Alan Zendell, March 13, 2021
In her morning newsletter, today, historian Heather Cox Richardson wrote “the American Rescue Plan launched the country in the direction it has avoided since 1981, using the national government not to cut taxes, which favors those with wealth, but rather to support working families and children.” Quietly, needing no ego gratification, and without slinging insults at anyone, President Biden changed the direction of our country for the better. He needed neither hyperbole nor fabrication to push through a law that has the approval of 76% of Americans including 59% of Republicans, both virtually unprecedented numbers.
The Rescue Plan will prevent more than thirty million Americans from falling into permanent poverty because of the pandemic and will enable millions more to pay rent and stop draining their remaining savings to feed their families. Despite congressional Republicans’ anger over its $1.9 trillion price tag, unlike the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act which cost even more, every dollar spent on the American Rescue Plan will quickly flow directly into our staggering economy. The part of the economy that affects most Americans is consumer driven – if consumers don’t have money to spend, the economy flounders. While tax cuts largely wound up in the investment portfolios of the wealthiest Americans and in corporate coffers through stock buybacks, the Rescue Plan will immediately spur the economy like booster cables on a drained car battery.
Republicans are at war internally about whether Donald Trump will continue to dominate the party, but that didn’t stop them from marching in lockstep to obstruct the Rescue Plan. Nothing is more important to them than returning to the policy established by Ronald Reagan, that government’s function is not to provide for the welfare of average Americans. For forty years, Republican controlled legislatures have been committed to the dominance of the wealthiest Americans. The American Rescue Plan could derail that.
The next step in Biden’s plan to return the country to working class and small business oriented Americans is the voting rights bill known as H.R 1, the For the People Act. Democrats passed the Rescue Act despite receiving no Republican votes because they could use the reconciliation procedure, designed to ease passage of federal budgets. H.R 1 will be more difficult because it will be subject to Republican filibuster. Fasten your seatbelts. It will likely be a fight that monopolizes Biden’s second fifty days in office.
It’s a fight that is critical to the survival of the American democracy, as evidenced by the hundreds of bills being considered by Republican dominated state legislatures, all designed to make it difficult for working people, minorities, and the infirm to vote. Every one of those bills is a reaction to the success of Stacy Abrams’ Fair Fight. Abrams used persistent and efficient organization to overcome decades of voter suppression tactics that were largely under the radar. But now, as Republicans believe they are fighting for their survival as a dominant party, they are waging the fight openly and brazenly.
One of the most important things H.R 1 will do is require every state to create an independent, politically neutral commission to redraw its voting districts along representative lines. Currently, gerrymandering allows state legislatures to rig the playing field in advance of elections by cramming dense concentrations of opposition party voters into a small number of districts, thus enabling the majority party to dominate state legislatures and influence which party controls the U. S. House of Representatives. The next round of redistricting, which will be based on the 2020 census, will determine the composition of every legislative body until 2030. Most political scientists believe gerrymandering is the greatest threat to the future of democracy.
H.R 1 would reform our entire election process. You can read an excellent summary of its provisions here. Perhaps most important, it would supersede all attempts by states to make voting more difficult, to assure that no American is prevented from casting a vote. It provides funding to increase voting security and assure that each state maintains a backup system of paper ballots to deal with allegations of fraud. It requires full disclosure of “dark money” contributions and restricts the power of PACs, while creating voluntary matching programs that enhance the power of individual political contributions. Finally, it strengthen ethics laws, forces investigation of financial conflicts of interest, enforces federal divestment requirements for elected officials, and requires all presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns.
If you care about the future of democracy in America, the most important thing you can do is tell your congressional representatives that if they expect your vote the next time they run, they can earn it by supporting H.R 1 and its Senate counterpart S 1.