Kimberly Graham: Of the People, for the People, and by the People

Scott Roland is an activist from Cedar Rapids. -promoted by Laura Belin

Introduction

Whatever we think that we are doing, it is certainly not working. We are asked to embrace some variation of the status quo that offers us ruinous household debt, political corruption that has become normalized, stagnant growth rates, perilously insecure employment, a natural environment that is on a course to become barely inhabitable, and a health care system that leaves many just one medical emergency away from bankruptcy. As a society, we have fallen into a chasm, and have brought our diminished faith in American exceptionalism with us. 

These problems have been exacerbated by a complacent political class, but politicians like Kimberly Graham offer us a credible path forward. Absurdly, some have painted her as an unrealistic radical, but in much of the developed world, she would be a mainstream social democrat. Her desire is not a destructive revolution, but decency: universal publicly financed health care, wages that ensure that households live above the threshold of poverty, elections that can’t be bought by the highest bidder, a system that does not leave students shackled in debt, and a Green New Deal to address the trillions in negative externality costs related to climate change.

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The divide that's conquered . . . us

Ira Lacher: We may don masks to keep ourselves safe from the novel coronavirus, but no amount of #We’reInThisTogether can mask that we are far apart. -promoted by Laura Belin

“REOPENINGS EXPOSE U.S. DIVISIONS” proclaimed Saturday’s New York Times.

A Google search for “divided America” returns 417 million pages.

Writing in The Atlantic, George Packer reveals what should be as plain as the masks on our faces and the gloves on our hands: Because of our many divisions, America is rapidly becoming a failed state:

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Thoughts on a post-Trump agenda for Democrats

Dan Piller speculates on what the federal government might attempt if the 2020 presidential and Congressional elections swing toward Democrats. -promoted by Laura Belin

Democrats have learned, the hard way, to never count on a landslide before votes are cast. But the combination of a 1930s-style economic collapse, President Donald Trump’s manic blunderings, and his dismal poll numbers no doubt generate dreams in progressive minds of a landslide election in November that sweeps them into unchallengeable control of both the White House and congress in a manner similar to the Democratic sweeps of 1932 or 1964.

So what might happen if Joe Biden and a host of happy progressives settle into power in Washington next January (probably after walking past gun-toting, camouflage-wearing Trumpers making a Last Stand)?

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Deaths of despair in Clinton, Oelwein, and elsewhere

John Whiston reflects on several books about industrial decline and the social dislocation that has accompanied it. -promoted by Laura Belin

A friend emailed me the other day, a friend I worked with forty years ago at a plywood mill in Bonner, Montana. We pulled veneer on the green chain, very heavy repetitive work. He asked me to talk with his 30-something son, who might be having some legal problems. So, I spent about an hour in conversation with this young man.

His was familiar story, very much what I’d heard as a lawyer in Iowa for 25 years. I learned he had graduated high school with few skills. While his father and grandfather had been able to go to work at the Bonner mill with good wages, medical insurance, a pension, and a strong union, the mill had closed. He then described a few experiences that seemed to fit in a small way with a whole constellation of symptoms that I had seen in my working-class clients: unemployment, underemployment, injuries, illness, disability, substance abuse, terrible credit, family issues, run-ins with the law.

I now suspect that the underlying problem is a profound despair. Granted, not every working-class person displays this despair, but it appears in an increasing portion. Their despondency bleeds out into their families and communities and affects us all.

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Down on the farm with Trump

Dan Piller: Donald Trump benefitted from a slumping agricultural economy in 2016, but the Iowa farm economy has slid even further on his watch. -promoted by Laura Belin

A mystery that will baffle historians a century from now is how a fast-talking New Yorker like Donald Trump could win Iowa’s six electoral votes by with a 9.4 percentage point margin over Hillary Clinton despite losing six of Iowa’s most populous counties.

Trump was called a “populist,” which would have surprised original 19th century populists such as Andrew Jackson and William Jennings Bryan, who at least lived in the outlier states of Tennessee and Nebraska and faithfully represented the values of their regions.

But despite a near-total lack of connections and experience with Iowa, Trump overcame Clinton’s margins in Scott, Polk, Story, Linn, Black Hawk, Johnson, and Scott counties to win big in rural counties. Trump’s politics of resentment played well in non-urban Iowa, beset by losses of population, schools and businesses, rising drug and crime problems, and a feeling of being culturally denigrated by Clinton and the coastal-dominated political and media elites.

Trump also benefitted from a slumping Iowa agricultural economy in 2016, which tends to work in favor of challengers. But there lies the rub for President 45; the Iowa farm economy has slid even further on his watch. As farmers take to the fields to plant this month, troubling numbers are coming from all sides as the effects of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and the trade war on agriculture are tallied.

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Needed: National Health Corps

Ira Lacher: For years, America has debated the need for some form of mandatory national service that does not necessarily include the military. The need is clear now. -promoted by Laura Belin

After 9/11, our leaders determined that a public agency was necessary to prevent further acts of terrorism on passenger airlines, and the Transportation Security Administration was born, as part of the new Department of Homeland Security. Now, everyone who travels has become accustomed to these uniformed “wanders at airports,” as per many a crossword puzzle clue. 

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