When Joe Biden takes the oath of office on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, with Barack Obama looking on, the news will be full of comparisons between two men who for all of their many differences will have one very important thing in common — an economic disaster not of their own making.
Obama took office with the unemployment rate accelerating toward 10 percent and left with it down to 4.7 percent, a historic achievement in the face of Republican obstruction to federal spending essential to ease economic pain and hasten recovery.
Donald Trump managed to reduce that number by a single percentage point and on Friday we are likely to see it rise to around 16 percent, higher than in most years of an era we soon might have to refer to as the “First Great Depression.”
Republican obstruction took a brief vacation but seems to be making a comeback, ensuring increased desperation among those who have lost earnings that will never be made up.
What are New Yorkers to do? They can vote for candidates who understand the problem and the clear solutions, who believe Congress must be an asset and not an obstacle. In this region that means supporting the incumbents.
Beyond that, we need to take the slogan “think globally, act locally” to heart and make it very specific, very very local.
Let’s start by thinking Ellenville.
It is a village so challenged that Ulster County made it the focus of a preemptive distribution of anticipated funds from the Resorts World Casino throughout the region. Because Ellenville could not wait until those funds were available, the county provided what amounted to an advance on its allowance, the Ellenville million, to be spent on projects developed by people in the village.
Last week, Ellenville got some bad news. Shadowland Stages canceled its 2020 season. It could not guarantee the health and safety of its audience.
Think Cold Spring and Garrison.
That week, news came that the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival also has canceled its season.
The week before, New York Stage and Film canceled its Powerhouse Theater season at Vassar College.
Think Woodstock, in the symbolic sense.
Bethel Woods has canceled or postponed all events at least through the end of June.
As anybody who has shown up for an 8 o’clock show for the past three decades at Shadowland knows, that cancellation is a loss to not only the play-going community but to the dinner-and drink-going communities as well. As the theater thrived, so did the village, those who owned local businesses, those who worked in them.
Think Newburgh. Think Middletown. Think Monticello and Liberty and Kingston and Beacon.
Stay home, wear a mask when you go out, keep six feet away from others and wash your hands as often as you can.
But when you do spend, spend locally. If the only thing your favorite restaurant has to offer is takeout, then go take some out.
When those plays and concerts return some day, join in the applause for the performers and also for each other because we have to get through this together.