Today, the Center for American Progress is hosting a conference called “Securing the Common Good.” Featuring President Bill Clinton as the keynote speaker, the conference is an effort to forcefully articulate an alternative to “compassionate conservatism,” a progressive philosophy of governing. (Read more about the conference in this AP article.)
John Podesta, CAP’s president, delivered the opening remarks. First, he outlined the failures of the right’s governing philosophy:
They have put forward a philosophy, focused on individualism, in which people theoretically have more choices and assume more risk in nearly every part of their lives. In theory, the result of this approach is that people will save more, own more, rely less on the government and become greater stakeholders in the future of our country…
This is the theory.
But let’s look at the results:
— Over 46 million of our fellow citizens do not have health insurance;
— Poverty rates are climbing and personal savings rates are plummeting;
— The richest 1 percent of households already owns more wealth than the bottom 90 percent combined;
— Oil companies are taking in record profits while global warming advances at a record pace; and
— College tuition rates continue to skyrocket while wages stagnate.
Cutting through the rhetoric, the facts show that in this “ownership society,” most Americans have been left to fend for themselves: they are owners of more burdens and fewer opportunities.
Then, he articulated the progressive alternative:
Under a progressive vision of the common good, government must pursue policies that benefit everyone equally. It must ensure that opportunities are abundant and that even those who have been left out and left behind can get the help they need to succeed. Common good progressivism does not meant that everybody will be the same, think the same, or get the same material benefits. Rather, it simply means that people should start from a level playing field and have a reasonable chance to improve their stations in life.
Internationally, common good progressivism focuses on new and revitalized global leadership through the just use of force; multi-lateral engagement; and the creation of new institutions and networks to deal with difficult problems. As in past battles against fascism and totalitarianism, common-good progressives today seek to fight global extremism by using a comprehensive national-security strategy that employs all our strengths for strategic and moral advantage.
To pursue the common good, though, we as Americans owe something to our country in return. People must assume responsibility for their actions, treat others with respect and decency, and serve their families and communities.
What do you think it means to be a progressive? Let us know in the comments section.