As I’m writing, Congress passed the American Rescue Plan, which President Biden will sign into law while the hard copy of this column is printed. The plan’s not perfect (what in life is) but, for context, Senator Bernie Sanders called this the most progressive legislation that has passed during his senate career. The 1.9 trillion dollar package is a major expansion of our social safety net and could cut the country’s childhood poverty rate in half. It will also fund vaccine distribution, fund billions more for education, states, cities, help prevent evictions, foreclosures, extend unemployment benefits, and more.
It shows that all elections, even those in Georgia, can have real consequences and a pretty big change for the federal government. Yes, in my view, it’s not perfect. For reasons both economic and political, the direct payments should go to millions more, but this is, to borrow a phrase from our 46th President, a big deal. With an ongoing pandemic that has killed more than half a million people in our country, nearly fifty thousand in our state, nearly thirty thousand in our city, and over seven thousand fellow Brooklynites, we needed this help.
I’ll be back to my default curmudgeonly ways, just the way I was soon after Biden won, but for today I’m letting a bit of genuine happiness creep into my mind. This bill will mean so much to people hurting; my issues pale by comparison, but I’m looking forward to being fatigued by things, not on screens, and being social without the word “distance” next to it. I hope others can be happy and are looking to the future with renewed hope.
As a lifelong Brooklyn Boy, the combination of mulling over national issues and the federal government has me dreaming about returning to Coney Island. I look forward to going to Brooklyn’s southernmost point when sufficient protection is reached. When there, maybe going to Nathan’s, riding the Cyclone, walking on the boardwalk, getting some clams at Ruby’s, and appreciating the diverse cross-section of people that is sure to be there. Many people don’t think of New York as part of “Real America,” but for me, this is how Brooklyn does America, and for the first time in a while, I’m feeling good about it.