What Really Happened in 2005? The Policy That got Lost in the Politics

The Great Unveiling is what I’m calling 2005. It was the year in which what many knew to be true was evidenced to the rest of the world. The curtain opened and there it was for all to see: corruption, cronyism, false pretenses, the desire to eradicate the social contract, poverty, the broken promise of the American Dream. But what was also unveiled was Americans’ reliance upon their government to lead us effectively, to maintain our infrastructure, to provide insurance so we can grow old in dignity. And what happens when the government fails its side of the bargain.

Each December, the Drum Major Institute releases an annual recap of the year in politics and policy. Read it and I promise even the most dedicated blog fans will find fascinating public policy news they’d missed in the midst of the media’s preoccupation with politics over policy.

Here are some highlights from 2005:

Best of public policy:

• Philadelphia realizing that the Internet is a public utility and laying the groundwork for municipal broadband;

• All Kids, Governor Rod Blagojevich’s plan to provide health insurance to all of Illinois’ children;

• Maryland’s Fair Share Health Care act that forces companies with more than 10,000 employees to spend at least eight percent of their payroll on employee health care or contribute to a state health care program for the poor;

• Washington State’s new green building standards, nine states taking global warming into their own hands by freezing power plant emissions;

• New York City’s legislation holding gun manufacturers responsible for allowing their products to wind up in the hands of criminals, and the Prohibit Predatory Lending Act cracking down on subprime home loans.

The worst of public policy: • Revising the Pell Grant formula so that 90,000 students became ineligible and another 1.3 million saw their aid reduced;

• suspending the prevailing wage bill in New Orleans post Hurricane Katrina;

• CAFTA (‘nuff said);

the Bankruptcy Bill;

• The Real ID Act;

• allowing dogma to trump sound medicine by keeping Plan B emergency contraceptive under the counter;

• and the attempt to modifying ethics rules to support the corrupt.

Hot action on the state level:

• Ohio Republican leadership exposed as a bastion of corruption as appointed cronies direct workers compensation funds into their own pockets;

• Connecticut’s Jodi Rell trying to make campaign finance a reality;

• Colorado going from anti-tax to anti-Grover Norquist;

• Florida’s new Medicaid plan summed up in three words: don’t get sick.

Think tanks on the right were spending their money on lots of fun ideas, from The Heritage Foundation calling for the repeal of the federal minimum wage to the American Enterprise Institute bemoaning the scourge of activist Attorneys General.

From the DMI Injustice Index (we call it “the real state of the nation, by the numbers”)
• President Bush lost 8 pounds in the first seven months of 2005 while hunger has gone up 43% since 1999.
• Seven states reduced Medicaid benefits this year, and 16 plan to do so next year.
• The salary of members of Congress went up 2.5 percent, and the number of Americans living in poverty now tops 37 million. And so on, and so on.

No matter how you slice it, 2005 changed America. The question in 2006 is – will we be able to take advantage of this moment of clarity to create a fairer and more just nation?