It's been a pretty depressing weekend, one way or another. I've been following the brouhaha on Capitol Hill with the Senate working overtime (that's an anomaly, surely) to try and iron out the kinks they don't like in the President's new Economic Stimulus plan. Living outside of the US, I often feel - even with the internet - that I'm living inside of some sort of time-warp bubble, where I'm allowed to see a bit of what's going on and understand even less. Well, that's the way it seems if the only news from the US is coming at you 24/7 courtesy of the good old BBC.
I first heard that the US was careening down the road to economic ruin sometime in the late autumn of 2007, the beginning of the Primary season, when I began to watch NBC Evening News on the internet. I heard about gas prices creeping up towards $4.00 a gallon (but that didn't phase me, because in Britain, they were and still are near as dammit 8 bucks a gallon, with most of the money paid going on a fuel tax.) It got worse, so much worse that when I came home last year in March, I did my bit to help the economy by going on a massive shopping spree. Much good that did.
As things have seemed to go into freefall, and as Obama, whom I supported from Day One, seemed to really inspire hope, I listened to his proposals to turn the US economy around, not pretending to understand the intricacies of the situation, less how the US had arrived at that point anyhow. All this talk of foreclosure and 'first-time buyers' were terms that I'd heard before - but here, in Britain, in the waning days of Thatcherism, when the Keynsian approach to economy was failing and failing badly. If this problem in the States started with housing, it's news to me and surprising. When I left the US, more people, so it seemed rented houses instead of buying; and when you bought, you bought for life and you left in a box. In the UK, however, when I first arrived, the people were heady with the extra money Thatcherism had put in their pockets and bought and sold houses as we would buy and sell cars. Between 1981 and 1987, my husband and I had managed to rent one house for two years and buy and sell 3 in the course of 4 years. After 1987, the economy tanked, interest rates rose and - presto! - instant recession.
As I'm a person not known for the best of timing, 2009 was the year my husband and I had targetted for returning to the States, but listening to the dire news of 600,000 jobs being lost in the US in January 2009, I'm beginning to bite my fingernails again. As much as I don't like living in the UK, as homesick as I am, I do still have a job. So do I adopt a typically British attitude of sangfroid and muddle through or do I come home and take a risk? The Britishness that's wrapped itself around me relentlessly opts for the former, which means I'll spend the rest of my active days here, stifling back tears until nighttime and waking up with neuralgia from having slept on a sodden pillow all night. The Yank in me sticks up the psychological middle finger and dives into coming home with a greater vengeance. After all, the government is hiring, even though Michael Steele says a government job is just work and not a job at all.
But what disturbed me the most, listening to the wrangling going on on the Hill, was exactly what, in the end, the suits up there eventually agreed to drop as part of the package. Only items to do with education, health care and science!!!!!!!!!!! And what, specifically, did our new President talk about in his Inaugural address? Specifically?
Education, health care and science. The importance thereof to our economy bettering itself.
Of course, these cuts were made in order to get our friends of the conservative persuasion on board. And it sucked. It sucked that the Democrats, the majority party, in a strong position, rolled over and played dead as a dodo for these evil-featured clowns. I was raised a Democrat from the cradle, so I can be forgiven for thinking, when a child, that these people were sour-faced old trouts who shouted at children for stepping on their lawns, but - Jesus, Mary and Joseph - I'm of the same generation as some of these people and they still look like sour-faced old trouts. Old. White, miserable and old. Like the British.
As an ex-teacher, cutting $18,000,000 from improving school and university curricula and renewal programs chills me to the bone. I know that in any budget-cutting exercise, education is always the first to suffer. It's as though people pulling the purse strings think that it's fair to pare away at schools and univerisities because they cater mostly to kids or people eithe too young or too busy having a good time to vote anyway. Besides, if the populace is basically ignorant and uneducated, they're more apt to believe the shit dished to them by a political party, and more apt to stay at the base of that movement full stop.
The health care issue, to use a bad pun, sticks in the craw too. For fuck's sake, we are still seen to be the leader in the Western world, yet we're the only Western country without a viable universal health care program for our citizens. The British model (not one to be copied) isn't perfect, by a long shot, but I still don't get an exorbitant hospital bill if I'm willing to suffer a waiting list for treatment. And I'll never pay more than about $20.00 for a prescription to be filled (not that I'm the biggest proponent of prescription drugs, I might add). And so they cut that part of the stimulus package as well ... including the part about contraceptives, to 'stimulate' the Republicans into crossing the aisle, or jumping the broomstick. Contraceptives go, because the Republicans just can't risk birth control. Every unwanted unplanned little Southern bubba born to a 15 year-old illiterate Mylie clone is a potential GOPer for the future, maybe even a Senator at that. The mind boggles mightily.
And as for science, well, BushCo and the faith-based initiative pushed for Creationism and some schools obliged. Science was denigrated and we're paying the price now. It's the Twentyfirst Century! We have to go forward.
The more I thought about this, the more I got depressed. And the more depressed I got, I was convinced that this is all a contrived plot on the part of the Republican Party, and that they're taking their clues from Rush Limbaugh and his audacious remark in public that he hoped Obama would fail. This is really what these people, these sad, bigoted, ignorant, miserable and twisted old white hypocritical people want. They want this good man, this man who cares about his country, to fail.
This, this is 'Country First'. Because if Country First had won, the stimulus would have consisted of huge tax cuts to those people who don't need them and the government doing little else. It would be Trickle-Down Redux, instead of Trickle-Down Deluxe. And, really, that's what they're aiming for now.
We simply have to get a grip. Get a grip and get behind the President. It's not going to be easy, but he's pushing for us. And he was honest enough to tell us that it wasn't going to be fixed in weeks, or months, but years - maybe longer than the two terms allotted him.
I'm behind him. Until he does something so incredibly stupid, I have to take him to task at the voting booth. I may kick myself for it and get kicked by the husband in the process, but I'm coming home. Recession or no recession, the US is still a better place to be inside of than away from. I think I may be in danger of becoming a patriot.