Open Letter

OPEN LETTER TO JACK & NICK, UP & COMERS and FED-UPPERS

January, 2013

Dear Up & Comers:

We are at a Great Divide in the history of the United States.  You need to weigh-in on this.  Is it going to be the Obama electorate vs. Tea Partyers or can we find some common ground?  This letter suggests that we can, provides some political history, and poses questions for you to think about as to the future direction of our country. 

 

     In terms of a “Great Divide” consider how polarized our Congress and our electorate have become, how combining together for the good of all is such a lost art, and how much of Pres. Obama’s recent electorate was made up of Blacks, Hispanics, and other non-Caucasians and how much challenger Romney’s was mostly White.  But you in the Up & Coming Generation can combine with those of us who are fed-up with current politics (whether as Tea Partyers or as “McGovernites”), and I suggest – for your consideration – a common ground agenda to move this Country forward once again.

 

     In the Story “Can I Take Your Girl for a Spin” I say The Movement for a New America was succeeding in 1972 at putting people before corporations, at integrating all Americans into the American Dream, at ending a war, and poised to put a dent in hunger and poverty. “Only,” I say, “it didn’t happen.”  Analyzing what happened after 1972 to where we are at now is complex, but I’m going to suggest that those of us who supported McGovern for President in 1972 and those who supported Tea Party candidates in 2012 have more in common than anything that divides us.

 

 

INDIVIDUAL LIBERTIES

 

     First, it’s okay to disagree about abortion and gun-control and let these individual freedoms be left for the individual to decide, or, in the case of gun control, individual communities.  We need to set aside the cultural wars, single issue politics, in favor of “Big Tent” issues.

 

     Thus, for starters, we share an “individual freedoms and liberties philosophy” (a libertarian philosophy) about two things:  (1) freedom from government intrusion in our private lives; and (2) before we ask our government to do something, we should see if society in general (without government intervention) can do it better. 

 

 

PEACE & PROSPERITY

 

      We also share an “American Prosperity and Anti-War philosophy.”  Peace, prosperity and national security are all the same thing, and spending too much on wars and defense cuts into our prosperity. 

 

      At the end of this letter, I suggest a six-point platform for you and your friends to consider adopting as your own.  Each plank in the platform warrants discussion over whether we need the government’s help or not.  Try to be unifying as much as you can.  Don’t ever accept the cynicism that nothing ever changes.  The fight is not over – all things are still possible – we can always do better.

 

DEFINITIONS

 

  1. By “Up & Comers” I mean you guys, the ones just getting old enough to vote.

 

  1. By “McGovernites” I mean not just those who voted for McGovern or supported him in 1972, but all current peace activists; I mean Hippies (current and former), folks then and now with an anti-materialism bent, or back-to-the-land philosophy, who don’t trust the government.  I mean “EcoLibertarians” for the environment and for equal rights regardless of race, gender, or sexual preference.

 

3.  By “Fed-Uppers” I mean Tea Partyers, Occupy Wall Streeters, Independents, and any others who are fed-up with the current two party, polarized, stalemated political process whereby making political points with an eye towards the next election trumps taking action for the good of the Country.

 

[In forging a common ground we need to include those in the business community with enlightened self-interest who understand the difference between spending and investing and have a world view of inclusivity.]

 

THE ASCENDENCY OF CORPORATIONS OVER PEOPLE

 

        The reason I’m convinced that us Baby-Boomers and McGovernites were succeeding in 1972 as part of a powerful Movement for a New America, destined to be main stream and not just a passing fringe movement, is because (a) we considered ourselves to be a “counter-culture,” not necessarily left-wing or right-wing; (b) we comprised a majority of the under 25 year-olds; and (c) corporate America was taking notice and considered us a threat.*  

Exhibit A is a letter that Lewis Powell wrote to the United States Chamber of Commerce in 1971.**  Lewis Powell was then a top Washington D.C. lawyer for corporate America.  In that letter Powell warned the Chamber of Commerce (i.e., corporate America) that Ralph Nader and his philosophy of putting people before profits was succeeding in winning over the hearts and minds of future mainstream America.   Powell advised the Chamber to set-up a 50 state nation-wide propaganda machine with lobbyists at every level of government, including whom gets appointed to the United States Supreme Court and what cases come before the Court.

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*Of course corporate America had been taking notice of the Baby-Boom age demographic for a long time.  We were the first generation to grow-up with TV and its onslaught of consumerism and materialism.  The TV ads have been aimed at us Baby-Boomers from Mickey Mouse to Viagra.  Now, Up & Comers are a new baby-boom, only this time with the Internet, and its ownership / sponsorship issues.

**Available at http://reclaimdemocracy.org/corporate_accountability/powell_memo_lewis.html.

 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

 

 

      In 1971 the Chamber had a bungalow-like presence on K Street in Wash. D.C. –  now they’re in a gleaming high-rise.  Then the nation’s highest tax rate on multi-millionaires was 70% — now it’s 35%.  Then the jobless rate was 5 % — now it’s 8%, and 16% among 16 to 25 year-old Up & Comers.  Then only 5% of “corporate rights” cases were granted U.S. Supreme Court certiorari (accepted for review) — now it’s 25%.  And, of course, Lewis Powell got appointed (to decide those cases) by Pres. Richard Nixon.

 

      The awakened Chamber’s agenda included reducing the size of government and the degree of business regulation, and they conceived a brilliant, effective strategy to accomplish that:  Simply switch more of the tax burden to the middle-class and then mainstream America would start squawking about the cost of government.  Thus the birth of “trickle-down economics,” a propaganda campaign which in practice has brought America to an economic backwaters, a shrinking middle-class, greater disparity between rich and poor, and for the first time in the history of this Country the up and coming generation isn’t likely to have it better than their parents.*

 

     Corporate America sold us a bill of goods that if the top 1% of the wealthiest Americans were able to keep more of both their hard-earned dollars and passively-earned investment income, then that would trickle-down to the lower classes in the form of more jobs; if government regulatory interference would just get out of the way of Wall Street and the Banks making more money, then all of America would be better off (never mentioning using the extra money to buy elections).

 

TAXATION

 

      As a legislator in Minnesota I witnessed much of this corporate agenda first hand. I counted 16 ways Minnesota’s tax collections became more trickle-downish (i.e., switched on to the middle class) between 1972 and 2002 (the year I left the legislature).  We, the vast majority of Americans, the 99%, got taken to the cleaner’s by the Chamber’s ad campaigns and use of lobbyists and campaign donations as wink-wink bribery to put corporations ahead of people for a legislative agenda.  I heard the ads in neighboring Wisconsin sounding just like the Minnesota ads.  I saw the checks the lobbyists wrote.  I was told I couldn’t be Tax Chair without lobbiest approval.  Ellen (my wife) wasn’t confirmed by Senate Republicans to be the Chair of the Public Utilities Commission because Chamber donations to the Republican Caucus were in the balance.  And, of course, I was a member of the legislature voting on the Chamber’s legislation.

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*The “American Dream” has always been the Horatio Alger story – that anyone with some talent who works hard can make it.  Current statistics belie the Dream.  Since 1979 the bottom 80% of American families have seen their incomes drop (despite both parents working, single parents working 2 jobs) as a share of the total nation’s income.  Now 1% of American families have 25% of the nation’s income.  On an annual basis the middle class spends 110% of its income (is going further & further into debt).  This is not sustainable.  The middle class is getting too weak to support the consumer spending that sustains economic growth and prosperity. 

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _          

 

      When the 1999-2000 biennial tax bill came up for a vote in the Minnesota House of Representatives I could only get 3 votes for an amendment that said “OK, we’ve got a $2 Billion Tax Cut in this bill.  Divide that $2 Billion by the 134 of us legislators and we’ve each got $15 Million to bring back to our district.  Now, if you want to give 90% of the $15 Million to only the richest 1% of the people in your district, vote for the bill as it is.  But, if you want to give 90% of the $15 million to 90% of the people in your district, vote for my amendment.”  Only getting three votes shows either how effective the Chamber’s propaganda campaign had become or what a lousy debater I was.       

 

      In 1960  Bob Hope had to pay 90% of his second million (not his first million) to help build roads and bridges.  In 2012 it’s 35% and our bridges are falling down.  In 1972 it only cost $500 a semester for me to go to law school.  Tuition costs for all college students increased 600% between 1980 and 2010.  In 2012 the typical college grad (and/or his/her parents) has a $30,000 college loan to repay.

 

GOVERNMENT REGULATION

 

      The most basic political issue you up & comers need to think through is the role of government in people’s lives.  What things can government do that are good for society that society can’t do alone, or as well?   How much government spending for what purposes?  Yes, a national defense is important, but what else?  The best defense is a prosperous nation making good investment decisions.  That’s why Republican Pres. Dwight Eisenhower built the Interstate Highway System with defense budget dollars.  That’s why way back in 1870 Pres. Ulysses Grant signed the Homesteading Act giving away frontier land to any one promising to till it.  That’s why the railroads were given land grants (and to this day low taxes) to build a trans-continental railroad system with the Golden Spike in Salt Lake City.  Yes, the Government helped J. J. Hill, railway tycoon, make his millions. 

 

      It’s why Pres. Obama used federal taxpayer dollars to help Warren Buffet make millions starting a 100 mile wind farm between Des Moines and Council Bluffs.  But Iowans have cheaper electricity, the World has less pollution, farmers make money charging rent to turbine owners, and lots of workers got jobs.  Query:  Could it have been done without using taxpayer dollars?   Environmentalists will tell you that wind farms would eventually have made it on their own but needed a kick start because of government subsidies supporting oil and gas production.   Exploring the ending of these subsidies is a good starting point for further research and thought.  

 

      All the above are examples of government / private sector partnerships that help make our Country prosperous.   Once you Up & Comers decide that something is worth the government investing in, then you need government regulation (or over-site) to make sure the taxpayers are getting a return on their investment.  You can’t just give government money away without protecting the taxpayers, without benefits coming back, strings attached.  Is the Tea Party right to have a platform that calls for cutting government regulations in half?  First you have to decide what government spending you want, find the proper balance between public return and private gain, and then don’t cut the regulations that safeguard the public good, the public investment.  No Freebies! 

To be prosperous and have the best national defense required the government’s help settling farmland, establishing a railroad system, providing rural electrification, and maintaining a highway system.  See if you can find anyone who thinks these were not good government investments which free enterprise couldn’t accomplish alone or fast enough alone.  The profit motive is not the only way to create success and oftentimes not sufficient by itself.  

 

      Building a nation no longer dependent on foreign oil would be good for our national defense.  Doing it all with drilling and coal is not sustainable.  Once again, to be a prosperous nation requires public sector involvement in partnership with private sector investments and a Public Utilities Commission to make sure Iowans get their cheaper electricity, protecting the public interest by regulation.  In the past socialism (i.e., government ownership) was an alternative to regulation, but that eliminates the profit incentive and has seldom worked.  The bottom line for a Corporation is to make money, but unbridled survival of the fittest amongst corporations sometimes needs a thoughtful regulatory system to keep society as a whole moving forward.  Consider lawn herbicides are now known to cause trees to die along with the dandelions.  Ask if injecting cattle with bovine growth might lead to human deaths.  Why did many U.S. moms buy their babies’ pacifiers in Europe?    

 

     Now consider the health care industry.  Is health care as vital to the national interest as railroads and electricity?  Should there be government regulation?  Electricity was once upon a time unregulated.  But to be a prosperous nation it was important that all of America have dependable, reasonably-priced, electricity which entailed having monopolies over certain territories, and thus government regulation became necessary.  Where we go with affordable health care for all Americans is in the experimental stage.  Start by questioning whether we need any government involvement at all.  Ask if we aren’t raising a generation of over-medicated kids because pharmaceutical corporations, unbridled, are in a competition to make the most money.   If we need some regulation, then remember Justice Louis Brandeis’ thought that the several States can be laboratories of experimentation.   Make sure the debate includes everybody.  Make sure you ask how much you want insurance companies to make, and why are they necessary.

 

 

INCLUSIVITY AND THE PENDULUM SWING

 

     For the past 40 years, starting with the Lewis Powell letter, corporate propaganda ascended to become the voice of the people, culminating with the Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2010 that corporations are people for purposes of exercising First Amendment rights of free speech, to spend (anonymously) however much they want to influence (propagandize) election outcomes.  But with the Obama electorate now an undeniable force in politics, the pendulum is poised to swing back to where people come first.  Are you Up & Comers going to be reactionary or are you ready to help swing the pendulum back?  It’s like the sign one of the Occupy Wall Streeters held-up:  “I’ll believe corporations are people when Texas executes one.”  Corporate America is starting to look absurd and should have a tough time defending the status quo of a backwaters American economy. 

 

      Why we had a 40 year ascendency of the corporate voice as America’s voice is only partly explained by the Lewis Powell call for a corporate propaganda campaign.  How Richard Nixon got elected President is also part of the reason why The Movement For a New America stalled-out in 1972.  “Tricky Dick” Nixon wouldn’t have been President (and able to appoint Lewis Powell to the Supreme Court) except for dirty tricks (Watergate) and the “McGovern phenomenon.”  The election of Nixon, and disgust about government in general from the Watergate scandal, gave rise to an age of cynicism that coupled nicely with the Chamber’s propaganda campaign.  This combination of cynicism and corporate propaganda is what took hold in American politics for the 40 years following 1972, instead of the ideals of the Baby-Boom Movement.

 

     The 1972 McGovern for President campaign had its unplanned conception in 1968 with the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy.  The momentum for a new and better America, as well as ending the war in Viet Nam, lost our two best visionary leaders.  I am absolutely certain that Robert Kennedy would have won the 1968 election (and not Nixon) if he hadn’t been assassinated.  Not just because of his Camelot image as JFK’s brother, but because of what we knew he would do if he became President.  He had just completed a tour of rural poor Appalachia where he captivated the imaginations of America’s majority with his commitment to completing LBJ’s War on Poverty.  On the night of MLK’s death, against the advice of his political handlers, he took the stage in front of a shocked, stunned and angry-at-whites crowd of Blacks in Indianapolis, and won the love and respect of not just that crowd, but justice-seekers nationwide.

 

     What happened instead in 1968 was the Chicago Democratic Convention with police rioting in the streets and Hubert Humphrey going along with Mayor Daley’s cops and LBJ’s war machine, which resulted in many Democrats sitting-out the 1968 election and Nixon becoming President by the narrowest of margins.  Between 1968 and 1972 Sen. George McGovern of South Dakota led an internal Democratic Party rules revolution which closed most the doors to back room deal-making and opened the doors for The Movement to participate in Democratic Party politics.  Insiders were required to give up their party delegate status in favor of Women and Minorities.  The voting age was lowered to 18.  For four years McGovern was the strongest voice in the U.S. Senate for ending the war.  You could Imagine John Lennon’s song as McGovern questioned the morality of war itself.  What a sweet victory his election in 1972 would have been.  But it was not to be. 

 

     In 1972 a different group of traditional Democrats sat-out the election, or voted for Nixon’s re-election.  In 1968 it was peaceniks.  In 1972 it was blue collar unionists upset about the open door for Women and Minorities, urban ethnics who came to the Country in the early 20th Century and became cold-war Democrats who didn’t like McGovern sounding so dove-like and critical of Our Great Country, who weren’t quite ready for the Democrats’ libertarian embrace of Gays, Lesbians and Pro-Choicers.  Combined with Nixon’s not-yet-uncovered crooked campaign tactics, it was enough* to lead to a 49 state rout of McGovern which gave corporate controlled media the fodder to claim the McGovern campaign was the last gasp of the liberal movement.  And, in fact, it turned out that 1972 was the zenith of The Movement For a New America and the beginning of a 40 year cycle where corporations rather than people controlled the Country, bringing us Three Big Evils: Promotion of consumerism over production; Use of credit rather than savings; and Making the bottom line the holy grail despite environmental degradation.  (Not to mention the Koch Brothers financing our elections).

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* There were additional factors.  After an attempt on his life left him paralyzed for life, Alabama Governor George Wallace got out of the race.  If he had remained in, many racist Republicans would have voted for him rather than Nixon.  After McGovern nominated Thomas Eagleton to be his VP candidate, Eagleton told us he had been in shock treatment three times in his past for severe depression.  Although mental illness (if treated) might not be a bar to being second in line for the Presidency today, we weren’t ready for that in 1972.  The mistake of nominating Eagleton cinched the 49 state rout.  Nixon began to look acceptable enough with his opening trade with China, negotiating the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty, and signing the Clean Air and Water Acts.

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      President Obama’s election is the late arrival of something that stalled out in 1972:  Not just the coming of age of the Baby-Boom generation with its anti-war and people-before-profits philosophy, but the inclusivity of all Americans in the American dream.  We’re just 40 years later than we should be on making progress in this Country.  The Obama electorate, consisting of Blacks, Asians, Native Americans, Hispanics and Whites is the new majority, and will be for some time – so long as the white component (especially Fed-Uppers) doesn’t abandon the ship.  That’s why it is so important for Up & Comers to try to be unificationists and include Tea Partyers in your discussions about the Country’s direction.  Don’t assume they are racists – like us, most are not – and they can be our natural allies if we keep our libertarian philosophy and engage in an honest debate about the role of government and the role of corporations.  It would be a terrible shame, a low-low point in American history, if our current divide becomes a whites versus non-whites divide.

 

      It’s not just demographics (e.g., a five-fold increase in the Hispanic vote between 1972 and 2012) that has the Obama electorate positioned to be the major political force in the coming years with people taking power back from the corporations, it’s also the libertarian instincts of Up & Comers who believe the government should butt out of people’s private lives.  And it’s also the new technological age that allows us to instantly communicate with thousands of others without having to rely on Fox News for getting information.  We are no longer in an age that Corporate America can control the agenda by controlling information.  If we are careful about insuring the free flow of information on the internet, we can enter an age of virtual democracy where leadership is exercised horizontally by many rather than vertically from the top.  We are sitting on a technological explosion for social change, live and let live so long as we follow The Golden Rule and do onto others as we would do onto ourselves, but you Up & Comers have to dynamite it into being!  Don’t let the government dictate private choices that cause no harm.  Don’t let corporations decide what information is on the internet.  Don’t let the government make distinctions based on race or gender.  We’re all humans regardless of the circumstances of our birth.

 

     And as you use your “dynamite,” your power in numbers,  I’m hopeful that even those at the top, the heads of our corporations, will not end-up “blown-up” but will act with enlightened self-interest and embrace a multi-cultural future.  To be successful at commanding a world-wide market requires having a board of directors, company ownership and an employee-base that looks like the rest of the world – and not just all white.  In 1970 D. C. Heath & Co., the nation’s largest text book company, like McGovern, saw this coming and hired your grandfather, Jack & Nick, to write a new grade school reading program with black faces and brown faces and faces from all over the world to replace Scott Foresman & Co.’s Dick, Jane, Sally and Spot growing-up in lily-white Suburban America.  Your grandfather’s textbooks also recognized that values are better taught by asking open-ended questions rather than dictating a white America view of history and culture.  In the story “How I Came to be a Lawyer” I describe how in 1974, in the State of West Virginia, your grandfather’s books ended-up starting a cultural war when the books were demonized as too humanistic rather than preachy.  (Or you can read Calvin Trillin’s article about this curriculum battle in the New Yorker magazine.)  Regardless, the point is those corporations with an eye towards the bottom line will come to a multi-cultural view of the world, understanding America’s continued greatness, and their company’s continued success, lies in the vastness of a one melting pot market, where individual freedoms and differences are tolerated.  This enlightened self-interest explains why in 2012 almost all of Minnesota’s Fortune 500 companies opposed the constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriages.  The past 40 years is really no more than a comma in a sentence that is the arc of time. 

 

     But to keep it a comma, we all need to unite in accepting different peoples and cultures into our melting pot.  This means stopping, or at least setting to the side, our current cultural wars.  For example, school curriculum and textbook battles still continue.  Currently the Minnesota Department of Education is facing opposition to a proposed revision of social studies standards favored by teachers and opposed by those unwilling to tolerate the different sinews that make our melting pot so strong.  If Native Americans want their side of the story included in our school textbooks as an attempt to remedy the invisibility of American Indian students, we as a society should be big enough to embrace that as part of what makes us strong and melded and poised for continued greatness.  The same as regards slavery and the 1960s Black Power Movement.  Students should learn of America’s problems as well as its strengths, so we can learn from any mistakes.  Students should be allowed to draw their own conclusions, just as your grandfather intended 40 years ago. 

 

     If I am right that Up & Comers are ready to stand arm-in-arm, regardless whether you are a rich suburban white kid, or a poor black urban kid, or a rural Latino kid, or a brand new Asian immigrant kid, or a Native American reservation kid, in the fights for freedom of expression, tolerance as to sexual preference, etc., without government intrusion, and you are ready to brainstorm ways that we can have sturdier societal ladders of opportunity, then I am confident you can be the unifying party that runs the Country for the next 40 years and keeps America great for another century.          

 

      Don’t think our “minority population” is just on welfare, a population with hands out for government aid – most are not.  The poor in this Country can be part of the solution if job ready, if we help provide a hand up instead of a hand-out.  A welfare check isn’t nearly as effective as a growing economy, some job training, and a personal (not government) helping relationship.  It’s about equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome.     

 

     Don’t think of immigrants as a problem or a threat to your employment opportunities.  Remember the Statue of Liberty’s inscription:  “Bring me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free.”  Being a melting pot is what made America great – eventually most of us making it on our own – and that’s what can continue to make America great.  The more we look like the rest of the world, the more likely we are to continue to be the greatest Country on earth.  Now, perhaps instead of free land and cheap electricity, like those who came before us, we need a free, top-notch public education system from infancy through college – all of us working together creating capable employees and world-wide markets.    

 

     Don’t think of liberals and conservatives as the political equivalent of cats and dogs.  Instead think Unificationist Big Tent – what do we share as common values, such as doing things for ourselves rather than asking what government can do for us.  Liberals bring a moral code of altruism, fairness, equality.  Conservatives bring a moral code of traditionalism, loyalty and hierarchy.  These are not mutually exclusive things.  Refine the best of both.  It’s about equality of opportunity not outcome.     

 

    The pendulum is poised to swing back – seize the moment!

PLATFORM

 

     It’s not enough to simply have shared values and demographics on our side, we need to pivot to the electoral process.  Maybe even starting a new political party, perhaps called The Unification Party – or is that the Moonies Church?  Perhaps The Priapic Party?  And we need to have a Platform to run candidates on.  What do we stand for?  What do we want to do?  Here follows just my suggestions, you need to define for yourselves the controlling political and social elements and questions of this age, setting aside guns and abortion.  When I did that I came-up with:

 

  1. Discontent over partisan gridlock, single issue politics and cultural wars controlling the agenda rather than what’s good for the Country.
  2. The grip of corporations over the election process.
  3. Middle-class America being at a fiscal cliff with homes underwater, too much credit card debt or college loan debt, despite two working parents or a single parent working two jobs.
  4. Poorer America being without real opportunities to climb the ladder of success.
  5. Environmental degradation and the need for sustainable energy independence.

 

     WHICH SUGGESTS THIS POSSIBLE NATIONAL CALL FOR ACTION:

 

A)   Overturn the Citizens United Court Ruling.

          An amendment needs to get passed in 38 States (this can happen in a two year period) so that corporations can’t secretly give limitless dollars to political campaigns, or another way needs to be devised to address public financing of elections.

 

B)    Change to Ranked Choice Voting.

          When the U.S. Supreme Court chose George Bush, Jr., to be President over Al Gore in 2000 it was only because Ralph Nader took votes away from Al Gore.  Under a Ranked Choice Voting System no one wins until he/she hits 50% + 1 of the votes. 

           In the 2000 election, because Bush had less than 50% of the votes on the first count, Nader would have been dropped after the first round of counting as the 3rd place finisher, and those who voted for Nader would have had their votes counted for the candidate they ranked #2.  This way Third Party candidates aren’t relegated to a spoiler role, our democratic process is enhanced with a truer verdict, with more voices, opinions and ideas.  Voters can actually vote their ideals and true beliefs, and majority rule is enhanced without violating the one person, one vote rule.

 

 

C)    First Ask What Society Can Do for Itself, Not What Your Government Can Do for You.*

          Anytime we can use collective action as a smaller group than the Country as a whole to take care of things or each other, to achieve self-reliance without government help using community-based strategies or economics, the better and stronger our communities are, individuals are, and our Country is.

          In addition to old-fashioned barn-raisings, bartering, food co-ops, and housing cooperatives, McGovernites and others have devised lots of ways to be self-reliant in the past 40 years.  Focusing efforts in this direction can make a dent in poverty and help reduce welfare rolls.  Examples** abound: 

(a)   A church group lends money to a new immigrant family to buy a car so the breadwinner can get to a job; other organizations, such as RelayRides, Zimride and Getaround, have sprung-up to enable a new car buyer to make the car payment by car sharing.

(b)   A high school group gets extra credit for tutoring grade school kids.

(c)   Any kind of a group can spring-up to provide a personal relationship to a single mom on public assistance by offering face-to-face support dealing with life’s daily struggles.

(d)   We have peer-to-peer lending services, such as Lending Club, Prosper, Kiva and Zopa, which provide capital to start a small business.  (My wife Ellen and I have loaned money to a group of poor South Africans to start an organic avocado oil processing plant.)  

(e)   Increased micro-entrepreneurship; for example, immigrants earning an income teaching others how to cook in the style of their homeland.

(f)    Habitat for Humanity re-habs of dilapidated properties helping families become first-time home owners.  There are many other self-help examples such as a tool lending library or simply renting-out a spare room.

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*It is a red herring (false issue) to suggest (as Mitt Romney did in the 2012 election when he said 47% of Americans are dependent on hand-outs) that our Country’s great divide is between “freeloaders” and “the industrious.”  Older or disabled Americans who receive social security or medicare paid into the fund while they worked.  The real issue is how we make the fund self-sustainable (as it once was) and solve the Nation’s deficit issue. Having this # C) as a platform plank is not meant to imply there is a neat division between self-reliance and entitlements.  We need to keep the entitlements we paid for, can afford, and don’t kick grandma to the curb.                                       

** Van Jones, in his book Rebuild The Dream, calls all this “American Dream 2.0” or the “sharable economy.”  Some of the examples I describe are pulled directly from his book.  See pages 217 to 222 of his book for a fuller list of ways we can all be more self-reliant, or visit his organization at RebuildTheDream.com.

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D)   A Return to National Conscription?

          Consider every citizen after high school or college has to enlist in service to his/her Country for two years.  This can be the Armed Services or it can be alternative service such as The International Non-Violent Peace Force, or being a health aide or a teacher’s aide.  If mandatory service seems unappetizing or politically unfeasible, then strengthen the Americorps and Peace Corps programs so voluntary service is more attractive by increasing the amount of college aid or home-purchase money to GI Bill levels.   

 

E)    Institute Fair Taxes / Deal with the Deficit.

          There is no reason to continue with the failed “trickle-down” economic theory which has brought us to such an economic backwaters.  (See discussion and statistics in the third footnote to this letter.)  The national deficit can be eliminated in ten years by returning to the tax rates we had in the prosperous 1950s and by cutting defense spending by 1/5th

 

F)    Build a Green Economy.

          Building wind turbines here in America instead of in China would be a good start.  Ending our dependence on foreign oil should be a national security priority.  Employing hundreds of thousands of American workers converting to clean energy is a great reason to put this on the agenda; not to forget saving the planet from climate change. 

 

     There is much more to consider, such as infrastructure investments, public education improvements, affordable health care for all, but I’ll let you take it from here.

 

CONCLUSION

 

     You Jack & Nick, the Up & Coming Generation, have it within your grasp to capture the imagination of the entire Country with a bold call to action, for no more politics as usual, but you need to say it, you need to understand it, you need to talk about it with your friends, you need to get involved, and you need to take it to the streets (or the Internet).  Voting is a good place to start, but simply electing a President to your liking is not enough.  Presidents can’t lead without the will of the people being expressed.  A supportive Congress won’t get elected without multitudes clamoring for change.  We may have to wait out the current gerry-mandered Congress.  Get Tea Party support.  Get Occupy Wall Street support. Keep the Obama electorate united.  Find out where all the McGovernites have gone to.   Keep your ears to the ground for what Fed-Uppers are saying.  There is sufficient discontent in the countryside to build a movement.  A majority of this Country no longer has it so good that we can afford to be complacent.  Preservation of individual liberties takes constant vigilance.  So long as 1 in 6 Americans is hungry, we can do better. 

 

     If you become the voice for change, the status quo will be put on the defensive, and it is my experience that change usually wins out.  Remember what W. E. DuBois said, “If reputable people leave politics alone, then politics will become disreputable.”  Instill a sense of positivity to politics.  Don’t centralize politics in Washington.  The government is not them, it’s us!  Use the Internet.  Keep the Internet Free!

 

Sincerely Yours,

Andy D

 

 

 

 

 

 


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