Biden’s Actions Are a Start, But the US Is Still Sacrificing Poor People

American culture often hails sacrifice as the key ingredient to overcoming hardships and seizing opportunities. To be successful, we’re assured, college students must make personal sacrifices by going deep into debt for a future degree and the earnings that may come with it. For their businesses to continue growing, small business owners must sacrifice their incomes. Meanwhile, politicians must make similar sacrifices to fulfill key policy promises. done.

We have grown accustomed to the idea that success is only possible through sacrifice, even though this is not true for the most powerful and wealthy Americans. After all, whether you focus on the gains of Wall Street or of this country’s best-known billionaires, the ever-rising Pentagon budgetOr, the endless subsidiesFor those who are in the top ranks of society, sacrifice is not something they value. As it happens, sacrifices in the name of progress are often relegated the lives of the poor or those with little power. But what if, instead of believing that most of us must eternally “rob Peter to pay Paul,” we imagine a world in which everyone was in and no one out?

Take into account the fact that midterm elections are approaching and recent policy debates on Capitol Hill. To start with, the passage of the Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) promises real, historic advances when it comes to climate change, health care, and fair tax policy. It’s comprehensive in nature and far-reaching not just for climate resilience but for environmental justice, too. The legislation is still distinctly less than the one that exists. climate expertsTell us how you can make this planet more livable.

In addition, President Biden’s cancellationStudent loans up to $20,000 per individual could eliminate the debt nearly halfof all borrowers. This unprecedented debt relief shows that a policy agenda that lifts from the bottom is compassionate and will stimulate other economies. Still, it, too, doesn’t go far enough when it comes to those suffocating under a burden of debt that has long served as a dead weight on the aspirations of millions.

A dual response seems to be appropriate to these developments and others in the past months. It is worth recognizing a remarkable departure from the neoliberal deadzone in which our politics have been trapped over the past decades. These achievements should not be celebrated and taken for granted.

Let’s begin by looking under the hood of the IRA. That bill is being heraldedas the most important climate legislation in history and its champions claim that, by 2030, it will have helped reduce this country’s carbon emissions by roughly 40% from their 2005 levels. This is a significant step forward considering that any reduction seemed impossible a few years ago.

It guarantees investments of more than $60 Billion in clean energy manufacturing. There are an estimated $30 Billion in production tax credits that are geared towards increasing the manufacture of wind turbines and solar panels. moreApproximately $30 billion to fund grant and loan programs that accelerate the transition towards clean electricity and $27 billion to support a greenhouse gas reduction fundThis will allow states to provide financial aid to low-income communities in order to enable them to benefit from rooftop solar panels and other clean energy developments.

The IRA aims to lower energy prices and reduce utility bills by providing tax credits that encourage the purchase of energy efficient homes, vehicles, appliances, and other items. It includes other nonclimate-change advancements. capsPrescription drug costs out-of-pocket, which reduces health insurance premiums by 13 million Americans, is a benefit that provides seniors with free vaccinations.

As the nation’s biggest investment in the climate so far, it demonstrates the willingness of the Biden administration to address the climate crisis. It also shows how stuck this country has been in dealing with the climate crisis for so long, and how much work remains. Given our ever-hotter planet and the historic role this country played in it, it is no surprise that the issue is still a pressing one. greatest greenhouse gas emitter of all time, anything less than legislation that will lead to net-zero carbon emissions is a far cry from what’s necessary, as this country burns, floods, overheatsIn a striking manner.

Pipelines and Sacrifice Zones

An earlier version, which became the IRA, recognized a historic opportunity for policies that linked the defenses of the planet and the protection of human lives and needs. The final reconciliation bill, despite the opposition of Democratic Senators Joe Manchin (and Kyrsten Silena), includes worrying sacrifices. It does not extend or expand the Child Tax Credit, a lifeline to low- and moderate-income families, nor does the bill raise the minimum wage from $15 an hour, despite that being a priority. promise2020 election. Gone as well are plans for free pre-kindergarten and community college, in addition to the nation’s first paid family-leave program that would have provided up to $4,000 a month to cover births, deaths, and other pivotal moments in everyday life.

And don’t forget to add to what’s missing any real pain for fossil-fuel companies. Remember, coal baronManchin seems like have succeeded in cutting a side deal with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer for a massive natural gas pipeline through his home state of West Virginia and that’s just to begin a list of concessions. The fact is that the sacrificial negotiationsManchin’s efforts to pass the bill resulted in significantly more domestic fossil fuel production, and agreement that the Interior Department would. auction off permits to drill for yet more oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska, and possibly elsewhere, all of which will offset some of the emissions reductions from climate-change-related provisions in the bill.

It’s important to note as well that, although progress was made on reducing fossil-fuel emissions, expanding health care, and creating a fairer tax system, for the poor in this country, “sacrifice zones” are hardly a thing of the past. As journalist Andrew Kaufman suggests, “One thing that does seem assured, however, is that the arrival — at last — of a federal climate law has not heralded an end to the suffering [of] communities living near heavy fossil-fuel polluters.” And as Rafael Mojica, program director for the Michigan environmental justice group Soulardarity, put it, the IRA “is riddled with concessions to the big carbon-based industries that at present prey on our communities at the expense of their health, both physically and economically.”

Keep in mind that Michigan is no stranger to sacrifice zones. Take the example of the water crisisBoth in Flint and Detroit. The Flint Democracy Defense League, and the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization have battledIn the face of deindustrialization, and the lack of a right of clean water in this nation, lead poisoning and water shut offs have been a problem for many years. These grassroots efforts helped to raise the alarm during The Flint water crisis that began in 2014 and have since linked community groups nationwide dealing with high levels of toxins in their water supply so that they could learn from that city’s grassroots organizing experience. Meanwhile, so many years later, Michiganders are still protesting potential polluters like Enbridge’s aging Line 5 oil pipeline.

There are many other examples of frontline community organizations protesting the way their homes are being sacrificed to the fossil-fuel industry. Consider, for instance, the hundreds of petrochemical plant-filled communities that lie between New Orleans & Baton Rouge in Louisiana. This stretch has been dubbed “The Triangle of Louisiana”. Cancer Alley. The highest cancer rates are found in this area, where there is a large Black population and a predominantly poor population. There are 12 petrochemical facilities in St. James Parish, and almost every household has experienced the effects of cancer. For many years, Rise St. JamesLocal groups have been fighting to stop the construction of a new plastics facility on land that was once used for slave burial grounds.

Then, of course, there are many other sacrifice zones where the issue isn’t fossil fuels. Grays Harbor County, Washington is an example of a once thriving lumber and timber economy. The rural community, largely white, fell into poverty, homelessness and drug abuse after its natural landscape was destroyed. Chaplains on the HarborOne of the few community groups that has a presence at homeless encampments in the county,, has started a sustainable farm in Aberdeen by formerly homeless and incarcerated youths as part of an effort to create models for the creation of green communities in places that are rejected by many.

Or you can take Oak FlatArizona, home of the San Carlos Apache tribe. There is a group known as the Apache Stronghold is leading a struggle to protect that tribe’s sacred lands against harm from Resolution Copper, a multinational mining company permitted to extract mineralsA midnight rider, which was included in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015, helped to protect those lands. It has been working with a growing number First Nations people and their supporters to protect this land from being sacrificed to corporate greed.

Consider Union Hill, Virginia on the east coast. There, residents of a historic Black community, fought for years against the construction of three compressor stations for fracked gasoline flowing from the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. These facilities could have caused massive amounts of pollution to residents, but community organizers stopped them from being built in 2020. won the fightTo stop construction

You should also consider the work done by Put People First PA!It is found in Pennsylvania communities such as Grant Township Erie, is on the tip of the spear in the fight against an invasive and devastating fracking industry that’s ripping up land and exposing Pennsylvanians to the sort of pollutants that leaders in Union Hill fought to prevent. Not only are residents left without access to healthcare, but also many hospitals in similar locations are being closed down or privatized. This increases the risk of developing respiratory illnesses.

Such disparate communities reflect a long-term history of suffering — from the violence inflicted on indigenous people, to the slave plantations of the South, to the expansion (and then steep decline) of industrial production in the North and West, to pipelines still snaking across the countryside. A growing climate crisis will lead to greater pain for low-income Americans and the poor. flooded and drinking-water-barrenJackson, Mississippi was discovered recently.

In a world of megadroughts, superstorms, wildfiresWith the possibility of further destruction to lives and livelihoods from the flooding, poor and low-income people have begun to demand that they be addressed.

Dark Clouds Blowing in From the “Equality State”

While the news cycle was dominated by reports about the passage of the IRA, student debt relief, another important policy announcement at the end of the summer far from Capitol Hill slipped into the news much more quietly. It highlights yet again the “sacrifices” that poor Americans are implicitly expected to make to strengthen the economy. Jackson, Wyoming is just outside of Jackson. It is home to one of America’s wealthiest and most influential cities. unequal townsFederal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell resides in this country. committed his organization to take “forceful and rapid steps to moderate demand so that it comes into better alignment with supply and to keep inflation expectations anchored.”

Couched in typically wonkish language, his comments — made in the “equality state” — may sound benign, but he was suggesting capping wages, an act whose effects will, in the end, fall most heavily on poor and low-income people. Indeed, he warned, mildly enough, that this would mean “some pain for households and businesses” — even as he was ensuring that the livelihoods of poor and low-income people would once again be sacrificed for what passes as the greater good.

What does it mean, for instance, to “moderate demand” for food when more than 12 millionFamilies with children are already starving each month. It should strike us as wrong to call for “some pain” for so many households facing crises like possible evictions or foreclosures, crushing debt, and a lack of access to decent health care. It should be considered inhumane to advocate for a “softer labor market” when one in three workers is already earningLess than $15 an hour

It is disingenuous to say that the economy is “overheating,” as if what’s being experienced is some strange, abstract anomaly rather than the result of decades of disinvestment in infrastructure and social programs that could have provided the basic necessities of life for everyone. Nonetheless, Powell continues to push a false narrative of scarcity and the threat of inflation to smother the powerful resurgence of courageous and creative labor organizing that we’ve seen, miraculously enough, in these pandemic years.

At this point, as a pastor and theologian, I can’t resist quoting Jesus’s choice words in the Gospel of Matthew about how poor people so often pay the price for the further enrichment of the already wealthy. In Matthew 9, Jesus asserts: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” The Greek word “mercy” is defined as loving kindness, taking care of the down and out. In Jesus’s parlance, mercy meant acts of mutual solidarity and societal policies that prioritized the needs of the poor, which would today translate into cancelling debts, raising wages, and investing in social programs.

Despite the encouraging policy-making this summer, America remains an important sacrifice zone with economic strategies that justify their painful impact upon the poor and marginalized as necessary to the greater good. It’s time for us to fight for a comprehensive, intersectional, bottom-up approach to the injustices that continually unfold around us.