Covid 19 Pandemic
We didn’t know what 2020 would look like on January 1st and we still have months to go until we put it behind us. Hopefully a vaccine will be developed and distributed. There has been two parts of this pandemic, one is the health of the nation and the other is the health of the economy. There have been so many different messages around these 2 parts. If we are going to get to the other side of this emergency we need to focus on what we can do. First of all for the health of all of us we need to use masks and physical distance. This has been shown to be effective. Maine is the state with the oldest population which is the most vulnerable to the virus. If we feel that the seniors just need to just stay home and the rest of the population can go back to the life as it was before, that isn’t viable because the disease can effect us all, young or old. Also to do what is suggested by the CDC our economy would stabilize. We just need to keep the economy going even if it is not at full volume. Then we as a society need to assist those unemployed workers and struggling businesses until we return to a healthier state.
Racism and Inequality
We have to deal with systemic racism in our society. Race which really means a pigment or physical difference as there are no “races” just human beings with the same genetic code. What we are really talking about is “Xenophobia” which is the fear of others. Skin color is the easiest way to differentiate people. The Nazis used badges sewn on clothing. Slave owners didn’t need to. American slavery came from the West Indies and Brazil where plantation owners imported slaves from Africa to replace the Native American slaves that died from western diseases. The production of sugar which was highly lucrative is energy intensive and the slaves brought from Africa were used to the diseases of malaria and yellow fever that effected the area. Slaves were then shipped to Virginia to work on tobacco plantations. North American also had indentured workers filling the work force. The workers and slaves were treated similarly until the landowners realized that they would see the rebellions that occurred in the West Indies if they didn’t crack down and institutionalize a harsh treatment of slaves. To do that they had to make sure the slaves were treated as subhuman to separate them from the indentured workers. Once this started it was easy to make slaves subhuman. They didn’t speak your language, they didn’t worship your god and they didn’t look like you. There were times in our nation where we could have rectified this but didn’t, as the economy of plantations demanded cheap labor for tobacco and cotton. At the beginning of our nation we should have not given an inordinate amount of power to slave owners or we could have just freed slaves. Our founders struggled with this issue but failed at every turn. They allowed states to be formed that made them de facto slave states. They allowed bounty hunters to come into states that outlawed slavery and take escaped slaves back, saying it was an issue of property rights. They arrested those who helped them. After the emancipation of slaves we failed once more. There was a moment after the Civil War where appropriated plantations could have been sold to freed slaves. Economic freedom would have at least stopped the feudal relationship of sharecroppers. The nation made sure that freed slaves never got political power through the ballot box. The power elites used racism to not only keep African Americans down but it also allowed them to reduce wages for working class Americans. Racism was a part of every institution, education, religion and government. Through racist policies, capital was never allowed to be obtained through real estate for African Americans, which is so important for working class Americans. Everyone is xenophobic. We need to recognize it and fight it within ourselves. Life is not a zero sum gain. We don’t need other people to lose so we can gain. When we keep people down we lose what they could contribute to society. We have a long way to go and the first step is to see how we used racism to hurt our own society, others and ourselves.
Stop fraud at all levels
We know that some people abuse welfare benefits. The figure appears to be around 1 percent. Unfortunately, that abuse hurts the neediest, as it takes away from the amount allotted by the legislature. Those needy are the most vulnerable, usually single mothers and shouldn’t be shamed by the acts of a few thieves. This fraud is the most visible, but not necessarily the most expensive to our society, because fraud is not limited to only the poor. It exists on other levels in society. We need to be most vigilant with tax frauds and with people who misrepresent facts to promote their own economic gain. We shouldn’t just punish just one level of society for stealing our tax dollars, we need to treat all thieves alike. We deserve a good ethical society. People have been reporting their personal identity being used to get Unemployment Insurance checks. The state has been checking out the possible fraud that is draining the special funds set up by the federal and state to help those doing this pandemic. You can report financial fraud by going to the website: http://www.stopfraud.gov/report.html You can report tax fraud by going to the website: www.irs.gov/Individuals/How-Do-You-Report-Suspected-Tax-Fraud-Activity%3F You can report welfare fraud by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. :
Freeze property taxes
The state is not redistributing enough funds to municipalities to meet their education costs because it has given those monies away in tax breaks. This favoritism makes property taxes rise. When property taxes rise, they becomes a regressive tax as people who can least afford it will be using more of their income just to have a place to live. Giving income and corporate tax breaks before paying for the services that benefit our community is like taking someone out for an expensive supper before you’ve bought your weekly groceries.
When the state properly funds the education system at 55 perscent, then our schools might be able to lower truancy levels and raise student performance. We can’t keep taking money from our educational fund to give to charter schools before paying for our public school system. If you feel charter schools are good, then let’s place them within existing schools, a more efficient use of our resources. Education spending returns dividends because it trains our children to fill the jobs in our state that go begging for high quality workers. We have to stop exporting our children to other states just to have quality jobs that will enable them to pay off their student debt.
Home Energy Production
Solar energy production is not causing the high cost of energy in this state. At this point it produces about 1% locally when added to our electrical grid. But if allowed to produce more energy eventually it will decrease electrical costs. To be self sufficient is a Maine value and that is what small producers of energy would allow this state to become. If we can upgrade our grid and continue to help small producers of electricity by paying a fair rate for their power production, we will see new jobs being added to our state. I submitted a bill to develop a “Green Bank” which was turned into a resolve presently in the Climate Council. This would help jump start projects that private capital has not supported in the past. They have not supported it in the past because they felt that there was little support in the government for non fossil fuel projects.
Reduce student loan debt and increase volunteerism
Our children are having to go deeply in debt to continue their education so they can prepare for a good career. To pay that loan off after graduating they have to migrate to where the high-paying jobs are, often out of state. At the same time our emergency preparedness is being diminished by the graying of our volunteer population. Volunteer fire departments and ambulance service are desperate for people. Perhaps we could encourage young volunteers by helping with their student debt and thus strengthen our emergency preparedness. Also we are also facing a teacher shortage. Why not attract teachers with a similar policy.
Smart Drug Policy
More police alone won’t help solve the opiate problem. Nor will further criminalizing the users. I agree that some doctors need to be more judicious in prescribing opiate pain relievers. However, I also believe in a maintenance program wherein the addict is given counseling along with a maintenance dose. It is the most cost effective and humane way to deal with drug addiction. There are neurotoxins that are coming on the market in the near future, which will alleviate pain but not cause addiction as they don’t effect the central nervous system or brain functions. That will stop the gateway effect from legal pain meds. But until then we need to draw from medical personnel, counseling personnel and from law enforcement in order to have a comprehensive policy. We need to make sure that emergency personnel can prevent unnecessary overdoses with the necessary drugs. But this is not a policing problem, it is a medical problem.
Having worked for the National Science Foundation and Columbia University on climatology studies aboard our ship, I believe that humankind has effected our climate. We can’t put our heads in the sand and pretend that climate disruption isn’t happening. We need to mitigate the situation as best and as soon as we can. We need to reduce our carbon footprint. This is not to say it will be easy. There is pollution from plastic and micro-plastics that we eat and breath. We have to reduce the amount that makes our mountains out of land fills. To work towards this end will also allow us to produce viable jobs and most important give our children a positive future. We don’t want to be on the wrong side of history with this issue as it may be the most important issue we face.