The American Rescue Plan is more important than the Harry & Meghan Rescue Plea
I guess I picked the wrong week to claim my British citizenship.
I’m an American by birth but my father is English, and as a result I have always been eligible for a British passport, but until now I never had the time to get the documents I needed to do so. As soon as the passport arrived, friends started telling me it wasn’t as good now that Britain had left the EU (thanks for the reminder!) And now, everyone wants to know what I think about Meghan and Harry.
Well, here’s what I think. The Oprah interview has clearly struck a nerve in the United Kingdom, reminding Britons that their monarchy is entirely white (shock!), from a different era (what!) and has never had a non-white member of the inner circle.
In truth, none of the allegations are really that surprising, even for casual watchers of “The Crown.” If the Royal Family ignored Meghan’s pleas for help with mental illness, it only means they learned nothing after doing the same thing to Princess Diana. Sad, but not all that surprising.
If a member of the Royal Family asked about the color of Archie’s skin, it only means that such a person has the same level of insensitivity towards different races and ethnicities as Prince Harry did when he wore a Nazi uniform to a costume party. Perhaps it runs in the family.
But if this is a moment when the global reckoning with race gets even deeper, allow me to offer an alternative to constant coverage of what the Palace does or doesn’t say (brought to you by paid TV commentators known as “royal watchers”). Focus on the COVID relief bill instead.
The American Rescue Plan has been described as the “largest anti-poverty program in more than a generation,” the “most significant legislation for Black farmers since the Civil Rights Act,” and the “largest investment in Native programs in history.”
It is the US Government putting its money where its mouth is. It is something concrete that will lead to meaningful change for minorities and the economically disadvantaged.
As Eric Levitz points out in New York Magazine:
• The average household in the bottom quintile of America’s economic ladder will see its annual income rise by more than 20 percent.
• A family of four with one working parent and one unemployed one will have $12,460 more in government benefits to help them make ends meet.
• The poorest single mothers in America will receive at least $3,000 more per child in government support, along with $1,400 for themselves and additional funds for nutritional assistance and rental aid.
• Child poverty in the U.S. will drop by half.
• More than 1 million unionized workers who were poised to lose their pensions will now receive 100 percent of their promised retirement benefits for at least the next 30 years.
• America’s Indigenous communities will receive $31.2 billion in aid, the largest investment the federal government has ever made in the country’s Native people.
• Black farmers will receive $5 billion in recompense for a century of discrimination and dispossession, a miniature reparation that will have huge consequences for individual African-American agriculturalists, many of whom will escape from debt and retain their land as a direct result of the legislation.
• The large majority of Americans who earn less than $75,000 as individuals or less than $150,000 as couples will receive a $1,400 stimulus check for themselves and another for each child or adult dependent in their care.
• America’s child-care centers will not go into bankruptcy en masse, thanks to a $39 billion investment in the nation’s care infrastructure.
• Virtually all states and municipalities in America will exit the pandemic in better fiscal health than pre-COVID, which is to say a great many layoffs of public employees and cutbacks in public services will be averted.
• No one in the United States will have to devote more than 8.5 percent of their income to paying for health insurance for at least the next two years, while ACA plans will become premium-free for a large number of low-income workers.
• America’s unemployed will not see their federal benefits lapse this weekend and will have an extra $300 to spend every week through the first week in September.
And yet broadcast media organizations that have spent months talking about inequality and racism have spent seconds talking about this bill. I turned on a morning TV show Monday, and saw 15 minutes of Oprah/Meghan/Harry coverage followed by just one minute on the American Rescue Plan. One minute.
I realize we are still in a pandemic, and it’s not as easy as it once was to get out there and tell the story about what this bill means, but it is possible. Reporters should go talk with a Black farmer, a single mom, a Native American, a community organizer, and yes — the many conservatives in this country who think this bill is the wrong approach and will cost too much money. That’s part of the story, too.
But if major news organizations are going to spend the next several days focused on Meghan and Harry rather than the American Rescue Plan, they are missing the biggest story about race and inequality in a very long time.