Should former VP Joe Biden defeat Donald Trump, he will likely inherit a nation so damaged that its very future is at risk. The problems are extensive both in their breadth and depth. Let’s look at them individually:
The pandemic – Even if, as some claim, there will be an effective vaccine for Covid-19 before the inauguration, there are legitimate questions of its availability. Will it be available in sufficient quantities for all Americans? Will it be affordable? Will it reach all American communities, including undocumented immigrants? How effective will it be? Will it effectively block infections for a year? Or for longer?
The economy – The pandemic has caused unemployment to skyrocket. As of this writing, more than 50 million Americans are unemployed. How many of those lost jobs will not come back? Many industries had already been replacing workers with automation before the pandemic. Will they use the relief funds provided by Congress to accelerate automation?
Already, there are plans for self-driving trucks to haul cargo between Phoenix and Tucson beginning in 2021. How quickly will the use of self-driving vehicles expand? Before the pandemic there were approximately 10 million professional drivers in the US. Likely, all of those jobs will be at risk. And that’s only the beginning. Within the next few years, Artificial Intelligence (AI) will replace legal aids and paralegals in law offices, film and video editors in Hollywood, medical workers, clerical workers, retail workers…virtually no industry will be unscathed.
Automation aside, the pandemic and worldwide disgust toward the Trump administration has devastated travel and tourism, as well as restaurants and other aspects of the hospitality industry. Will they quickly return to pre-pandemic levels? Or have those industries forever been changed?
The food chain – The pandemic exposed the weaknesses in the food industry as never before. Most of our food comes from a very few, large growers and suppliers, shipped by increasingly fewer transportation companies, and distributed by ever-fewer distribution companies. The Covid-19 outbreaks among those who pick our vegetables and process our meat also exposed the industry’s reliance on lowly paid immigrants and undocumented who are called “essential.” But are more accurately described as “expendable.”
Many of our restaurants and food services also rely on recent immigrants to prepare and serve our food. Given the Trump administration’s attack on all immigrants of color, what will be the future of the food industry once it begins to return to some form of normalcy. Will independently owned restaurants find enough workers? Will they be able to afford them?
The same questions apply to the many other industries – hospitality, senior care, etc. – that rely on recent immigrants.
Healthcare – Approximately 50 million American citizens do not have access to healthcare. And that number continues to increase as more Americans have lose their employer-provided insurance when they lose their jobs. Additionally, the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is in real jeopardy as the result of the Trump administration’s challenges to its constitutionality. What if the Supreme Court sides with the administration? With no replacement currently under consideration, what will happen to those with pre-existing conditions? How many more will find themselves without access?
Attacks on the ACA are not the only issues the industry faces. The pandemic exposed numerous flaws within the healthcare “system” such as the hospitals’ refusal to inventory necessary materials and equipment. When faced with the pandemic, few hospitals had access to enough Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) to meet demand. There were not enough ventilators, enough ICU beds, enough ICU personnel, etc. Moreover, the pandemic has taken a physical and mental toll on Emergency Room and ICU personnel. Many have died. Many more intend to retire when the pandemic ends. What then?
US Postal Service – Libertarians and right-wingers have long wanted to privatize the Post Office. To that end, Republicans in Congress have starved it of funds and created obstacles for its operation. The pandemic has only made matters worse by reducing the number of advertising flyers the USPS needs for revenue. But the real damage to the institution is the result of politics. Trump installed a Postmaster General who is clearly unqualified for the position. And he has given his lackey orders to slow down the mail in preparation for the election in which many more people plan to vote by mail. The idea is to create enough chaos to throw the election results into question. So, if he loses, Trump can claim the election was “rigged.”
The environment – No administration has been more hostile to the environment than Trump’s. From reducing the size of national monuments to auctioning oil and mineral leases to streamlining permits for offshore drilling to repealing the Obama administration’s clear water regulations, the Trump administration has placed us all in danger. Indeed, it has place many of the world’s species in danger.
Climate change – In the very first days of his administration, Trump withdrew the US from the Paris Climate Accords. And everything he has done since has only exacerbated the problem. Scientists tell us that we now have less than a decade to act in order to avoid a worst-case scenario.
National debt – The Trump administration has added trillions to the national debt. And, if there is any hope of avoiding an economic depression worse than that of the 1930s, it will have to commit to trillions more in economic relief for businesses and individuals. The resulting debt will take many years to pay down. Of course, Republicans will want to do that at the expense of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, SNAP and other safety net programs, which will only make our economy worse.
International relations – A recent international study found that, instead of admiring the US as “that shining city on a hill” that Ronald Reagan once described, the residents of other countries now view us with disgust, and maybe even worse, pity. Trump has endangered our relationships with allies and adversaries alike. It may be generations before they trust us again.
Racial justice – The killings of George Floyd, Breanna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Aubrey, and far too many other black Americans to mention has finally led us to a point where we absolutely must address systemic racism. Though the Trump administration has tried to deny the problems by provoking violence between the peaceful demonstrators and federal agents, there is no turning back. Unfortunately, there are those who refuse to understand the problems or refuse to give up their white privilege, especially the white nationalist groups who believe they will benefit from an all-out race war.
Domestic division – Thanks to Trump and his legions of Trumpanzees, our nation is more divided than at any time since the Civil War. Through propaganda, Trump has created a cult that excuses and forgives his many faults. They are almost universally racist, many are armed, and they seem willing to defend him no matter how unconstitutional, illogical, and cruel his actions become. And because they are uniquely resistant to logic and real news, we must consider what they may do if Trump loses both the popular and electoral vote. Will they refuse to acknowledge the new president? Will they resort to violence?
All of these problems and questions will be waiting for President Biden when he is sworn in. And there are certain to be more. Thankfully, having helped President Obama pull us out of an economic canyon following the mortgage crisis of 2008, no one is better able to deal with them. Certainly not the con man from Queens who is responsible for creating them.