I spent much of last week in a hospital in Cincinnati with my dad. He has Parkinson’s disease, which sucks. He’s home now, with my mom, brother, and sister doing all they can to care for him. And it hit home for me that we are living not only with the consequences of a horrible disease, but also with the consequences of decisions made in Washington over the last 10 years.
Where would we be with Parkinson’s treatment if George Bush hadn’t banned federal funding of embryonic stem cell research for eight precious years? A hell of a lot further along than we are.
Would my parents, a retired educator and a small businesswoman, be struggling to pay tens of thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket prescription drug costs if back in the '90s Republicans had allowed Medicare to negotiate drug prices? Nope. [Check out a roundup of political cartoons on healthcare.]
Would their retirement savings and those of millions of others have been hit so hard by the economic collapse if there had been meaningful regulation of Wall Street? No.
You really don’t need a crystal ball to see the future. Usually a rear view mirror will do just fine. We know what shortsighted Republican policies have done to this country. The Bush years are America’s own lost decade. For my parents, these losses are profound and personal, as they are for millions of others.
Now Republicans seem determined to make this yet another decade when America treads water or risks sinking further.
Right now, Republicans are blocking any meaningful effort to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and stop climate change in order to protect big oil and some big business.
Right now, while middle class families struggle mightily, Republicans are all about the mighty--going to the mat to preserve tax breaks for the wealthy and loopholes that let corporations pay literally zero taxes.
Right now, budget cuts are being demanded that will provide fewer children with Head Start, cut college loans, and gut Social Security and Medicare.
And right now, somewhere in America, a husband, a father, a mother, a wife is being told they have Parkinson’s. President Obama lifted the Bush ban soon after taking office, but we’ll never get those eight years back. For many of those suffering with Parkinson’s and other diseases that stem cell research could help, the stroke of George Bush’s pen signed away a measure of hope. [See photos of the Obamas behind the scenes.]
Past is precedent. We know our dependence on oil is killing us, so let’s start doing what we must now to end it. We know what happens in the future when kids get shut out of Head Start now, so let’s not do it. We know tax breaks for large corporations and the wealthy won’t strengthen the economy (we’ve tried that), so let’s repeal them. We know Social Security and Medicare will continue to be lifelines for millions, so let’s not cut them.
The hard-won historic change of the last two years has only just begun to undo the damage of the preceding eight. There is no turning back. We haven’t got a decade to lose. Because we know the wrong policies have real casualties.
My dad is one of them.