I know it’s all relative, but we seem to be living in an age of ever greater numbers. Or maybe it’s just me, an aging retired farm boy who can remember paying a dime for a cold and sweaty bottle of Coca Cola at the international harvester dealership in downtown town across from the outer runway and 34 cents for a gallon of gasoline Delbert two blocks further.
On Wednesday, President Biden and the Democrats in Congress – most of them anyway – came together on a $ 3.5 trillion budget plan to expand the reach of education and health care, tax the rich and fight climate change.
While it’s doubtful our man in DC, Senator Joe Manchin, DW.Va., will pull this off without significant cost reductions, if not creative payment strategies, $ 3.5 trillion is a huge number – and it would be Buy lots of Coke for the boys sitting around – but smaller, much smaller than our $ 28.5 trillion national debt.
Still, some would argue, the country has big problems to solve and the world around us is crumbling.
For example, another large number on Wednesday: 93,331 people in the US died of drug overdoses in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It was the biggest increase in a year. The New York Times found that those 93,000 deaths, because they killed so many young people, cost Americans about 3.5 million years of life.
Those are big numbers too.
As of Wednesday morning, the coronavirus pandemic has claimed more than 608,000 lives here in the United States alone and more than 4 million people – and an incalculable number of tears flowing into rivers – worldwide.
In the midst of all this, I believe there is nothing more important and challenging before us than climate change. The proposal of the Democrats is – as otherwise – very big. But the reason the price may seem excessive is because the Democrats are also trying to redesign social programs. This is the soft infrastructure that Senator Shelley Moore Capito has been betting against. If the Dems have their way – and they could very well – pre-kindergarten would be universal for all 3- and 4-year-olds, two years of community college would be free, utility companies would be required to produce a certain amount of clean energy, and through the Expanding Medicare, Democrats would fund new dental, visual, and hearing services, as well as changes to federal law aimed at lowering the cost of prescription drugs.
So that we can all keep the accounts separate, Tuesday’s Democratic deal must not be confused with the $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure deal that a few dozen members of both political parties negotiated last month. This bill could already show its face in the Senate next week and come into effect sometime before the August recess at the end of August.
And for the record, the recent Democratic-only deal would extend an expansion of the child tax credit – payments that will begin today, Thursday, as part of another and, yes, major coronavirus aid package worth $ 1.9 trillion .
Keep it all clear?
OK Good. Because here’s the thing – brought to us by some other big numbers: Our western states are burning and their water sources are drying up.
From January 1st to July 13th of this year there were 33,953 fires, according to the more than 2 million hectares National Interagency Fire Center, which is higher than last year for the same period.
In California alone, more than 103,000 more hectares burned through July 11 this year than in the same period in 2020, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
It is clear the world is getting warmer and the effects are felt to some extent in the here and now, from coast to coast and in all areas in between.
The solution, if not just a passing answer, may have to be – what else – great.
– J. Damon Cain is editor of The Register-Herald. To reach him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.