As we enter the final stretch of the electoral season, what can be learned from the past eight years?-a period in our nation’s history marked by conservative control: Republicans had two terms in the White House and six years controlling the congressional levers of power.
In this time, conservative ideology was put to the test. It failed. Given a tremendous opportunity to govern, Republicans have left our nation in a deep hole.
Take the economy; we are in a recession and our entire financial system is on the verge of collapsing.
Republicans had the opportunity to head off this crisis. They instead ignored the warning signs, failing to prevent the abusive lending practices at the root of the subprime debacle. They prided themselves as deregulators, taking the economic referees off the field when we needed them most.
At the same time, the Bush Administration saddled America with record deficits and debt, setting off a crisis of confidence in our financial system. The combined result of this recklessness has been a financial meltdown and deep economic uncertainty.
What about the economic impact on families? A few months ago, President Bush said, “In the long run, our economy is going to be fine.” We all believe in a bright future for America, but that attitude glosses over the millions of working Americans who are hurting right now. Since President Bush took office, nearly six million more Americans are living in poverty. Last month, America lost 159,000 jobs, bringing us to three quarters of a million jobs lost just this year.
What about energy? How that’s worked out really depends on your perspective. If you’re an oil company executive, their policies have been a tremendous success. Oil companies have made the biggest profits in American history, aided by billion-dollar government subsidies.
But the rest of us are stuck with gas prices that have more than doubled since President Bush took office. Every piece of legislation brought to the House Floor to confront high gas prices has been opposed by Congressional Republicans.
On healthcare, President Bush vetoed the very same Children’s Health Insurance Program expansion he called for when he was running for reelection. Most House Republicans backed him up, and 4 million eligible low income children lost out on health insurance. In all, the number of Americans without health insurance has increased by more than 7 million over the last eight years.
Foreign policy, too, is a story of failed promises. As America began the Iraq War, Donald Rumsfeld predicted, “It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months.” Today, of course, that war has stretched on longer than World War II, costing us 4,168 American lives and some $600 billion while stretching our military to the breaking point. Meanwhile, we’ve lost ground in Afghanistan, and al Qaeda is known to be regrouping along the Afghan/Pakistani border.
Though our recently acquired majority is slim, congressional Democrats have focused on bringing change and a new policy direction. We enacted a 21st-century GI Bill to guarantee college for all of our veterans; raised the minimum wage for the first time in more than a decade; passed the most sweeping ethics reform since Watergate; and implemented the 9/11 Commission recommendations making our homeland safer and more secure.
On energy, we boosted fuel efficiency standards for the first time in more than 30 years, and substantially increased investment in clean, renewable sources of energy.
To confront the recession, Democrats passed a job-creating stimulus package at the beginning of the year and a landmark housing rescue bill this summer. We passed comprehensive lending reform to attack the root of the financial crisis. And when President Bush came to us last month with a flawed economic recovery plan, we improved it significantly by including strict oversight to protect taxpayer money, blocking golden parachutes for CEOs, and helping homeowners renegotiate their mortgages to stabilize home values for everyone.
In the next Congress, congressional Democrats will remain focused on bringing about change and the new direction our country so desperately needs after eight years of misplaced priorities and missed opportunities.