Generation after generation, Black Americans have been subject to brutal injustices and discrimination. Not only have these policies and practices exacerbated systemic racism, but they have prevented Black families from accumulating the same wealth as white Americans.
Economists estimate that enslaved people generated trillions of dollars in labor, but neither they, nor their ancestors, ever received any of the profits. Even after emancipation, Jim Crow laws and redlining prevented Black families from building wealth at the same rate as white families. On average, white families in America today are ten times wealthier than Black families. Wealth not only allows families to better weather economic crises, but it also leads to better health and higher educational attainment.
Reparations aim to acknowledge and redress these past wrongs through payments and investments. While reparations cannot erase historical injustices, they help institutions, such as governments, take responsibility for their actions and begin to address current inequalities.
As part of its pledge to “Build Back Better,” the Biden Administration unveiled a $2.3 trillion spending proposal on March 31, 2021, which is formally referred to as the American Jobs Plan, to modernize the nation’s infrastructure. President Joe Biden (D) stated that the plan aims to make a “once-in-a-generation investment to create the strongest, most resilient, innovative economy in the world,” adding that it would be the most significant effort to create jobs in the U.S. since World War II. Alongside the jobs plan, Biden outlined his Made in America Tax Plan, which includes federal revenue-generating provisions that would help pay for the infrastructure spending.
Through its broad definition of infrastructure, the American Jobs Plan attempts to address a longtime divestment of public goods in the U.S. economy by prioritizing issues relating to climate change, social justice, domestic manufacturing, broadband, and national security. Efforts to re-envision public investments beyond constructing roads and bridges come as the overall infrastructure in the United States ranks 13th in quality, according to the World Economic Forum. The ranking indicates that domestic systems have struggled to keep pace with demand in today’s globalized economy. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed many of the existing problems confronting the country’s infrastructure, including access to the internet and clean air, as well as the need for stronger supply chains. Seeking to address these and other issues, Biden has included an emphasis on equity in his jobs plan.
The infrastructure framework represents one of two components in Biden’s agenda to transform the economy. A second component, the American Families Plan, focuses on welfare provisions, and the White House expects to announce it later in April. These spending proposals pose a test for Washington, as Democrats will have to consider the political risks that come with major spending measures, and Republicans will look to calibrate their messaging in the post-Trump era.
Conspiracy-driven violence is on the rise in the United States and social media companies, like Youtube, are not doing enough to prevent the spread of dangerous misinformation. Youtube still operates as a breeding ground for radicalization, even with increased pressure stemming from the FBI including radical conspiracy theories in the list of domestic terror threats in 2019. Kidnappings, a bomb threat, an assassination plot, and murder are all some of the heinous actions that have been motivated by conspiracy theories in the past couple of years.
Eduardo Moreno, a train engineer from California, intentionally derailed a freight train last year in an attempt to strike the navy hospital ship Mercy. Moreno wanted to “‘wake people up’” to unsubstantiated, suspicious activity aboard the ship regarding COVID-19. Conspiratorial beliefs like this circulate on platforms like Youtube, often leading to tragedy and destruction.
Youtube played a key role in the rise of the QAnon conspiracy by providing legitimacy to the movement through likes and subscribers. Moderators from 4chan, a leading message board for the alt-right, live streamed discussions of QAnon on Youtube and built a large network of followers using the platform. Youtube also enriches the pockets of creators of QAnon channels and incentivizes others to create conspiracy theory channels for monetary gain with merchandise opportunities and advertising.
Youtube benefits in this process too because conspiracy channels attract a lot of advertisement viewers to the platform. The collective followers of two popular conspiracy channels, David Icke and London Real, could bring in over $40 million a year to Youtube and Facebook. Besides advertising revenue, Youtube might also generate income from sales made in London Real’s online store, which followers are directed to through links on the platform.
Bangkok, Shanghai, the Florida Keys, Fire Island, Kitty Hawk, swaths of Italy’s northeastern coast; much of Alexandria and Amsterdam—by 2050, these places (and many more) are projected to be below the annual flood line. Within our lifetimes, we will see more and more cities harmed by rising tides. Will we be prepared when those cities start to disappear?
The scientific community has come to the consensus that sea level rise is largely attributed to melting ice sheets and the absorption of more thermal energy into the ocean, both of which are caused by global warming. The best defense against rising tides would be drastic, immediate cuts to greenhouse gas emissions by going net zero emissions to “stabilize” global warming. But until that happens, public policy must be dedicated to creating programs and legislation that can help mitigate the human toll of rising seas.
In 2017, one of the largest companies in the world, Amazon, announced a decision that had the potential to transform any city in North America—they were looking for a second headquarters. The announcement immediately set off a fierce bidding war among cities and states for the grand prize consisting of 50,000 jobs and economic opportunities galore.
Amazon, however, was not offering this prize for free. In its Request for Proposal (RFP), the Internet giant asked for outlines of incentives cities and states would offer to offset construction costs, land acquisition, relocation fees, permits, and more, as well as the types of tax breaks and credits they would be willing to provide. Cities got creative in the types of packages they proposed, with Tucson, AZ shipping a cactus to Amazon’s Seattle headquarters and Stonecrest, GA offering to annex part of the city to the corporate giants and officially rename itself “Amazon, GA.”
After a lengthy process, Amazon ended up selecting New York City and Arlington, VA as dual winners of the new headquarters, as well as choosing Nashville for a new operations center. Just three months later, Amazon ended its plans to build part of their second headquarters in New York. What happened is part of a larger trend unfolding in cities, suburbs, and towns across America with increasing regularity in the past few years: pushback to development incentives, largely due to fears of resultant economic inequity in local communities.