What have we learned in 2019? The year is not over, thankfully, but if you live in Northwest Florida, most of your learning so far has come in the form of hardship.

Even so, one thing is certain already: how valuable it is to work together to achieve shared goals.

So, why this editorial today?

For one thing, in case you just arrived from outer space — and considering how bad 2018 was, with the deadly Hurricane Michael drowning out the rest of a challenging year — we wouldn’t blame you for escaping to the heavens. In other words, the hurricane and continuing cleanup is the foremost thing on our minds, especially on the east side of the Hathaway Bridge.

We also should have learned (long ago) that geography doesn’t really matter when it comes to disaster. Eventually, everyone is affected.

Now, as we work together to truly recover, we want to point to some persistent needs that shape everything else, perhaps worldwide: A lack of compassion.

No one person or company really is to blame, but The News Herald Editorial Board believes that even in these times, where the temperature is about as hot as it could be and the children are struggling to readjust to school, it is important to remember that your free time could be a blessing to someone who desperately needs a break.

One profession that struggles is teaching. Locally, education officials tell The News Herald the shortage has reached a crisis level — really, the shortage was nearing a crisis stage before Michael.

Perhaps some former educators are able to return to the classroom, even just as a sub. But, as our Facebook squallers have pointed out again and again, the teaching crisis will remain as long as there is a housing shortage. Steps already have been taken to mitigate the housing crisis, but this time government can do more — and should.

A dozen years ago or so, Americans enjoyed what’s called a "payroll tax deduction." It essentially worked like this: If you get a payroll check (i.e., if you have a job and FICA takes out a chunk of it), then you would qualify for a payroll tax cut. We’ll skip the blame game on removal of that tax cut, which benefited everyone who works a job.

Now that the economy is teetering (at best) for everyone but the ultra-wealthy, it’s time for lawmakers to consider resuming the payroll tax cut. When done the right way, workers see their checks increase by a figure that can be whatever Congress decides it to be. With Democrats heading toward socialism and Republicans lost in their own partisanship, the payroll tax cut is a good way to begin boosting the economy without devolving into a "basic universal income."

And just as quickly as workers see their extra pay, they’ll be planning where they want to eat out tonight.