If we are to “build back better” as President Biden claims he wants to do, we will have to take bold steps and invest a lot of resources to make the sustainable economy that we need. The transition we need to make will eliminate millions of jobs that would no longer be relevant, and create millions more in new renewable energy industries, expanded healthcare, education, service industries, etc. No one can say that we don’t have a lot of work to do. But do we have a labor force that is big enough and trained to do that work?
The millions now working in the fossil fuel industry will need to be retrained to work in the new renewable energy sector or a profession of their choice. When we institute universal healthcare, we will need to retrain millions of insurance administration workers who now decide who gets healthcare and who doesn’t. We will also need millions of new doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers to take care of the increase in demand as a result of universal care. The neglect of mental healthcare alone will require a huge increase in practitioners. For lack of care, mentally handicapped people are living on our streets, packed away in jails, or, if marginally functional, may be doing harm to themselves and others at home, at work, or elsewhere in the public sphere, such as in politics.
When we talk about Medicare for All (universal coverage), we don’t often think about the fact that our healthcare resources will need to be greatly expanded. This and all the retraining, new research and development that we will need requires a greatly expanded and accessible education system. That is why I consider that one of our very first actions in transforming our culture is to make education free at all levels. In fact, I think that paying people to get schooling for professions that need to be greatly expanded is a very worthy investment.
We are already hearing from our more conservative compatriots that we can’t afford it. This is mostly coming from the people at the top or the people that work for or believe in those at the top. The wealthy are making out like bandits right now so why try to fix fabulous? Building back better means that we have to create the economy that works for everybody, and that will require a substantial redistribution of wealth from the top 1% to the lower 90%. The wealthy will call it a “give-away,” but, in reality, it is a very smart investment.
I’ve talked before about the fact that our most valuable resource in terms of overall impact is human resources. There is no single element of our economy that has a larger impact on our productive capacity and the focus of our efforts. Privatizing education is one of the dumbest ideas out there. Making education an expensive commodity is the surest way to making certain that we don’t have the people we need to make a healthy, functional society. In the same way, commodified unaffordable healthcare and housing cannibalize society for the benefit of nobody in the long term.
The first step is to train teachers. We will need to short-cut this training by hiring experienced career people to teach the new teachers. As we build up the teaching staff, we can release temporary teachers that would rather work in their respective fields. People who have their talents honed by training and are placed in positions to benefit all of us are assets, not liabilities. This is the beauty of the Green New Deal. The quickest way to unite this country is for the government to guarantee everybody a good paying job and the training they need to qualify. This is an investment that will pay off big time.
If all of this is true, why aren’t we doing it? Because the name of the game is greater and greater concentration of wealth and power. In just the last ten years, the number of major pharmaceutical companies in the world went from 60 to 10. Big corporations want good expendable employees, not new young entrepreneurs that will create competition and will inevitably replace many of them in local economies everywhere. No more cornering the market on corn, soy, chicken, or energy. In fact, we may find that “big” in some cases is a liability instead of an asset. So, it is understandable that we will have to fight to displace some of the wealthy few while creating the new diverse economy that will replace them.
It isn’t going to be easy. It will be like living in a house while completely rebuilding it and learning the skills and creating the resources we need to do it at the same time. Of course, there is no consensus on what the building design should be. The important thing is that we already have most of the knowledge we need. We just have to roll up our sleeves and do the work. Democratized education is the key to everything.