I would like to begin by thanking Rick Akin for his discussion of "What Makes a Conservative" in the Steamboat Pilot & Today several weeks ago. I have no intention of defining what makes a "liberal" or a "progressive"; we come in many shades. However, Rick's column did spur me to join this discussion - a discussion that is valuable for our community and one in which I hope many people will participate. Although I am an active member of the Routt County Democratic Party, these comments are solely my own.
For me, the driving force in political decisions should be a phrase we rarely hear today: "For the common good."
I do not believe you find government for the common good by allowing the market total free rein. Corporations and CEOs have one primary job - to make money. Their decisions are based on what is good for their bottom line, not necessarily what is good for America. I believe these decisions must be made within a framework that considers:
- The wages and jobs of low- and middle-income Americans
- Access to healthcare for all Americans
- The air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat
- The global community and our place within it
When we don't consider these consequences, we end up with outsourced jobs, out-of-work Americans, 47 million Americans without healthcare, 37 million Americans living in poverty and the loss of respect of most of the rest of the world.
Government for the common good recognizes the need for social infrastructure.
We already accept that our government has certain essential responsibilities: education, security, law enforcement, food safety and so on. We must add basic healthcare for all Americans to this list. It is unacceptable, for example, that we rank 41st among all nations in infant mortality. We must also find a solution to the poverty within our borders. In a nation of unprecedented wealth, millions of Americans work every day for less than a living wage. What's more, our fabled middle class, the protector of our American values and the backbone of our economy, is shrinking. It is time for government policies to focus on the quality of life for all.
We also must focus on the health of our planet. Every decision must take into account its effect on the air, water and climate of the entire world. We live on a small and increasingly polluted planet. We must work with the global community toward climate solutions.
Government for the common good requires that we see ourselves as a partner in the world community. Democracy cannot be imposed. It can, however, flourish. We can help it flourish by learning the languages, customs and traditions of the people we seek to help. We can help it flourish by working with our allies to bring peace to the troubled regions of the world.
Government for the common good does not require "big" government. In fact, overgrown bureaucracies only get in the way of the job at hand (witness the responses to Hurricane Katrina and the situation at Walter Reed). I am convinced that with the right leadership, government can be lean and nimble. I do not accept that government must, by nature, be bloated.
It is time for change in America. Time to focus on improving the health and welfare of all Americans. Time to be innovative and aggressive in our search for climate solutions. Time to lead the global community toward peaceful and sustainable living. Time for government for the common good.