On Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Humanity
Reflecting on infrastructure investment and priorities, the "freedom" of anti-vaxxers, and the real target of the House Select committee—behind the tweets
This is an occasional feature, providing the thinking behind tweets from the previous week.
Sometimes I think it’s important to return to first principles, to not get lost in the weeds or in the day-to-day trials and tribulations, to ask the big questions like this: What kind of country do you want to live in?
I find that clarifying, because it reminds me how strange, if not suicidal, it is that most if not all elected Republicans and some Democrats are bent on continuing to prop up the fossil fuel industry while we possess the knowledge confirming that we are on a crash course toward an increasingly uninhabitable and turbulent planet if we don’t pursue change. At the same time, this effort to maintain the status quo includes increasing economic disparity in this extraordinarily wealthy nation and a refusal to employ our society’s vast resources to provide for such fundamental needs as affordable health care for all citizens, child care, higher education and a living wage for every worker.
President Joe Biden catalyzed a physical and human infrastructure agenda intended to confront the inequities, the collapsing and unbuilt systems, the torn social safety net and the inaction in the face of a warming planet. He planted a flag to make clear what his values and priorities are. That flag is expensive—it will cost trillions of dollars—and it will necessarily be the stuff of debate ad nauseam in the days ahead as Congress votes on both the physical infrastructure bill and the larger reconciliation bill focused on social needs and climate resilience. But what is the cost of continuing down the same broken path we’ve been traveling?
“I cannot accept our economy, or basically our society moving toward an entitlement mentality,” Sen. Joe Manchin said yesterday, even as the richest Americans and largest corporations are “entitled” to largely skip paying taxes.
We are talking about trillions. It’s hard to fathom numbers that high. But what if you refer to it as $350 billion a year for 10 years? What if you don’t talk about it in terms of dollars spent, but necessary changes that significantly improve the lives of tens of millions of Americans? There’s a reason why these proposals are so popular. Most Americans grasp that the ice is thin—that the haves are getting richer and everyone else can go eat cake—and there’s no good reason why America can’t offer more security and support. It’s good and well to have the most massive military the world has ever seen, but what if the price of this commitment is a nation increasingly unwilling to invest in the well-being of its citizens? That’s not a winning proposition, built for the long haul. Quite the contrary.
At a time when we all need to pull together to put this damned pandemic behind us—when we have the life-saving benefit of science that can keep us alive—we are faced with medical professionals who choose to reject the common good in service to self-serving ideas about freedom and individualism. It’s a tiny subsection of the population of nurses and health professionals battling heroically each day against this dreadful virus, but this selfish contingent helps sustain the larger population of anti-vaxxers who listen to exploitative politicians, ignore reality and tragically imagine they are wrapped up in a gallant struggle for liberty. There’s no pleasure in watching their numbers dwindle as they march to the grave.
On the one hand, as I’ve noted often here, we are faced with an Attorney General who has chosen to keep silent about any investigation the Department of Justice may be pursuing of the inciters, funders and organizers of the deadly insurrection and coup attempt. In my view, that’s a mistake, since it’s possible to signal that his original promise to pursue this heinous case at every level is operative without undermining his department’s work. That would go a long way in reducing (at least a little bit) a weary nation’s anxiety that this is more of the same old two systems of justice.
On the other hand, the House Select Committee launched to investigate January 6 has now issued a total of 15 subpoenas. And while not one of them is for Donald J. Trump, every one of them can yield more information about his actions of that day and the days leading up to the attack on our democracy. As I noted on Saturday, this includes the first four with particular proximity: former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, former White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications Daniel Scavino, former Defense Department official Kashyap Patel and former Trump advisor Stephen Bannon.
And this new tranche is primarily comprised of organizers of the rally at the Ellipse that preceded the the Capitol attack. Among them: Caroline Wren, who was a Trump fundraiser and a deputy to Trump Jr’s girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle; Maggie Mulvaney, who was the director of finance operations for the Trump campaign and niece to Trump’s former chief of staff Mick Mulvaney; Hannah Salem Stone, who was a special assistant to Trump and a White House press advance director; and Kylie Jane Kremer, who is executive director of Women for America First, was listed on the permit as the “person in charge” of the rally, and whose tweet promoting event was noted in the subpoena: “The calvary [sic] is coming, Mr. President!”
All this demonstrates that the House Select Committee is not messing around. They are not wasting time by focusing on a wide array of people disconnected from Trump. They are zeroing in on those who knew what was going on—and who have something to say about the role of the Inciter-in-Chief. We will see which of them choose to ignore the committee’s requests, but all signs point to Chairman Bennie Thompson and his colleagues genuinely ready to pursue criminal contempt charges if they are rebuffed. That gives me optimism that their number one target is Donald J. Trump, which is the critical pursuit to give America a fighting chance to overcome this tragic chapter of criminality and hostility to democracy.
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