Since the very beginning of the pandemic, public health officials have warned of a second wave of COVID infections. With no epidemiological background, I’d say the impact of the virus looks more like a wildfire rolling across a forest seeking fresh fuel. But I fear that I am on the front side of a different sort of second wave.
When the pandemic forced shutdowns across the country in March and April, millions of Americans lost their jobs. Some of us, myself included, were fortunate to work for organizations that have been able to weather the storm in a “virtual office.” But with September approaching, and schools forced to navigate uncharted waters, there are hard choices to be made.
My wife and I had to make one such choice not long ago, and as a result, I'm leaving the best job I've ever had.
I have two young kids at home, about to join their classmates, teachers, and school administrators in an unprecedented experiment in early childhood education. Like most five- and seven-year-olds, my kids are too energetic and not developmentally ready to sit in front of computer screens unsupervised for hours every day. So my wife and I are going to do what parents of young students across the nation are preparing to do: One of us will keep working; one of us will put our career on hold for our children’s sake.
Honestly, I’m outraged that we had to make this choice. SARS-CoV-2 is novel, sure. And it was destined to reach the United States. But the Trump administration has failed our country spectacularly with its inept response. More than 178,000 people are dead, with no end to the death toll in sight. Millions have lost jobs and are facing eviction. And the impact has disproportionately fallen on Black, Hispanic, Indigenous, other people of color, and the poor. It didn’t have to be that way.
Donald Trump himself is the proximate problem, of course. He’s taken a predictably ham-handed, politics-first approach. And as Michelle Obama put it, he’s clearly in over his head.
But there’s a deeper problem, and Donald Trump and his administration are merely a symptom of it. That is, they are the inevitable manifestation of right-wing pathologies that have been nurtured by corporate super PACs and megadonors over the past 40 years – pathologies that elevate the pursuit of private power and wealth over the core functions of a civil society.
Decades of policymaking designed to weaken unions and stymie other forms of collective action by workers have left people in warehouses, factories, and food-production facilities at the mercy of business owners who embody the absolute worst of disaster capitalism.
Decades of wishful thinking that market forces will resolve disparities in health and wealth across racial and ethnic lines has left people waiting in excruciatingly long lines for food and health care while a select few live free of real concern for infection while they watch their net worth continue to climb.
Decades of tax cuts and austerity budgets have left agencies understaffed and unable to effectively launch a nationwide testing and contact tracing program, get adequate medical supplies where they were needed, or establish and enforce meaningful standards to keep essential workers safe.
Decades of vocal disrespect for the dedicated public servants who still work for our “protector agencies” has left the average member of the public not sure whether to don a mask, slurp down some disinfectant, or just head to the bar. (Do only the first, not the others, PLEASE!)
For the past 14 years at CPR, I’ve fought to cure our society of those pathologies alongside some of the smartest and most dedicated public interest advocates in the country. I've treasured my time at CPR. I've been part of an organization that has made an important difference in the nation's public policy debates. I've worked with outstanding scholars and an incredibly talented staff. I've learned from all of them, every step of the way. I've made friends for life.
But I can't ask CPR to wait out the pandemic while I see to my kids, and my family comes first.
I leave with deep satisfaction at what we have accomplished at CPR in the time I've been here, and a deep well of gratitude to all who've been part of the effort. I know CPR will flourish in the years to come. I'll miss being part of the work but look forward to the organization's continued success.
So, in early September, off I go to coach my kids through a disrupted school year and continue my fight for a more just society in new ways and in new spaces.
My thanks and best wishes to all.
If you or someone you know would be a good fit for CPR's next full-time Executive Director, keep an eye on this page for more information. A job description and application information will be posted in the next few days.