Saturday, October 24, 2015

I'm Proud to be a Liberal

As we move rapidly toward another crucial election cycle I wanted to reflect and share why I’m a proud liberal. There are many attempts to intentionally misrepresent what liberal means and I reject such dishonest attacks upon the liberal community by people working to mischaracterize me. I do believe that the generosity of most Americans during national disasters and tragedies is clearly indicative of a strong, resilient and caring liberal America.

As a liberal I want every American to reach their potential. Every American should have the opportunity to be well-educated, self-reliant and productive – to lead a satisfying life. I also understand that the greatness of any society isn’t derived from any single individual. The Apollo program didn’t begin and end with Neil Armstrong. It was about all of us working together as Americans to make a lunar landing possible. Together Americans have accomplished great things –and together –we can again.

I often hear a great deal about “Big Government”. I do not want “big government”. I don’t want “small government”. I want government that is efficient, transparent and accountable to all of us –not just the obscenely wealthy. And I most certainly don’t want a government that is so big –it insinuates itself into a very personal and difficult decision between a woman and her doctor.

I am not anti-wealth. However I make an important distinction between those that have gained wealth through innovation, risk and monumental effort (creating companies and sometimes entire industries) and those that simply want to take wealth through loopholes, rigging the economic system and not creating anything other than a weaker America.

I want retirement security for our elders. No one living on fixed income should ever have to choose between medicine and food.

I’m grateful for the Affordable Care Act –it has given millions of Americans access to health insurance. Nevertheless I want high-quality universal healthcare for all Americans. Healthcare that transforms the system from expensive, emergency and reactive medicine to proactive, preventative management as a key to controlling skyrocketing costs. And I want to reform the pharmaceutical industry or “Big Pharma” to control healthcare costs. No one should have to go bankrupt in order to pay for the care of a loved one suffering from a catastrophic medical condition such as cancer or ALS.

I want sustainable economic growth that creates opportunity and fairly rewards workers and management for their hard work. No worker should have to subsist on taxpayer funded social welfare while executives are shopping for another summer home. And I believe a woman performing the same work as a man should not earn less than her male counterparts.

I believe that “Trickle Down economics” is not economics –it is a massive fraud perpetrated by the obscenely wealthy on the working class and poor. The American economic engine is the middle class. When the majority of American working families are thriving –the American economy grows –and America becomes stronger. When wealth is just concentrated at the top –and a few crumbs drop down –that is not greatness –it leads to a climate of fear, anxiety and uncertainty for most Americans.

I want a system of law enforcement and justice that works for every American. No mother or father should have to worry when their child leaves the house to go to work, school or anywhere and is targeted because of the color of their skin. We cannot be a nation of racism rooted in ignorance and blind hatred.

I believe in well-funded infrastructure –our bridges, highways and mass transit systems. Infrastructure represents the lifeblood of commerce –it’s how we move things from manufacturers to store shelves. It should be safe, reliable, fast and efficient.

I believe in the beauty of America –our coastline, mountains, valleys and forests. I believe in our system of State and National parks and monuments –so we can protect pristine beauty for future generations of Americans.

I believe in an America that takes responsibility for its mistakes and injustices of the past –an America that learns from them and strives toward justice –in foreign and domestic policy.

No election should be bought and paid for by a mega-corporation, a small group of obscenely wealthy individuals, a foreign government or a mysterious organization with a group of people hiding behind its legal structure. We need to massively restructure campaign finance law so every voter knows who is funding each candidate, issue or ballot initiative with strict limits on contributions.

I am fortunate to live in Oregon. We have a legislature that protects and expands voter rights. In other legislatures across the country there is clearly a fear of democracy –where they have disenfranchised voters, closed offices where people could obtain necessary documentation made mandatory to vote (disproportionately affecting people of color, the elderly and working poor) and have gerrymandered districts to maintain control regardless of the majority will of the people.

Education is the foundation for a strong, competitive America. I want the best public education system in the world so future generations of Americans will be prepared to handle unprecedented environmental, energy, security and geo-political challenges offered by a rapidly changing world. We need well-paid teachers, small classroom sizes and the resources to not only educate however to create a life-long commitment to learning in every citizen. I believe in an America that invests in more schools –not more prisons.

College and University must be affordable. If we saddle each new generation with growing school loan debt –we will not be able to employ our best and brightest in areas of public service –teachers, professors, research scientists, government or non-profit organizations.

I believe in affordable early education and quality childcare for working single parents and families.

We can no longer tear families apart through immigration policies that no longer serve America. We must create a meaningful path to citizenship for people that work hard and are as committed to the American dream as we are. The Statue of Liberty has the quote ““Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” This opportunity has led to our diversity and richness as a society.

We must not infringe upon people’s right to own guns. However –we must have the mechanisms in place as a society to ensure responsible gun ownership. As long as there are guns there will be accidental shootings and violent crimes in which guns are used. While we cannot yet ensure that anyone squeezing a trigger is a responsible gun owner -we must recognize that guns are weapons of death and carnage –as proven every day in America –and we must do all we can to prevent accidents and gun violence regardless of the protests of extreme fundamentalists of the NRA and other fringe domestic groups.

Whether you are a teacher, a plumber, a firefighter, a soldier or a nurse –you should not have to pay more in income taxes on a percentage basis than an investment banker, Wall Street executive or CEO. Similarly if you own a small to mid-size business –a restaurant, a kite shop, a roofing company –you should not be subject to the same taxes, regulations and fees of a large mega-corporation. We must reform our system of taxes and regulation to encourage investment in America –not hording cash offshore. We must not provide economic incentives for mega-corporations to close facilities in America and shift operations elsewhere around the world to avoid paying workers fairly. We must provide the opportunity and resources for our small “mom and pop” businesses to thrive. We must restore “Main Street” America through proper and fair economic incentives.

I believe in a strong, well-funded and well-equipped military –so we don’t have to go to war. I believe in diplomacy and strength as the core of our American character –and view war as an absolute last resort. Liberals prefer to work with the international community as a strong, benevolent partner –instead of a foreign policy best described as “Let them hate us as long as they fear us”. And when we must send our military into harm’s way –we do not invade the wrong country and create complete regional chaos –and we have an exit strategy. And we believe in honoring and helping our veterans adjust back to civilian life.

We must embrace scientific research –and use it to guide our governmental policy and investment. We cannot ignore the reality and impact of climate change. We are fortunate in Lincoln County and as Oregonians to have elected officials that respect science -our best, brightest most educated minds that have warned us about climate change for many years (just as they did when a link was made between smoking and lung cancer). In spite of the massive money invested by the Koch Brothers, Exxon Mobil, Chevron and others to create confusion and delay- we must act boldly and rapidly to protect the only home we have.  I’m very grateful for Oregon legislators like Senator Arnie Roblan, Representative David Gomberg and others that voted to extend the provisions of our Clean Fuels Bill. What is lost in the constant lying about the bill in direct mailings and letters to local papers (probably funded by Big Oil) is that Consumer Reports, a long trusted non-profit research organization, continues to stand behind the passage of the Clean Fuels bill and its provisions because it expands competition for fuel and for the positive environmental impact. We must transition from oil, coal and fracking to solar, wind and other safe, clean and renewable alternatives.

If we truly aspire toward democracy –we must be a well-educated and informed society.  Not only should we be investing in education –we must make real journalism thrive again. As media has consolidated and television, radio and print media have slashed costs in order to create profitability –our access to unfettered information has greatly suffered. Without a well-funded “Fourth Estate” that properly seeks and reports factual information –we get the result we have today –opinions and perspectives funded by the obscenely wealthy telling you who to blame, telling you that fracking is good, labeling GMO’s are bad, immigrants are bad, climate change is a Democratic plot and war is good. From our local newspapers and media –through national news –we must have organizations dedicated to the pursuit of the truth. We need publications that aren’t afraid to call out lies and misinformation whether by a public official, an opinion piece or other form of intentional attempts to mislead the public.

I am proud to be a liberal –because liberals are about empowering individuals to be self-reliant however we also recognize that beyond the individual there is greatness in what we accomplish together. When we work together as a society our young nation creates fairness, justice and opportunity for all.  We become a beacon for what is possible for the rest of the world and America leads by example. 

I am proud to be a liberal.