I believe that the separation of church and state is sacrosanct, and our government cannot tell one how to worship. But I believe that separation cuts both ways, and one’s religious beliefs should never impinge upon the rights of another. I believe the church has its place, but that place is not in the statehouse and not in the schoolhouse.
I believe the government has no place in our bodies. I believe the decision to end a pregnancy is a decision that few women take lightly. I believe that when that decision looms, options and alternatives should be offered and explored, but ultimately it is a decision between a woman, her doctor, and her God. I believe if that woman chooses abortion, it should be legal and safe, and both she and her doctor should be without fear of harm from those who believe differently.
I believe the government has no place in our bedroom. I believe that if two people are adults and are both capable of making adult decisions, then they should be allowed to marry, regardless of their shared gender. I do not believe a church should be forced to marry anyone, but I believe that the couple should have the same rights and protections in the eyes of the state: the right to file their taxes as a couple, to raise a family, to cover their partner with health insurance, to sit by their loved one’s bedside in sickness, or to inherit their estate in death. If I were to die today, my wife would receive social security benefits. I have many friends and family who are in a loving, committed relationship, who would receive nothing if they lost their partner.
I believe that sometimes people need a safety net. I’ve benefited from that safety net many times in the past. I grew up eating meals bought with food stamps and attended college assisted by Pell Grants and Federally subsidized student loans. I purchased my home because a Federal program guaranteed my mortgage, and I nourished my oldest daughter with formula paid for by the Federal WIC program. My parents were saved by Social Security and Federally required insurances when accidents and sickness took one father way too early and rendered two others unable to work. I consider myself reasonably successful, but nothing I have accomplished could have been done without help from the government. I believe that if many of my right-leaning friends were to think about it, they would realize the same.
I believe that one of the government’s main functions is to keep people from slipping through the cracks that so often open in society. To help those who start with two strikes against them get that leg up so they can contribute further down the road. I know there are those who insist those in need should simply pull themselves up by their bootstraps; but they never seem to consider those who don’t have any boots. I believe there will always be abusers of the system, but they make up an unfortunate minority. I believe you would no more make drastic cuts to stop that abuse than you would amputate your legs to cure a broken toe.
I believe that access to healthcare is a universal right. I believe it’s a national embarrassment that the richest country in the history of the world has over 40 million people – many of them children – uninsured. I’m not a fan of the Affordable Care Act, mostly because I feel it’s a big fat gift to the insurance companies, but I recognize that it was the compromise plan (something my right-leaning friends continuously fail to recognize), and I believe there is room for improvement. I believe that the problem is more than just providing healthcare, it’s about containing costs, about people taking responsibility for their health, about making sure that we maintain a level of innovation and ingenuity that so often makes our medical care the envy of the world.
I believe our nation is beset by problems that appear nearly insurmountable: poverty, a rapidly aging population, a dearth of jobs, rising oceans and new weather extremes. We have a reliance on an energy source that is quickly disappearing and is most common in a part of the world that is increasingly run by religious zealots who hate us. But I believe that we as a nation have the resources, the intelligence, and the creativity to solve these problems. There was a time when America’s companies would be the greatest source for that innovation, but I believe increased globalism, competition, and a laser-like focus on shareholder return have made many of our companies risk-adverse, and in some cases, have led them to squash new innovation to protect their bottom line. I believe only the government can step into that gap, to provide the resources to let these ideas grow. It’s not about picking winners and losers, it’s not even about politics, it’s about investing in our future. It’s about spending a few dollars now so that when that new energy source is identified, when that new cure is discovered, the payoff – in jobs, in dollars, in bragging rights – will be here.
And just as we need to invest in our new technologies, I believe we need to invest in those who will be the innovators of the future. Our primary educational system produces averages in science, math, and literacy that significantly lag behind other industrial nations. I believe this is due to a variety of reasons, including some school systems operating in third-world levels of poverty. I believe the way we fund and provide education is uneven and sporadic and often based on the wealth of the community where the school is located. I believe this is a problem larger than individual communities – and even some states – can handle and the government has a role in ensuring that this most important investment is made.
I believe in today’s world, a four year degree is as much a requirement to get a job as a High School degree was twenty years ago; and because of this I believe we need to ensure anyone who wants that degree can get one without taking on debt that could cripple them for a lifetime. Much like healthcare, I believe this is a problem that can’t simply be cured with money alone. As demand has risen, the costs for college continue to outpace inflation, rising by nearly 500% in the past 25 years, and the total student loan debt is currently over one trillion dollars. I believe we must find a way to keep those college costs down, and make sure there are alternatives available for those who chose another path.
I believe that all of these things have a very significant price tag, but one that would have a greater cost if we chose not to pay. I believe that an infatuation with tax cuts has hamstrung this country and has led to deficits almost too large to imagine. I believe the statistics show that money does not trickle down and the only people benefiting from that philosophy are the wealthy. I believe had we kept the tax rates set in place during the Clinton years, our national debt would be much lower and the recession would not have hit so hard. I believe it’s not a question of fairness, there is nothing remotely ‘fair’ about a progressive tax rate, but it is a question about who can afford it. If I have 3000 apples and my neighbor only has ten, it ultimately hurts me much less to contribute more apples. If he gives one and I give 500, I still have 2491 more apples than my neighbor, more than enough to make cobbler and feed my racehorses. I do not believe that my neighbor worked any less hard to earn his 10 apples, nor do I believe that giving extra will cause me to stop working as hard as I did to earn my 3000. I believe there are a lot of people who disagree with me, and who know more about economics…or at least they believe they do, because I also believe that no one really understands how economies truly work. Even though we don’t agree, I believe that we need these voices and ideas to make a tax code that allows growth and pays for these things, all while balancing the books.
I believe that this country was built on compromise. I believe that any student of history should know that what has made this great experiment work was very smart men willing to bend their principles towards the greater good. I believe that in order to continue to grow and meet the challenges before us, we need ideas from all parties. I believed that when Republicans took over the House in 2010, that it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, movement requires friction and it was a Republican Congress, along with Bill Clinton, who presided over one of the greatest times of economic growth in our history.
I believe now that I was hopelessly naïve. I believe that the party of Lincoln and Eisenhower and Reagan has been hijacked by individuals who have become more intolerant of those who are different, who are more interested in honoring pledges made to Grover Norquist than they are in upholding their oath to the American people, and who have declared a jihad on the more moderate voices of their own party. I believe that this Republican Congress was the most obstructive in history and that the small gains we’ve made were done in spite of them. I believe that to reward such behavior will lead only to more partisanship and more gridlock because there are those who will think it worked and will do it again and again. I believe that by not giving in, we send a message that such behavior will not be tolerated and “compromise” is not a bad word.
Ultimately, I believe in the power of people working together to create a greater good. I believe that the federal government is the only entity that can harness this power towards solving issues too great for individual states to handle. I believe that we as a country are better than the gridlock and name-calling of the past four years, and that we can find common ground if both sides are willing to look for it. I believe in hope. And I believe, still, in the Democratic party and Barack Obama.