New Steps of Change
On Tuesday, more than 140 million Americans of every background came together to help our country turn a corner and begin to turn the page on what, for many Americans, was a destructive and devastating chapter in our country’s collective history. While many progressives had hoped for a clear repudiation of all the wrongs inflicted on the country over the past four years, the outcome of Tuesday’s election doesn’t go nearly that far. Nonetheless, the election did bring about a long overdue victory for those who yearn to see our government’s executive branch return to governing with a sense of compassion, empathy and respect for all people.
America has come through four years of corruption and cronyism, a devastating campaign of deregulation that has harmed our environment, endangered workers and undermined our consumer protection laws, bungled crises and an all-out assault on civil rights. But more than 70 million Americans demanded a change, and 2021 beckons with the hope of a fresh start and substantive action. All of us at Public Justice are committed to helping President-Elect Biden, Vice President-Elect Harris and Congressional leaders chart that new course forward and get our nation back on track. We understand that divided government, if that’s the case once all Senate races are decided, will require compromise, and that not every battle will be won, but the new administration begins with new possibilities of progress and the potential to reverse course on a number of critical issues.
The enormity of the job ahead of us cannot be under-estimated. It may be that it is easier to quickly dismantle institutions and civil liberties than it will be to re-build them. Restoring a government and a rule of law that protects workers, consumers and marginalized people will be a significant undertaking. Today, we pledge to work with our friends and allies – in the non-profit sector, in the communities we serve and in the government that must once again serve the public – to begin anew.
In the coming weeks and months, President-Elect Biden will lay out a new agenda for our country. We believe it must include several key, immediate priorities:
• Ending the federal government’s attack on civil rights and addressing pervasive, institutional racism, misogyny and discrimination against LGBTQ people. Among the most sinister legacies of the Trump Administration is its perpetuation and acceleration of racism, transphobia, homophobia and misogyny. The Biden Administration must take quick action to address police brutality, including ending the doctrine of qualified immunity. It must dismantle regulations imposed by the Trump Administration that block LGBTQ people’s equal access to healthcare, adoption and critical government services. It must revise Title IX regulations to restore protections to students to experience sex-based harassment and discrimination, including survivors of sexual violence and LGBTQ students. The President must also appoint a cabinet that reflects the whole of the country.
• Rebuilding the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The CFPB, once among the most effective agencies in the federal government, has largely caved in to corporate and banking interests. President-Elect Biden should immediately fire CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger and replace her with a true consumer champion. The agency’s new leadership should then focus on once again holding wrong-doers accountable, and undo many damaging regulations it has promulgated over the last four year. The agency must return to putting consumers first. And among other things, it must promulgate a new rule to ban forced arbitration by lenders.
• Issuing and enforcing true workplace protections. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia and OSHA Director Loren Sweatt have been an unmitigated disaster for workers. During their tenure, the federal government has abandoned workers. Unnecessarily dangerous workplace conditions have helped spread COVID throughout some of the most essential, and vulnerable, workforces in the country. The Biden Administration must quickly adopt COVID-specific workplace measures and help workers to vigorously enforce them, holding corporations accountable, and levying significant fines when companies fail to comply, in order to make clear workers must be protected.
• Enforcing environmental laws and fighting climate change. Under the Trump Administration, enforcement of environmental laws and regulations have dropped by 70%. The result is clear and devastating: A hurricane season like no other, deadly wildfires on America’s west coast and in Colorado, and a planet that is undeniably warming, as the government has affirmatively encouraged fossil fuel companies to pollute more. President-Elect Biden should commit to addressing the scourge of factory farming, the unlawful polluting of America’s air and water and the dire impact of the oil and coal industries.
And these are just some of the most immediate, and critical, concerns that must be addressed. The full list is much longer, much more complex and is a reflection of four years of work by the Trump Administration to dismantle and destroy our federal government, and our judiciary, from the inside. In just over two months, however, that campaign of corruption, collusion and corporate greed can begin, at long last, to come to an end.
None of this work will be easy – but it can, at last, begin to be done. It will require a near-total restoration of government agencies, a tenacious commitment to equality and fairness and an ambitious White House agenda that puts people first and communicates a clear and inclusive vision of our government, our priorities and our country.
Together, we can – and we must – get this daunting and absolutely essential task done.
“The horizon leans forward,” the late Dr. Maya Angelou reminded us at another moment of transition in our national life, “offering you space to place new steps of change.”