Enormous, highly popular public investments of nearly three trillion dollars are awaiting imminent action on Capitol Hill. Despite the drama of clashing caucuses and egos among the Democrats, it seems that in the end they will come together for an historic achievement. Yet there is a good deal of punditry about the consequences should President Joe Biden's signature bills remain stalled and potentially expire.
Almost all the press coverage of this drama promotes the self-fulfilling assumption that Democrats of all stripes will share the blame and that voters will punish them harshly. Scrutinizing the motives, strategies and emotions of a tiny fraction of Democratic legislators on an almost hourly schedule, media outlets almost never mention the entity that would be most responsible for the failure of these vital programs if they were to be thwarted.
That would be the Republican Party, in particular its congressional leadership, which sees its central mission as frustrating any effort to maintain and enhance the standard of living and quality of life for the vast majority of Americans. Their overwhelming attitude toward the massive and now crumbling infrastructure that we inherited from earlier generations — as well as the urgent need for improved educational, health and family support — is like that of a termite horde. Destruction is their program because it serves their partisan objectives, or so they evidently believe.
Why shouldn't they? In 1994, they won the Congress after destroying President Bill Clinton's plan for universal health care. In 2010, they won again after demonizing and trying to kill President Barack Obama's health care program. In 2022, they want to win again, and that means they have to kill again.
And they may be right, because the myopic press keeps voters focused almost exclusively on disagreements among Democrats and the selfish conduct of a couple of Democratic senators.
Polling data shows with exceptional clarity that the public overwhelmingly supports the Biden agenda for both physical and social reconstruction. Roughly 80 percent of Americans, which obviously includes voters of both parties, understand that everything essential to the future of the country's modern civilization — roads, parks, bridges, tunnels, seaports, airports, water and sewage systems, for instance — is falling apart after many years of neglect. Once admired around the world for our superb and reliable infrastructure, which we exported to the nations we helped to rebuild decades ago, we now see our global reputation sinking lower and lower.
Former President Donald Trump loved tearing things down. He successfully exploited that perception of decline, of slipping global status, which he accelerated. Though he repeatedly promised to pass a massive plan for infrastructure, both as candidate and then as president, he accomplished absolutely nothing. Passing a bill beyond a tax giveaway to the 1 percent was far beyond his puny capabilities. And then again, he is a liar. Whether he ever intended to do anything didn't matter, because he lacked the competence and focus to execute. He didn't try, but he couldn't do it.
While the Republicans controlled both houses of the in Congress, Sen. Mitch McConnell showed little interest in the trillion-dollar program Trump had pledged. Preoccupied with the passage of a tax cut skewed toward the uber-rich, they mounted the repetitive charade of "Infrastructure Week" in contempt of their base, until bitter laughter finally drowned them out.
Physical infrastructure alone won't restore American greatness, as even Trump stated — which was why he and his minions made so many false promises of marvelous advances in health care and social services. He constantly talked about proposing his substitute for Obamacare, which never materialized. From child care to higher education, our people plainly suffer from the lack of benefits that citizens of other advanced nations have long enjoyed.
Biden deserves enormous credit for attempting to remedy these social deficits with an ambitious effort that almost nobody believed he could pass. Through no fault of his own, the president embarked on this historic mission with the thinnest possible Democratic majorities in both the Senate and the House, and with a party naturally divided by region and ideology. And yet with the able assistance of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and his other allies on the Hill, he and his staff may well be on the verge of achieving a truly historic victory against the odds.
What voters should remember is that every single Republican opposes every bit of progress in the reconciliation bill, from universal pre-kindergarten to care for the elderly to climate change — even electric vehicles. Only 10 Republicans out of 50 have agreed to support the infrastructure package that would benefit all their constituents.
If these necessary policies don't pass, let's not forget who will be most to blame. And let's remember who deserves the credit.
To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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