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Jackson: Cori Bush and the 'Squad' fail to see the big picture in infrastructure vote

Jackson: Cori Bush and the 'Squad' fail to see the big picture in infrastructure vote

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It may seem out of line to bash my fellow Democrats for failing to support President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill, but it cannot be helped since, to quote my favorite Vulcan from the Star Trek universe, it was “illogical.”

Let’s just get all the clichés and colloquialisms out of the way right now: They are throwing out the baby with the bathwater; they are cutting off their noses to spite their faces; they are throwing their own party under the bus.

While members of “the squad” are stomping their feet petulantly, they fail to look at the big picture, which is that their Republican counterparts are standing firm, doing everything they can to block and discredit everything Biden attempts to do to improve the lives of us regular folks.

Rep. Cori Bush, D-St. Louis, said she voted against the infrastructure bill to gain “leverage” for the passing of the progressives’ bigger Build Back Better plan. That just does not compute. For leverage to work, you need something with which to barter in the first place.

That said, I do agree with the issues within the progressives’ 2,435-page social safety net bill. Some of the proposals provide the nation with clean air, clean water, wildfire prevention, better administration of the Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as multiple provisions to start children on the path to productive lives.

Many studies, including a 2016 one by Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, have shown that children enrolled in publicly funded pre-kindergarten programs have much better vocabulary skills than those who are placed in home-based day care. Free child care for this age group could provide the working poor with access to these programs that they might otherwise be unable to afford. Once K-12 education is completed, providing these kids free junior college could offer them a chance to secure training for technical jobs in the future.

Three women I know have quit their jobs or retired early to care for aged parents or disabled relatives. I’m the fourth. It’s a cliché to say that caregiving is a thankless job, even in cases where you’re not sandwiched between children and seniors. It’s the constant stress of supervising adults who wander, or who hallucinate, or who think you’re trying to do them harm. For me, that included more than 20 calls to 911 in a year to pick up my three seniors after falls. (Luckily, no breaks.) Having 12 weeks of paid family leave as the bill proposes could mean the difference between allowing an employee to return to work while securing outside help or being able to say goodbye with less guilt.

Additionally, the bill proposes two provisions for improvements to Medicare, one relating to the negotiation of drug costs, the other that would provide hearing aids and glasses to all beneficiaries, not just those in Medicare Advantage plans. Restructuring the tax rates for corporations, and people earning over $400,000 annually (as included in the bill), would help pay for the entire bill.

Republicans love characterizing it as socialism. Suppose the country had screamed socialism in 1935 when Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins presented her Old Age Assistance plan, later renamed the Social Security Act, to President Franklin Roosevelt. At the time, the country was in a deep depression with soup lines and sprawling homeless shantytowns known as “Hoovervilles.” I’ve taken Social Security claims from some of the wealthiest people in this country, and I say: Why not? If you pay in, you should receive the benefits you’re eligible for, rich or not. Hardly socialism.

Before President Lyndon Johnson signed the Medicare Act in 1965, many people went bankrupt or avoided seeking treatment altogether because of medical costs. That act also established Medicaid for the poor, many of whom also paid taxes, despite the common perception. If wages are small, the resulting pension (if one exists) can be minuscule, making a person eligible for Medicaid. Again, not socialism.

While stomping their feet petulantly, Democrats are failing to look at the big picture. Their Republican counterparts are firmly supporting their flawed, greedy, self-absorbed former leader, doing everything they can to block and discredit anything Biden attempts to do to improve the lives of us regular folks.

Revisionists ignore the fact that Biden’s predecessor attempted to steal the election himself by calling for ceasing election-night voting before all states’ votes had been counted. Supporters want us to forget hearing Donald Trump ask Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” 11,780 more votes in his favor after the election to change that state’s official tally.

While this Democratic rift continues, Republicans are exploiting the country’s divisions to placate their bases and their big investors, anything to keep or increase their respective congressional seats. The result could be a Democratic minority in both the House and Senate. I repeat — illogical.

Janet Y. Jackson is a Post-Dispatch columnist and Editorial Board member.

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