Why? When one thinks about what is happening in our country this question is unavoidable. Why can’t we do what is good and needed for people? Why is there so much opposition to obviously good things like clean water or fair elections? Why is good change so hard to achieve?

We are a wealthy nation with many resources and advantages. Yet we suffer from poverty racism, division, hate and violence. What is wrong with us as a people? Why can’t we be a little tolerant, a little more rational, or relax and be happy?

On the 4th of July we pontificate about our “greatness” but we are rapidly becoming a third world nation. Sadly we are missing many opportunities to move forward as a society. Rather than expanding freedom, opportunity, tolerance, equality, prosperity, democracy and the well being of everyone, we seem determined to undo all the social progress of the last 100 years.

The recent spate of Supreme Court rulings is evidence of this trend. In just a few weeks these unaccountable reactionaries (the 6 to 3 majority) have overturned a fundamental freedom for women to control their own bodies. At the same time they dangerously expanded the freedom to carry guns. They gutted any pretense of separation of church and state which is essential to a modern, pluralistic society. They have repeatedly ruled against democracy, honest government and fair elections which are the backbone of a civil society. They have said the Environmental Protection Agency can’t regulate pollution without specific authorization for specific situations by Congress. This astounding action opens the door to eliminating all regulations promoting the pubic good, health or safety in many important areas. In short the conservative majority has launched a frontal assault on progress toward a better, cleaner, safer, more egalitarian society.

Why? How will ripping the country apart, empowering religious zealots, destroying the environment, and returning us to the 1870s – when the wealthy and big business were free to do whatever they wanted – going to move our country forward?

The conservative Supreme Court majority claims to be seeking the wisdom and the “original intent” of the writers of the Constitution. But we do not live in 1789. In today’s world we need a “living” Constitution – an evolving set of rules – that adapts to the many changes in knowledge, attitudes, technologies, and social relationships that have occurred over the centuries. Harking back to a mythological time of greatness is foolish and shortsighted. The “good old days” are the memories of things that never were.

The mostly important question is why we put up with this. Why don’t we throw out the reactionaries, the idiots, the zealots, the delusional ideologues and the greedy opportunists who stonewall progress? Why don’t we elect leaders with the vision, wisdom and compassion to actually make our country the great place to live it should be?

We know what needs to be done to make a happier, healthier, better society. We have many models and many advocates for a better vision for our country. I have written about this in past articles. The 4th of July is a good time to reiterate.

“A 21st Century Vision for America: Guiding Principles for a Great Nation,” provides a practical, plain language vision of “our country as most Americans would want it to be. Created by Gary J. Evans, PhD (a business management consultant) it has 25 statements of what a better America would be and how it would work.

In his America everyone has affordable healthcare, free education, a decent job, and no one goes hungry or lacks shelter. There are no barriers to voting. Elections are fair, and trustworthy. Everyone has equal rights under the law, no one is harassed by police, and our prisons are much smaller. Taxes are fair, easy to file, and adequate to support necessary public services. In his America, the U.S cooperates, negotiates, and works with international institutions to protect us rather than being the world’s policeman. “We use non-military means to create and maintain peace keeping the whole world safe.”

Even our most revered American institution – the U.S. military – is an example of how putting people first is essential. The military provides its employees, and their families, with all the taxpayer supported benefits, programs and social services deemed socialistic and too expensive for everyone else. The Pentagon led the nation on supporting racial equality, equal opportunity and equal pay for women. All this is considered necessary for recruitment, the well being of the troops and for the success of the military mission (to read more Google “Socialism Supports the Troops So Why Not the Rest of Us?”).

Everyone needs and uses public goods. Public goods – infrastructure, education, healthcare, retirement, and law enforcement (including regulation of business) are essential to the well being of individuals and society. Providing public goods for a better America requires government. The “free” market is not going to do it.

There is a great website and book which addresses this subject in wonderful detail. It refutes the conservative belief that government is bad and provides a comprehensive, fact based, case for the government being the essential foundation of the quality of life most of us enjoy. Government is Good, An Unapologetic Defense of a Vital Institution is essential reading for all citizens.

There were times in the past when our government made choices that were good for people. These choices helped everyone. Examples include when we established free public schools, funded rural hospitals, rural electrification, expanded civil rights, allowed strong unions and grew the middle class. We once were a leader in consumer and environmental protection. The GI Bill, Social Security and Medicare are examples of this success.

In The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life, Anu Partanen contrasts life in Finland with the United States. She grew up in Finland but lived here for many years. She concludes we are “old fashioned” in our attitudes toward government and social programs. As a result we are less happy and less secure. We pay more, get less and have less real freedom because we won’t do what works for everyone.

Former Minnesota U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone summarized all this in one simple, truthful statement: “We all do better when we all do better.“ Why is this so hard to understand?