Sometimes we lose perspective of what is at stake during political arguments. We get bogged down in numbers, conflicting facts and philosophies, not to mention differing moral perspectives. To clarify what is at stake, I think that perhaps it might be instructive to look at what life would be like for the average American if Republican policies were put into place. Let’s talk about our guinea pig for this experiment. His name is George.
George, was born a health baby with the help of a midwife, which was all his parents could afford. You see, because Republicans oppose health care reform, George’s parents didn’t have health insurance, and ever since Planned Parenthood was shut down, George’s mother didn’t have access to a nurse practitioner or doctor during her pregnancy. She also didn’t have access to birth control, which would have delayed George’s birth, because she and George’s father weren’t financially ready yet to have a child. Nevertheless, the couple decided to keep George.
George’s mom stayed home the first three months, taking leave without pay from her job as a waitress, causing significant financial hardship for the family. His father used to make good money in construction, but was laid off because Republicans in Congress enforced harsh austerity measures, deeply cutting the budget for highway and other infrastructure projects normally funded through a transportation bill. To pay the bills, George’s father worked as a gas station attendant during the day, and picked up low paying labor jobs on the side.
Eventually, George’s mother went back to work. However, because both parents had to work in order to pay the mortgage on their small house, it was difficult to find childcare. The couple struggled day by day to find someone to take care of little George. The default, though George’s parents don’t like it, is to leave him with his mother’s younger sister, who is going to community college and living with 3 other roommates. When mom arrives to pick George up, there are usually 7 or 8 people in the house and music is blaring. He is often crying, and George’s mother is fairly certain that his needs are being ignored; but, given their circumstances, it is the best they can do.
This goes on for several years, until at last George is ready to go to public school. In kindergarten, George is behind, because his parents didn’t have time to read to him or teach him much, and they couldn’t afford childcare or early education—they were too busy working. Under normal circumstances, George’s teacher might be able to do a lot to rectify the situation, but because government revenue is down and Republicans have made deep cuts to education, the class he’s in has 40 other children, and though George has a good teacher, she simply doesn’t have enough time for one-on-one intervention.
This is the case in first grade, fifth grade, and in fact, throughout George’s education. All of his classes have between 40 and 45 students, and his teachers barely have time to grade papers, let alone give him individualized instruction. On top of this, the school year has been cut back to 160 days a year, meaning that George is attending school for less than half the year, causing his parents headaches trying to find childcare for days that school is not in session.
In the end, George is never able to catch up academically with his wealthier peers. His parents try to help him on many occasions, and, like good parents, stay on top of his grades and homework. Unfortunately, even though both have bachelor’s degrees, they could never find consistent work or get ahead enough to spend the extra time or money needed to supplement George’s education—they were too busy working and paying the bills, barely hanging onto the middle class.
As a consequence, even though he’s never failed a class, George doesn’t earn a high school diploma, because while public schools have been shedding days and teachers, the government has raised standards for graduation several times. Students must now pass extremely rigorous tests in order to earn a diploma, and George was never given enough time or attention in school to gain the skills he would need to pass these tests.
After high school, George decides not to try to earn his GED at the local community college or pursue a higher education. He hasn’t cultivated a love for learning in his life, and frankly, now that the state and federal government have stopped spending on education, along with eliminateding federal student loans, college has become unaffordable for most young people.
Instead, George decides to work as a waiter like his mother. While waiting tables, George meets a girl, and after a few years they get married. At times, George thinks about trying to get a different job to better his station in life, but he doesn’t have the education for more advanced work, and even if he did, the job market is intensely competitive. See, unemployment is still around 10%, despite an extremely low tax rate for both corporations and individuals. The only jobs he can get pay minimum wage, which has been cut back to $7 an hour nationally by Republican legislation. So, even though the state doesn’t make restaurants pay waiters an hourly salary anymore, he and his wife still make more on tips than they would working elsewhere. They make enough to pay the rent for their one bedroom apartment, to buy food, and to occasionally buy new clothes, all of which are cheaply imported from China.
However, like most Americans at this point, their jobs don’t provide them healthcare, Medicaid was eliminated long ago, and they certainly can’t afford health insurance on their own, so George and his wife only go to the doctor when it’s an emergency, or when they are critically ill. They also aren’t able to save any money, not because they don’t want to, or because they live a lavish lifestyle, but because business is bad at the restaurant, which caters mainly to middle and lower class patrons. Fewer people now have the money to go out to eat, and as a result, George’s salary has been depleted. When all the bills and expenses are paid at the end of each month, George and his wife can barely scrape by.
Finally, the dam bursts. George’s wife becomes pregnant, a situation that could have been avoided if they’d had access to birth control, but they could never afford it. Instead, they simply used condoms, and though they’d been careful, one broke without notice. Abortion is now illegal in all 50 states by constitutional amendment, however, and with programs like WIC and food-stamps eliminated, both George and his wife know there is no way they can afford this child, nor the medical costs of pregnancy. The only option they have is to get an illegal abortion as cheaply as possible.
A few days after the abortion, George’s wife becomes violently ill, so George dials 911 and she is rushed to the hospital. She dies three hours later in the hospital emergency room of a toxic infection.
George is now a 35-year-old widower. He has no job prospects, other than to continue his work as a waiter, making less and less money. He can’t afford to better himself because college is too expensive, and he doesn’t have the capital to start a business of his own, nor will any bank lend to someone of his status. Even if he worked as a waiter for another 20 years, he knows he would never have enough money to retire, and, because Social Security and Medicare have been eliminated, George’s only option is to work until the day he dies.
Depressed, George goes to the store. Guns are now sold over the counter cheaply, with no waiting period, license, or even a clerk asking for what reason the person wants to buy a gun. George grabs a 9mm, a box of bullets, and then heads home…
I don’t have to tell you how this story ends, but this is a very clear picture of what life will like for many Americans if the Republicans were to enact their agenda. Let’s just hope we don’t have to see George’s story played out with real human beings before the American public knows it.