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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, May 19, 2024

The Policy Perspective: Reasons to hope

We are slowly passing public policies that will change America and people’s lives for the better.

The Policy Perspective Column Graphic
Graphic by Charlene Tsai

I’ve spent the last year writing columns about how U.S. public policy can be improved. From housing to public transportation to education to climate change, there are many areas where we can do better. For my last edition of this column, however, I wanted to write about beneficial public policies that have been passed and that are often missed or ignored in a media consumption environment with a strong negativity bias.

First, we have the Inflation Reduction Act, passed in 2022, which was projected to cut carbon emissions significantly. It is already leading to skyrocketing investments in clean energy and contributing to an electric vehicle manufacturing boom. The measure also contained provisions to cap the cost of insulin for seniors at $35 and as of August 2023 remained broadly popular with the public, with 65% of Americans strongly supporting its policies. Congress also passed the bipartisan Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors and Science Act of 2022, which has bolstered American manufacturing of semiconductors and high-tech manufacturing. And Congress passed many other pieces of impactful legislation in 2022: It reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act, which contained a variety of initiatives to crack down on domestic abuse and sexual violence. The act also ended forced arbitration in cases of sexual harassment or assault, which had previously allowed companies to deal with these cases behind closed doors.

We’ve also seen progress on issues for which passing any policy at the federal level has long seemed impossible due to partisan gridlock. After years of legislation aiming to address the gun violence epidemic in America failing to pass, Congress finally passed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act in 2022. The first major federal gun safety bill in two decades, it tightened background checks for those under 21 and increased funding for red flag laws, which allow court petitions to remove firearms from individuals who have displayed unstable behavior. The measure also cracked down on illegal purchases of guns and more. Congress also passed a bipartisan infrastructure law, after years of one failing to pass. Formally known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the bill included money for investments in transportation, energy, water, broadband and environmental programs and has added thousands of new jobs since its passing. In perhaps the ultimate endorsement of the bill, its success in funding projects across the country has ironically led politicians who voted against the bill to celebrate its effect.

Finally, we’ve seen policy slowly move toward correcting historical injustices at both the federal and state levels. In 2021, Congress passed the Emmett Till Antilynching Act, which made lynching a federal hate crime after hundreds of previous attempts. Congress also passed the Respect for Marriage Act, which formally repealed the homophobic Defense of Marriage Act,  and codified same-sex marriage. Meanwhile, many cities across America are reckoning with the issue of racism in policing, and though one can disagree with their policy solutions, this acknowledgment of a problem that has been ignored for far too long is an important step forward. In New Jersey, Gov. Murphy and his attorney general have spent the past few years filing lawsuits against groups and townships that have long used zoning ordinances to exclude and discriminate against Orthodox Jews. In Illinois, the state legislature has made history by mandating Asian American history be taught in public school curriculums, a step that could offer a national model of how to combat stereotypes of Asians through public education.  

Let’s be clear: There’s a lot of policy that many would consider harmful being passed across the nation. However, even as we advocate for the policy changes and improvements we believe in, let us take a moment to celebrate the largely bipartisan policies being passed that are tangibly improving people’s lives.