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     BLUE PRINT FOR A SENATE RACE
by William McGaughey
 

General Strategy:

Third parties, including the Independence Party of Minnesota, face a daunting challenge in the fact that most people believe their candidates cannot win elections and are therefore merely a diversion, siphoning off votes from the better of the major-party candidates and throwing the election to the worse. Couple this belief with the unrelenting hostility of big-media gatekeepers and our candidates face bleak prospects indeed.

The antidote is a bold strategy to embrace positions outside the political mainstream which address people’s real concerns. The third party should brand itself with such issues and get a lock on constituencies interested in them. Forget the pundits, experts, and editorial writers - go with new versions of the truth.

Right now, both the Democrats and Republicans are fine-tuning positions that they have held for years, even as the economy and the society face unparalleled challenges. Like the late economist E.F.Schumacher, I compare this process with “rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.” Our platform should pay less attention to rearranged deck chairs in the areas of education, transportation, health care, and the environment, and, instead, find ways to avoid the “ice berg” looming ahead.

Let me say at the outset that I make no claims that my proposals are politically feasible. In fact, they are quite the opposite - for reasons which will shortly be explained. But that makes little difference if we are out to “shake things up”. We need only show that the proposals would benefit the country if, by some miracle, they were adopted. We become strong by going up against strength and prevailing by our superior arguments and energy. There’s no short-cut to major-party status.

So what are the problems, politically speaking?

First, the nation’s economic problems are largely a matter of bloated costs reinforced by political favoritism. Our party’s proposals should envision reduced costs. In making such arguments, however, we face this dilemma: Any proposal for finding a cheaper way to do something in government runs into constituencies of the high-priced status quo. This set of interest groups has plenty of money to finance campaigns and hire lobbyists and academic experts who will work hard to defeat your proposal. You therefore need to defeat the constituencies of privilege as well as sell your “better ideas”.

A second problem is that today’s political “issues” amount to a statement or restatement of problems. Seldom do candidates propose solutions. Or, if a solution is proposed, it will be a nuanced restatement of proposals raised in the past. The reason for this is that, if a candidate presents a bold new proposal to do something, this proposal makes an inviting target for attack. Once the candidate says “This is what I believe”, the editorial writers, academic experts, and others characterize the proposal as stupid or half-baked; and this characterization reflects on the candidate himself. But if the candidate merely states a problem and hints that he has a solution, the voters will think he sympathizes with them, trusting that the solution will come in due course. That’s a good strategy for winning votes in today’s political environment.

The Independence Party approach, however, should be one of boldness. Violate both principles at the same time. Boldly announce solutions while paying less attention to restatement of problems. Aim at reducing the cost of government and of the way we do business in this society. So different will this approach be that we will then be able to say: Does it really make a difference if you elect a Norm Coleman (Republican) or an Amy Klobuchar (Democrat), who merely service different sets of special interests? How has the election of one major party’s candidate rather than the other’s improved your life? Don’t waste your vote on a Democrat or a Republican. Be independent. Vote for real change.

What is the “ice berg”?

This “ice berg” refers to our unsustainable economy. We’re spending way more than what we take in. Especially under President Bush, the U.S. government has been running huge budget deficits, even in times of relative prosperity. While FDR once dismissed worries about the national debt with the remark “we only owe it to ourselves”, that statement is no longer true. We now owe this debt to foreigners, whose wealth and income we cannot tax. The reason for that debt is the escalating trade deficit which exceeds $800 billion per year. China and Japan own the largest share of the surplus, but Arab oil producers, Europe, and Canada also benefit from the trade imbalance with the United States. While we sell agricultural produce, they sell us oil and manufactured goods.

The Wal-Mart model of business shows why the United States has a trade deficit. Wal-Mart’s low-priced products are largely supplied by manufacturers who produce according to the retailer’s specifications. The Wal-Mart purchasing department invites bids from its suppliers, who compete ruthlessly on price. This bidding process drives prices to a level that cannot be met by producing in the United States. The winner will be someone who manufactures or subcontracts to suppliers in China, who pay workers $.30 an hour. If wages are raised in China, then the supplier goes to another country such as Vietnam where wages are even lower. Companies which manufacture those products in the United States either go out of business or transfer their operations to places abroad.

The free-trade system means that goods produced more cheaply in another country can enter the United States unburdened by tariffs. In effect, one nation produces the goods; another consumes them. Such a system cannot be sustained in national economies any more than if individuals spend more money than they make. This is quite obvious though an economic priesthood says otherwise.

The U.S. consumer mass market was “invented” a century ago by industrialists such as Henry Ford. Ford realized that, besides building cars and inventing the assembly line, there had to be a strong consumer market that would absorb the product. To put his money behind this concept, Ford gave his own workers a five-dollar-a-day minimum wage in 1914; and, in 1926, he pioneered the five-day, forty-hour workweek.

Ford said when he reduced work hours: “It is the influence on consumption which makes the short day and the short week so necessary. The people who consume the bulk of goods are the people who make them. That is a fact we must never forget - that is the secret of our prosperity.” In other words, the worker is also the consumer. This makes ecological good sense. If you shortchange workers with respect to wages and leisure, you cannot have a flourishing consumer market because the one process feeds the other.

Ford’s counterintuitive business initiative, combined with the struggle of labor unions to raise wage levels and reduce hours, built up the consumer market in the United States to an impressive level. We are still living off that legacy. Today’s business leaders, in contrast, have sought to increase profits not only through product innovation and production efficiencies but by cutting out American labor in the production process. Either we outsource production to a low-wage country or we wink at illegal immigration that supplies low-cost labor within the United States.

In the end, we have the same product at a lower cost - a formula for increased profits, increased compensation for executives, and, of course, lower prices. Meanwhile, labor’s share of production costs shrinks. Dollars once spent in the United States go instead to China. The U.S. Treasury department thinks that is just fine because the Chinese are willing to buy treasury bills that they need to issue because of our persistent budget deficits. And Treasury has a veto over the nation’s economic policies generally.

     I 

What needs to be done about the economy?      

We need to get back into the business of producing the goods and services which we and others are willing to buy. Success or failure in the global economy is largely a matter of costs. While campaigning in Louisiana’s 2004 Democratic presidential primary, I attended a conference on revitalizing the rural economy held in Natchitoches. A representative of the Weyerhaeuser company said something that made sense. He said to the Louisiana officials: “Become the low-cost producer and business will flock to you.” By that, of course, he meant that Louisiana governments should keep taxes low and regulation to a minimum. But his prescription also applies to the U.S. economy facing global competition. Since we are the high-cost producer in most areas, we naturally fall behind in the global competition. We need to compete by changing our cost structure. (See about CEO pay.)

I think U.S. production costs can get back into line in three ways:

(1) The U.S. government should impose protective tariffs to offset the cost advantage in goods imported from low-wage countries. In Louisiana, I campaigned for a system of “employer-specific tariffs” which means setting tariff rates according to the foreign producer’s treatment of labor and the environment. If an employer achieves cost savings by gouging Chinese workers, the U.S. government might take the cost advantage away by burdening the product with tariffs equal to the savings when the product enters the United States for the purpose of sale. If Chinese wages rise, then the related tariff would be accordingly reduced. The concept is presented in greater detail in two papers I wrote for the Green Party publication, Synthesis/ Regeneration. They can be found on the web at http://www.greens.org/s-r/06toc and http://www.greens.org/s-r/09toc.

Of course, there is the problem that such a system of tariffs that are set unilaterally would not be allowed under the North American Free Trade Agreement, rules of the World Trade Organization, and other trade agreements of the U.S. government . Never mind: I never claimed my proposals were politically feasible. There are also problems in applying this concept to trade in services and to outsourced work in intangibles such as research and customer service. Finally, there is the question of whether the entire gap in wages should be covered if U.S. labor costs in particular industries are abnormally high because of union contracts or other circumstances. Maybe the tariff should be based on the difference between a "fair wage" in our economy and what is paid in an economy that is in an early stage of industrialization. In any event, some buffering of cost differentials is in order.

(2) While burdening imported products by tariffs, we need also to lower the structure of costs incurred by U.S. businesses. Health-care costs are a significant item. The cost of litigation is significant. So can energy costs be. Some labor costs are also excessive - professional and managerial labor, especially at the CEO level, and some union labor. Companies burdened by debt from takeover attempts by hedge funds and private equity firms may have unbearable costs. The government could do something in each of those areas. But I will concentrate on costs in two areas: high-priced medicine and high-priced education. The government could step in to introduce cost-lowering competition in both areas.

(3) Goods produced in the United States will become cheaper as the U.S. dollar is devalued with respect to other currencies. That will happen in due course: but it is a double-edged sword. Cheap dollars mean that foreigners can more easily buy our assets. Do we really want foreigners to own most of our businesses and debt? Do we want to become economic colonies of other nations because this generation of U.S. political and business leaders made so many bad decisions? Besides, it will take much currency depreciation before our workers can compete with the $.30-per-hour wages paid in south China. Some currency adjustment will take place, but this could bring pain.

High on the agenda is that we must try to rebuild our industrial base or, at least, create industries to produce goods and services that may be advantageously exchanged in the global economy. In the process, we must resist the siren song of academics who entice young people in America into purchasing their expensive product on credit - four years of college at $30,000 or more per year - even while professors in their economics departments shamelessly sabotage graduates’ future job prospects by sanctifying the concept of free trade.

These dogmatic academics preach the virtues of free trade, no matter what. Its central doctrine is David Ricardo’s 19th Century idea of comparative advantage - a concept developed when trade was mostly in agricultural commodities. But what if much of today’s trade is intra-company trade, where knowledge, capital, and managerial expertise can easily be transferred across national borders? Does a nation have a “comparative advantage” if its government is willing to deny worker rights to its people? Do the Chinese have a “comparative advantage” because their women may be genetically equipped to do skilled manual labor for long periods of time without fatigue or complaint? Or, do we Americans have a “comparative advantage” in terms of our superior education and intelligence? Hardly. The Chinese, too, are an intelligent and educated people. The Indians are taking our high-tech jobs with their own Silicon Valleys along the subcontinent’s west coast.

No, if we want to get back into the ball game of global economic competition, we will have to forget dogma developed in the 19th Century and adapt to today’s conditions. We’ll have to reexamine the nature of free-market competition and the proper role of government in the economy in an age where wealth redistribution increasingly means redistributing wealth from the poor to the rich and where “welfare” has become corporate welfare. Maybe, even, we can use the word “corruption” to describe the political situation that exists. Our nation's leaders care more for themselves than for the people they are charged with protecting.

     II  

Reducing costs in the health-care field    

The major-party candidates talk about increasing health-insurance coverage so that all Americans are insured. Some debate whether a single-payer system run by the federal government should replace private insurance. The problem, obviously, is that the cost of health care in the United States has risen to an alarming level. By 2082, if present trends continue, more than half of GDP will be consumed by health-care expenditures, according to an estimate of the Congressional Budget Office. So the issue of cost is critical. Instead of throwing more money at the problem, we need to reduce expenditures in the medical field. Accountants as well as doctors need to be involved.

Despite our aversion to “socialized medicine”, the health-care field is far from displaying principles of the free market. Costs are rising precisely because the health-care field departs from those principles. There are two overlooked factors that drive costs: First, the practice of medicine is a monopoly. Monopolized production drives up costs. Medical care is a monopoly because state boards determine who should be allowed to practice in this field. In the name of maintaining health-care quality, such boards restrict the supply of practitioners. Of course, costs rise.

A second reason for rising costs is that the adversarial relationship that exists between buyers and sellers in industries that operate by principles of the free market does not exist in the health-care field. In that field, the seller of medical services - the doctor - decides what services and how much of them the buyer of those services - the patient - will buy. The buyer is deemed incompetent to make those decisions. And, of course, the seller has every incentive to decide that the buyer will purchase many expensive services. Doctors make money by dinging the insurance companies with charges for both needed and unneeded procedures.

So if you have a field where the seller controls the buyer’s decisions and where a third party - the insurance company - pays for everything, there is no incentive to control costs. It makes no difference whether the government or private-insurance companies provide the insurance; costs still rise. We need to get away from this expensive model and provide some measure of competition. What should be done?

First, I would propose that the prescription-drug benefit be repealed in its entirety. The relationship between doctors and drug companies is a corrupt one. Doctors have become glorified pill-pushers, too easily influenced by gifts from the drug companies and relentless personal selling, not to mention the television ads that get patients to pester doctors to prescribe particular brand-name pills. Lobbyists got Congress to write a bill that forbids the government to bargain on price with the pharmaceutical companies. The prescription drug benefit creates an unfunded liability for the taxpayer which some estimate will cost 17 trillion dollars. Repeal this special-interest boondoggle.

Second, I would encourage decoupling health-care costs from employment. Let each individual provide for his or her own health insurance or care or let the government get involved.

Third, I propose that the government create or authorize two new sectors of medicine that would compete with the current practice of medicine. The federal government would initiate one; state governments the other. The third sector - medicine as we presently know it - would be left unchanged under my proposal. However, the two new sectors would introduce competition in the medical field which would drive down costs.

Under my proposal the federal government would offer free health-care services to all residents of the United States. This would not be unlimited expensive medicine of the sort to which we have become accustomed but a bare-bones service that would consist of the following:

(1) Every U.S. resident would be entitled to a free annual physical check-up. There would be a standard routine of measuring weight, checking blood pressure, doing simple blood tests, etc. that would take twenty minutes or less to complete per person. The whole routine should cost $100 or less, even if a licensed medical professional did the tests. The use of paraprofessionals for the assembly-line testing would drive down costs further.

(2) Once in a lifetime, the federal government would analyze the genetic makeup of each resident of the United States, focusing upon medical risks. Presently, private companies will do this for $1,000 or less. The government should develop a cheaper but more sophisticated model of genetic testing. With mass production, costs should drop dramatically. This one-time test, spread out over the years of a person’s lifetime, should cost very little on an annual basis.

(3) The federal government should create and maintain a medical web site which each person, given private security codes, should be able to access. A file would be created for each individual using the Social Security number. Medical information gathered in the annual checkups and in the genetic test would be stored in that file. The website would also contain a section that would dispense general medical information. The user could type in a description of an ailment or symptom, the computer would ask a set of questions (as doctors typically do in preliminary office visits), and then the computer would offer a range of possible diagnoses. The medical software might also coordinate this with the information derived from the annual checkup and genetic tests.

The purpose here would not be to replace traditional medical exams but to give each person an idea of whether a particular ailment is serious enough to visit the doctor. Am I having a heart attack? Do I have cancer? These would be some of the questions answered for free from visiting this web site - on a preliminary basis, of course, not conclusively. But it would provide timely information that might avert serious health problems.

The second new medical sector would consist of “paramedical services”. Anyone, qualified or not, should be legally permitted to practice medicine. It should be up to individuals, not state medical boards, to decide whether the health-care consumer will purchase such services. The only requirement would be that the health-care consumer should have accurate, independently determined information about the health-care provider's record of service.

Perhaps a state examiner would examine the qualifications and record of each practitioner and issue a report. Perhaps the practitioner should be required to report names, addresses, and phone numbers of all persons receiving service in a certain dollar amount or more, so that state examiners can contact patients some time after the treatment to judge its effectiveness. All such information would be posted by practitioner on a state-controlled web site. If, of course, the practitioner met all the requirements of state licensing boards, he or she would enter the mainstream medical profession and not be subject to this kind of regulation.

In summary, the health-care consumer would have an expanded set of options: First there would be the free government exams. Second, the consumer could lawfully engage the services of an unlicensed medical practitioner in the regulated paraprofessional field. Third, there would be medicine as it is currently practiced. Especially if the prescription drug benefit is repealed, the cost of the whole package to the taxpayer should be considerably less than the cost of the present system. See additional information.

Reducing costs in education

Public-school education is made more costly by the demands of teachers’ unions and by mandates imposed on schools by society. The “No child left behind” program undermines the quality of education in the name of improving quality. Under financial pressures to show improved performance, more teachers teach to test. The fun of learning in diverse ways is thereby driven out of education. Students and teachers alike are enslaved by micro-managing politicians. The first thing to do is to repeal “no child left behind”. Leave this program behind. Trust teachers a bit more. Give them and their students more freedom.

At the level of higher education, costs are soaring to unreasonable levels. An education at a four-year private college now costs $30,000 to $40,000 per year. This institution seems more like a potlatch for middle-class families than an investment in future careers. Perhaps the concept of tenure needs to be revisited. Perhaps greater use needs to be made of canned lessons delivered by videotape or computer. Perhaps paraprofessionals or the students themselves need to teach classes, giving students exposure to distinguished scholars every once in a while.

Higher education has oversold itself in terms of career preparation. Very few college courses teach what is actually required in today‘s jobs. The liberal arts provide more a benefit to society rather than to the student in terms of career preparation; they help to establish a common culture for society. Therefore, society should pay for this, not the student. If higher education is to be universal, reduce its requirements to fit what the general population can afford.

As in the field of medicine, I would propose a three-sector approach to higher education.

First , the government would establish a system of free education at the college level. It would create perhaps thirty courses in the sciences and humanities. All required course materials would be provided - except for the professor. There would be books, taped materials, computer programs, and a system for using them, individually or in the company of other students. Then there would be a standard procedure for testing, and, after that, a degree. This would not be top-notch education, but it would be free.

Second, there would be "para-education". Anyone would be legally permitted to establish a college or a school, and offer courses, testing, and a degree. The school need not be accredited by any organization. But as in the field of medicine, an independent examiner would evaluate each school and issue a report. Let the buyer beware. I suspect, however, that more freedom to teach would inspire more creativity in teaching and, in the end, a good education.

Third, we could continue to have expensive, top-notch education for anyone who wants it and can afford it.

In time, higher education may become cheaper than it presently is. This is important if we wish to compete on cost with other nations. Young men and women who graduate with a $20,000 student loan to be repaid will, of course, need to be paid a relatively high wage. Many, however, are deceived. They pay for expensive education but do not find the promised benefit in terms of a rewarding career. So we create generations of educated but disillusioned and even cynical persons - an educated proletariat, so to speak.

 

     III  

Other issues for a U.S. Senate candidate from Minnesota:      

I would make jobs in a global economy the central focus of my campaign. But there are other issues needing to be addressed. The Iraq war is one. The issue of illegal immigration also rears its ugly head. The issues of renewable energy and prospective depletion of the earth’s petroleum reserves are critical. Our type of economy cannot be sustained if we run out of energy. Finally, there are issues pertaining to the rural economy.

The Iraq war

I don’t have much to say about this beyond what others have said. The invasion of Iraq was a mistake made much worse by Secretary Rumsfeld’s pig-headed insistence that the occupation could be handled on the cheap by a small number of troops. But that’s water over the dam. The “surge” seems now to be working. I would give it more time while looking for opportunities to bring more of our troops home. I would also abandon plans to maintain a huge base in Baghdad (and elsewhere in the world) that gives the appearance of seeking permanent conquest.

While I'm generally dovish on Iraq, I think there’s something to the warning sometimes posted on the wall of stores: “If you break it, it’s yours.” We broke Iraq; now Iraq is ours to fix. With a mounting price tag, we have a certain obligation to do that while minimizing further pain.

I’m more concerned that President Bush will try to nuke Iran before he leaves office. In fact, I organized a visit to Senator Coleman’s office a year ago to express my dismay at that possibility. Invading other countries violates our core principles as a nation - or, at least, I would like to believe that. You don’t impose freedom and democracy upon others by force; you encourage others to seek those laudable ends by setting a positive example. Read about the plans to attack Iran as they appeared in 2006. We may not be out of the woods on this one yet.

Illegal immigration

Both Democrats and Republicans have deceived the public. The Democrats wink at illegal immigration because they eye Hispanic voters, both legal and illegal, as part of their winning coalition. Republicans wink at it because they are beholden to businesses that want cheap labor. The Independence Party, by contrast, is relatively clean.

Unless we are prepared to say that anyone can enter the United States and become a citizen, the U.S. government must control immigration. To have laws that restrict immigration but are routinely ignored only promotes cynicism about government. It promotes a cottage industry of fake IDs. Citizens have a right to expect more from their government than this. At the same time, we have a huge population - perhaps 15 million - of persons who have entered the United States illegally and are living in our midst. The idea of rounding them all up and sending them back to their country of origin is both unworkable and inhumane. It would be reminiscent of the Fugitive Slave Act of the 1850s that precipitated the U.S. Civil War. Sure, the people who crossed our borders without permission knowingly broke the law, but there was much complicity from the U.S. government and powerful interest groups.

So, what steps can be taken to deal with this difficult situation?

First, the U.S. government needs to control its southern border and enforce limits on future immigration into this country. Whether it takes a fence, electronic surveillance, or more border guards is beyond my scope of expertise. Do what is needed to stop future illegal immigration.

Second, change the law that automatically grants citizenship to anyone born in the United States. This law should not apply to illegal immigrants who use children as anchors to gain citizenship for themselves. An obstacle is that the courts have ruled that laws repealing this right are unconstitutional. But what of children born to employees of foreign embassies living in the United States? Are they U.S. citizens, too? We're approaching the limits of absurdity here.

Third, the focus of enforcement should shift to employers who hire illegal immigrants, pay them paltry wages, and use their immigrant status as a form of blackmail to prevent them from enforcing their rights. The general taxpayer is footing the social cost of low-paid immigrants and their families. I would institute a program to try to recover some of those costs from their employers by requiring the employer to pay a surcharge in the employer's share of Social Security which would be calculated specifically to recover all or most of the extra costs borne by the community from the influx of immigrant labor. As a condition of employment, illegal immigrants should be required to register with the Social Security office and provide certain information needed to calculate the extra costs. Employers would be forbidden to hire anyone who does not have the proper authorization, and they would be required, under criminal penalties, to pay the FICA surcharge.

Having said this, I would also propose that detection of illegal-immigrant status in itself not be grounds for deportation. My general policy would be Do Nothing about those already in the United States. Illegal immigrants should be allowed to remain here while they are applying for citizenship. But, as I said, they should have to bear an extra economic burden in the form of the higher FICA tax placed on employers which would make it less likely that they would be hired instead of other people. That in itself would reduce the incentive to sneak across the border.

Renewable energy

The federal government should make a massive investment in alternative-energy technologies, providing both subsidies and tax cuts for that purpose. Conversely, the government should increase the gas tax and repeal laws that encourage businesses to purchase SUVs and other gas-guzzling vehicles. The government should also fund experimental modes of transportation in urban areas such as the smart jitney and personal rapid transit. It should set higher standards for vehicle fuel efficiency. It should provide tax credits for purchase of hybrid cars. Incentives should also be given to encourage telecommuting or the use of staggered work hours in order to relieve traffic congestion.

Such proposals are already on the table. Suffice it to say that energy shortages pose a real threat to our future economy and we should prepare now to alleviate the problem. Government can manipulate present costs through taxes, subsidies, and other financial incentives to develop technologies and industries required in the future. For more information on this question, click here.

The rural economy

I do not agree with two federal policies that are designed to help the rural economy.

First, the promotion of ethanol seems misguided because considerable amounts of petroleum are required to grow the corn that can be turned into ethanol. It would be better to subsidize the transformation of other organic materials found on the farm into energy. Also, we need the corn for food more than for energy. Ethanol production is also putting a strain on water resources in rural areas.

Second, free-trade policies that, for instance, allow U.S. corn growers to export cheap grain to Mexico has wreaked havoc on Mexican corn production. Mexican peasants are flocking to the cities and then to places north of the border because they could no longer support themselves by growing corn. It is not in our national interest that this should continue even if a few U.S. corn producers benefit.

We do need fair competition in the trade of agricultural produce especially when foreign countries subsidize their exports. We need to look out after our own national interests. But I think other industries besides agriculture could help the rural economy. Back to renewable energy.

Owning much land, farmers and other persons outstate have a natural ability to generate electric power from wind. The federal government should subsidize further development of wind-power technology and the purchase of such equipment by small-scale producers. A problem is the transmission of electric power from the farm to the city. A problem is that the permitting process to connect with the power grid takes far too long. Government has dropped the ball in this area.

Perhaps small electricity-generating facilities on the farm could be combined with battery-charging operations for hybrid cars. Batteries spent from urban driving could be shipped by rail to centers in rural areas where they could be recharged; there might also be recharging stations spread along major highways. The state of Israel is creating a national network of power-charging stations for battery-powered cars. The U.S. should do likewise.

Another way to help the rural economy is to ship urban jobs to rural areas. Telecommuting work via the Internet and other communication networks make it possible for persons living in rural areas to work at home or at places near their home and communicate with others anywhere in the world. Since life in the country is considered more pleasant and less expensive, many professional people and others who do well-paid work might prefer working out state while occasionally commuting to the big city.

The North Star rail line from Minneapolis to Big Lake might be extended further north, allowing persons living along that line easy and cheap commuting to the Twin Cities. Our future economy may well depend on changes in work-life patterns that will ease traffic congestion in urban areas. Increased energy efficiency would make this possible.

    IV  


Two issues from my 2002 U.S. Senate campaign:      

When I campaigned for U.S. Senate, I raised two issues which were designed to differentiate myself from the Democrats and Republicans. To irritate the Democrats, the party of political correctness, I said: “I believe in the full citizenship, dignity, and equality of white males (and of everyone else, too).” To irritate the Republicans, the party of big business, I said: “I believe that the Federal Government should reduce the standard workweek to 32 hours by 2010.”

Political Correctness 

Political correctness is a spiritual curse placed upon our land. It is divisive and debilitating to us as a people. It is used as a tool of exploitation by political, cultural, and business elites. It is a systematic denial of our constitutional rights of free speech. I did what I could to take a stand against this pernicious force, exercising my own rights of free speech before the power structure could get organized enough to take them away.

Having done this, however, I must admit that my efforts largely failed. While I stood up in protest, everyone else remained seated. All it got me was a reputation in certain circles for being a white racist.

I challenged the Roman Catholic Archbishop in his “race initiative” when he said that (white) Minnesotans were racists, albeit ones in the closet. I said racism was not limited to the white race. For speaking out in this way, I was called “insane” by a black minister at the Archbishop’s presentation. I also made an issue of it on the e-democracy forum when a candidate for the Minneapolis school board was linked to a website imitating Tammy Lee’s (the Independence Party’s 5th district candidate for Congress in 2006) campaign website, falsely putting vile racist words in her mouth and suggesting that her lawn signs could be obtained from David Duke.

I got this elected candidate to participate with me in an open and honest discussion of race in an event held at the public library.Though many people attended, few chose actively to participate. While I threw out the challenge of open discussion, many in the room held back in fear. Newspaper reporters at the meeting declined to write stories (or their editors killed the stories) because the event - an honest discussion of race - did not fit the preferred paradigm.

When I ran for U.S. Senate in the Independence Party primary, the state’s largest newspaper, the Star Tribune, refused to report anything about my campaign. It ran a front-page story on the IP and Green Party Senate primaries, mentioning only the party-endorsed candidates. When I asked for more coverage, nothing was done. Then, when I attempted to place a paid ad in the Star Tribune, its “legal department” advised the paper not to accept my ad so long as the words “dignity for white males” were included in the text. When another candidate and I got a majority of votes in the primary, the Star Tribune neglected to do a story on the primary-election results.

This is pretty extreme journalistic behavior. It shows just how sick some of the gate-keeping people at the Star Tribune are. (Its editors seem to think that "hate speech" is a more significant problem than the rash of murders in north Minneapolis.) I continue to believe, however, that I have dignity, and so also do other white males and everyone else. No matter how big a megaphone they have, my opponents can’t win this fight. In the long run, fairness will prevail.

In summary, the extreme views on race exhibited by members of this society's power structure become more alarming by the fact that it is not ignorant, marginalized persons who are the perpetrators of such views but persons in elite positions in government, the media, education, etc., who have the power to impose their political opinions on others. I did what I could to call attention to this ugly situation, but failed. Now it's someone else's turn to speak out if the hateful divisiveness that permeates our society on race and other demographic categories is ever to end.

I did not mention white males or race when I ran in the 2004 Louisiana Democratic presidential primary because it seemed that a white man coming to a southern state with a racial message would look like pandering to racist sentiments. It’s an issue for my own community rather than for someone else’s. This type of problem cannot be addressed by passing laws or police enforcement but only by voluntary changes taking place within one’s own heart.

Right now, I’m encouraged by the candidacy of Barack Obama who preaches racial unity. I might not have been able to change the politics of racial and gender discrimination, but perhaps Obama can. So it will not be an issue in my 2008 Senatorial campaign if the Independence Party selects me as a candidate. The economy is by far the most important policy question before us at this time, at least the one which I can most profitably address.

Shorter Workweek

There has been a small group of people, including the late Senator Eugene McCarthy, who believed that the federal government should enact legislation to reduce the workweek. Senator McCarthy, as chairman of the 1959 Senate Special Committee on Unemployment, evaluated reductions in work time as an option for dealing with labor displacement due to automation. He later believed that the committee made a mistake by rejecting that option in favor of temporary fixes like more public works and more job-training.

Time has moved on. The labor unions no longer push for shorter hours. Government has its eye on the extra money that would be generated from working people overtime instead of letting them have leisure. While I proposed reducing the standard workweek to 32 hours by 2010, I recognized that conditions did not favor that option. It would be a good thing to do, but was not politically feasible.

One problem is that we now have a huge debt to feed. More leisure is not wealth in a conventional sense. Leisure can’t be taxed. So the Treasury department does not think it a goal worth pursuing. Another problem is that shorter work hours are historically linked to trade unions and to leftist agitation - things that annoy the business class. If we ever did have a shorter workweek in the United States, it would be a red herring for business. Out sourcing of manufacturing would likely accelerate. But the idea (and its need) will not go away.

I see the shorter workweek (or other forms of increased leisure) as a way out of the otherwise insoluble problem of competition for employment in a finite world. When natural resources are limited, we can't “grow” our way out of this problem in conventional ways. Yet, people must pull their weight economically. The solution in my eyes is to let more people share in society’s productive employment opportunities. In other words, we can have more jobs without running more physical products through the ecosystem. We can also have “growth” measured in terms of freedom, the opportunity to do interesting things, and to enjoy life while being reasonably equipped with food and other material resources needed in life. Wouldn't that be better for us all?

I therefore see as the ultimate solution to our economic problems at this stage of human development the possibility of international cooperation to reduce working hours so that employment “growth” can occur with minimal damage to the environment. We’re talking here of a civilizational change. We're talking about a shift in policy toward cooperation with other governments or strenghening international political institutions such as the United Nations and away from the Bush-style unilateralism that Senator Coleman has so ardently supported.

As Senator, I’ll always be looking for the silver lining which will lead us in that direction. There should be less competition for economic well being and more shared prosperity, with competitive instincts being directed elsewhere. I think other countries, including China and India, would be happy to cooperate with us if that were our policy instead of building military bases around the world. (I've been to China at least eight times in the past eight years; I have a sense of where things are headed.)

We’re all in this global economy together. We must trust each other to have the other person’s as well as our own interests at heart. Kumbaya!

 

     V
Concluding Thoughts about running for Senate:      

I have never held elective office or a high position in any large organization. But neither have my Democratic rivals, Michael Cerisi (who has since withdrawn from the race), Jack Pallmeyer-Nelson, and Al Franken. I am also not, like Franken, a celebrity. Unlike Ceresi, I’ve never won a tobacco lawsuit. Unlike Pallmeyer-Nelson, I have no base in an academic institution. Financially, I’m a pauper compared with any of them. I have no bureaucratic campaign staff.

The only way I can pitch myself as a prospective U.S. Senator is to claim to be the candidate of “better ideas”. I’ve published books, written newspaper articles, created websites, and cohosted a cable-television show that discussed local political ideas. Others with greater public stature than I have cooperated with me in promoting ideas. The late great Senator Eugene McCarthy was one of them. Noam Chomsky also put in a few kind words. (See The Nation, March 13, 1993.)

The U.S. Senate is a policy-setting institution. New ideas are a valued element in the context of what it does. If I were elected as an Independence Party member, I would not necessarily belong to either the Republican or Democratic caucus. Far from being marginalized, however, I would be a swing vote. I would be a bridge between the two parties and the political extremes - something which many say is needed in Washington.

The idea that appeals to people today is not to reinforce power in Washington, but to change Washington. You change it with better ideas. You change it by voting for a third-party candidate. Lou Dobbs is right about that.

The truth is that if I were elected to the U.S. Senate against the long odds accorded third-party candidates, my election would itself change Washington. Many would be paying attention because Minnesota voters would be sending a message as to what voters these days want. Potentially, I would be pointing the way to a “new politics” if not a new majority party.

The Independence Party can win elections to high office. Jesse Ventura proved that in 1998. And, when Ventura was elected Governor of Minnesota, people around the country paid attention.

Admittedly, despite some good candidates, the Independence Party has lately failed to elect people to high political office. But they’ve never had a candidate like me. I’m not a policy wonk, fine tuning the present system. I’m more a street fighter and a man of broad ideas, calling for fundamental change.

And again, while my ideas may be politically infeasible now, that would change if, by some miracle, I got elected. The voters ultimately decide what politics is practical or not. Take a chance on real change. 

 

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