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Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Liberal influence in government

My friend Suzanne was excited about this WaPo article because it's relevant to the division of the Census Bureau where she works. It's also a very good example of why it's so important to have a person like Obama as president. Even if you're mad at him for not doing everything he promised, he puts people like Rebecca Blank into positions of authority and that really matters. She's been advocating for a redefinition of poverty for over a decade. So her presence at the top of the food chain (so to speak) has tremendous policy implications. Just like Reagan's and Bush's appointments to the Department of the Interior and the Department of Energy (respectively) had long-term ramifications for clean air, alternative fuel development and so on.

Consider some of these outcomes:

The Obama administration's marijuana policy is considerably more relaxed than Bush's, no surprise. Liz Cheney has raised quite a ruckus about attorneys in the Justice Department who previously worked at Human Rights Watch - you can bet the previous administration wasn't using attorneys with that kind of background. The EPA under Obama is taking a different approach to climate change and appointments include well-respected climate scientists. Arne Duncan's educational reform efforts, called Race to the Top, is considered creative and promising. The list goes on and on.

I would argue that the president's appointments are much more significant than his legislative initiatives. As it should be - Congress is the legislative branch; the president is the administrative branch. Unfortuately, the implications of a particular person's philosophy is so rarely the focus of political campaigns, even though that is what has the greatest impact on our government and our everyday lives.



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