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When it comes to our politics, can we be thankful now?

Ken Wolf
Ken Wolf

We have just celebrated Thanksgiving, and now, full of fowl, fellowship, and family, might we consider softening our political partisanship just long enough to see if there might be anything to be thankful for in our political future?

After months of agonizing, the U.S. House of Representatives passed President Biden’s Build Back Better bill designed to help millions of American live better lives – economically, physically, and mentally.

Of course, there is a good chance that the Senate will either refuse to pass this bill or water down its provisions to make it less effective.

However, before this happens, I hope that all of us — Democrats, Republicans, Independents alike — take a final look at what Kentuckians will be missing if we consign this bill to the fire of partisan anger in the U.S. Senate.

Here are what this bill will do for Kentuckians, as outlined by the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy:

  • Guaranteed paid family and sick leave for almost two million workers;
  • An improved Child Tax Credit that could reduce poverty by 40%;
  • Affordable child care and free preschool for 325,750 Kentucky children under age 5;
  • Two years of tuition-free community college for all Kentuckians;
  • Rental assistance for 24,000 Kentuckians, including 10,000 children;
  • Health coverage for 61,000 Kentuckians with low incomes;
  • Vision, hearing, and dental benefits for close to a million Kentuckians with Medicare;
  • More and improved services for 40,000 people needing long-term care at home, and better job quality for their care providers;
  • And, $75 a month in grocery money for 7 in 10 Kentucky children in families and communities with low income during the summer, when child hunger usually increases.

Naturally, some of these provisions will be altered as a result of negotiations within the Senate and then between the Senate and House before this bill could be sent to the President. But there is no doubt that a strong version of Build Back Better would give many Kentuckians another reason to be thankful at the end of two years living in Coronaville.

Republicans predict disastrous inflation and a national debt that will “burden our grandchildren” if we spend this much money on helping our neighbors. They like to refer to Larry Summers, a former Democratic Treasury Secretary, who worries about inflation. They neglect to tell you that Summers has said more than once that the Build Back Better bill should be passed to strengthen our nation and our people. A key factor in our current inflationary pressures has been our inability to deal with the COVID pandemic as quickly as we might have done with more frequent testing and by not politicizing vaccinations.

Yet the argument is not really about money, as the Republicans would like us to believe. They are quite willing to spend money extravagantly when they control the White House and Congress. Check off two Middle Eastern wars and a tax reduction to aid the wealthiest Americans so far this century.

The central issue before us today is whether or not we will continue to be a democratic nation and a community of citizens who care for each other, or instead turn over ultimate control to a political party that has put power ahead of policies that could help all Americans survive these very difficult times in which we live.

We cannot put a quick end to either the deprivations caused by climate change, nor can we immediately end our COVID pandemic with masks and multiple vaccine boosters.  Those problems will take time to address and solve.

We can, however, work on these problems as a united community rather than denying their seriousness, or blaming “the other side” and calling each other names.

And if we work together, we can solve problems, small and large, in a way that will help all Americans, all classes, all colors.

Build Back Better is a step in that direction.

If a million Kentuckians were to tell that to Senators McConnell and Manchin, we might all have a fighting chance to have something to really be thankful for during this holiday season.


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Ken Wolf

Ken Wolf spent 40 years teaching European and World History, punctuated by several administrative chores, at Murray State University, retiring in 2008. (Read the rest on the Contributors page.)