Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Am I a Liberal

Am I a liberal?

Someone recently suggested that I was “a raging liberal.” It made me wonder if I actually qualify. So…

Abortion: Most Democrats consider me to be pro-life because I’m not convinced that abortion on demand is a woman’s right. The Evangelical Right preaches that the Bible clearly teaches that life (meaning our humanity) begins at conception. I won’t get into the theology here, but I disagree with them. My disagreement is based on my understanding of specific portions of the Bible. And in a discussion of the issue, we’d be discussing the meaning of Bible passages that we both consider inspired and inerrant. Does that make me a liberal? I haven’t formulated a law or policy. But I think the positions of both the Religious Right and the pro-abortion lobby are too absolute, too extreme.

Gay Marriage: I believe in the separation of church and state. I believe marriage is a religious institution. Gay couples can already live in the same house and think of themselves as partners in any state. With the help of a lawyer they can bequeath their possessions to each other – it’s just not automatic, like it would be if they were legally married. I’m not sure why government should be involved in licensing marriage at all. Leave it to churches.

Gun Control: I have several guns in my house. I even shoot them occasionally. It’s clear that the Constitution grants citizens the right to bear arms. I’m not sure the Founding Fathers meant for that to include the personal ownership of a bazooka , a sawed off shotgun, or an Uzi.

Immigration: I don’t really have a position. I understand that most undocumented immigrants are something like economic refugees. I understand that they broke US law by crossing the border, but I don’t think that THAT alone makes them criminals in the same since that bank robbers and burglars are criminals. I understand the argument that they contribute to the economy. I understand the argument that they take jobs from citizens. I’m not sure how I’d balance those arguments.

Taxation: I think of taxes (and other forms of government revenue) on a scale with two ends – one progressive, the other regressive. Everyone (or at least the vast majority of adults) should contribute to the cost of government. A progressive tax is one that solicits a larger share of revenue from those most able to pay. A regressive tax is one that raises revenue from those who are less able to pay. Flat rates and sales taxes are generally regressive. I prefer progressive forms of taxation. But there is always room to simplify the paperwork and record keeping involved in any tax system.

Fiscal Responsibility: Like most Americans, I think it would be marvelous if the government could live within its means. Of course, it hasn’t been able to do that for decades. Efficiency and cost cutting have to be a focus of any government.

Health Care: We are the most prosperous society on Earth. And yet tens of millions of our citizens are reduced to going without basic preventative and family medical services because the lack medical insurance. The system currently in place means that those individuals show up at emergency rooms, run up a much bigger bill than could have been if they got regular medical care, and leave the rest of us to pay their bill. Those of us who do pay for insurance can have that insurance cancelled if we become “too much of a risk.” The cost of actual care keeps rising, but there are caps how much an insurance company is required to pay. Often, a profound illness (like cancer) can leave us bankrupt despite the fact that we pay for health insurance. Our health insurance can be in jeopardy of we change jobs, or if we go a period of time without a job. And then some of us can’t get coverage regardless of our ability to pay because we have “a pre-existing condition.” Healthcare reform is a matter of social justice, of making America a fairer society, of basic human rights. But more practically, it’s an economic issue that will shape our future as a country. We have a vested interest in health care because a healthy population is more productive. And health insurance reform (including some form of a public option) is in itself a matter of fiscal responsibility. It is fiscally irresponsible NOT to reform health insurance.

Energy & the Environment: I like animals and fresh veggies. I’m not sure I expect Norfolk to be flooded by melting ice caps in the next few decades; but I’m also not sure I don’t. If we can make cheaper energy, I’m in favor of that. If we can make cleaner energy, I’m in favor of that. Lower emissions and higher gas mileage sound like good things, to me.

So, am I a liberal?