The mental health crisis requires the same urgency as the effort to end the pandemic
A Senate committee this week will examine how the government can help end what’s been described as a “shadow pandemic.”
Congress is back in session this week and lawmakers will be busy AF.
They have to pass legislation to fund the government and position us to better compete with China in the 21st century. Members will also consider a comprehensive package of sanctions on Russian government officials and financial institutions and transactions in response to the country’s military build-up at the border of Ukraine.
The House is advancing bipartisan legislation to ensure that veterans exposed to toxic substances in burn pits get the care and benefits they have earned. And both Republican and Democratic leaders in the Senate are giving a bipartisan working group space to broker an agreement to reform how Congress certifies presidential elections in the wake of Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn the election in 2020.
There’s also Build Back Better. And the looming Senate confirmation process of President Joe Biden’s Supreme Court nominee.
I’ll be tracking these stories for you, of course. But I also want to flag a few interesting congressional committee hearings this week that will influence future policy debates but probably not generate any news cycles:
The House Judiciary Committee will hold three hearings, including one on respecting artists with the American Music Fairness Act, one on oversight of the Federal Bureau of Prisons and another examining the History and Importance of the Black national anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”
A House Judiciary subcommittee will also examine journalism, competition and the effects of market power on a free press.
The House Veterans Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on securing high-demand jobs for veterans.
The House Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing on addressing challenges in serving people experiencing homelessness.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold hearings to examine legislative proposals to improve domestic recycling and composting programs.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee will examine legislation to stop corporate price gouging.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will examine the road ahead for automated vehicles.
And on Tuesday the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) will hear testimony from witnesses on the growing mental health and substance use disorder crisis.
The mental health crisis has been characterized as a “shadow pandemic” that requires the same urgency as the effort to end the public health crisis.
The Kaiser Family Foundation found in an early 2021 survey that four in ten adults in the US reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder during the pandemic — up from one in ten adults who reported these symptoms from Jan. to Jun. 2019.
In July 2020, KFF also found that many adults reported specific negative impacts on their mental well-being including difficulty sleeping or eating, increases in alcohol or substance use and worsening chronic conditions due to worry and stress over the coronavirus.
Anger, stress, worry and sadness all reached record highs in 2020, according to Gallup. And the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that nearly 42 percent of US adults exhibited symptoms of anxiety or depression in early 2021. Gallup’s research also found that 70 percent of people identified as struggling or suffering.
America has lost more than 880,000 people to COVID-19. But we’ve also seen too many people succumb to what Princeton economists Anne Case and Nobel laureate Sir Angus Deaton call “deaths of despair”: suicides and deaths caused by fatal behaviors such as drug overdoses and liver failure from chronic alcohol consumption. These deaths, which are described as “suicide in slow motion,” have particularly harmed working-class men in the Midwest and increased dramatically since the mid-1990s, according to Gallup.
Symptoms of depression had already been rising in teens in recent years, according to Healthline. But depressive and anxiety symptoms in youth doubled during the pandemic. And early 2021 data shows that emergency room visits in the US for suspected suicide attempts were 51 percent higher for girls and four percent higher for boys compared to the same period in early 2019.
The crisis is also overwhelming the professionals we turn to for support.
Tara Parker-Pope, Christina Caron and Mónica Cordero Sancho reported in Dec. 2021 for The New York Times that nine out of 10 therapists said the number of clients seeking care is on the rise. The result: They’re experiencing a significant surge in calls for appointments, longer waiting lists and difficulty meeting patient demand.
I’m sure the witnesses at tomorrow’s hearing will expound on this topic.
These disparities are especially acute for Black and brown creators. And there are serious short- and long-term risks for people from historically underserved and overlooked communities who deprioritize mental wellness.
If you or someone you know is suffering, you’re not alone. Find support, services and treatment options that may help.
Sen. Lindsey Graham rejects the notion that Biden’s Supreme Court nominee will be a quota pick
I was critical in Sunday’s post of Republicans who seemed to take issue with President Biden’s intention to nominate a Black woman to fill Justice Stephen Breyer’s seat when he retires at the end of the term.
But Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said in an interview Sunday morning on CBS’s Face The Nation that he would like to see the court have more balance and common sense and feature graduates from outside the Ivy League. (Just an FYI: From an editorial standpoint, Sunday posts are different because news is breaking up to the moment I press send. So I didn’t watch Graham’s interview until after I published the newsletter.)
Graham shared why he disputed claims from his party that a Black woman nominee would be an affirmative action quota pick, as some Republicans have argued.
“Affirmative action is picking somebody not as well qualified for past wrongs,” he said. “In the history of our country, we’ve only had five women serve and two African-American men, so let’s make the court more like America.”
Graham added the Republican Party has attempted to recruit women and people of color to represent the diversity of the country.
He also was unbashful about who he prefers from the President’s shortlist of possible nominees: Michelle Childs, an Obama-appointed US district judge for the District of South Carolina:
“I can’t think of a better person for President Biden to consider for the Supreme Court than Michelle Childs. She has wide support in our state. She’s considered to be a fair-minded, highly gifted jurist. She’s one of the most decent people I've ever met,” Graham said. “She's been a workers comp judge. She’s highly qualified. She’s a good character. And we'll see how she does if she's nominated. But I cannot say anything bad about Michelle Childs. She is an awesome person.”
The White House confirmed last week that Childs, who also has the endorsement of House Democratic Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, was indeed under consideration.
👋🏾 Hi, hey, hello! Good Monday morning. Welcome to Supercreator, your daily guide to the politicians and power brokers shaping how you work and live in the new economy. Send me tips, comments, questions — or just say hi: email@example.com.
TODAY IN POLITICS
President Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing this morning before he and Vice President Harris host a meeting for the National Governors Association at the White House. The president will also meet this afternoon with Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani, the leader of Qatar.
Biden’s week ahead:
Thu Feb 3: President Biden and Vice President Harris will attend the National Prayer Breakfast. He will then travel to New York City and join Mayor Eric Adams to discuss gun violence prevention.
Fri Feb 4: President Biden will speak on the January jobs report.
First Lady Jill Biden and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff will host National Governors Association spouses at the John F. Kennedy for Performing Arts. Both will speak at the event.
The House is out.
The Senate is in. A vote is scheduled this afternoon to advance a judicial nominee to the Northern District of Ohio.
— President Biden called on the Taliban to release Mark Frerichs, a US Navy veteran who was taken hostage in Afghanistan two years ago today. “Mark is a native of Illinois. A son. A brother,” Biden said in a statement. “And his family has now endured two gut-wrenching years—praying for his safety, wondering where and how he is, aching for his return.”
— New York state Democrats proposed a redrawn congressional map that could gain up to three new seats in this year’s midterms. The map gives Democratic candidates an advantage in 22 of the state’s 26 House districts and is a reminder that both parties participate in partisan gerrymandering to varying degrees. [Grace Ashford and Nicholas Fandos / NYT]
— Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is running 11 percentage points ahead of Democrat Beto O’Rourke in this year’s race for Texas governor. Abbott enjoys a two-to-one advantage among white voters and voters who identify as Republican and a narrow lead over O’Rourke among Hispanic voters. [Robert T. Garrett / The Dallas Morning News]
— Average rental prices across the country rose 14 percent last year to $1,877 a month, with cities like Austin, New York and Miami rents increasing as much as 40 percent. Housing costs make up a third of the US consumer price index and due to a nine- to 12-month lag, higher rent prices are also expected to be a key driver of inflation in the coming months. [Abha Bhattarai / WaPo]
— Business groups are opposed to a new New York City pay transparency bill that requires companies to disclose minimum and maximum salaries in job postings. But publishing this data can help people of color and women achieve pay equity while also helping to ease the labor shortage. [Sam Tabahriti / Business Insider]
— 37 new emoji are coming to the iPhone in Apple’s iOS 15.4 update this spring. They include a melting face, biting lip, heart hands and handshakes featuring different skin tones. [Sarah Jackson / Business Insider]
— DoorDash will deliver your Girl Scout Cookies this season. Be warned though: It’s possible the cookies could sell out in your area before that time. (And if you’re curious, this is a Samoas-or-nothing-at-all household.) [Katie Teague / CNET]
READ ALL ABOUT IT
Russell Berman on the bill that would ban members of Congress from trading individual stocks:
The proposal is, not surprisingly, popular with a public that loves to look down on its lawmakers: Nearly two-thirds of all respondents, including majorities of both Democrats and Republicans, backed the idea of banning members of Congress from trading stocks, according to a recent poll conducted by Morning Consult. Yet the bill is likely to be least popular among the people who actually have to vote on it. If Congress has struggled in recent years to tackle the nation’s most complex challenges, its track record of policing itself is arguably even worse. Republicans made little effort to pass ethics legislation when they last ran Washington, and although House Democrats did advance a major anti-corruption bill as part of its initial voting-rights push last year, they quickly jettisoned its major ethics provisions in a (thus far unsuccessful) bid to win passage in the Senate.
Ian Millhiser on how the Supreme Court is leading a Christian conservative revolution:
There are several possible explanations for why the Court is hearing so many more religion cases than it used to, and only some of these explanations stem from the Court’s new 6-3 Republican majority.
The most significant non-political explanation for the uptick in cases is the pandemic, which triggered a raft of public health orders that religious groups sought exemptions from in the Supreme Court. Though a less ideological Court would not have used one of these cases to revolutionize its approach to the free exercise clause, as it did in Roman Catholic Diocese, the Court likely would have weighed in on many of these cases even if it had a Democratic majority.
Similarly, some explanations for the uptick in cases predate the confirmation of Justice Barrett. The Hobby Lobby decision, for example, sent a loud signal that the Court would give serious consideration to religious liberty claims that once would have been turned away as meritless. That decision undoubtedly inspired lawyers for conservative religious litigants to file lawsuits that they otherwise would not have brought in the first place.
Tish Harrison Warren on why churches should drop their online services:
One might ask, why not have both? Why not meet in person (with Covid precautions in place) but also continue to offer the option of a live-streamed service? Because offering church online implicitly makes embodiment elective. It presents in-person gatherings as something we can opt in or out of with little consequence. It assumes that embodiment is more of a consumer preference, like whether or not you buy hardwood floors, than a necessity, like whether or not you have shelter.
Fred Kaplan on why every president is terrible at foreign policy now:
Foreign affairs used to be a little less complicated. Back during the Cold War, when Washington and Moscow divided the world in two spheres of influence, nearly every regional and global problem was somehow tied to the bipolar U.S.-USSR standoff—and even when it wasn’t, the two superpowers figured out a way to make it so. When the Soviet Union shattered and the Cold War ended, so did the international security system that held the world together, if sometimes oppressively. There are now no solid “power blocs,” but rather wobbly coalitions of convenience, where two countries may be aligned on one issue but at odds on another. No one leader—or no pair of opposing leaders—can set the day’s agenda, much less shape how it plays out.
Katie Harbath on Facebook:
Facebook has invested billions in this kind of work. But a majority of its investment for classifying misinformation, for example, has focused on the United States, even though daily active users in other countries make up the vast majority of the user base. And it’s not clear which efforts Facebook will extend from U.S. elections to those in other countries. It’s unlikely that within the next two years, much less the next few months, Facebook can build up protections in every country. But it must start planning now for how it will exponentially scale up people, products and partnerships to handle so many elections at once in 2022 and 2024.
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