GOVERNMENT AND THE COMMON GOOD
WHEREAS, the AFT believes that good government is essential to a strong and vibrant democratic society. We believe that our public sector—through the work of our elected officials, the dedication of the public workforce and the engagement of all citizens—can and should reflect our broadly shared American values. Government is our collective tool for addressing challenges and creating opportunities.
What has made America so successful is the effectiveness of our public structures and institutions as well as the commitment of our citizens to these institutions. The public structures Americans have created—such as our schools and colleges, our legal system, transportation and highways, health and safety agencies, social programs and law enforcement—are all part of the machinery that produces our nation’s quality of life. Through these structures and institutions, our country has made great progress and built upon a strong heritage devoted to freedom, democracy and justice.
When our government does not function well it is up to all of us to ensure that it remains focused on its fundamental mission and purpose—the common good. We want a government that plans well for the future, is a responsible steward of our natural resources, and works in partnership with businesses and communities to create economic opportunities and the quality of life we all expect and deserve.
Each and every day, members of the AFT—at every level of government—play a role in these important public responsibilities. Our members help to ensure that we all have clean air and water, well-run and maintained educational institutions, a safe and maintained transportation system, laws respecting the rights and obligations of our citizens, and a police force and public safety systems to protect public well-being.
For our government to work efficiently and effectively, our public systems must be maintained and supported with adequate funding. Taxes, fees and other public revenues are the collective resources we all provide to sustain our valuable public services and the workforce necessary for their success. There are forces in the United States dedicated to reducing the size of government with little thought about the impact on our society of such downsizing. These anti-government efforts and tax-limitation measures often have a single-minded goal of reducing taxes in any way possible. Very often, the resulting reductions in government services undermine our communities and threaten the common good.
Upholding the fundamental mission and purpose of government and ensuring that we have the public structures necessary to keep America prospering for generations to come will require that citizens and corporations alike pay their fair share. Over recent decades we have witnessed a growing imbalance in how we raise our public revenues. Many wealthy corporations and individuals are no longer paying a share equal to the benefits they gain from the public structures that help to make their success possible. Through tax abatements and corporate tax loopholes, too many of those who benefit from public systems are not participating adequately in their maintenance and support:
RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers engage our affiliates, our members and the general public in an effort to discuss the role we Americans play as engaged citizens who can help to create an effective public sector and not just as consumers of government services; and
RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers work with its affiliates to ensure a fair, responsive, stable and efficient tax and revenue system at all levels of government; and
RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers work with its affiliates to inform our membership on the direct link between government downsizing, tax-limitation measures and the devastating impact these measures can have on services to the public, on the public sector workforce and ultimately on our shared quality of life; and
RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers encourage coalition building of appropriate labor, community and citizen organizations to develop support for government programs, structures and institutions devoted to serving our communities and work in similar coalition efforts against initiatives that might threaten the common good; and
RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers promote discussion, using available research, about the role of government in a democratic society and work with affiliates to effectively communicate about the role of the public sector and its vital mission.