*This post is taken from the ACS publication: What's the Big Idea? Recommendations for Improving Law and Policy in the Next Administration
Eight years ago, the United States was facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Wall Street firms had gambled away the hard-earned savings of hard-working Americans and sent the stock market into a tailspin. Ordinary folks who were conned into purchasing homes they could not afford saw their homeownership dreams slip away. College graduates ready to enter the workforce were stranded with mountains of debt and no meaningful job prospects.
There is no question that the Obama Administration had its work cut out for it. And it took some big ideas to make real change. A record stimulus pumped money—and jobs—into an imploding economy. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act helped reel in some of the shadiest Wall Street practices and created a new consumer watchdog, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The Affordable Care Act expanded health insurance coverage to over 11 million Americans.
The country stepped back from the brink, but the problems were bigger and more systemic — and the continued attachment to the ideas born of trickle-down economics cramped our response and prevented full recovery.
Now, as the country continues to wrestle with pressing questions that will define this generation and the next, the need for big ideas is clearer than ever. The next administration must confront a tangle of interwoven problems. How will we address the growing income and wealth gap between the top 1% and everybody else? How will we rethink and rebuild a broken criminal justice system that disproportionately locks up and disenfranchises black and brown Americans? How will we ensure that the water our kids drink and the air they breathe are clean and safe? How will we expand and defend gender equity and LGBTQ rights? How will we ensure that non-citizens are treated fairly and humanely? How will we make our government work to advance the interests of all Americans, not just those with the deepest pockets and the highest-paid lobbyists?