Like It Or Not, Public Policy Is Your Life
Readers of the DMIBlog already know that public policy is important. But we’ve all got a friend or relative who doesn’t follow politics – and is even proud of the fact. We’ve heard the litany: “It doesn’t make a difference...” “Those politicians are all the same…” “It just doesn’t affect my life.”
When the topic is the sexual escapades of elected officials or the spiritual lives of candidates, your apathetic friend may be right – the blow-by-blow of political gamesmanship sometimes amounts to very little. But when we get to the real question of who gets elected to office and what policies they help enact into law, the apathy becomes toxic.
The decisions made by elected officials impact everything from how clean the air we breathe is to whether the food we just bought at the grocery store is likely to make us sick. Public policy plays a role in determining whether we get a raise at work or get laid off. It determines the quality of education our children receive, how much we have to sacrifice to send them to college and whether we can save enough for a comfortable retirement or are obliged to scrimp on pills or keep working into our old age. Through decisions about funding medical research, public policy influences how quickly diseases get cured; other health care policy choices determine who gets to see a doctor and whether our insurance policies cover the care we actually need.
Now we’re also seeing the impact of another type of policy that might once have seemed obscure and irrelevant: laws regulating predatory lending. If proposed federal bills on predatory lending had been enacted into law in the early years of this decade, the economic crisis we face today might have been averted – or at least dramatically lessened. But, as the Wall Street Journal recounts, this legislation was not even allowed to the floor of Congress for a vote. Beyond some initial, inadequate steps, the Federal Reserve also refused to use its authority to regulate lenders. Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan also declined to raise the alarm about the housing bubble, insisting that “froth” in the housing markets was nothing to worry about. The result? Loans were made to people who never had a prayer of paying them back. Housing prices shot up to unsustainable levels. Diverse sectors of the U.S. economy invested heavily in nearly worthless home loans. We arrive at the credit crisis and probable recession we face today. Some of us may lose our homes or our jobs as a result.
While it may not always be this obvious, public policy affects our daily lives profoundly. We need to be informed, not only about who we elected to office, but what they’re up to once they get there. Making that task a little easier, and highlighting the real-life implications of the bills our legislators are voting on or considering is the aim of DMI’s TheMiddleClass.org