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Why I am a Democrat

      A major difference between democrats and republicans is the role of government in supporting our families and institutions. Here is a summary of beliefs most democrats share:

Opportunity

    • Education
      • Public education is of fundamental importance to our economic health. Education must be fully funded, class sizes manageable, student expectations high, and control should be local with high parental involvement. 
      • Public education must remain universal and free, this levels the playing field and gives each person the chance to develop to their full potential. Without this the private market becomes unfair, the talents and skills of many are wasted, and our economic growth will suffer.
      • Public education cannot be privatized, the profit motive works well for producing and selling goods where the payment and benefit is immediate. But it does not work for a long term public good like education whose individual benefits are not realized for many years. We must never create an education system where  a child's education is limited to what their parents can afford.
      • Parents should receive real tax breaks helping them to save for their children's college.
      • Retraining should be available and affordable when economic markets shift.
    • Economic Growth and Jobs
      • Investing in people is just as important as investing in equipment. Tax credits aimed and increasing growth must focus on Human Capital as much as on Physical Capital.
      • Wages should be fair and allow a family to live outside of poverty. The minimum wage and earned income tax credit must be maintained and strengthened.
      • Trade between countries should be free with minimal protection or tariffs as long as the rules of fair trade are followed. Fair trade involves setting minimal environmental, labor, and safety standards that all countries must adhere to while allowing them to maintain existing competitive advantages. Economic advantage should be based on economic factors not political restrictions.
      • Trade unions must be allowed to operate freely in all countries, establishing a level playing field between business and labor. Free trade does not exist where labor unions are not allowed to operate, or are excessively restricted. 
      • Markets must be regulated sufficiently to maintain their competitive nature and avoid monopolistic practices or fraud.
    • Discrimination
      • Discrimination cannot be tolerated in a free society. Affirmative action programs that promote diversity without quotas should be maintained. You cannot just abandon these efforts and assume that the problem will go away, this only steals opportunity away and diminishes us all.

    Help Provide Basic Needs 

    • Health Care
      • Work on reducing cost escalation and increasing access to our health care system. Universal access to insurance should be the goal. Its the goal that is important, not how it is achieved, all regulatory and market oriented options should be considered.
    • Housing
      • Work on public private partnerships to lower the cost of housing, particularly in areas where people spend the greatest percentage of their income on housing costs. Enforce existing anti-discrimination laws.
    • Public Transportation
      • Where viable public transportation systems should be developed to limit congestion, pollution, and help lower overall transportation costs.
    • Retirement
      • Protect the existing Social Security and Medicare trust funds. Avoid excessive federal deficits which led to excessive borrowing from these funds. Make the contribution less regressive. Adjust benefits/taxes to assure long term viability.
      • Strengthen private saving incentives.
      • Protect and more effectively regulate existing pension funds. 
    • Poverty/Hunger
      • Government programs must work in cooperation with private efforts to relieve poverty and hunger, neither can do the job alone. Private efforts lack sufficient funding and reach, public efforts are standardized but more rigid and inflexible. 
      • Food stamps must be strengthened to provide an adequate diet for a family. Welfare reform must allow recipients to get the kind of education they need to permanently leave poverty. 
    • Disabilities
      • Viable efforts must be made to allow people with disabilities the same opportunities to develop to their potential as the rest of us.

    Taxes

    • Fairness
      • Tax breaks must be focused on business that invest in their communities and on the middle class working to save for college and retirement. It should never be a give away to the wealthy or big business. Economic growth does not occur from the top-down by the wealthy who are already making their contribution (diminished returns). It occurs when the investment is made in the middle.
      • Overall Taxes should be progressive with three tax rates (poor, middle, wealthy). The rich should pay a higher percentage because it takes a smaller percentage of their income to meet their basic needs, they thus feel the tax byte less).
      • There is no free lunch, government services must be paid for. Government must be accountable and citizens must be involved in the oversight of that spending (open books). But conservatives who complain that government spends wastefully or too much just to make a political point without any details of where the waste is and how much spending can be cut should not be taken seriously. 
    • Stability and Balance
      • States should balance their budgets but create a rainy day fund to provide stability during economic recessions.
      • The federal government cannot maintain long term deficits in order to finance tax cuts geared to the wealthy.

    Security

    • National Defense
    • The primary goal of our national defense is to maintain the security of American's both and home and abroad. Military spending must be monitored closely and should not exceed what we need for an effective deterrent.
    • Terrorism must be fought on multiple fronts. The terrorist must be hunted down and stopped, but any legitimate grievance or injustice (if any) that is  used (mistakenly) as an excuse must be addressed as well. The fight against terrorism must remain focused on terrorist organizations, the focus should not be blurred by shifting attention to other areas (Iraq).
    • We must work with our allies to maintain security arrangements and decide when collective action is needed. Collective action should be considered when one nation threatens another (1st Gulf War) or when extreme human rights violations are being perpetrated (Bosnia, Rwanda, Cambodia). We should not take a go it alone approach.
    • We must continue to work within the UN structure and strengthen and reform its programs. We must stop isolating and weakening the UN in yet another go it alone approach. 
    • Crime/Fire
    • An adequately funded and professional police and fire fighting force are vital to a secure society. The community should be actively involved with police activities, functions and monitoring. Professional standards, community involvement, continual training and awareness programs will create effective organizations.
    • Criminal justice should not be based on one size fits all mandatory sentencing guidelines. Property crimes should allow for more restitution based outcomes. Victim rights must be standardized and parole processes should be open, monitored and accountable. Rehabilitation efforts should be standardized, available and monitored, with repeat offenses punished harshly. 
    • Environmental and Consumer Safety
    • Air, water, and soil quality standards must be maintained, enforced and strengthen where needed. The same for Consumer safety standards for food, drugs, etc. Regulation of industry must cooperate with industry but should not be conducted by industry insiders or ideologue philosophically opposed to regulation.
    • Democracy
    • Voting must be actively encouraged and made as easy and accurate as possible. Campaign finance standards must be open, monitored and set with the goal that elections are won more by ideas and issues than drowning out an opponent with paid messages.
    • A democracy limits the power of government by establishing basic rights and freedoms that belong to the individual. Freedoms of speech, assembly, press, and religion must be maintained. We cannot sacrifice our freedoms on the alter of fear and insecurity.
    • Internationally, democracy and self determination of people and ethnic groups must be a main goal of our foreign policy. This will reduce conflicts and produce a more peaceful and prosperous international community. We cannot force our life style but we must encourage a free and open process. Foreign aid should be focused on reducing poverty not financing trade or arms sales.

    Comments

    An answer to the question "Why am I a Democrat?" is something I have felt at a gut level, more like an instinct than a reasoned list of positions on the issues.  This list does a good job of articulating those positions. 

    Now we need to boil this down to the 30-second-sound-bite version for dissemination to the masses.  I am willing to bet that most people, even some who call themselves Republicans, would agree with most of lese points.