America is at a Tipping Point…

The Nation’s Health Care Crisis:

“This Country cannot continue to tolerate the severe disparities we have – based on neighborhood, education or skin color – in life expectancy, medical debt, access to mental-health or dental care, the ability to fill prescriptions, having a regular doctor, or simply having enough to eat.”

Our inequalities are “visible in the tragic increase, during the past few decades, in so-called deaths of despair – from suicide, opioids, and alcohol related disease – which have produced an unprecedented decline in life expectancy for non-college-educated Whites. …fatal overdoses hit a record high last year and have continued to climb since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

This trend appears to reflect a generational loss of stable work and earnings for people without a four-year degree – a situation that our broken health care system has gravely exacerbated.  Fixing economic and racial inequality isn’t possible without fixing our health care.”

  • Atul Gawande

The Climate Crisis:

“It is no exaggeration to say what the next President does – or doesn’t do – on climate change will affect the world for the millennia to come.

Several…executive actions” should “include directing key agencies to promote clean energy through their purchases of vehicles and equipment and establishing more rigorous efficiency standards for household appliances…

According to a recent analysis by the Rhodium Group, a private research organization, only one percent of the $ 2.4 trillion in U. S. stimulus spending that it evaluated has been earmarked for projects that could remotely counted as green.

Currently, just seventeen percent of the country’s electricity is generated from renewable sources – mostly wind and hydro – and another twenty percent comes from nuclear plants. Electrifying the nation’s cars and buses will put considerable new demands on the grid, meaning that much more carbon-free power will be needed”

  • Elizabeth Kolbert

The Rule of Law:

“As the great Chief Justice John Marshall said, more that two centuries ago, ‘It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department’ – now called the judicial branch ‘to say what the law is.’”  A new Administration should act with this still urgent insight in mind.

To restore the rule of law, and the changes necessary to achieve that must begin with the foundational right in a democracy: the right to vote.

The House of Representatives has already passed a version of the Voting Rights Act, which is now named for John Lewis, the late Georgia congressman, who devoted much of his life to winning and preserving the right to vote.  The act would restore the process known as ‘preclearance,’ in which jurisdictions with histories of discrimination must justify their changes in electoral practices.  And it would empower the Attorney General to grant immediate relief when states attempt to limit the vote. The new law would need a Department of Justice committed to its enforcement…”

  • Jacob Cobb

Civil Rights:

A new Administration “would need to immediately confront white-nationalist terrorism and work to disrupt the networks that enable it.

Earlier this month, Politico reported on on a draft Department Homeland Security report that predicted that White supremacists will be ‘the most persistent and lethal threat’ in the United States for at least the next year.

The recession brought on by the pandemic, has, in addition, had an unequal impact on communities of color. Between January and April of this year, the unemployment rate for White Americans rose from three percent to fourteen percent; for African Americans and Latinos, whose previous unemployment rates were six percent and five percent, respectively, the numbers surged to sixteen and almost nineteen percent.”

  • Jelani Cobb

Foreign Policy:

The new Administration must “take on Putin, but something more that additional sanctions is required…to impose real consequences for Russian interference in U. S. elections, the poisoning of Alexei Navalny, Putin’s leading domestic political rival, and the illegal annexation of Ukrainian territory.”

Beijing must be pressed “on human rights” more than ever before, “at a time when it is quashing freedoms in Hong Kong and interning more than a million ethnic Uyghurs”.

The new Administration “must be determined to actually do something to combat the destruction of democracy around the world.”

  • Susan B. Glasser

Note: The above writings appeared in the October 5, 2020 issue of The New Yorker.

Atul Gawande is a surgeon, a public-health researcher, and the chairman of the health-care venture Haven. His four books include “Being Mortal” and the Checklist Manifesto.

Elizabeth Kolbert has been a New Yorker staff writer since 1999. She won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction for her book “The Sixth Extinction.”

Jacob Cobb teaches in the journalism program at Columbia University.

Susan B. Glasser, a New Yorker, who co-wrote, with Peter Baker, “The Man Who Ran Washington.” Her column from Trump’s Washington, appears weekly on

One thought on “America is at a Tipping Point…

  1. Tom,

    Unbridled capitalism, or capitalism run amuck, lies at the root of America’ problems. Wall Street is in charge, and all attempts to limit its power are either weak or ineffectual. One need only look at the financial crises of the past century for confirmation. Despite these crises, “regulation” has become a bad word.

    The Trump administration is abandoning regulations throughout the economy to the detriment of our environment, our natural resources, and our wildlife. Previous administrations have not done much better. Too often has God’s declaration been interpreted to mean that human consumption has no limits: “Let…them[man] rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” As rulers, we have been nothing less than despots to the natural world.

    Wealth is increasingly concentrated in the few. For a democracy to survive, there must be mechanisms (policies) that ensure the redistribution of that wealth. For a CEO to be earning 400 times that of a production worker is ludicrous. Any economist worth his or her salt will tell you so. If the mass of citizens can no longer afford life’s essentials, revolution and its follow-on, tyranny, are inevitable.

    Regarding racial inequities, only time will cure those, as the various racial “colors” are homogenized through intermarriage. It’s only been 70 years since my birthplace of lily-white Locust Valley, NY allowed the first black to enter the public school. Keep in mind that this was not Selma, Alabama.

    Yes, we are approaching a number of “tipping points,” runaway global warming the most disturbing. Without taking immediate steps to mitigate carbon and methane emissions, much of the world will become uninhabitable because of desertification and coastal flooding.


    Bill Britton

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