by Paul Moomjean
I think it is fair to say that 2020 started as the year of the pandemic and has transitioned to the year of change. America sits at a crossroads in the areas of social justice, healthcare and race relations within the black and police communities. The future looked bleak a few weeks ago as rioters stole the headlines from peaceful protesters, but now that small changes have occurred, the real question now is, where do we go and continue moving forward in the most conflict-ensued age in both my lifetime and probably since the Civil War?
We are halfway through the year, and the world is a different place; yet there is so much still to go after and claim as part of our new future. Here are three areas of social reform that we should be pushing upon our local state, and federally elected leaders.
- Complete Overhaul of Police Responsibilities. Obviously, the tragic death of George Floyd at the hands (and knee) of four police officers is the match that lit the fire of the American people to start this movement of racial equality and justice, and the world is on the same page that the police have played too much the role of antagonist in this common news story. We must find ways to reduce the roles of officers in daily life dealing with homelessness, poverty and other areas where social workers and other task forces could be the more empathetic ear in times of struggle. By allowing officers the opportunity to focus on detective work and saving lives in hostage and crime situations, they will be able to work less exhausting overtime, and have less run-ins with minorities that end so sadly. We must also find ways to bring more people of color into the police force to help reform it. By bringing more diverse voices, faces and experiences, we can begin to bridge the divide between white officers and black communities.
- Healthcare Reformation. If the COVID-19 pandemic revealed anything about our current healthcare system, it is that we are not and were not prepared for anything at the level of this type of a disaster. Even with Obamacare, there are still people without insurance afraid of going to the doctor or emergency room due to skyrocketing costs and long waits. Had we formed a true Medicare For All program, people would have known their costs were covered by their taxes and many would have been tested earlier on before the spread began. Many fear this is a socialist program, but considering so much of our elderly and politicians are covered by taxpayers, why can’t middle class and poor Americans receive the same type of coverage? Our flawed system ties people’s ability to get healthcare to their job, and since most low-paying jobs cannot offer a quality option, many either pay ridiculous amounts out of pocket or just simply have nothing at all, creating a burden on hospitals required to take care of people but not always getting back the payments, creating more issues of crushing debt and credit score problems that eventually end up hurting those poor people in other areas of life down the road. The $4 trillion bailout proved we can find the money; now we just have to find the time to make it happen.
- Creating a Universal Basic Income or Raising the Minimum Wage. While many equate raising the minimum wage with inflation and lack of job growth, the facts just don’t play out that way. Isn’t it ironic that the best solution Congress could come up with when everyone lost their job was $1,200 for every American to make sure they could buy food and supplies? That’s a Universal Basic Income (UBI) philosophy. Had Americans made more money, they might have been able to save and prepare better, yet the paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle of most middle-class Americans couldn’t function with a few months of no employment. Mark Cuban argued that if we raise the minimum wage, yes, we might see a few small businesses struggle at first, but in the long term, people’s new income would produce more spending and eventually lead to job growth due to a demand in more workers to keep goods and services moving.
While everything I suggested might sound scary to some, if 2020 has taught us anything, it is that to move forward we can’t try to live backwards. It’s a new world, and it’s time for new ways to navigate it.