Smarter, Better, Leaner, Greener

12 New Year’s Resolutions for the 112th Congress in 2012

If Congress wants to improve its approval ratings and do positive work for our nation, it would do well to consider these 12 resolutions for 2012, writes Sally Steenland.

Many of us start off the new year with resolutions to break bad habits and pick up good ones. Although these lists are usually personal, there’s no reason an institution can’t come up with ways to do better in the coming year. In fact, there’s good reason to do so if, like the 112th Congress, your likeability ratings are hovering in single digits and you’re paralyzed by inaction.

So here are 12 proposed New Year’s resolutions for Congress in 2012.

1. Cut out junk food: Get rid of tax cuts for millionaires. The revenue from just one week of tax cuts for millionaires ($866 million) will more than pay for one year of nutrition assistance for women, infants, and children ($833 million).

2. Make new friends: Pass comprehensive immigration reform. Without a fair commonsense federal immigration law, states including Alabama and Arizona have passed harsh, inhumane laws that cast suspicion on neighbors, weaken the state’s economy, and spur homegrown talent to move away.

3. Get in shape: Strengthen our roads and bridges through smart infrastructure investments.The National Infrastructure Bank, part of President Barack Obama’s Rebuild America Jobs Act, will provide much-needed repairs to our nation’s dilapidated bridges, roads, rail systems, and transit networks.

4. Waste less: Streamline the U.S. military by cutting unnecessary costs, changing spending priorities, and achieving efficiencies through new technologies.

5. Learn new things: Support educational reform and retraining programs for workers by reforming the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, supporting Pell Grants, and job training.

6. Spend more time with family: Pass federal legislation supporting paid sick days and paid family leave. Workers should not have to choose between taking care of a sick child and keeping their job. Policies that help men and women balance work and family make them better workers and better parents.

7. Lower stress levels: Stop fighting the Affordable Care Act. The law expands coverage, keeps down costs, protects against abuses by insurance companies, and provides flexibility and choice.

8. Be less judgmental: Repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Americans violates basic principles of fairness, equality, and equal protection under the law. It’s time to get on the right side of history and make it illegal to discriminate against anyone in the workplace and in their personal lives.

9. Rekindle an old flame: Support our troops during their service and when they come home. It takes more than waving flags to show the love for our servicemen and women. They need jobs, health care, housing, and educational opportunities when they return home.

10. Don’t be selfish: Support nutrition assistance programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and unemployment benefits. Many American families are struggling in today’s economy. Protecting them from reckless budget cuts and providing a basic safety net is not only the right thing to do, but helps stimulate the economy.

11. Be greener: Cut dependence on fossil fuels, invest in renewable energy, and tackle climate change in a serious way. It’s time to stop oil addiction and climate-change denial, and grow our economy through a significant investment in green jobs.

12. Be better informed: Stay up-to-speed on current events and stop conflating facts with fantasy. Unfortunately, many of our public debates live in a “fact-free zone” where outlandish claims take on the guise of truth. Think: death panels, birtherism, war on Christmas, and more. It’s impossible to solve the real problems facing our country until make-believe stops masquerading as factual reality.

All our good wishes to Congress for a productive and progressive new year!

Sally Steenland is Director of the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative at American Progress.

The positions of American Progress, and our policy experts, are independent, and the findings and conclusions presented are those of American Progress alone. A full list of supporters is available here. American Progress would like to acknowledge the many generous supporters who make our work possible.


Sally Steenland

Former Director, Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative