There is a question I want to ask. It highlights my frustration with government over the course of my lifetime but also leaves the door open for hopefully some positive news that I’ve missed. The question – what major pieces of legislation have been passed in the last 25 years that have been fundamentally good for the country?
Going backwards the first big piece of legislation that comes to mind is the Affordable Care Act, or as it’s commonly referred to now as “Obamacare”. I’m reluctant to give this one a nod because I’ve never been a fan of the legislation. The reason isn’t the normal conspiracy-laden drivel that you hear coming from the right. On the contrary, I’ve always thought it didn’t go far enough in addressing the real problems. In ensuring it could be passed too many concessions had to be made that ultimately made it little more than a band aid on an arterial bleed.
Next up is the Dodd-Frank financial reforms. I’ve come across two differing views that have me nixing this one as well. The first is that, like the Affordable Care Act, the power of the financial lobby in shaping the bill left it a shell of what it could have been. In the end its direction is so weak and off course that it’s more akin to a band aid on a sprain. The second line of thought is that more recent study of the financial collapse of 2008 shows that maybe we still haven’t quite figured out all the problems that led up to it.
Next up is the Stimulus. This is one I can actually vote yes for despite all the negatives I’ve heard (my interests in military matters often lead me to very conservative sources and outlets which means I’ve probably come across every negative angle there is to the Stimulus). Still, the sum of these hasn’t surpassed the good that the bill has appeared to have accomplished.
Going back further we have the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq and the Patriot Act. The former sent us into Iraq and, well, yeah… we all know how that turned out. The latter has been controversial, which is being nice, and continually harkens references to 1984. I’m definitely voting no to both.
Going back to the Clinton era I’m reminded of what has been viewed as one of the best examples of bipartisanship legislation in the period we’re covering: welfare reform under Clinton and a Republican Congress. For the longest time I looked at this as a sign that in our current polarized climate there is still hope that real reform and work can be done. Then NPR came out with this piece a few years back showing that while the intent was good the unforeseen consequences show that basically nothing was really accomplished. Both parties still get an A for effort but in life the grade that really matters is from the result. This one gets a no from me as well.
So, looking back casually at the last 25 years, I’m left with one major piece of legislation (the Stimulus) that I could give a nod to towards being fundamentally good. That’s it. That leads to another question. What does it take for these to happen? It took the perceived eminent collapse of the global economy and a worldwide Depression to get the Stimulus passed. Basically, our backs were to the wall. It’s a little disconcerting to me that that’s the criteria.
So, what do you all think? I freely admit smaller bills that fly under the media’s radar could have long lasting ramficiations (hopefully positive). There’s also upcoming decisions regarding the internet and ISPs (less Congress and more regulatory work, but the ramifications are still huge). What have I missed, good and bad?
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First, a story you might be interested in along these lines: http://news.yahoo.com/senate-holds-interesting-tax-reform-hearing-everyone-shocked-170431352.html
When I started reading that I actually thought it was a piece on The Onion at first.
I’ll take notice when they do more than hold hearings. I still remember the failure of Congress to act on what seemed unanimous agreement from the various commissions after the crash of ’08 on tax reform being an important cause to take up.
In the end I can’t help but wonder that money is the big issue. That article touches on lobbyists being big back then as well but I’d love to see numbers on how money spent then compares to today. We had President Obama and his recent billion dollar campaign, the Koch brothers recently announcing the massive amount of money they’ll be spending, and the list goes on. I just find it hard to believe meaningful work can be done when the spigot has come off in regards to cash flow.
I was more interested in the backstory they shared as (what they saw as) an example of successful major legislation in a time of polarization.
As far as money and lobbyists, I’ve become more skeptical about that being the source of our problems. I think the partisan ideological division is a bigger deal.