Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from Pennsylvania’s newspapers:
Pennsylvanians want to know why more people are being vaccinated in other states while we wait
Harrisburg Patriot News/Pennlive.com
People want more information about the rollout of coronavirus vaccines in Pennsylvania.
And they want it now.
Our readers are complaining they don’t know when they will be able to get the vaccine or even how to sign up for it. Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine told PennLive’s Editorial Board that a plan is being worked out and a website will be up next week to provide information. But many people, especially the elderly and people with disabilities, do not have access to the internet. And too many still have questions about the safety and effectiveness of whatever vaccines are coming to Pennsylvania.
That’s not to cast blame on any one person or agency. It’s certainly not to cast blame on Secretary Levine, who clearly needs more resources to tackle the problem. She says the $100 million expected to come soon from the federal government will help provide resources, but it still won’t be enough to meet the need. And there’s no clear date when the money will come and exactly how it will be spent.
And to be fair, the vaccine rollout has been marred from the beginning with misinformation in social media, confused messages coming for the CDC as well as political posturing in the White House that has caused millions to question the safety and efficacy of rushed vaccines.
To her credit, Dr. Levine acknowledges improvement is needed at the state level. “We want to do more, and we want to do better,” she told PennLive’s Editorial Board. But as she refines the rollout plans and responds to ever-changing guidance from the CDC, she might make communicating to the people a priority.
Communication needs to happen not only through press conferences and postings on websites. There must be an urgent grassroots effort to reach people more directly through the organizations, non-profits and community centers they know and trust.
This is especially true in minority communities. Gloria Merrick, a member of our board and Director of the Latino Hispanic American Community Center (LHACC), says her organization has had little interaction with the Department of Health even though it serves hundreds of Latino families in our region.
An education campaign to provide concrete information about the vaccines and dispel myths now circulating through the Latino community is essential. The same could be said of the African American community.
Too many Black people in our region say they will not take the vaccine because of their distrust of President Trump, who has rushed to take credit for its “warp speed” development.
And too many Black people distrust the medical community, which they believe suffers from systemic and historic racism.
So far, neither the Department of Health nor any other state agency has done enough to overcome the misinformation and distrust that is so rampant in minority communities. It compels us to ask, is anyone advocating for these communities in the hierarchy of the Wolf Administration? Who’s at the table representing these communities when decisions are being made about the coronavirus or any other public health issues? Do they even have a voice in the administration’s power structure?
Secretary Levine did provide a dose of good news in announcing a plan to open mass vaccination clinics. But again, details are scarce. The secretary says, “That’s going to start soon.” But when? Where? How?
By now, Pennsylvanians should have more answers to the basic question of when most of us will be able to get the vaccine and where. At least tell us where to sign up to be on the list to be saved from COVID-19.
We have no doubt Gov. Tom Wolf and Secretary Levin are working night and day to try to answer our questions. And we fully accept chaos in the federal government has made their jobs even harder.
But the fact remains, more people in other states are being protected quicker from COVID-19. And we have a right to know why.
King’s dream as relevant as ever today
Today we observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day in an atmosphere all too reminiscent of the turbulent times in which the great civil rights activist and minister lived and died.
King’s assassination was one of the signature events of 1968, a year long regarded as one of the most difficult our nation has ever faced.
We’re sad to say that 2020 and now 2021 belong in the same unfortunate category of eras marked by extreme conflicts in our society. These are times that so many Americans would love to forget but likely never will.
Of course one of the big issues today is America’s ongoing reckoning with race. As we mark King’s 92nd birthday, it’s only appropriate to once again consider where we are in dealing with the subject that was the center of King’s work.
News today moves at such incredible speed that it’s sometimes hard to remember what was on front pages weeks and months ago. But it was mere months ago that communities across the country were roiled by protests involving people who believe the nation has fallen far short of King’s dream of racial justice.
The presidential election and its aftermath have dominated attention lately, but be assured that millions of Americans have not forgotten about the death of George Floyd at the hands of police last summer and the outpouring of emotion that it produced. It’s a certainty that we’ll be back in that same place before too long if people of goodwill and their leaders don’t finally find a way to make changes that establish faith in fair treatment for all Americans regardless of their race, ethnicity or national origin.
Thanks in large part to King and others of his era, we have made significant process in terms of racial equality over the past half-century or so. It would be a big mistake to deny it when discussing this subject. But we’ve still got plenty of work to do.
Racial inequality remains a serious problem. Our leaders must follow through on the steps they’ve vowed to take in reforming police to ensure Blacks and other minorities no longer fear contact with law enforcement. And each of us must redouble our determination to reject the racist attitudes that too many people feel comfortable expressing.
A focus on King’s legacy can only help. He forced many Americans to finally face up to the injustices they had allowed to fester for so long and to conclude that it was time to right them. We still need such activism today. Too many fail to comprehend the difficulties people of color face and the role that our government policies play in furthering them.
We need to have honest discussions across racial, ethnic and ideological lines, and to make sure they are conducted without rancor. All of us have a role to play in achieving reconciliation not just on matters of race but the many other issues that are causing such strife in our country.
As we remember King and his dream of an America in harmony, let us each consider whether we are serving the forces of unity or the forces of division. Do we regard all fellow Americans as our brothers and sisters, regardless of our disagreements? Or do we reject out of hand those who hold political opinions that differ from ours?
The choice belongs to each of us. Let’s pay tribute to King and his famous dream by working to bring it at least a bit closer to reality.
And let’s resolve to do whatever we can to avoid ever seeing a repeat of what America experienced last summer and in recent days. Such turmoil, whether it be related to race, politics or some combination of factors, is a sign that we’ve still fallen short of our nation’s creed of freedom, equality, justice and humanity.
Many years ago, Sen. Eugene McCarthy said there is nothing more dangerous in politics than a politician without further ambition.
And perhaps one thing Joe Biden and Donald Trump would agree on is that Pat Toomey, the junior senator from Pennsylvania, is a dangerous man.
Mr. Toomey said that Mr. Trump should resign days before his term was up — to spare the country his probably justifiable impeachment.
He also said he believes Mr. Trump descended “into a level of madness” in his final days in office.
How does Mr. Toomey get away with those statements when other Republican senators quake at the mere hint of disdain from Mr. Trump? For that could incur the wrath of a currently very angry “base” and trigger a primary. No incumbent congressman or senator wants that.
Well, the Republican has announced that he is not running again. He has imposed a two-term limit upon his own Senate service. To paraphrase Janis Joplin, Mr. Toomey has got nothing left to lose.
Pat Toomey is a free man. He is free to call them like he sees them.
Hence, he pronounced our new president’s proposed stimulus package “a colossal waste and economically harmful.”
He points out that COVID-19 relief has, so far, come to $3.4 trillion, which has nearly doubled the federal budget.
He points out, further, that in past relief packages as well as the proposed future one, people who were not out of work and far from the poverty line got checks.
What sense does that make?
None at all.
And yet few in the Senate, Rand Paul is an exception, are speaking up about the wastefulness and lack of planning and rationality in relief measures that are in no way means-tested or targeted.
How many more members of Congress might speak up if they were retiring?
And isn’t it a shame that it takes the end of ambition to state truths that are before all our eyes: Mr. Trump has lost it and the relief packages seem to do nothing but throw money at a pandemic.
Maybe unfocused relief really is our best idea. It doesn’t make it a good, or affordable, one.
Perhaps Mr. Toomey will rethink running for governor of Pennsylvania. He has emerged, in the present moment, as a sane and needed voice for his party and his country.
And his promise, after all, was to limit his time in the Senate, not to forswear any other office.
Of course, then he would no longer be a free man.
Joe Biden’s ‘fierce urgency of now’
The Scranton Times-Tribune
The journey that has transported Joe Biden from his native Scranton to the presidency of the United States has taken 78 years. Today, as he takes the oath of office amid a turbulent era, there is no time to waste.
Inauguration Day dawns on a nation facing multiple interlocking crises — of nature, public health, economics, governance, social justice, and the national spirit — all amid the rubble of a failed administration that for four years defied objective reality, constitutional standards and civic norms.
As demonstrated by the appalling Jan. 6 attack on the government and democracy itself at the U.S. Capitol — inspired and accommodated by President Donald Trump and congressional acolytes who attempted to invalidate the presidential election — restoration of truth and accountability, and the competence of the federal government, must begin at noon today when Biden takes the oath for the highest office in the land.
Part of that turnaround will be in the form of policy.
Biden plans to send to Congress today a comprehensive immigration reform bill that, rather than demonizing immigrants, recognizes them as a positive economic force and an engine of American global leadership. It would create an eight-year path to citizenship including background checks, tax payments and interim green cards. And, finally, it would provide a citizenship path for “Dreamers,” those who were brought to the United States as young children and know no other home.
The new president also will send Congress a bill for a further $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package that includes a long overdue national strategy for defeating the coronavirus pandemic.
Orders to establish momentum
Biden plans to issue executives orders quickly to counteract some of his predecessor’s worst policies. Foremost is renewing U.S. involvement in the Paris Accords to accelerate the global effort against destructive climate change. He also will instruct relevant agencies to reunite immigrant families who had been separated at the border. And amid the ongoing pandemic, he will extend moratoriums on evictions and student loan payments, harness federal resources to accelerate vaccine distribution, and mandate mask-wearing on federal property and in interstate travel on airlines, trains and transit systems.
The Democrat has a 10-vote majority in the House and an even narrower margin in the Senate, where incoming Vice President Kamala Harris has the constitutional authority to break ties in the chamber, in which each caucus has 50 members. So nothing will be automatic.
But aggressive effort on multiple fronts is the right approach. Biden should take a cue from Martin Luther King Jr., who answered criticism in 1967 that his stance against the Vietnam War distracted from his principal mission of advancing civil rights:
“We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today,” King said in his “Beyond Vietnam” speech at Riverside Church in New York City. “We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity. The tide in the affairs of men does not remain at flood — it ebbs.”
Pence puts country above self
As much as Americans may disagree with President Donald Trump’s actions since the November elections, there should be agreement that Vice President Mike Pence has acted honorably and as a statesman.
Pence’s future political options now appear miniscule.
Trump haters will never support him in future races because he was loyal to Trump for nearly all of his term, much as a second in command should.
He realized his role was not to upstage — if that would even be possible — or undermine his boss.
Those who still back Trump will never support him politically because at the end he refused to violate the constitution by attempting to override the counting of electoral votes, something he announced in advance, prompting a public rebuke from Trump.
But Pence, through his actions this month, demonstrated the principle of country above self and a dedication to following the traditions of this country that call for a peaceful and respectful transition of power.
After the disgraceful and appalling Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol — for which criminal charges are and should be filed — Pence acted professionally allowing electoral votes to be counted and followed the legal precedences when challenges arose.
He followed the rules and if there was a senator and representative filing an objection to certain state’s electors, recessed the counting of votes until both chambers could debate separately and vote.
When that was completed, he resumed the process of the count, ending in the wee hours of Jan. 7.
Pence resisted calls to insert himself in the count like a dictator, imposing his will over the people’s.
For that he deserves thanks from all Americans and especially those not at the left or right extremes of the political spectrum.