OK, enough about Americans being angry at one another. Enough about two months of U.S. COVID-19 deaths approaching the number of U.S. soldiers killed during 20 years of war in Vietnam (58,220). And absolutely no more about forcing states to go bankrupt so they won’t have to pay employee pensions.
I set out to find some good news this week, and not just Congress appropriating nearly a half trillion more for small businesses, hospitals and coronavirus testing — though, at least, members did agree to check where the $2.2 trillion in the last bill went.
My hunt paid off quickly with a gem I overlooked last week. U.S. Health and Welfare will allow Idaho to include treatment for mental illness and substance abuse disorder under Medicaid. This will not save the state money so much as make it possible to expand treatment to more Idahoans. Expect healthier families and better employees.
As Betsy Z. Russell said in an April 17 article this Medicaid Expansion waiver was the only one to draw support from all sides — ”lawmakers, medical care providers, advocates and more.”
And, this week we got more good news when the Supreme Court ruled in support of clean water.
Polluters must now “get permits for indirect water contamination that’s the ‘functional equivalent’ of a direct discharge into federal waterways” (Bloomberg Law, April 23).
That is, a company must have a permit or pay a fine for pumping 4 million gallons of treated sewage a day into injection wells a half-mile from the Pacific Ocean IF any of the waste pollutes the ocean.
This reversed an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) policy adopted last year.
It’s a compromise. The federal government still claims no authority to stop pollution of groundwater and a permit still exists that allows some entities to pollute federal waters.
On the other hand, companies will be held responsible for knowing where the waste will go and how fast before building a discharge system. And there’s a chance that the ruling could apply to surface pollution — oil spills, coal ash impoundments, and wastewater lagoons — that leak into groundwater.
I’m confident that most Americans see a ruling that lowers the amount of water pollution as good news. And two conservatives — Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh — joined the Court’s ‘liberal bloc’ — in crafting the compromise.
Similarly, after studying intelligence reports on Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections, Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee agreed the evidence was clear: Russia had made a serious attack on our democratic institutions.
Again, I’d rather they’d introduced a bill to fund countermeasures during the 2020 elections, but baby steps are better than nothing.
There’s another issue coming up that will call for serious compromise. A federal court has ruled that drafting men and not women is sexual discrimination. Now bills in Congress present two options: authorize the drafting of women or end the draft altogether.
The U.S. called up the National Guard of several states instead of drafting during the Iraq War. It was a quicker way to get trained personnel, and it affected only those who, at some point, had volunteered.
Could the National Guard provide enough troops for conflicts that range wider or last longer? The Iraq War was only army against army for a short time before becoming a policing operation against terrorists.
Expect serious discussion on options concerning universal military training, forms of alternative service, and criteria on when to use the draft.
Only by working together can we hope to maintain our democracy.
To do it we must fight the efforts to divide us.