Last Year it was protests over health care and overflowing town halls. What’s the feeling on the street NOW? What issues are pressing on the Central Coast?
This has been an exciting year, there’s no question about that. Health care topped the agenda, but it wasn’t the only thing that caught the public’s attention.
The year got started with a continuation of new projects funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, designed to inject much-needed capital into our struggling economy.
The Recovery Act continued to catch a lot of flack from critics who suggested we couldn’t afford this legislative lifeline. The funny thing is, both Republican and Democratic economists agreed that investing taxpayer funds into the hurting economy was the only way to get things back on track. The Recovery Act was the first target of the year for the very vocal minority who were intent on advancing their theme of general anti-government protest.
The reviews are in, and by all signs the Recovery Act has done its job. It hasn’t been a silver bullet, but it was never intended to be a cure-all. It seems strange, in fact, that the same critics who argue so loudly against government spending also complain that the Recovery Act should have done even more.
What the Recovery Act did was prevent our country from tumbling into another Great Depression, plain and simple. Bold action by Congress and the Obama administration kept that from happening, setting the stage for a more comprehensive recovery.
It won’t be quick. It was never going to be quick. But while we’re still battling high unemployment rates and working to stanch the number of foreclosures, signs are pointed in the right direction.
Consider this: Toward the end of his presidency, President Bush’s policies were costing the country an average of 750,000 lost jobs each month. Under President Obama’s policies, which have had to counter that downward spiral, the country has been steadily putting job creation in the positive column. The turnaround is mind-boggling.
But a new target emerged last year for the Libertarian-minded anti-government forces, and it continued to be a target this spring: health insurance reform. President Obama campaigned on the promise to lower health care costs and expand coverage. The country agreed that it was time to overhaul our flawed system. And this year, we did just that.
But through a sustained strategy of misinformation (and often outright lies), critics of affordable health coverage for our country succeeded in twisting the debate to “death panels” and other outrageous falsehoods. Today, we’re seeing public opinion shift because the truth is finally emerging. Health insurance reform is a boon to our country.
I’ll admit that in the darkest days of debate, the vehemence that emerged against fixing a broken system was disheartening. But the results have already been worth the struggle, and they’ll only continue to improve over the years.
The third leg of the anti-government stool has coalesced around Congress’s job-creation strategies. Even though these programs are a clear investment in our country’s future, the anti-government critics paint with a broad brush and universally oppose them.
The number of initiatives that have come out of Congress haven’t received as much attention as they deserve, largely because every bill the House passes immediately gets gummed up in a dysfunctional Senate. Today, there are more than 300 pieces of legislation that have been voted on and passed the House of Representatives that have gone nowhere in the Senate.
It has been a very frustrating year in Congress. We’ve heard a lot this year about how Republicans in Congress have become a “Party of No,” and I think that label is all too true. This is unfortunate. Anyone who has followed my time in the House of Representatives knows that I have a history of reaching across the aisle. When we lose that ability to cooperate, we lose the ability to govern.
Take a look at the bills I’ve sponsored and the issues I’ve championed this year, and you’ll see how successful bipartisanship can be.
My bill to ensure fair trials for those arrested for using medical marijuana has solid Republican support. For my push to open Cuba to more travelers and cultural contact, I’ve partnered with the same Republicans who oppose me on federal spending issues. My successful effort to expand funding for the Peace Corps enjoyed strong Republican support. And my seemingly never-ending struggle to secure fair Medicare reimbursement rates for our local doctors has almost as many Republican supporters as Democrats.
Politics is the art of compromise, and I’m an example of how bipartisanship is still possible in Washington. Most of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle are well aware that cooperation is preferable to competition. But the anti-government figureheads who oppose positive policies also oppose bipartisanship.
I’m an eternal optimist, and I think this fervor against any federal program to help our country will pass. I just hope it happens sooner rather than later. We still have a lot of work to do, and not a lot of time to do it.