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Appendix F: Campaign Manifesto: Where I Stand on the Two Issues

 

I am a candidate for U.S. Senate in the Independence Party primary. In the campaign, I intend to focus on two sets of issues which represent far-reaching political change. Both go up against core interests of the Democratic and Republican parties.

My two positions are stated as follows:

(1) “I believe in the full citizenship, dignity, and equality of white males (and of everyone else, too).”
(2) “I believe that the federal government should enact legislation to reduce the standard workweek to 32 hours by 2010.”

Let’s take the first point first because it is more likely to be misinterpreted. As a point of personal disclosure, I am myself a white male. Some will therefore see my call for the dignity and equality of white males as being a statement in favor of white supremacy, male supremacy, or white-male supremacy. It is not intended to be that.

I make this statement because I sense a spiritual sickness in this land. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I detect in American political life a tone of disparagement directed at white males. This is a strange situation given the fact that white males occupy most of the power positions in our society. One reaches the conclusion, then, if my theory is right, that is mostly white males who are abusing other white males. It could be self-hatred - or something else.

We have, at any rate, the spectacle of a particular group of people being demeaned on the basis of how they were born. White males have a group identity of being powerful when, in fact, most white males are not powerful. Yet, we pin the blame for the failings of our society’s leadership upon this birth-determined group. We spread the blame to a wider group than those persons who were immediately involved.

Now it begins to make sense. Those individual white males who have failed in their leadership roles can escape the blame for their failings if they can convince the public to see “white males” as a group as being at fault rather than themselves individually. They, the power elite, have, therefore, every incentive to promote “political correctness”.

The Civil Rights movement, as originally conceived, was based on the principle that individuals alone are appropriate objects of moral judgment. One should not blame all black people for criminality, laziness, or another negative characteristic if one has observed such tendencies in a few. To do otherwise is to harbor racial prejudice. White Americans generally bought into that argument.

But now the wheel has turned to the point that whites (and males) are considered to have group failings. The old argument seems to be forgotten. If it was wrong then to blame all blacks for the misconduct of some blacks, so it is wrong now to blame all whites for the misconduct of some whites, notably those in the power elite. Such an attitude can be termed “racial prejudice” or “racism” for short.

There is, however, a standard excuse for the apparent double standard which maintains that, by definition, African Americans are incapable of racism. This excuse is based on a definition of racism as “prejudice plus power”. Black people may hold demeaning views of white people but, because whites hold most of the power in society, they alone can be racist. The fact remains, however, that most whites as individuals are not powerful. It is, in fact, among the group of powerless whites - stereotypically, poor southern whites - where racist attitudes are most prevalent. Therefore, the “prejudice plus power” argument cannot hold unless one ascribes power to whites on the basis of group identities. That line of reasoning is morally bankrupt.

I would propose a new definition of racism. Racism is a selfish attitude projected in terms of racial identity. The racist thinks that being a member of a particular race is more important to his or her self-identity than being a member of the human race. By this definition, all people can be racist because all have selfish tendencies and race consciousness is quite strong in most groups. Strong race consciousness leads naturally to comparisons between one’s own and other races. It leads naturally to the thought: My race is better than yours. I am intellectually or morally superior.

I think that the racism of black people is as wrong as the racism of white people, and vice versa. Public policy cannot assume otherwise. If we excuse certain attitudes (and the related behavior) by one-sided standards of judgment, that gives some people a blank check for bad behavior. Immune to public criticism, some will push things to an extreme. We need to subject such persons to the same standards as everyone else so they can expect to suffer the consequences if they let their selfishness get out of hand.

Instead, there is a one-sided view of race relations (and of gender relations) in American public life. Only white people can be guilty of racism. Indeed, one hundred years ago, white people openly expressed racist views, saying, for instance, that Anglo Saxon people were superior to other peoples on earth and had a duty to “civilize” them. Today such views are seldom heard though some whites privately continue to believe such things.

The problem is not private beliefs but those which have advanced to the status of official policy. I would maintain that the Civil Rights legacy, including its one-sided view of race relations, has advanced to the point of being like a civic religion where the major institutions of power (government, business, education, etc.) punish persons having the wrong beliefs. But government has no right to force people to think a particular way. Actions should be its concern. If you want to purge a person’s heart of bigotry and hate, appeal to him or her through religion.

The historical backdrop to this situation is the fact that one race (whites) enslaved another race (blacks) in the United States of America 150 years ago. Also, white-segregationist regimes in the South practiced open discrimination against black people prior to the Civil Rights movement. This leads some African-American spokespersons to suggest that white Americans owe “reparations” for their ancestral sins. I maintain, on the contrary, that there is no such thing as group guilt or historically based group guilt. Race-based transfer payments are improper.

Slavery was indeed a great wrong committed against black people, but plenty of groups, including the black Africans who captured members of other tribes and sold them to white slavers, participated in this wrong. If one accepts historically based judgments of merit, then why do not the descendants of white abolitionists or Union soldiers who died fighting the slave-holding South receive credit for their anti-slavery services? And, if the institution of slavery is so offensive, why do not the African American spokesmen who deplore its existence in America 150 years ago now object to the same practice today in places such as the Sudan where their exertions might actually do some good? There is apparently little interest in combating slavery as a live institution, only in kicking its corpse and collecting money from deep-pocketed groups.

An African American minister from Louisiana is touring the country in opposition to the reparations proposal. He calls this proposal a “shakedown” and claims, quite correctly, that whites are afraid to oppose it for fear of being called “racist”. I agree with the pastor and applaud his moral courage. One of the worst aspects of political correctness is that so many whites who have done no wrong to blacks do submit to a derogatory view of themselves. Alternatively, many have a healthy self-regard but feel that the politics of political correctness is so strong that they can do nothing to withstand its hateful insinuations. So they retreat into passive-aggressive attitudes or whispered conversations with sympathizers. That is a principal source of our spiritual sickness.

No self-respecting person should accept nothing less than full citizenship. Compulsory “diversity training”, which over 75% of the Fortune 500 companies require of their employees, is demeaning to a free people because it prescribes social and political attitudes that individuals must have to work for these companies - attitudes that have nothing to do with job performance. As a free people, how did we let ourselves be coerced into accepting such conditions? Does this country not have leaders able and willing to say out loud that this is wrong? Apparently not. We are led by small people.

What we fail to see is that, even though corporate America is run by white males, it supports affirmative action, diversity training, and other policies that encourage white males to embrace group guilt - not reluctantly, but quite actively. The roots of this situation may be found, perhaps, in the class warfare waged between employers and largely white-male unions fifty or sixty years ago. Then it was not uncommon for employers to hire blacks as strikebreakers in fighting the unions. The idea was to break the back of potential opposition to corporate rule. If black people could be singled out as society’s official victims, then employers could say to complaining whites: You have no right to complain; the blacks have it worse. To complaining blacks they say: We have bent over backwards to help you and now you complain!! The bottom line is that by stirring the pot of racial animosities, our corporate and political leaders have deflected criticism away from their own poor performance. If blacks fight whites, and women fight men, there’s no energy left to fight the man at the top. It’s a classic “divide and conquer” strategy.

The structures of political correctness exist because certain groups of people profit from them. Corporate employers profit in obvious ways. Lawyers profit from increased social conflict and the resulting lawsuits that this creates. (Ambulance-chasing attorneys have discovered that anti-discrimination and sexual-harassment laws are potentially quite lucrative.) The Democratic Party has profited by building a coalition of “oppressed minorities” - not just blacks but women, gays and lesbians, Hispanics, and other immigrant groups - who together represent a majority of voters. And since the population of groups comprising this coalition have been increasing relative to the rest of the population - read, white males - there is contempt for the residual population as a dying breed. Everyone wants to be on the winning side so the demographic “losers” find little sympathy. “Celebrate diversity” carries a tone of triumph over the despised white males.

The strange fact is, however, that none of this has much relevance to my life today. I live in a neighborhood of Minneapolis which is 20% white. A majority of tenants in my apartment building are black - and have been for the past nine years. We seem to get along fine. The subject of race relations seldom arises because we do not deal with each other in those terms. My tenants are hard-working individuals who, for the most part, pay their rent on time in return for use of my building. I would say that, on the front lines of race relations, there does not seem to be the problem that one might expect from reading Star Tribune editorials. It is mostly among political and cultural elites that the race problem (and the gender problem) arises. I must be cautious, however, in judging how others might view me, especially if I choose to make an issue of boosting white males. My wife had a cute way of signaling potential problems when she once called me, I think lovingly, “a white male with a red face.”

But enough of this discussion. I do not want to dwell upon the first of my two campaign planks to the detriment of the other.

The economic part of my program is actually the main part. Here my argument cuts against the core interests of the Republican party. I disagree with the libertarian idea that governments are worthless and the free market would take care of everything if government would just get out of the way. We now see clearly the consequence of governmental abdication of its regulatory responsibilities in CEOs who demand policies to maximize short-term profit so that they can siphon off as much of this wealth for themselves while the getting is good. Free markets did not choose them for their CEO positions or set their compensation, but rather a group of back-scratching board members, lawyers, accountants, and academics, who all belong to the same clique.

A veteran board member of large corporations, turned critic of the system, said recently on a public-affairs television show that (if my memory serves me correctly) in 1990 CEOs owned 2% of the equity of the companies that they managed. By 2001, thanks to stock options, this had risen to 12% of the companies’ equity. It was, he said, the largest transfer of wealth in human history, excepting that which took place during political revolutions. Warren Buffett has called for companies to expense the cost of stock options. When the interviewer naively suggested that the Business Round Table might push for this reform to improve the business community’s image, Buffett pointed out that this group had consistently opposed it. The name of the CEO game is apparently to receive generous stock options, manipulate accounting to maximize short-term profits, and sell one’s stock before the rest of the investors, and then, if need be, exit with a golden parachute. Of course, this is an exaggeration, but it has happened in all too many cases.

The politicians, from President Bush on down, are all outraged at corporate greed. Their solution seems to be to send someone to prison. In other words, if there is a problem, criminalize it. Single out a few individuals for punishment and let the show go on. The problem is that most of these CEOs have not done anything illegal. It’s simply that standards of executive compensation have risen to the point of imperiling the economy. This is a consequence of the laissez-faire philosophy. If all constraints are removed, many people will take as much money out of an organization as peer acceptance will allow. Honestly, what would you do if you could set your own salary?

Granted, the political system is not known for its incorruptible ways but it is, unfortunately, the most effective instrument that we have to combat corporate abuse. Yes, it’s true that politicians have effectively taken bribes in the form of campaign contributions and promise of future employment. Even so, we must at least imagine the possibility of honest government. While I am against the “big spending” philosophy of liberal politicians, I am not against trying to achieve economic objectives by regulatory means. The object should be to achieve rising living standards in terms of higher real wages, shorter working hours, and pension and health benefits that are adequate for today’s needs. In all respects, we have seen a deterioration in job quality as measured by such criteria - even as the political-correctness juggernaut rolls through corporate America.

Reduced work hours are the key to taking wealth from the pockets of CEOs and putting it into the pockets of ordinary workers. Government cannot dictate higher real wages but it can control work hours. The reason that work hours are the key to labor’s general improvement is that work hours - measured in worker-hours of production - represent labor supply. To reduce average hours is, then, to reduce labor supply. Reduced supply combined with constant or rising demand brings about an increase in price - in this case, higher wage rates.

The federal government can regulate hours by amending the Fair Labor Standards Act to adjust its provisions to match modern conditions. It has been over sixty years since this law was enacted, establishing a forty-hour standard workweek for covered employees. Although this law has worked reasonably well over the years, there are several problems:

(1) The time-and-a-half wage penalty no longer provides an adequate disincentive to schedule longer hours since fixed costs, such as health and pension benefits, have become a larger component of employee compensation. The overtime penalty needs to be increased to a point that it does become effective. I would propose that the penalty rate be increased to double-time. Lest this extra half-time premium become a disguised wage substitute, I also propose that it go to the government rather than to the overtime worker. The purpose is not to encourage working the longer hours but to discourage working them.

(2) The law applies only to certain covered workers. Bona fide managerial and professional employees are exempt. Many employees who do grunt work in the office are considered to be managers or professionals and are, therefore, required to work longer hours without receiving overtime pay. The law needs to be tightened to bring more workers into the system.

(3) The forty-hour standard workweek, in effect for sixty years, is obsolete. Production technology permits a lower level of hours. The level of hours which is appropriate to today’s economy depends primarily upon the level of labor productivity measured in terms of output per worker-hour. Between 1950 and 1998, the level of productivity in U.S. manufacturing industries rose by approximately three and a half times. If levels of employment remained constant, that means that U.S. workers, with their increased productivity levels, could have produced the same volume of output as they did in 1950 by working less than one third the number of weekly hours.

The fact is, however, that weekly hours per employee did not drop to such a level. For the economy as a whole, based on U.S. census data, the average workweek per worker dropped from 43.5 hours per week in 1947 to 38.0 hours per week in 1982 and then rose to 39.2 hours per week in 2001. For manufacturing production workers, the average workweek, using payroll data, was 40.5 hours in 1950 and 41.6 hours in 1996 - roughly an hour per week gain. In other words, the increased productivity did not bring any gains in leisure. The levels of overtime worked in manufacturing industries have been averaging between 3.5 hours and a peak of 4.9 hours in 1997. During the economic expansion of the 1990s, increases in systematic overtime accounted for as many worker hours as increased employment. Clearly, the U.S. economy is not providing shorter hours on its own.

During the 1950s, policymakers were worried about the employment impact of a process called automation. Some people thought that shorter work hours were needed to stabilize employment. Others thought that more limited measures would suffice. In 1959, the Senate convened a Special Committee on Unemployment to study the problem. The committee was chaired by Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota. The committee decided not to recommend shorter hours but to try the other fixes first and then, if there were continuing problems, revisit the shorter workweek proposal. McCarthy always had doubts about that decision. In later years, in various political campaigns, he often advocated shorter work hours as a means of improving employment. I had the privilege, as a numbers man, to work with the former Senator on this issue, not only in coauthoring a book but also in participating in a panel discussion with him at UN headquarters in New York and at two conferences in Iowa City.

The shorter-workweek approach assumes, however, a closed economic system such as a fairly self-sufficient national economy. We are obviously not living in a closed economy but one much affected by world trade. Therefore, national regulation alone will not work. There has to be international cooperation. I think that national governments could work together on a common strategy to improve wages, hours, and other working conditions, as well as to promote environmental well being, and that protective tariffs could be a part of that process. I outlined the proposal in a 1992 book, “A U.S.-Mexico-Canada Free-Trade Agreement: Do We Just Say No?”. The point is that we must begin thinking globally in envisioning a better society.

In many respects, one might say that the U.S. Government has become an “evil empire” regarding proposals to cut work time. Once leaders in this area, we have become a major retarding force. We give our workers such stingy amounts of paid vacation time - well below international standards. As workers in the Far East are enjoying more leisure, U.S. workers are having to work more. How many know that the Chinese government adopted a shorter workweek in 1995? How many know that in the 1980s the Japanese government made the provision of more leisure a focal point of its domestic economic policy? Believe me, if I am elected Senator, I will shake things up. I will make Paul Wellstone look like a tongue-tied conservative once I take the Senate floor.

Starting to bluster a bit, I should end here. Let’s hope that this year’s campaign for U.S. Senate will address fundamental questions, not “rearrange chairs on the Titanic.” I am willing to risk making a fool of myself by supporting a shorter workweek and, yes, becoming the “white man with a red face.”

http://www.billforsenate.org wmcg@prodigy.net

See next item in Appendix.

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