Which brings us to the other end of the continuum. Here you, too, engage the debate as a passionate representative of the Progressive cause. You forward a strong case, based in the Constitution of the United States, for a government that serves the "public good," not just the freedom of the individual. You defend fair and progressive taxation as necessary to that end because without revenues our government simply cannot do what a decent society expects to have done: education of its young, care of its elderly, promotion of enterprise, defense against invasion. You should remind your listener the government is not a faceless monolith; it is made up of ordinary citizens who get up each and every day and work for the public good. From teachers and firefighters to police and safety inspectors. From every member of our Armed Forces to every member of those agencies that pay our Medicare and Medicaid bills on time, that deliver our 58.1 million social security checks on time and that prevent another 9/11.
A good government is all about promoting the public good and all about staying out of the private lives and decisions of its citizens. It's really that simple.
Simple or not, at this point your listener will no longer be listening. He or she will be convinced that you are an enemy of the State. One of the hated "liberal elites." Probably the next charge against you and your ilk will be something like this: "You probably think social justice is a good idea and that we should all be favor of redistributing the wealth!"
I don't know about you, but my answer to this one is simple: Yes, I do. And no I'm not.
Social justice is at the heart of the Progressive cause. We believe in equal rights, equal opportunity and a fair share of the wealth of this affluent nation. We believe in an economic safety net. We believe in regulations that keep us safe and help us recover. We believe there is no such thing as an "illegal person." And we believe that anyone in this great land of ours should be free to love and to marry whomever they want to and, if they are equally qualified, to serve in the military or stand before a classroom and teach. We believe that "the public good" is not limited to the few, but must embrace the many. We are democrats; we love the beautiful idea of America and the full sense of democracy.
And how about that claim that we want a "redistribution of wealth?" Well, the truth is that I do not believe that 95% of the wealth of this nation should be controlled by the wealthiest 5% of its citizens. I believe that the times of our nation's greatest prosperity were the times of a healthy middle class and figures don't lie. Today we no longer have much of a middle class, much less the promised prosperity associated with it. Instead, what we have learned is that a true redistribution of wealth migrated from the middle class to the top 5% during the past 30 years. And I believe we ought to address that shift in ways that promote the public welfare, not that simply protect the inherited welfare of the rich.
We believe that inherited wealth should be taxed. It should be taxed because it was generated not from so-called "already taxed income," but from profits made from investments that were largely untaxed.
Finally, Progressives believe that we must learn from past mistakes. Never again should we commit troops to an invasion of a sovereign nation without real and abiding evidence of a clear and present danger to our defense. Never again should we allow government to be so downsized and so deregulated as to cause the death of great American cities or the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico or the continuing saga of dangerous and discriminatory workplaces, whether in the coalmines of West Virginia or the crop fields of California or the corporate offices throughout the land.
So, back to my initial question: When should we speak? While the right answer depends on where you want to be on that continuum of possible responses, it is never okay anymore to remain silent. Never.Now is the time for us to speak up. Everything we love--country, family, friends, work--is at stake.
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