By Supporting Our Own Democracy, We Help Ukraine5/3/22
Most of us ask ourselves, how can we help the people of Ukraine? Men and women there are putting their lives on the line to maintain their 30-year-old democracy rather than be overrun by Russia’s President Putin, the autocrat, and drawn back into Russia’s Cold War civilization. The people of Ukraine want to live in a free society just like those of the European Union and ours here in the U.S. Just as the Nazis indoctrinated schoolchildren in Germany in the 1930’s to tell on their parents, schoolchildren in Russia today are encouraged to tell on their teachers if they call the crimes against humanity in Ukraine a “war.” The punishment is a prison sentence of 15 years.
We can help by accepting that gas and food is going to cost more here at home. Gas prices follow the price of a barrel of oil, set by OPEC, an organization of oil producing countries, not the US government. Our inflation right now is at 8.5%. As a result of our sanctions on Russia they are experiencing an inflation of 17% and counting. Some amount of inflation is affecting most countries in the world after two years of Covid-19 that severely interrupted the chain of global trade. The war in Ukraine increased the price of gas.
Perhaps we cannot expect life to go on as normal, if the world is at war - an existential war of democracy versus autocracy. It recalls WWII when Hitler attempted to force autocracy on the nations of Europe. Today Putin seems to have a similar goal towards eastern Europe.
To strengthen our democracy on which success in Ukraine depends, we must rally around our president and appreciate what has been achieved in the last 15 months. When it comes to the war in Ukraine, President Biden has succeeded in uniting the NATO countries from a low point during the Trump presidency. President Biden also worked with Congress to send $13.6 billion in both military and humanitarian emergency aid to Ukraine.
President Biden’s accomplishments here at home are many. 210 million Americans are vaccinated against the Covid-19 virus. The Biden administration has also donated 110 million Covid-19 vaccine doses to 65 developing countries, and 500 million more doses will be donated.
A $1.9 trillion stimulus package, the American Rescue Plan, was signed by President Biden on March 11, 2021. It expanded the child tax credit and child and dependent care credit for the year 2021. This item alone is said to have pulled 50 percent of U.S. children out of poverty! The American Rescue Plan also sent billions in grants to small businesses and state and local governments. We are experiencing those benefits here in Talbot County, as we will all have access to broadband coverage. In addition, funds have been allocated for housing in the form of rental assistance programs, homeowner assistance programs and home energy assistance.
Healthcare assistance programs include subsidies for healthcare premiums and new incentives for states to expand Medicaid coverage. About 14.5 million Americans have signed up this year with the ACA to get health care coverage, 2 million more than in any previous year.
The $1.2 trillion bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 included $27.5 billion to fix bridges. That was long overdue and timely, as the Fern Hollow Bridge in Pittsburg collapsed a few hours before President Biden arrived in Pittsburg to talk about the infrastructure act. Fortunately, nobody was killed.
The nation’s debt increased by $1.7 trillion during President Biden’s first year in office mainly due to the Rescue Plan that helped counties, businesses and individuals hardest hit by the pandemic. In comparison, President Trump’s “greatest economy ever” had slowed down by 2019, two years after Trump’s new tax cuts had benefitted primarily corporations and the top 1%. The “trickle down” to the rest of us never happened. Our nation’s debt became $7.8 trillion larger during President Trump’s four years in office.
We may be a divided nation; but we share certain values, and Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine is reminding us that democracy is worth fighting for. Our United States, the wealthiest nation on earth, is today outperforming the economies of other industrialized nations. To appreciate what has been achieved and to strengthen our democracy we must look at the bigger picture.
Lena Gill is a member of the Talbot County Democratic Forum and resident of Easton