If you're of a certain age you might remember a time when the U.S. was preeminent among wealthy nations in a number of respects, including providing educational opportunities for all of its citizens regardless of their ability to pay.
The U.S. has already fallen from the top in other respects. It now incarcerates more people on a per capita basis than any country other than China. It has the highest infant mortality rate among industrialized nations. It has ceded leadership in alternative energy research, development and manufacture to China and Germany, and 45 million of its citizens still lack health insurance.
As Congress returned yesterday from a well undeserved recess, President Obama talked up jobs creation, but as is now abundantly clear, the Republicans want to play no part in trying to pull the U.S. out of a lingering economic downturn because that would be a big win for Americans . . . er, Obama. Instead they will be focusing on deregulation of their favorite industries, defanging the Environmental Protection Agency because they believe dirtier air and water create jobs, and coming up with new ways to screw the middle class and poor while pondering whether to again try to shut down government.
As a symbol of mean-spiritedness, it would be hard to top the Republicans' $153 billion spending bill for the fiscal year that began on Saturday.
Under the bill, those uninsured Americans will remain so and funding for the federal family planning clinics that can mean the difference between a healthy and a sickly infant would be curtailed. Planned Parenthood clinics would be denied funding unless they certify that they will not perform abortions although they are only a small part of the services that the organization provides to women with health issues, and the Pell Grant program that can mean the difference between college or working at a McDonald's would bar grants to students who through no fault of their own are unable to attend college less than half-time.
There are other regressive gems, as well. These include neutering the Occupational Health and Safety Agency, defunding the Race to the Top school improvement program and cutting National Public Radio off at the knees while sounding the death knell for a program to retrain workers for energy-efficient industries in communities hurt by the downturn in the auto industry.
There is, of course, nothing in the bill that would adversely affect the targets of the Occupy Wall Street protest movement and the affluent, let alone the super rich, while there is a provision curtailing federally-funded research comparing the effectiveness of different treatments for the same illness or injury in an effort to improve care. This is because many Republicans fear the results will be used to deny coverage of expensive treatments.
Opposition to the bill within the party is limited to utterly conscience-free congressfolk who are demanding even deeper cuts.