Photo from ABC27
By David Brostoff
The democratic age that the United States and its allies developed in the wake of World War II is anything but natural or assured. Its fragility is further highlighted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Last April, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger wrote an article that described the necessity for robust American action in the wake of the pandemic’s outbreak.
Just as the statesman Klemens von Metternich sought to preserve the conservative order post-Napoleon, Kissinger’s article advocates for the protection of the democratic world order. To do so, he details a three-step plan for the U.S. government: address the current pandemic and establish international procedures for future outbreaks, assist the economically disadvantaged, and continue to promote the values of western liberalism.
Regardless of personal feelings toward Kissinger, we must critically examine his ideas—specifically his point about relieving the economic hardship on underprivileged populations. In times of financial distress, many individuals will inevitably turn their backs on the current order. They will seek to cultivate the foundation for new systems of governance that, they believe, will better help them.
Indeed, the history of the early twentieth century supports this claim. As the Russian workers starved under Tsarist oppression and war, the people turned their backs on the Russian Empire and embraced totalitarian communism. Just sixteen years later, due to hyperinflation and national humiliation, the German people turned their backs on the Weimar Republic and embraced Hitler’s fascist state. If the U.S. wants to protect the democratic order and prevent individual resistance, it must support the economically disadvantaged. We must ask ourselves, how can the government sufficiently do this?
This coming week, Congress is expected to pass—and President Biden is expected to sign—a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. In the bill referred to as The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, individuals are eligible to receive stimulus checks worth up to $1,400.
Unlike the previous stimulus package, adult dependents—such as college students—can receive relief from the federal government. Individuals may use their checks to pay their debt, pay for medical care, or simply purchase basic necessities and groceries.
By putting money directly into the pockets of many suffering Americans, the federal government is able to remove some of the financial burdens that many struggling Americans face. Simultaneously, the government protects democracy.
Direct payments are not the only form of assistance in the rescue bill. With the looming threat of the pandemic, employment rates have plummeted. About a month ago, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell publicly announced that the unemployment rate is nearing 10%.
With mass unemployment, the federal government needs to alleviate the economic pain felt by unemployed Americans. The current American Rescue Plan Act has further provisions to do just that. In fact, it will extend the already expanded unemployment benefits.
Previously, Congress increased the unemployment benefits to include a $300 weekly supplement; however, it was scheduled to expire at the end of March. The expected relief package is predicted to push the expiration until Labor Day so that unemployed Americans lessen their financial burden.
By the end of the week, President Biden is expected to sign the recovery bill into law, thereby lifting up many struggling Americans; with money in their pockets, they will likely feel much more secure than they did before.
Since the attempted coup on January 6, the fragility of American democracy has been apparent. For our nation to thrive, we cannot have the population turn its back on the current state. This is more important than ever before if we want to preserve our democracy and can be accomplished by helping vulnerable Americans now.
*This article was written before the American Rescue Plan was signed into law*