Friday, October 26, 2012

A Common Creed

Another time for nose holding is nearly upon us, another time when "none of the above" would win more than a few elections in America if such a ballot option existed. Twice before such widespread alienation and dissatisfaction brought about a major resculpting of the political landscape, and both times Wisconsin was on center stage in these dramas.

Yesterday's post focused on how a repeat performance might symbolically manifest itself. Today's turns to possible substantive manifestations. The following thoughts are offered as a reminder of what is missing in politics and a plea to search for a better way and imagine what is possible.

We are commoners.

We believe the biggest problem facing Wisconsin and all of America today is a political system that caters to a few at the expense of the many. At the root of this problem is political corruption – a pervasive, systemic corruption that plagues us with “leaders” who are not free to lead and leaves our country paralyzed when it comes to dealing with the most challenging issues of our time.

We believe the way politicians seek public office in this day and age – with advertising that is routinely misleading and often downright untruthful – is immoral and destructive to civic life. Power sought through dishonest means cannot possibly lead to just and honest policymaking or clean and open government.

We believe in a free market, not a market manipulated to favor the most politically privileged participants in our economy.

We believe in all-for-one economics – policies ensuring that the fruits of a vibrant economy benefit the whole of society. We are equally committed to rural revitalization and urban renewal. Instead of subsidizing global conglomerates, efforts to stimulate the economy should emphasize community-based small enterprise development, empower local entrepreneurs and cooperatives, and enable us to once again grow together rather than growing apart. We believe supply-side economic theory has it wrong. Demand, not supply, is the primary driver of economic growth. Trickle-down policies have been a miserable failure, never producing more than a trickle for the masses and producing grotesque economic inequality and the slow but steady extermination of the middle class.

We believe government is necessary to a civil and just society and prosperous economy. But we insist on a limited government – one that is as small as possible and only as big as required to do what society needs done collectively. Government programs that work should be supported and ones that do not should be reformed or ended. Most importantly, what government does must serve the broad public interest and promote the common good, not just benefit those who lavishly fund election campaigns or have high-priced lobbyists advocating on their behalf.

We believe in living within our means and paying for what we get today instead of mortgaging the future and saddling generations to come with our debts.

We believe in one-for-all taxation. We see no need for new taxes, but insist that everyone pay the ones we already have. There should be one tax system that applies equally and fairly to all, not two as is effectively the case today – one for the wealthy and well-connected enabling them to avoid paying their fair share and another for the rest of us without the tax shelters and escape hatches.

We believe we are all in the same boat and will sink or sail together. We believe in waging war on poverty, not poor people. We believe it is everyone’s right to pursue material gain and accumulate wealth, but vigorously object to its use to buy government favors or special treatment.

We believe in aspiring to intelligence, not belittling it. Becoming well educated and learning to think critically should be valued and expected, not feared or obstructed. Education is our best hope for building a better and more prosperous future, and our best weapon against economic and social decline.

We believe in science. And we believe we all have a duty to respect nature and take care of the air, water and land. Environmental protection is not the enemy of economic development. A healthy economy and healthy planet must go hand in hand. We believe there are three bottom lines in business. A truly productive and successful company is one that is financially profitable, one whose workers and customers are treated justly and well, and one that is a responsible steward of natural resources.

We believe in the free exercise of religion. In the interest of safeguarding this freedom, we believe in the separation of church and state, as state intrusion into religious practice intolerably threatens the freedom to worship while church influence over governing poses a grave and unacceptable danger to democracy.

We believe in the right of privacy and placing trust in individuals to make their own life choices and in families to serve as the moral backbone of our society. The limited government we insist on should not only be restrained in matters of the economy, it should be unintrusive with respect to our personal lives, morality and sexuality.

We believe in standing for and working to guarantee the basic human rights of all people regardless of race, gender, class, physical condition or sexual orientation, including all those enumerated in the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights approved by the United States of America and ratified by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.

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