As those on the far right begin their chest thumping for the Fourth of July, crying for independence and freedom from the "tyrannical government" that now occupies the White House and controls majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, here's what I'm celebrating on Sunday.
More freedom and independence for Americans from a non-health care system, from economic exploitation, and the stranglehold of big oil, and hope for the planet that is stewing in its own juices.
Two years ago, with the dramatic near collapse of the economy, we were on a political rollercoaster with frantic congressional action unlike anything I've ever seen. There were sky high expectations following the election of President Obama, and a period of the most intense and far reaching legislative activity in anyone's lifetime.
Arguably not even the Roosevelt session during the Depression rivals the rescue of the economy, the extension of health care to children, wilderness legislation, health care reform, the economic recovery package with clean energy, infrastructure and rail, Wall Street reform, and at least one House passing major global warming legislation and still on the table in the Senate. All of this occurred in a 24 hour news cycle with some of the most heated debate and the sharpest political divisions I've ever seen.
It's actually amazing that anything has moved forward at all.
There has been an unparalleled level of stridency in the political process and embarrassingly violent imagery that was shameful to true Americans. We witnessed the spectacle of the Tea Party movement, with people protesting "taxation with representation" and debasing fellow citizens in the crudest way. It has been without question the most challenging environment I've ever worked in: the issues more difficult, the solutions more complex and controversial. And for the most part, we are doing it all in a climate where there has been no interest in bipartisan cooperation.
Despite the difficulties -- the hyper partisanship, the global challenges, the enormity of the threats from those who would do us harm and the damage to the economy, this Independence Day is one of freedom and hope.
With the passage of health care reform, we have the promise of freedom from a non-health care system that was pushing more and more people into the ranks of the uninsured and bankrupting families with costs spiraling out of control. We have the opportunity to change the direction of health care in America, to improve the quality of care we receive and to finally reign in the biggest threat to the deficit -- exploding Medicare costs.
There is freedom from economic exploitation. While the Wall Street Reform is not as bold as many would have liked, it nonetheless provides a framework which makes it much more likely that the guardians of the economy will do their job to protect against unscrupulous Wall Street Benedict Arnolds. And for the first time, individual Americans will have a financial consumer protection agency on their side that will go a long way towards eliminating some of the abusive practices that cheat tens of millions of Americans out of their hard earned money.
While we have not yet achieved freedom from our addiction to oil, the dramatic BP spill in the Gulf coupled with unprecedented investments in conservation and alternative energy make it more likely that we have a sustainable path for the future. The House passed historic legislation to combat global warming and survey after survey show a majority of Americans still support comprehensive climate legislation. We all still have hope for the Senate.
Finally, as I hear from people in Oregon and from other communities and from the steady stream of visitors to my office, I am heartened by the actions taken by everyday Americans. Over a thousand communities are working to cut pollution and enhance energy security. Young people are engaged in their communities and around the world as America is once again the most admired country on the planet.
There is proof every day that simple principles work. People care about more livable communities where their families are safe, healthy and economically secure. They are fighting to protect water quality and secure better nutrition for their children. During this great recession, Americans are turning once again to the land and their neighbors, with greater freedom and hope for a better future. I am confident we will get there.
Happy Fourth of July.