5 Good News Stories That 2021 May Bring
2020 has been an incredibly tumultuous year filled to the brim with so much bullshit that you probably didn't need me to be the one to remind you about that. I mean, people have gone so far as to even create a system that takes all of your 2020 problems, write them down, then dump them into a quite literal dumpster fire. People are undoubtedly fed up with this year.
But don't worry -- there's a glimmering hope on the horizon. The first wave of vaccines is already making its way through our collective bodies. Meaning the cumulative extrovert energy that has been repressed for the past nine months will be able to flood the streets again. Though it is really exciting to think about, it's even more exciting looking at all the other things that might actually get taken care of in 2021 ...
It's Looking Like Trump Screwed Up The Census So Bad They Could Potentially Do It Right This Time
The 2016-2020 Presidential term was an incredibly important one, and we just so happened to have Trump at the helm. Typically, there's not a whole lot a president can do while in office for four short years to create long-lasting and irrevocable change -- especially without a whole ton of effort, bipartisan support, or congressional control. However, Trump's presidency happened to overlap with a few incredibly critical events: the appointment of not one but two supreme court justices, a once in a hundred-year pandemic, and a census. Well, it looks like there's a chance that we'll get a do-over on one of those.
The obstacles in conducting an accurate 2020 Census have been an unending saga: an unprecedented wildfire season, hurricanes so numerous we ran out of letters to name them, and social distancing (see: once in a hundred-year pandemic). It wasn't unreasonable that the U.S. Census Bureau would potentially need extra time to make sure they did not miss the deadline.
So could Biden call a do-over? Potentially. It's currently really unclear, but from what we've been told -- the census data might be incredibly inaccurate, even if we ignore all the non-citizens Trump wants to keep off the census count. It's already the most expensive census to date because of all of these complications, so Congress approving a redo might be a tough sell. But don't forget how important the census is -- It affects House seat allocations as well as funding for the next 10 years, so fingers crossed.
Biden Administration is actually discussing getting rid of PFAS
You all ever hear of PFAS? Well, these are per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances that are used to create water-repellent products. They seem to be in just about everything: nonstick pans, pizza boxes, waterproof clothes ... food ... and, uh, municipal water supplies. Shit.
Turns out even though they stop things from sticking, these things stick around for a long time in things like your bloodstream. Pretty much everyone in our country has been exposed or is continuing to be exposed to them. A few studies even show raised cholesterol levels, an effect on fertility, liver and kidney damage, cancer, and even thyroid hormone disruption. Probably the currently most concerning piece of information I've stumbled onto during this rabbit hole is that PFAS can possibly affect antibody concentration after vaccination, as found with a few studied shots. Don't worry and freak out yet, though -- the Pfizer vaccine is based on messenger RNA genetic material, which is a type of vaccine that exists outside of the few studies looking at this phenomena.
Doomsaying aside, Congress's annual national defense bill does have an aim of eliminating the use of these chemicals from military bases around the country. The bill does fall short of actually mandating any clean-up effort, though, because, you know, it's not good enough for our troops, but it is good enough for the affected surrounding communities. Biden's environmental plan goes so far as to officially designate the chemical as cancer-causing and a hazardous substance while setting a national safety limit for PFAS in our drinking water. It also mandates that federal agencies conduct more research surrounding PFAS as well as buying products that don't contain these chemicals. We should have every inclination to be optimistic about this.
But here's the wrinkle though -- Biden has appointed Michael McCabe, a known chemical company insider who has defended the use of PFAS to the EPA, to its agency review team. McCabe served basically as an advocate for DuPont, a company that played a large hand in the prolific pollution and production of PFAS. McCabe previously worked at the EPA from 1987 and until the end of the Clinton Administration. A time during which DuPont managed to avoid a lot of responsibility, regulations, and fines. Hmm. On the bright side, McCabe has recused himself from any matters involving the Toxic Substances Control Act, though it's still a little troubling that a man who worked really hard to go against public health and the environment has found his way back into the EPA under the Biden Administration.
Famed Boner Ajit Pai Is Out of The FCC
Ding dong the witch is dead -- Ajit Pai is leaving the FCC. Remember this guy? He's the jackass that killed net neutrality. You might remember him from that super cringy PR video where he put Flamin' Hot Cheetos and Sriracha on top of a Chipotle burrito bowl and did the Harlem Shake with a woman who pushed the Pizzagate conspiracy theory (though I guess that does leave me wondering, since Ajit Pai is apparently such a fan of Flamin' Hot Cheetos and conspiracy theories, whether he subscribes to the infamous Flamin' Hot Cheetos conspiracy theory).
Well, him being out is a good thing, and it's really too bad that it couldn't have happened sooner, looking at Pai's four-year deregulation rampage. Currently, the FCC is controlled by two Democrat commissioners and three Republican commissioners. On top of that, Republican commissioner Michael O'Rielly is leaving at the end of 2020 as well, leaving the split one to two in Democrats' favor. Legally there can't be more than three commissioners from a single party, so don't get too excited daydreaming of a 4-1 split, but this will potentially allow Biden to nominate replacements who advocate for equal internet access rather than lifting restrictions on internet companies.
This is also possibly good news in regards to the Executive Order on Preventing Online Censorship. If you recall, that was Trump's angry backlash to Twitter putting fact check warnings on two of his tweets. Pai was a proponent of moving forward with rule-making surrounding the executive order. His departure is going to potentially end any significant action surrounding that order.
Maybe We'll Finally See Some Movement On Tech Monopolies
The statement "Amazon, Google, and Facebook are all big ass tech monopolies that have way too much power" is probably not a shocking statement to anyone. That's pretty much what a 16-month Democrat-led investigation by the House revealed back in October. In a follow up to that report, the Department of Justice and 11 Republican state attorneys general hit Google with an antitrust lawsuit for their anti-competition practices. The FTC is also setting the stage for their own antitrust suit against Facebook. The EU even hit Amazon with accusations of violating antitrust rules for using business data from independent sellers who use their platform, arguing that they're able to use that data to have the upper hand in their competition against them.
Overall the stage is set to actually take on these tech giants and potentially break apart the monopolies they have in their respective sectors. But while Biden has expressed that he wants to deal with big tech, there really haven't been any formal declarations on what that would look like. I mean, he could just simply launch some investigations, clap his hands, and call it a day. He also could slam them hard with a bunch of aggressive regulations and government interventions to limit their power; who knows? Either way, it looks like we might get a little lucky, and some progress will be made to break-up, or at least limit, Big Tech this next year.
Between State Governments In Budget Crunches And Competition From Neighboring States, Legal Weed Will Probably Happen Sooner Than Later
The post-election domino of weed legalization is starting. New Jersey actually agreed on a marijuana legalization bill and will start seeing their dispensaries popping up here soon. New York's Governor, Andrew Cuomo, has even stated that 2021 could be the year for New York to get its first taste of that legal loud and fully recognizes that the revenue from recreational weed would absolutely help New York -- as well as pretty much every other state as everyone has been desperate to get some extra funding this year.
Weed legalization is even looking pretty good on a federal level. The U.S. House of Representatives just passed the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act. Have a little tempered optimism here, though, if you're banking on your legal weed coming from federal legalization rather than state legalization. It's gonna be a big uphill battle in the Senate unless the Democrats somehow gain control of it.
However, the pros of the MORE Act are big and hard to ignore. Even the Congressional Budget Office has come out saying that legalizing weed would trim the deficit by $7.3 billion over the next 10 years -- thanks to business activity and lower federal prison costs. The MORE Act would also reduce 73,000 years of prison time, provide $3 billion for job training and legal aid to victims of the war on drugs, and increase revenues by $13.7 billion. This is a strong argument even for the staunchest of anti-drug politicians.
Though maybe I'm being a little too optimistic about the flexibility of the Republican mindset. Republican Representative Jim Banks filed a formal complaint against Democratic Representative Earl Blumenauer. Why you ask? He wore his marijuana leaf mask on the House floor during the procedural debate over the MORE Act. Apparently, it was really offensive, something that wouldn't even be allowed in a "High School assembly hall." Guy clearly didn't go to my high school.
Well, hey, maybe this 2021 wish list will come true, and we can all celebrate a 2022 New Year blunt in hand, maskless, and dancing on the graves of the Big Tech monopolies within six feet of each other.
Top image: Maria Dryfhout, Jana Shea/Shutterstock