Back to Basics

 

Now that the pageantry of the president’s inauguration is over, the real work must begin.

Let’s start with the basics, shall we?

Many Americans have recovered from the Great Recession but some people are still reeling from its effects. The middle and upper classes have largely benefited from the growth but a Brookings Institute study shows that wages for the bottom 20 percent of earners in metropolitan cities across the U.S. have actually declined.

The poor are losing ground. The little guy has been left in the dust.

I can only hope that the Trump administration will take seriously the needs of the many low-income Americans represented by that statistic. President Trump has loudly proclaimed his commitment to jobs—in particular keeping jobs in America. But to frame an economic policy as being successful because jobs are being kept from going overseas is an alarmingly narrow view. The lagging growth of the bottom 20 percent earners indicates that the recovery has been glaringly uneven.

In much of his campaign rhetoric, the President touted his plan to bring coal mining jobs back to the heartland. But we know better. Technology has evolved and clean energy must be embraced as our hope for an environmentally sound future. Coal mining jobs are not only physically dangerous while you’re on site but also carry serious health hazards for workers as well as the surrounding community.

As we tragically anticipated, President Trump has moved swiftly to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, which was a signature accomplishment of the Obama administration. Let me be clear, the Affordable Care Act had some challenges. It’s not the greatest now but at least we’re covering people who didn’t have health coverage before. The President and Republican lawmakers have promised to “repeal and replace” and we will watch to see what actually happens.

Education must also be accessible to the average person. Many years ago when I was studying in college, I worked and earned enough to cover my tuition, which cost $10.50 per credit. Now, the cost of attending college has completely escaped the little guy and continues its runaway course. Leveling the playing field for college tuition plays a crucial role in providing equal access to educational opportunities.

President Trump repeatedly promised during his campaign to drain the swamp in Washington. I hope he is successful at draining the swamp. It needs to be drained. The bureaucracy is getting even worse. However, by the looks of the moneyed cabinet members he’s put up for confirmation, President Trump may have considerable difficulty separating himself from the muck and mire of business as usual.

Let us hope that the little guy does not end up as an invisible man to the President. We must not forget the least of these.

by Monsignor William J. Linder 
February 2017

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