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What Kind of Senator I would be if I ran in 2006

by Bill McGaughey

  I would be a U.S. Senator in the mold of Eugene McCarthy and Paul Wellstone - not afraid to shake things up. I would risk personal ridicule to do what I think is in the best interests of Minnesota and of the United States of America and of the world.

As an Independence Party Senator, could I get legislation passed? IP Senator Dean Barkley sponsored a bill authorizing funds for the Paul and Sheila Wellstone community center in St. Paul. That bill passed, and the beautiful center honoring those remarkable people was built.

I, however, would be in there for six years pursuing far more ambitious objectives. I never could get Senator Wellstone, the political realist, to sponsor legislation to reduce work time. The unions weren’t supporting it. Former Senator McCarthy, remaining idealistic into old age, did support that goal. He and I wrote a book together explaining the economics of shorter work time. I organized a forum for him in 1982 in which he outlined his views on this issue as a candidate for Senate in the DFL primary.

Forget legislation, though. The important thing is to change the chemistry of politics. If I, a long-shot Independence Party candidate for U.S. Senate, should happen to get elected, you bet there will be political change. I would accomplish things by example. I would say what needs to be done even if I am the only one in the Senate willing to take that risk. In that respect, I would follow my political hero, Eugene McCarthy, who stuck out his neck to oppose the Vietnam war when no one else would. Today we need this kind of politician more than ever before.

So what is my agenda? It’s quite conservative actually:

(1) I would set as my principal goal finding and creating a sustainable economy for all the world’s people - one which affords a comfortable standard of living to the greatest extent possible within the limits of the natural environment. The key to it all is letting work time decline while investment in labor-saving technology occurs. (Eugene McCarthy as chair of the 1959 Senate Committee on Unemployment embraced that possibility.) That way, we let technology create rising living standards without displacing human labor into wasteful, unproductive areas such as gambling, drug pushing, hyper-credit, crime & punishment, and war.

We have to think in terms of reforming the global economy, not just our own, because a world economy sharply divided between the “haves” and “have nots” cannot stand. We would not have an immigration problem if corporate free trade and other factors did not drive poor people out of their own countries to come, legally or illegally, to the United States. We would not have massive outsourcing of production to other countries if wages and living standards around the world were similar to ours.

I’m banking on the hope that the United States of America still has some credibility left in this world after eight years of the Bush II administration. I’m hoping that if the U.S. government develops and is willing to adopt a plan to create a sustainable world economy, other nations will agree to become partners with us in this mission. Government can shape economic development through regulation and taxation or, in this case, through tariffs. Those who want to know my specific proposals will find them on the web at http://www.greens.org/s-r/06toc and at http://www.greens.org/s-r/09toc.

(2) I would also set a goal of finding a way that the U.S. economy can be financially sustainable. For the federal government to run budget deficits in the neighborhood of $300 billion to $400 billion per year and trade deficits in excess of $800 billion per year ($805 billion in 2005 after five consecutive years of record deficits) is not financially sustainable; it’s irresponsible and reckless - kind of like the way George W. Bush ran his businesses before he became Governor of Texas and like Dick Cheney’s record at Halliburton.

Some have suggested that the Fed plans to deal with the government’s fiscal irresponsibility by monetary irresponsibility: We can keep spending and borrowing and then stick our creditors with worthless debt through hyper-inflation. That would bring down the value of the U.S. dollar and make us more competitive in world trade. Yes, that may be the plan, but it’s also irresponsible for a nation our size. It’s yet another undignified moment in our decline as a world power.

When I was campaigning for President in Louisiana’s 2004 Democratic primary, I attended a conference on rural economic development in Natchitoches. A statement by a representative of the Weyerhauser Company struck me. He said: If you become the low-cost place to do business, business will flock to you. I think there’s much truth to that statement.

Unfortunately, the United States is the high-cost place to do business. Our wages and benefits are higher than what most workers receive in other countries; and some, especially CEOs, receive extraordinarily high compensation. We need to work on bringing down costs in those areas. We need to bring down the high cost of health care and the high cost of education. We need to bring down the high cost of litigation and the high social and financial cost of warehousing people in prisons, schools, medical disability, and unproductive dead-end careers.

I also happen to believe that we need to protect our high-cost selves from direct competition with low-wage labor through tariffs imposed on products sent here from Asia and elsewhere. An American worker earning $10 or $15 an hour simply cannot compete against a worker earning $.30 to $.50 an hour.

Shame on you educational hucksters who say we can compete by throwing more money into education! These Chinese, Indian, Malaysian, Mexican, and other foreign workers are not stupid people who cannot handle the “brainpower” functions as well as we Americans can. While your professors of economics are touting the ideological virtues of free trade, we Americans are being killed on price. We need to buffer the price competition for a time while we get our economic house in order and let the rest of the world catch up with respect to living standards, even if this means withdrawing from the WTO.

(3) It goes without saying that I’m against the U.S. war in Iraq. I’m against the insensitive occupation of Islam’s heartland and the killings that have come as a result. I’m against the greedy diversion of Iraq’s oil revenues into lucrative contracts for U.S. firms, if not outright theft. I’m against “Rummy’s” stupid insistence that Iraq could be conquered and held on the cheap - that our more advanced technology would do the trick. One of my proudest moments in the 2002 Senate campaign was sitting on the same platform with Paul Wellstone, Jim Moore, and Ed McGaa, and, as the final speaker for that question, being able to say that all four of us opposed the Iraq war. (Norm Coleman was absent on that occasion.) At this late date, I’m for any reasonable plan to extricate ourselves as a nation from that mess.

These are not ordinary times, and mine will not be an ordinary campaign. If things go well, I can win.

 

Is the U.S. going to invade Iran? by Bill McGaughey

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