A Readers' Forum contributor challenged liberals to "present cogent arguments and ideas" if we want to persuade people we're right.
I'd like to take him up on that challenge.
I am a liberal because I am a Christian. I believe in the admonition that service done "unto the least of these, my brethren," is service Christ would have us perform. I do what I can to support private charity, but I am also a student of history and know that the best-intentioned private efforts have never succeeded in alleviating human suffering nearly as effectively as government does routinely. I hear conservatives talk of serving "the deserving poor" or suggesting the poor are to be blamed for their misery. In the Book of Mormon, King Benjamin — as a government official — utterly condemned such attitudes.
So should we.
I live in a well-constructed home with electrical power, potable water and an effective sewage system thanks to effective, liberal government. Social Security, Medicare, rural electrification, a national highway system are ideas opposed by conservatives that were proposed by liberals. I reject as vicious nonsense the idea that government can't do anything right. Some government programs work well, others not as well. I think sensible people can look at how government functions and make good decisions about which programs to keep.
Providing affordable health care for all Americans is the highest possible moral imperative. We have excellent doctors, nurses, hospitals and pharmaceuticals. But we deliver health care services poorly. We're the richest nation in the history of the earth. We can afford to fix health care.
I believe in government regulation of big business to encourage competition and innovation.
I believe that wealthy people can and should pay higher taxes than people of lesser means.
I believe that government spending can have a stimulative effect on an economy in recession, but I generally support a balanced budget, achievable through cuts in defense spending.
And abortion. My church teaches that under some circumstances abortion can be morally defensible. It follows that, for those circumstances, it should also be legal.
I also believe that more can be done to reduce teen pregnancy, encourage adoption and reduce the number of abortions. Most people who have studied this issue agree that alleviating poverty would reduce abortions more than any other factor.
I love the Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights, the separation of powers and the 14th Amendment. But I also am aware of its shortcomings. The Constitution wove protections for slavery into its very fabric and allowed the continued slaughter of native populations. Knowing the shaky moral ground on which they stood, the Founders were afraid of two things: Indian uprisings and slave revolts. The Second Amendment allowed communities to form militias to protect themselves from those dangers. The Second Amendment is today an embarrassing anachronism of no contemporary relevance.
I also believe the promise of America is best answered through its schools. I love our commitment, as a nation, to public education. Let's pay teachers more and let them teach without standardized tests.
I believe in prayer in public schools. I prayed my way to a PhD. I just don't think schools, which are government funded, should offer public prayers.
I believe science classes should teach science, not religion with a scientific veneer.
I know times are frightening. Unemployment is high, and large deficits and a huge national debt are obviously unsustainable. But we've learned a lot. We know now that tax cuts for the rich have no stimulative value and increase the deficit. We know deregulating high finance was misguided.
I have faith in our people, in our country and in our grandest ideals.
It's time to support the president.
It's time to stay the course.
Eric Samuelsen is a playwright and educator living in Provo.