On Thursday of this past week, Presidential nominee Joe Biden unveiled his plan to revive the US economy from the fallout of the coronavirus-related recession with a pledge to “build back better.” In other words, he promised a vision of economic success, one that appears over-optimistic as we reach the end of President Trump’s turbulent term. The unemployment rate currently sits at 11%, middle-class and impoverished families were only lucky enough to receive one stimulus check – signed by the President himself, and fear for a second wave only grows as our great nation faces another spike in coronavirus cases. 2020 is a year that many of us wish to forget, to erase from our timelines, but the undeniable truth is that this turn of the decade may be one of the most impactful times in modern human history.
An Ignoble Lie
America First. “The truth is throughout this [coronavirus] crisis, Donald Trump has been almost singularly focused on the stock market – the Dow and Nasdaq – not you, not your families,” Biden said during his remarks Thursday according to a report from NPR. “If I’m fortunate enough to be elected president, I’ll be laser-focused on working families, the middle-class families that I came from.” A heartfelt statement from a man who, if he were to be victorious in November, may inherit an economy in even worse shape than Obama’s inheritance of the 2008 Recession from President Bush. But that is the nature of the job: to take on the mistakes of your predecessors and attempt improvements and developments in areas that compliment such shortfalls. According to US News, Biden said he would increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour and reverse Trump’s tax and trade policies. His “Build Back Better” plan includes a $700 billion investment in procurement and research and development for new technologies, along with a likely tax hike for corporations from the current 21% to around 28%.
The plan doesn’t attempt to conceal its foundations in economic nationalism, a rather conservative ideal that was touted by Trump when he ran in 2016. Biden wishes to see a future where American bought and American made are no longer mutually exclusive. Many critics from the left are worried that it is too conservative in the economic groundwork, and the right is concerned with how such a plan will be funded. Well, in 2019 the US military received close to $720 billion in funding, and politicians seemingly had no issue with such a financial obligation. The problem that Biden’s plan faces, much like universal health care in the US, is that it just might work. It could upset the status quo. It could pull the curtains back and reveal the structured caste system that almost every American has been living in. Under the heels of capitalist hoarders and career politicians we are brainwashed into thinking that in order for America to be first, we must finish last. That in order for us to live, we must suffer. This is simply not true.
See, if America wants to be first and find the peace that it so desires, it must realize that it has been at war with itself. Lies and falsehoods have eroded the foundations of moral truths and factual information, and such damage has permeated the lives of ever American.
A Look Inward
“I see a different America than Trump. One that despite all our flaws and shortcomings and failures is still, after more than two centuries, dedicated to equality, liberty and human decency,” Biden said while visiting a metalworks factory in Pennsylvania, as reported by Bloomberg. “I have no illusion how tough the road ahead is going to be for our country,” he added.
Our dedication to such principles is where America falls short. To the rest of the world we appear as naïve sophists who shout democracy louder than anyone else, yet whose boisterous claims drown out the cries for help from its own people. But 2020 has been the year where our eyes and ears have finally turned inward, focusing on the issues that plague our great nation. The role of the political leader has been realized by the general populace, as we witness a prodigious number of citizens rise up and take action within their communities. Protests at an unprecedented level have occurred all throughout the country and the division between online and offline activism has been bridged by a younger more proactive generation.
Regarding the economy, we have come to realize that while the stock market is an indicator of the American financial system, it is not the economy itself. The free market that constitutes capitalist America is made up of a plethora of economic decisions. Marriage, education, career paths, even daily choices have been reduced down to economic judgments. It is both a disappointing and significant revelation for the American people. With ever-increasing globalization and the ability to see into the realms of other lives, we have come to realize that in looking outward we are now more critical of looking inward. We have seen what the other side holds. We have witnessed universal public healthcare, free public education, rehabilitatory prison systems, and governments that work for the very people they represent. Now all we want is for America to be that which we desire: real.
The American dream is something of a myth. That in coming to this great country one will be endowed with economic success, education far superior to anywhere else, and limitless prosperity. But of course, you must work for it. One must participate in the free market economy and join in on the capitalist ventures that fuel our driving American spirit. While working one of your three minimum wage jobs while attempting to pay your way through college, it may become apparent that the American dream was a sham. That you were lied to. That while this country is in a better state than many developing nations and societies riddled with corruption and violence, it is not absent of these problems. They have simply taken other forms.
The human condition is driven to adapt and survive, and its tactics for survivability and success will evolve as the environment changes concurrently. Milton Friedman, the great political-economist that is hailed as a saint to the free-market conservatives and their neoliberal compatriots, once said that greed is inherent to man. And such sinful greed is the reason socialism and strong welfare states end up reducing to communist regimes and dictatorships. The power struggle collapses in on itself and the people in power reduce the general populace to a slave-like class. He says that capitalism can never go wrong because it nurtures this natural predisposition. Greed becomes the drive to success and fuels a competitive system. We all end up buying into Hobbes’ state of nature. That life is inherently nasty, brutish and short.
So, as you stand there considering the possibility that you were the victim of a scam, you fall into a state of ruin. You wonder if it was worth it. You notice how strange the world around you is, how it fails to match the advert on the pamphlet you were given by the state media. The dream becomes a lie, your attention turns to apathy. You wake up.
This is America
It’s 2020. A virus pandemic has shut down the global markets. America’s economy is threading the line between bad and worse, and you are left to gather what you can with your $1200 check. An election is coming up and you are worried that neither candidate is worth your attention, but you want to get out of this hellish nightmare. Protests run rampant in the streets calling for justice in the names of people you saw on the news briefly a couple months ago. You barely remember their faces because they all looked the same. Every morning you wake up forgetting the day of the week, lost in the loop of yesterday hoping that tomorrow something good may come of where you live. You feel as though the world is out to get you, that your country is on fire and you are left to brace the heat alone. That there is no peace.
This is America in 2020. And while it is frightening and visceral, and unpredictable and frustrating, it is also a chance for change. The truth is that we can build back better. This is a year, a moment, that will go down in history as a turning point in modern times. Recharging our economy is the change we so desire, but first we must realign our moral foundations. As a voting populace we have to choose the path that conveys empathy, empowers the oppressed, and believes in the value of knowledge and information. I’m not endorsing a vote for Joe Biden, but if that is the individual who comes to mind when these principles are communicated, then perhaps I am.
As an individual who is waiting to be a part of the voting populace, an immigrant who holds himself as more American than anything else, I simply want you to wake up.