Every day I hear some republican say “We are leaving our children a crushing debt.” This is simply hooey and bothers me a great deal on two levels:
1) it is not “we” that are leaving the debt, it is pure and simple the Republicans that grew this debt to what it is, with their tax cuts for the rich, two unfunded wars and the really bad Medicare drug program. Then they have cemented it with their obstruction to do anything that would grow the economy.
2) Much worse than the debt, Republican policy over the past 33 years – and especially the last 13 – have done everything they can to dismantle the economy. The country that our kids will inherit will be broken. And it will be broken in such a way that fixing it is next to impossible. Democrats that are trying to fix it now can tell you.
One of the standard beliefs of American mythology is that education is the key to an individual’s advancement as well as that of the country. But a quick look around shows that our public school system – once the pride of the world – is in the process of being broken and turned into a laughing stock. Teachers have been publicly pilloried, been accused of being lazy, worthless, and leaches at the public trough. They have been forced to teach to the test by misguided laws that place emphasis on standardized tests. Their dignity has been undercut by politicians more than willing to shut down public schools and replace them with various forms of private schools which sometimes operate on the edge with pseudo-science classes and teachers that may not be certified. Teachers unions have been high on the hit list for decades for Republican politicians who see any union as the enemy.
The parents of today’s students themselves are having a hard time making a living. Many have lost jobs and wages in the upheaval of the past decade. Only a few decades ago one parent could make enough money to allow the other parent to stay in the home. The job also had benefits that included medical care for the family, so that a childhood emergency could be attended to. In America today, both parents must work. Between them they can hardly afford food, shelter, transportation and clothing. Medical care is no longer a benefit, so if a child gets sick a family must make a choice between food and medical care.
Where once a family could get aid from the government quietly, that is no longer true. Often the family may be humiliated in public for taking government help. Where once some of the elders could help out, they no longer can as pensions have been stolen and investments have crashed. There are many, many cases now where three generations of a family live under one roof. They do so out of necessity, not because they want to. So there is little money for extras. In many cases the family may have lost their house in the mortgage bubble of 2007 and 2008. So their credit may be ruined on top of losing the house.
What was once the great escape from poverty vehicle – a college degree – is no longer the ticket it once was. Since state and federal governments no longer pick up much of the cost of college, the student must do so themselves. In many cases a student will graduate college with a debt the size of a mortgage and no real job skills to speak of. This is a choice that many students are or will be facing soon. Go deeply into debt to get an education on a bet that it will help you get a good job? But without a degree there is very little chance of earning a living wage? What about a technical degree?
Higher education for the young is also one of the great factors that drives our country. So when more and more of them decide they can’t afford the debt, our country as a whole will suffer greatly to the point of stagnating the economy. We especially need future scientists, but will students take on the debt to become a scientist when good paying jobs are not there today?
We are leaving our children a country where the balance of justice and the balance of law greatly favors the rich and corporations. The Citizens United decision greatly tipped the balance in elections to the wealthy. They have used that to elect state legislatures that have gerrymandered states as they have never been before. This in turn also tips the scales to the rich. Legislatures have also used this imbalance to pass laws restricting who can vote and to use proprietary voting machines. All this will also tip the balance in favor of the rich. In a slow steady onslaught the poor and middle class have seen their power at the polls diminished greatly. Trying to turn this around will be nearly impossible in the gerrymandered world of today.
One of the workingman’s greatest accomplishments was to unionize workplaces. This gave the worker some power in his job and some say in his pay, hours and safety. The unions have been smashed. The chances of their resurrection to their previous power is slim, especially in the political world described above.
All this and now a segment of our society believes that putting guns in the schools is a great idea. I think not. Too many bad things can happen with guns around. Better that they be limited in society.
And let us not forget a climate that surely will bake most human by the end of the century. And food that will be ever tougher to get and more costly, water that may also be hard to get.
If today’s child survives all that will they be able to save for old age? They better be, since Republicans will never quit in their quest to turn Social Security savings over to the Wall Street casino.
Republicans are right. “We” are leaving our children in bad shape.” But not the debt. If we could begin the chore of putting the economy back on track, that is a problem that could be dealt with. But as Republican policies continue to handcuff our and our children’s ability to deal with problems, the problems will only deepen and spread until they will be almost impossible to deal with.