Andrea Batista Schlesinger
Turning the Big Ship: DMI’s Launches 2007 Year in Review
In 2006, Americans voted for a change in direction, and got a change in parties. By the end of 2007, this apparently wasn’t enough.
Nearly three out of four Americans saw the country heading in the wrong direction this year. It’s not hard to see why: looming large were rising oil prices, more people than ever without access to health coverage, persistent economic insecurity, continued federal inaction on the threat of global warming, and a war still seemingly without end.
Many of the worst shocks of 2007 were the continued fallout of years of wrong-headed right-wing policy to deregulate, starve the public sector, and privatize at every opportunity. One result was a spree of corporate lawlessness: lax government oversight allowed millions of children’s toys coated in toxic paint onto the shelves of American stores, and permitted millions of mortgage loans to be made to families with no prayer of ever paying them back. The results? Potentially brain damaged children, financial crisis, a growing number of Americans losing their homes. Public infrastructure crumbled. Private contractors operated with little accountability to anyone. These calamities detonated in 2007 but were years in the making.
The year was not entirely bereft of hope. The nation’s minimum wage was forced up after a decade of stagnation and decline. Also signed into law was a bill reducing the rates on student loans and increasing Pell Grants for low-income students. Mayors and governors around the country took steps to go green: promoting energy efficiency, renewable power, and regulating pollutants. Private companies made their operations more environmentally sustainable as well. San Francisco enacted universal health care. Washington State passed paid family leave.
Several important conversations ground to a halt in 2007, short of finding solutions that would actually benefit Americans. The push for immigration reform collapsed amidst fear and hateful rhetoric. An overwhelmingly popular effort to extend medical coverage to low income children failed to overcome a bitterly ideological veto. Rather than seeking a new direction on trade consistent with our nation’s values and vision, Congress added a few positive flourishes and agreed to extend the NAFTA model further south.
“The United States is a big ship, and it is hard to turn a big ship,” protested House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. He is undoubtedly right. The hope for a new direction now turns to the 2008 Presidential contest, starting earlier this year than ever. Candidates promise the moon. It will be another year before we decide who to take up on the offer. In this Year in Review, the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy offers: a look back at the best and worst in public policy this year, six snapshots of the nation [pdf], a 2007 required reading list for progressives, a hawk’s eye view of what the think tanks on the conservative right are up to, and, as always, the 2007 Injustice Index.
So take a look inside the policy that made 2007 a year of frustration and of great promise.