On this day consumed by all those warm and fuzzy feelings, we thought it would be sweet to acknowledge some of the recent actions, policies, and initiatives that caused our progressive hearts to race, uplifted our spirits, brightened our outlook, strengthened our hope for the future, and made life better in America—basically, the things that have made us feel all warm and fuzzy.
Here is our “feeling the love” top 10 list:
In January two new regulations were proposed: one will require disclosure to employers of all 401(k)-related payments they receive; the second will require that employees with 401(k) accounts receive notice of all fees they pay for investment management and other services. This major shift on how the 401(k) industry does business means that millions of Americans will finally know how much they pay in 401(k)-related fees.
In December the Environmental Protection Agency issued long-awaited national standards requiring coal-fired power plants to reduce mercury and other toxic pollutants. These plants are the largest remaining producers of uncontrolled toxic pollutants in the United States. House Republicans are hard at work seeking ways to block or delay the new greenhouse gas rules—rules that will go a long way in combating climate change and will help us all breathe easier and cleaner.
The new rule announced January 28 by HUD prohibits owners and operators of HUD-assisted and insured housing from asking applicants their sexual orientation or gender identity; expands the definition of “family” to include gay and transgender families; and prohibits discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people applying for a HUD- or Federal Housing Administration-insured mortgage. The new rule brings us all a step closer to an America where equality is a reality and not just a promise.
Late last year the Obama administration announced the proposed launch of BusinessUSA.gov, a one-stop online shop for all things small business. Slated to launch this month, the site will use technology to quickly connect small businesses to the services and information needed to help them achieve success, which in turn will spark new hiring.
Thanks to President Barack Obama’s recess appointment of Richard Cordray as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—the centerpiece of the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill—the agency is ready to begin regulating mortgage firms, credit card companies, payday lenders, student loan providers, and other financial firms. CFPB will give consumers more information on confusing bank fees and noninterest charges, and will ensure consumers get a fair shake when dealing with powerful banks and financial firms.
In December the White House provided new guidance to assist schools and colleges to ensure diversity through race-based enrollment without violating equal protection laws guaranteed by the 14th Amendment. By granting school administrators wider latitude to encourage multiculturalism, the Obama administration makes the case that it is in our nation’s best long-term interest to make diversity a part of America’s competitive edge.
In its first year the Affordable Health Care act saved more than $2.1 billion in the cost of prescription drugs for more than 3.6 million Americans, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced earlier this month. The average person with Medicare will save almost $4,200 by 2021 because of the new health reform law.
Last month President Obama rejected a proposal to begin construction on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry dirty oil sands from Canada across six U.S. states to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast for refining and export to other countries. Congress did not give the president time to evaluate the air and water pollution from the pipeline, particularly since the pipeline route has yet to be finalized, so his action may well have prevented a likely environmental catastrophe.
On December 23, following weeks of rancor, Congress passed the extension of the payroll tax cuts and unemployment benefits. The two-month extension, which expires on February 29, preserved an average $1,000 payroll tax cut for the middle class and prevented the immediate loss of jobless benefits for some 3.3 million displaced workers. The payroll tax cut will put an average of $40 per paycheck back into the hands of middle-class Americans, and a continuation of federally financed benefits for the long-term unemployed will prevent more than 5 million out-of-work Americans from losing a critical lifeline as they continue to search for new job opportunities in 2012.
In late December the last U.S. soldiers rolled out of Iraq, marking the end of a nearly nine-year war that bitterly divided the country and cost us dearly. While President Obama continues the process of getting America’s priorities straight on national security, his administration must stay focused on lingering concerns in Iraq and the region. Ending the war will allow us to move into the next phase of our relationship with Iraq, while freeing up the resources to properly rebalance American security.
Happy Valentine’s Day!