As some of you know, I am a walking contradiction when it comes to my political stances and beliefs. Taking a firm stance on anything is a hard thing for me to do when it comes to the big picture of running our country, mainly because my values are in contradiction of one another. I describe myself as being in the middle...
I believe in fiscal responsibility while having a large amount of social compassion. I hate to watch others suffer and I believe children should not be neglected as a result of their parent's choices. Yet, I don't believe in picking up the tab for the rest of the world or continuing to reward people for being lazy or irresponsible with their lives.
I work for my family's business - for almost 30 years I have watched my parents work long hours and give up family days, holidays, and change their plans for the benefit of the business. It is the life they (and now, I) have chosen. Working for yourself has many advantages and I recognize those as well. It has always been a good business with solid financial rewards, yet it's hard to watch and hear them work hard to have a huge percentage of their earnings be taken by the government in the form of taxes on an annual basis.
It's hard to sit in our planning and business development "meetings" (a.k.a. the dinner table) and hear my father say time and time again, "If we can't make money while doing the right thing and treat our people well, then we shouldn't be doing this" - Only to wake the next day to another story about Wal-Mart's profits beside a different article about it's explotation of the public welfare/healthcare system. We provide all of our full-time employees with insurance and retirement. When we give bonuses, all employees (including part time) get a piece of the pie, based off of the hours they have worked for the past year. If we're able to do this and continue to operate, then shouldn't larger corporations with more resources and better operations also be able to make this happen?
So when I am asked the question, "Isn't it Wal-Mart's(insert any other public corporation as you will - I personally hate Wally-World) sole responsibility to answer solely to their shareholders and make the biggest profit possible?" My answer is a resounding NO.
We all share this world and we all have the responsibility to be good citizens. There are countless exampes of companies that operate in the black and make a strong profit without basing every decision on the bottom line. Off the top of my head Chick-fil-A, Google, Patagonia, Columbia, Cliff Bars come to mind... and I know there are more out there!
The Wal-Mart's of this world have the power and the influence to help make a positive change in our country... they can help enable the benefit of healthcare reaching the masses. Think of what would happen if they took on the insurance industry like they do their other vendors, insisting that they decrease their prices by 5% on an annual basis. Affordable healthcare wouldn't just be a dream.
Reading over proposals made by either of the candidates, I'm uncertain of what is actually doable. I don't agree 100% with either one on everything and I have issues which directly affect me and my career (Nationalized Health Care!?!? Oh, dear. PLEASE NO!) so it's hard to know which way to go for all of my concerns.
Inspiration and charisma are a huge part of the election process... and as I watched the Democratic National Convention fill the stadium in Denver last night. I saw a wide range of people... a mix of races, ages and experiences. I was caught up in the historical impact of the moment and I was moved by the voice of reason that spoke of compromise and understanding. The rational expectation for all of us to meet in a place of agreement so positive changes can happen in our country:
"We may not agree on abortion, but surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country. The reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than for those plagued by gang-violence in Cleveland, but don't tell me we can't uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination. Passions fly on immigration, but I don't know anyone who benefits when a mother is separated from her infant child or an employer undercuts American wages by hiring illegal workers. This too is part of America's promise the promise of a democracy where we can find the strength and grace to bridge divides and unite in common effort." (Barack Obama's acceptance speech, 2008).
That was the moment in the speech (near the end) that sold me on him, the rational and logical step away from party idealism to a middle ground where most Americans feel comfortable.
So when I consider the last eight years of my life, the first eight years of my adult life... I have to admit that no decision of mine has ever been made solely on the bottom line. Life decisions are never just about one factor - they include emotions, logic, experience, cost, benefit, and alternatives. Following my own precident, I can't make the decision to vote solely with my pocketbook.
Therefore as the presidential election approaches and it comes time to vote, even though I favor lower taxes and a smaller federal government, I am going to place my ballot for Barack Obama and take a chance on hope and change.