America’s Social Unrest Is About to Get Much Worse, Congress Fears
Congress is responding at an historic pace to race issues in America with unusual speed by drafting police reform laws - proposals to change culture and conditions that have resulted in unarmed black Americans being repeatedly killed by the police .
However, lawmakers are increasingly concerned that Capitol Hill's response to demonstrators' demands for racial justice will be severely limited if no measures are taken to combat another strong undercurrent of nationwide protests: the pervasive economic inequality that black communities have left behind Has.
This long-standing inequality was made even more apparent on the pandemic front by the circumstances of George Floyd's death - his murderer Derek Chauvin stopped him for an allegedly forged $ 20 bill - and the outbreak of the corona virus that colored low-wage workers devastated minority companies and triggered massive unemployment in their communities.
Many of the economic relief measures that Congress approved in response to the outbreak - expanded unemployment insurance, a one-time economic incentive, moratorium on rent payments in public housing - have lapsed or are expected to expire in late July.
Failure to address these issues could, according to Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), be a strong factor that sustains and intensifies protests across the country as employment opportunities stagnate and families are driven out of housing. Beyer, chairman of the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, said policy makers need to understand that the protests have been triggered in an environment where "people are severely affected by the recession, the coronavirus, and the general systemic feeling that things are in." are anything but fair to the US ”.
"If you look at the corona virus, all the disputes on our streets about the brutality of the police and the effects of the recession," continued Beyer, "they are all linked to the systemic racism that is reflected in our economy."
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The dual urge to address both social and economic racial inequality provides a historic opportunity for Congress to implement comprehensive law reform. While Republicans, including Trump himself, tend to tackle policing issues, the appetite for measures related to economic measures doesn't seem to be widespread at the moment. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) himself has been slow to accept the need for additional COVID-19 relief. and he was supported by close advisors to the president.
For those worried about ongoing social discord, this has proven to be worrying.
In a statement on June 2 to the Senate Banking Committee, where he is the top democrat, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) tried to connect the country's problems: "Our job is to target victims of systemic racism in the To hold hands on their own government that the same government will protect them from this pandemic - that we hear them, that we see them, that we fight for them, "Brown said. "And that her life is important."
When asked in an interview whether a failure to further expand economic relief could affect protests, Brown said he didn't want to predict anything. "What I'm going to predict is that if we move in July the economic damage will increase and deepen and the hole to climb out of will be much more difficult to climb," he told The Daily Beast. "Everything that happens now makes it more urgent."
Leading Democrats such as former presidential candidate and Obama cabinet member Julián Castro say all of these things are “inextricably linked”.
"So much of the frustration that people feel is not just due to the loss of life we've seen ... this is a moment when these two frustrations have met," Castro told The Daily Beast . "There can be more frustration, there can be more people out there," if the legislature doesn't consider broader economic relief. "The question is, how does this result in political changes that make a difference for people?"
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House Democrats have already passed laws that they believe will provide at least part of the answer. This bill, referred to as the Heroes Act, was designed to be the successor to the $ 2.2 trillion CARES Act and previous COVID-19 relief laws that provide a single $ 1,200 stimulus check for each American and temporary relief measures, such as $ 600 a month, raised unemployment benefits, a moratorium on public housing evictions, food stamp extensions, and other initiatives to help the poorest Americans cope with the coronavirus outbreak and its economic impact . The $ 3 trillion Heroes Act includes an extension of unemployment benefits from late July to January 2021, a more generous stimulus check for every household, $ 100 billion in rent support, and some student loan grants.
However, this legislation was sold rather as a declaration of democratic priorities for a future round of COVID aid and is dead upon arrival in the GOP-controlled Senate.
Some Republicans, such as Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO), have pushed for more government intervention to help workers during the pandemic, and see a clear link between the economic and social conflicts that are currently sweeping the country.
"I don't think we can ignore the fact that these unrest are taking place against a backdrop of 20 percent unemployment," Hawley said in an interview three days before the latest unemployment report was released. “There are people who gather peacefully and say that there must be some fundamental changes. Part of this is that we need to create more opportunities for meaningful work in our urban centers. "
Some Republicans and White House advisers have pointed to the latest employment figures to demonstrate that Congress's next steps in COVID-19 aid should be minimal, if any. The May government report reported that the unemployment rate had dropped to 13.3 percent - an extraordinarily high number, but less than the historically high numbers that many economists had expected. This report, said White House economic advisor Stephen Moore, “takes a lot of wind out of the sails of phase four. We don't need it now. "
However, the 2.5 million jobs were unevenly distributed across the economy. And the unemployment rate among black Americans actually rose during the month and was now 16.8 percent. Experts warn that Congress needs to take measures to combat persistent unemployment in color communities due to the economic challenges they face.
According to Donna Pavetti, an analyst at the left-wing center for budgetary and political priorities, unemployment rates for black people who are approaching 17 percent are “nothing to celebrate”.
"People are fighting," she said. “You could have this confluence of high unemployment rates, things that have shifted to give people less breathing space, all at the same time… Many of these discussions that weren't about the race before, but about race differences, can become much more lively and explicit in future conversations. "
Some lawmakers like Brown are confident that the confluence of the pandemic and racial struggle could provide an opportunity to address longstanding systemic inequalities in the economy.
"This is the big revealer, corona virus," said Brown. "The only good thing about the pandemic is that America recognizes this more and maybe, maybe, maybe we finally have the political will to do something."
Read more at The Daily Beast.
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