We Can't Go Back To Normal


We can't go back to normal. 

Normal was focusing our readiness against human enemies, real or imagined, while failing to maintain our readiness against microbial threats.  We have stockpiled weapons of destruction while neglecting to maintain a stockpile of medical supplies.

Normal was squandering our wealth on endless wars and global domination, instead of pursuing peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations.  In his farewell address, President Eisenhower warned us that "we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex."  Eisenhower's original speech read "military-industrial-congressional complex", but this was edited out before he gave the speech.  Earlier in his presidency, as Eisenhower was contemplating the futility of engaging in an arms race, he addressed the American Society of Newspaper Editors on April 16, 1953.  He noted:  "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed.  This world in arms is not spending money alone.  It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."  Since 2001, normal has been permanent war; what we need is permanent peace.  But why bother when so much money can be made by servicing our war machine?  But when you systematically wage war, the very idea of the public sphere, the public good, and the public infrastructure falls into disrepair.

Normal was an economic system which allowed corporations to profit from disasters.  As crises occur, be they natural or human caused, democratic norms get suspended and a corporate wishlist gets rammed through as quickly as possible.  Social protection erodes, while enormous bailouts are granted to prop up the private sector, because the claimed alternative is outright economic apocalypse.  An atmosphere of chaos and constant crisis is used to push through unpopular pro-corporate policies.  The sprawling industry of private prisons, private security, and private surveillance, see wars and the purported immigration crisis as an exciting and expanding market opportunity.  Just ask Betsy DeVos's brother, Eric Prince, the founder of Blackwater USA, a private military service contractor.

Normal was forcing people to bankrupt themselves because they could not pay for their health care.  Our profit driven, employer based system doesn't work very well during our current public health emergency.  Is that what we want to go back to?

Normal was allowing corporations to privatize profits while socializing costs.  Normal was capitalism for the poor and socialism for the rich.  When times were good only a certain group of people benefit--large corporations, their executives, and their shareholders.  When businesses failed, the losses and recovery became the responsibility of taxpayers.  The rationale for this is that allowing businesses to collapse would cause economic downturns and have more dire effects on the working and middle class than a bailout.  No worries about industrial waste, polluted groundwater, ill workers, or failed banks.  Everything was replaceable and someone else would foot the bill.  In well orchestrated patterns, corporate servants in Congress rehearsed speeches and planned how to cut the budget in a way which best served their corporate backers; and Americans got screwed.  Thus, our ruling class expropriated social wealth by fleecing our public coffers. 

Normal was privatizing public services, the outsourcing of public needs to private contractors.  The scheme is simple and has been working efficiently for generations.  Workers give up a portion of their pay in the form of taxes.  Government at all levels collect these dollars and dole them out to private contractors who, like pigs at the trough, never stop sucking up public dollars.  Now we have publicly funded private jails and prisons, charter schools, and sport stadiums.

Normal was to allow the rich and powerful to avoid paying their fair share of living in a civil society.  Does your company need a canal, railway, or roadway?  No problem, it's already been built by your customers, the taxpayers, at public expense.  Need a legal system and an armed police force to protect your property and enforce contract law?  Its already provided for you at public expense.  No worries about the consequences of your operations.  You can walk away and let your workers, consumers, and neighbors bear the scars.

Normal was accepting the Kehoe praradigm as an economic principle, which allowed corporations to assume a lack of risk unless proven otherwise.  Thus, the lead industry was allowed to profit from adding tetraethyllead to gasoline and spew out 270,000 tons of lead per year into the atmosphere over the United States/  The same paradigm, embodied in the U.S. Toxic Substance Control Act when it was passed in 1976, allowed Wolverine World Wide to dump PFAS in the Belmont area of Kent County.  The Frank R. Lautenburg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act was a step in the right direction, but no law is effective unless it is enforced.  The Kehoe paradigm needs to be replaced with the concept of green chemistry, which focuses on full life cycle assessments of impacts, as well as preventing harm by designing inherently safer substances, rather than waiting for damage control in the future.

Normal was allowing corporate executives to excessively benefit from the labor of their workers.  Employee wages have stagnated for the past 45 years while the compensation of corporate executives has ballooned into stratospheric levels.  The labor of workers has just been another resource from which wealth could be extracted.  Employee rights to organize and bargain collectively over their wages and conditions of employment has been systematically dismantled.  What's needed is a Second Bill of Rights, of economic and social rights to compliment the political rights recognized in our original Bill of Rights.  Such a bill of rights was proposed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in his January 11, 1944 State of the Union address.  It includes the right to a decent job, a decent home, adequate health care, and a good education.  It's time to finish the job started by President Roosevelt.

Normal was allowing profits to trump what's best for people.  The crux of public health is what's best for people, not what's best for corporate profits.  We must not go back to a status quo extractive economy that has so clearly failed us all.  We need a new sustainable and equitable economy which puts people before profits.  The fruit of our labor needs to be applied to our own economic well-being, rather than just the enrichment of corporate executive elites.

Normal was condoning systemic racism which allowed law enforcement officers to harass and brutalize our non-white friends, neighbors, and colleagues; a system which has denied the blessing of a prosperous nation to all people.  This can no longer be tolerated and must change.

We can't go back to normal.