of whom are unable to afford food for a month. At the same time, a new momentum for global capitalism, driven by the economic dogma of comparative advantage, relocated much of the production capacity that served the consumer economy now driving nearly 70 percent of GDP.  In the process, thousands of regions across America, large and small, lost entire industries and millions of well-paying jobs.  Among the collateral damage was the diminished role of labor unions as wage negotiators and political advocates championing the cause of working Americans.  An unrelenting march of technology innovation also contributed to the substitution of capital for labor giving scant attention to worker displacement and reemployment.  In combination, these forces contributed to long-term wage stagnation for those in the middle and lower ends of the income distribution scale.  As growing inequality was unfolding, we were never able to marshal a strong and sustained policy response with commensurate investments to support the casualties victimized by political and economic changes. 

The most adverse impacts fell upon the young and the old, and on those who lacked education and skills.  For others, trapped in regions where there was widespread economic collapse and community decline, there were few options to relocate and start fresh.  Many Americans who once enjoyed middle-class lifestyles found themselves summarily marginalized.  These new “communities of despair” across America joined the ranks of urban areas populated by racial and ethnic minorities that had been cut loose for some time, denied access to opportunities for economic advancement. 

False binary choices have been peddled to the electorate for too long. Key among these:

  • Saving the environment and investing in communities will sacrifice economic growth and result in lost jobs.
  • Higher wages for workers will make a business less competitive while higher executive salaries are key to business success. 
  • Investments in childcare are deemed unaffordable as arcane rules of capital depreciation which withhold billions from the U.S. Treasury are untouchable. 

Taxation and regulatory policies, effectively harnessed to favor those at the top of the income distribution and the corporate entities, have shaped the new global capitalism. Powerful industry lobbyists dominate the legislative process and write the regulations that define the rules of the market economy. These misappropriations and misallocations beg for correction. 

Those in the middle and at the bottom of the income distribution scale have seen income and wealth stagnate for over 30 years.  Most American families have lost ground in terms of their economic standing. Long before the pandemic, research found that 4 in 5 Americans would experience poverty or unemployment or need to turn to the safety net for at least one year during their working years.  They have become more disillusioned and disconnected from civic culture.  Their offspring face uncertain futures and the prospect of their being worse off than their parents is real.  We have before us a political economy where those at the top have disproportionate influence to ensure their future while restricting the future of the rest.

Rise of Authoritarianism

The U.S., once a champion for free and open societies, now has a leader envious of the power held by autocrats in Russia, China, India, Turkey, the Philippines, Poland, Hungary and Brazil. A global tide, once moving towards democratic forms of governance, is in retreat.  The Human Rights Foundation reported that the citizens of 94 countries suffer under non-democratic regimes covering 53 percent of the world population.

As U.S. citizens, we have prided ourselves on living in a country committed to democratic ideals, ideals that served as a beacon for the rest of the world. We steadfastly opposed and fought brutal dictators in World War II and led the free world in opposition to communism. At the same time, we also backed authoritarian regimes all over the world when it suited our economic and global interests. Now, with a weakened legislative branch and a judiciary inclined to indiscriminately uphold executive power, there is a growing fear of a president who disrespects American principles of democracy.  His endorsement of dictators and political thugs across the world is unprecedented and dangerous.  Their economies have fallen into ruin and are void of free expression and enterprise as we begin to see the distortion of accurate reporting and the repression of truth now on our soil.

Racism and Social Exclusion

Exclusion has long been a part of the fabric of American life: “No one had to decide that people of color should suffer. … We just had to stand by and allow the machinery built over centuries to operate as it always has” write the editors in the Portland (Maine) Press Herald.  A system of policies, reputed to protect, support, and uplift people, instead intentionally marginalizes, stereotypes, and brands people of color and people who are poor as unworthy, undeserving and burdensome.  The COVID-19 pandemic’s disparate impacts on age, gender and most particularly race, reveals a national failing to shield people, especially during a national crisis, from the pervasive inequalities and biases embedded in every system in America. 

What we have before us is a potent mixture of systemic, institutionalized racism and inequality which unveils long-standing discriminatory practices as the modus operandi in both government actions and the business of this country.  Stark disparities in mortality rates between Black and white Americans – upwards of four times that of white Americans - are evident in every measure of health and social and economic wellbeing this pandemic has laid bare.

Over the past 70 years, no progress has been made in reducing income and wealth inequalities between Black and white households. While wealth has long been the means to a better life, the racial wealth gap today is about the same as it was in the 1950’s.  The economy was not working for the majority of people who were working for it. It is here where we see the “structural characteristics of the American economy, heavily infused at every point with both an inheritance of racism and the ongoing authority of white supremacy take hold.”

Sustainable recovery will be possible only if the systems under which this country has operated for generations are dismantled and reconstructed with “justice for all” as the central tenet.

Environmental Calamity

Years of polluting the air and water in our quest for economic growth and corporate voracity has left us with a planet no longer able to absorb the toxic bi-products we generate.   Unrelenting global warming is heating up the planet, unleashing climactic forces which are negatively impacting the lives of millions of people and threatening our very existence.     

Warnings by a consensus of scientists that rising greenhouse gas concentrations have resulted in increases in temperature, changes in precipitation, surges in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, and rising sea levels have gone unheeded. Volumes of studies that show the impacts of climate change on human well-being and how they interact with underlying health, demographic, and socioeconomic factors have been shelved.

The cascading influence of these factors exacerbates health threats creating alarming new public health challenges. While all citizens of the world are at risk, some populations are disproportionately vulnerable:  those with low incomes, communities of color, immigrant groups, Indigenous peoples, children and pregnant women, older adults, vulnerable occupational groups, persons with disabilities, and persons with pre-existing or chronic medical conditions.

Even with this clear and present danger, the responses to these threats have been wholly inadequate. Under the Trump administration, long-standing environmental policies and programs have been neglected and more often gutted.  An active business and industry lobby has successfully eliminated and reduced the force of environmental regulations that have long enjoyed bi-partisan support and made incremental differences in environmental quality.  Efforts to reduce our carbon footprint, an essential strategy to save the planet, have been replaced by incentives that encourage a greater dependency on fossil fuels and relaxed air pollution standards.  The United States, now withdrawn from important milestone global treaties on environmental protection, faces accelerating climate change of catastrophic proportions with no plan in place.

Indignities of Poverty and Economic Insecurity

A democratic society ensures that its citizens’ basic human needs for food, shelter and health, education and work are met. Without these, the healthy civil society promised in the founding doctrines of this country is not sustainable.  In the US, fundamental basic needs have never been assured.

This pandemic has laid bare the inequities, between, and within groupings of people and bluntly exposed to a national audience the dire circumstance under which millions of individuals and families live, trying to survive. Virus relief bills have testified to the inadequacy of in-place systems as they call for increases in monthly food stamp (SNAP) allocations; eviction bans and rent payment leniency; allocations of temporary financial aid to lower-income individuals and families; and a lifting of health insurance requirements on those needing immediate hospitalization and ICU care. 

The recently released Social Progress Index ranks the US at 28th  - down from 19th in 2011 - lagging behind less developed and significantly poorer countries in the world. “The data” says Harvard Business School Professor Michael Porter, “paint an alarming picture of the state of our nation … It’s like we’re a developing country” … “We are no longer the country we like to think we are”.

Not since the Great Depression has the citizenry been so fragile. The virus has hit individuals and families living on the edge the hardest, particularly African-Americans. Decades of politically-motivated stereotypical imagery linking economic insecurity to notions of deservedness and worthiness has relegated millions of people to the margins of society regardless of their never-ending efforts to succeed.

Many Americans went into the nationwide lockdown with limited or no savings, despite market gains from a record-long economic expansion. Unprepared for the current financial challenges, a record seventy-seven percent (77%) of low- to moderate-income American households don’t have enough assets to withstand 3 months without income. The number of people living in families with combined weekly earnings below the federal poverty line rose by 24 percent from February to May. Twelve million people eligible for their $1,200 “stimulus” check have not received it because they are too poor to have filled out a tax form or don’t know how to claim it. As of May 30th, 35.4 million workers either received or applied for unemployment benefits, a hardship highly concentrated among low-wage earners.

Families are struggling, anxious that the basics – food, shelter, and health – are becoming farther out of reach.  Those who lost hours or jobs found it “difficult to get by”; were not able to pay their bills;  did not have enough to eat; and did not pay or deferred rent. Loss of housing is on the horizon.  The portrait of the staggering cost of this pandemic to individuals and families is unfathomable.

Devalued Work and Workers

This year, an estimated 55 million workers are working at jobs now considered “essential”. Jobs that are necessary for the country to function cover every industry: maintenance staff, firefighters, assisted care attendants, grocery workers, postal carriers, funeral attendants, delivery drivers, farmworkers, medical personnel and more. Beyond the doctors and nurses lauded for their relentless commitment and attempts to save people’s lives, are a mass of people, most unrecognized, doing the same: working steadily over long hours and continuing to risk their lives at jobs that are underpaid and under-valued. Most only make the minimum wage; some make less than people getting unemployment benefits. And millions use federal food assistance and community food banks to feed their families. They work because they can’t afford not to. Most cannot work from home.

The stratification among workers in these jobs - predominantly women and disproportionately people of color - didn’t happen by chance but “is a direct result of systemic inequities that have pushed those with the least economic and political power to the margins, in jobs that, by virtue of who is performing them, are underpaid and undervalued in almost every way possible”. Nearly 70% of essential workers do not have a college degree; 30% have some college, 29% a high school diploma and 1 in 10 have less than a high school diploma.  Their jobs lack benefits and protections; workers rightly feel ignored or disrespected.  

One of the hallmarks of a just economic system is the assurance that those who do the work are rewarded fairly. Under 21st century capitalism in the US, workers have suffered wage stagnation and a growing insecurity about their future as globalization and technology innovation have dominated and shaped employment. Homelessness, food insecurity and a tenuous hold on economic security now show themselves even more vividly alongside the excesses of luxurious living and outrageous wealth accumulation. 

The Contours of the New Political and Sustainable Economy

The pandemic arrived suddenly and once again shocked us as we became vulnerable on a global scale with no on-the-shelf solution to save us.  The nature of this threat captured our undivided attention and reawakened our fears of other neglected forces undermining our future.  This is an urgent reminder that we can no longer defer the actions necessary to create a fair and just economy and a sustainable environment to save the planet and ourselves.  Widely recognized scientific studies, grounded in universally-accepted criteria and methodology must provide the evidence so vital to making decisions about the world and its workings.

We are at a critical juncture.  Maintain the current trajectory and we will certainly confront a dystopian future with social upheaval, economic collapse, and environmental degradation. We may not survive the calamity.  We can, however, forge a new direction to fundamentally alter the nature of our economy, ensure social stability, and reclaim our environment with principles embedded in social and economic, and environmental justice. 

Before us is “an unprecedented opportunity to not just hit the pause button and temporarily ease the pain, but to permanently change the rules so that untold millions of people aren’t so vulnerable to begin with.”  

How must this opportunity be configured? What must it deliver?

Fixing Capitalism- Building A New Foundation

There is growing consensus that the current economic and political systems are broken. Social unrest is waging a battle against ages-old systemic racism and social exclusion and the absence of social, economic, and physical protections. Choices presented to us for too long have posited that for prosperity to blossom we could not have sustainability. We are told that to have efficiency, we had to sacrifice equity. But these are false choices. The blind worship of free markets and unabridged global trade have benefited only a few whilst exploiting many. A skewed relationship favoring the owners of capital over the many who labor on their behalf is an imbalance achieved and sustained through the extraordinary influence of money in politics. The nearly unlimited flow of private funds to support campaigns has left us with a form of plutocratic capitalism that must be reversed. We need to restore a political process and governmental institutions that work for all citizens. We must hold our elected officials accountable to the populations that elected them, not to those who bought them.

As a priority, campaign finance reforms and the role of lobbyists must be fundamentally changed to tip scales back so that our political economy is no longer shaped by a self-serving ruling class.  As citizens, we can no longer remain complacent as elected representatives from both parties talk reform of campaign finance but continue to pocket the proceeds from corporations and political action committees.  Excessive inequality and monopolistic concentrations are the only outcomes of a system of long-term political investments in the representatives that we elect (and continue to mostly re-elect). It is they who reap the rewards. America must reclaim a sense of trusteeship from its leaders

The structure of tax policies in the US is designed to favor those at the top.  Those who argue that taxes are an impediment to growth fail to appreciate the vast gains in income and wealth for those at the very top of the income ladder while permitting mega-corporations to pay no taxes at all. A more progressive form of taxation with clear redistribution benefits and a restructuring of business taxes favoring socially desirable investments and productivity improvements must be undertaken to ensure a sustainable economy. 

Regulatory institutions suffering from long-term neglect and underfunding, are often led by former industry leaders who come from the very institutions they are tasked to regulate. Corporations now have inordinate market power through vertical and horizontal integration, stifling the consumers voice. Furthermore, digital technologies and artificial intelligence have fundamentally restructured the economy and come to dominate commerce and trade. The new economy requires new and more appropriate regulatory functions and processes to protect consumers.

For too long, we have treated the long-term adverse impacts on environment and worker health and safety as “externalities” in our economic accounting. In the end, these costs have been ultimately shifted to the taxpayers while the profits earned over many years by abusive enterprises remain untouched. There is no free lunch.  Government has an obligation to protect societal interests in the long run by incorporating, through pricing and taxes, the cost of these externalities. Consumers too must appreciate the reality that low prices often come at the expense of an exploited workforce or a damaged environment.

An economy that once produced investments leading to economic and social progress has been subverted, now rewarding short-term performance over more widely shared, long-term tangible results. We must overhaul rules for investments to ensure that they achieve more desirable social outcomes and true shared prosperity. We are in era where education, knowledge development and social infrastructure investments are the primary drivers to achieving long-term economic well-being. To that end, we must more effectively align our public and private investments if we are to impact the enormous climatological and social challenges we face. Because the existential threats of climate change, pandemics and terrorism do not respect political boundaries, we must work through global alliances and partnerships if we expect to overcome these threats.

Government must accept a more active role in the economy: to see public service as an investment rather than liability; look for ways to make labor markets less insecure; attend to the privileges of the elderly and the wealthy; redistribute wealth and restructure services. The wealth that has dominated the shape and course of policymaking as acts of self-interest and greed must step aside so that a design for the common interest can prevail.

Seizing Opportunities to Create a Sustainable Environment

The world’s economic systems - capitalist, communist and authoritarian alike - have inflicted massive environmental damage upon Planet Earth. We have reached a point where concerted action is required if we are to survive. The promising developments and proliferation of renewal energy generation including wind and solar represent a powerful alternative to deadly carbon-based energy sources.  Widespread adoption of wind and solar energy generation will significantly reduce the warming of the planet, create cleaner air and reduce the environmental damage associated with the extraction of oils, gas and coal. Adopting electrification technology will have major impacts on reducing the pollutants in our atmosphere which, as has been shown over the course of the pandemic, will yield cleaner air and reduce respiratory diseases.  Clear, measurable goals must be adopted and shared by government and industry to reduce our carbon footprint and move to renewable sources.  We are beyond the posturing, empty talk and deception. 

Commitments to decarbonize our economy will also yield new industries and employment opportunities.  One of the limitations for moving in this direction faster has been the fear of job loss and economic collapse. But, a more coordinated strategy and planning between government and private industry can ensure an effective transition with the creation of new industries and opportunities for the reskilling of our labor force. Mutual reinforcement of public policies and investment incentives that reward environmental reclamation and technology transformation must not only be the goal but measurable progress must be demanded every year.

Building a sustainable economy must also focus on reversing the generations of waste from the industrial and consumer economy. We must deploy our scientific and technological resources to solve the global zero-waste challenge. Wasteful packaging must be banned. Dangerous pollutants discharged in the air or water supply must be captured. Plastics flooding our oceans can be harvested and reprocessed. We have the know-how but lack the resolve.

Ensuring work with dignity in both market work and public service

Record unemployment and skyrocketing economic insecurity permeates the country but receiving a paycheck isn’t always enough to prevent hunger, homelessness and sickness. There will always be jobs that require different kinds of knowledge, training and skills, with differing wage levels, and varying levels of authority. But the stratification that has characterized jobs by virtue of who is performing them and how they are valued is the direct result of intentional systemic inequities that have pushed those with the least economic and political power to the bottom.

Bold, long-term policy actions must ensure that work is valued and properly rewarded and that inequalities are dismantled. At the forefront, institutionalized barriers that discriminate on the basis of race and gender must be curtained. Further, simplistic notions of supply and demand must be challenged to facilitate a move to a “dignity economy”; union affiliation options should be extended to private-sector workers whose bosses deny them the right to organize; compensation protocols must be analyzed and renegotiated to ensure a higher standing of living;  ladders of opportunity must be put in place particularly for lower-wage job workers; and jobs at the bottom of the ladder should be evaluated and essential jobs re-defined. And in addition, family supports, such as family and sick leave policies, and access to quality daycare, must be integrated into standard business operating procedures and benefit packages. A just economy must include universal health insurance coverage so that no one is denied access to care.

Roosevelt, upon facing jobs in short supply and lines of hungry Americans, concluded that the best way to revive and sustain prosperity was not merely to pump money into the economy but to rewrite the rules of the marketplace. He foresaw that “Liberty requires opportunity to make a living – a living decent according to the standard of the time, a living which gives man (sic) not only enough to live by, but something to live for.” This, among other initiatives, resulted in the right to collective bargaining, the imposition of strict rules and regulations on the financial industry, and the creation of Social Security to provide pensions for the elderly and long-term financial support for the disabled. These ingenuities can also be the foundational tenets of a new social contract for a new social order.

Securing Decency and Economic Security for all citizens

The growing gap between America’s rich and everyone else is hardly new. But the extraordinarily rapid economic collapse catalyzed by COVID-19 has made the chasm deeper and wider.  Since mid-March, over 40 million people have filed for unemployment—more than three times as many as lost their jobs during the two-year-long Great Recession.  Ironically, after a steep but brief dip in March, the stock market has rallied. The richest and most well–connected are seeing their wealth reaccumulate, as if by magic, while middle- and working-class families drown in debt that deepens with every passing week.

This fragility among our populace is the product of deliberate actions.  Policies in the early 20th century Progressive Era, the New Deal and the Great Society embodied a broad and muscular conception of liberty – that government should provide all Americans with the freedom that comes from a stable and prosperous life. A goal never realized.  Since the late 1960s, government abandoned these intentions while the movement to diminish government’s role as a guarantor of personal liberty and embrace a minimalist conception of government prevailed … with unimaginable consequences. As the world’s largest economy, the US’s unprecedented inequality has the potential to undermine democratic society and threaten global stability.

Government at all levels must work swiftly to alleviate the immediate suffering of millions, to ensure that people have the resources they need to stay safe, to get medical help, and care for family members.   Future generations must be safeguarded from needless destruction.

For this nation to become fully functional it must also invest in its infrastructure. Not only roads, bridges, airports and advanced telecommunications capabilities but also in the social capital that provides for the well-being of individuals and families as under-performing systems expose neglect and lack of investment to securing a better future for millions.

As Americans strive to return to work, there remain major issues to address regarding health and health care access; disruptions in child care and K-12 education; and income and support for displaced workers unable to work due to health conditions, and for undocumented and informal workers. Meanwhile, many small business owners struggle both operationally and financially, unsure if they can keep their doors open which, if they cannot, means more unemployed workers. As these dynamics build and continue, lawmakers and private and social sector leaders must continue to evaluate the role and responsibility of government while developing creative and equitable policy solutions for the country’s new normal.

Using the Parameters of Equity and Efficacy to Achieve the Right Balance

“If we are truly at the precipice of a transformative moment, the most tragic of outcomes would be that the demand be too timid and the resolution too small.”

The social contract and the founding tenets of this country proclaimed the importance of facilitating a healthy civil society. But all systems have demonstrated an inability, as well as a reluctance and, under this administration, a refusal to protect the now staggering number of Americans without enough money to buy food, pay rent and sustain their businesses. None of this is new but this time it is different. The design of this caste system that privileges whiteness and tarnishes blackness has deep roots in this country’s history. A moral reckoning is at hand. And radical reforms are required to forge a society that will work for all.

We can no longer afford to wait as climate changes, economic systems malfunction and enflamed social divisiveness bear down on humanity with unprecedented, irreversible consequences.  Our political institutions and leadership infrastructure are no longer capable of effectively balancing competing demands with virtue and wisdom opting instead to divide and exploit crisis for self-gain.  We are at great risk of heading to a dark and tumultuous future.  The evidence is overwhelming and compelling.  Yet, as a Nation, we remain divided on how we should proceed using ideological rather than rational guides in choosing a path forward.  

Throughout the Cold War we avoided the drastic consequences of a nuclear annihilation by an abiding belief in mutually assured destruction.  The crises confronting us now are no less powerful threats to our future.  We all have a stake in mutual salvation. Let us begin to build the new political framework so that we may save ourselves from ourselves. While there is still time.

Luisa Deprez

Luisa Deprez

Luisa S. Deprez is professor emerita of sociology and women and gender studies at the University of Southern Maine. She is a member of the Maine chapter of the national Scholars Strategy Network, which brings together scholars across the country to address public challenges and their policy implications.

John Dorrer

John Dorrer

John Dorrer is a labor economist who has worked at the national, state and local level planning and evaluating investments in human capital to achieve positive labor market outcomes.  He has also taught economics as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Maine and has served on numerous boards and advisory panels. He is a member of the Maine chapter of the national Scholars Strategy Network, which brings together scholars across the country to address public challenges and their policy implications.

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