About Me

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I am William S. U'ren and I am dead. I was once a big noise in Oregon politics, an activist back in the days when Republicans were called progressive and there was an actual Populist Party. The history books say I am largely responsible for things like the initiative, referendum and recall here, as well as the direct election of US Senators. I ran for governor, once, when William Howard Taft was the Republican president, and I lost. Then I retired from politics and, thirty years later, I died. And almost everything I accomplished has been turned on its head and against the very people it was meant to help. Enough is Enough in Oregon!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

More Class Warfare from "Just to the Right of Center"--Whatever did you expect?

New face--same old class warfare, but it's a less extreme class warfare, no longer coming from the hard right but from "Just to the Right of Center."

Well, that's a relief.

Ms. Elizabeth Hovde says the Oregon legislature blew it by not lowering the minimum wage in this session.

As a spokesperson for those Just to the Right of Center, those who used to call themselves Conservatives and/or Libertarians, Ms. Hovde wants to "tweak" the minimum wage law that was passed by the people through an initiative vote.

Typically, not letting the hob-goblin of consistency get in their way, this comes from people with a history of rising up in outrage when anyone suggests "tampering with the will of the people" by "tweaking" any of the cock-eyed tax or prison "reforms" that Conservatives have used to undermine the infrastructure upon which Oregon's middle class once rested.

But, hey, to change "the will of the voters" about the minimum wage--well, that's no big deal to the very people who not so long ago could preach, with the straightest of faces, the benefits of "local control" here in Oregon while, at the same time, passing laws prohibiting such control by school districts that wanted to keep military recruiters off campuses or by cities and counties that wanted to pass gay rights ordinances.

I digress.

Ms Hovde's commentary "justifies" lowering the minimum wage with a commonly used rhetorical device--a string of allegedly ironic "never mind" statements.

All of these she trots out are actually "so what?" statements in that they are either prove nothing or are based on the reality-denying fantasies of the Just to the Right of Center/Conservative oracle--the School of Religious and Economic Faith at the University of Chicago. You would do well, therefore, to do as she says--never mind what she says.

She begins with "never mind" that Oregon has the second highest unemployment rate in the country.

No one has ever shown me a study of sound methodology that demonstrated any substantial link between minimum wage and the availability of jobs. You will have as many jobs as there is business going on to need them, generally speaking. Her statement that a high minimum wage stifles employment is a warmed over Libertarian myth that they prove by saying it's "just common sense." (Ever notice how what people say is common sense has more commonality than it does, upon reflection, sense?) This is repeated and repeated notwithstanding the inability to show convincingly (just read the studies they've ginned up to "prove" it) any such connection in the real world. If you want to see Libertarianism in action, by the way, visit Somalia today. There's a place where you don't have to worry about "men with guns" showing up if you don't do what those in charge want.

I digress, again.

This connection between the minimum wage and the availability of work is very like that argument you bought a while back in passing property tax "relief." Remember? Based on the ideological fantasies of the those now locating themselves Just to the Right of Center you were told that lowering property taxes on businesses would lead to lower rents and prices in stores. That's because, they told you, it was just common sense. In a free market if the cost of doing business goes down the imperative of competition forces sellers to lower their prices. Since property taxes are a cost of doing business if they are cut so are prices. The iron and hidden hand of the free market would force rents and prices down.

Makes sense, doesn't it?

You do remember them saying this to convince you to pass property tax "relief," don't you?

Still waiting for those lower rents and prices, are you?

I digress, once more.

"Never mind," Ms. Hovde continues, that Oregon's minimum wage is higher than the national minimum wage.

Again, never mind this statement because it is even less sincere than it is persuasive.

I wonder if Ms. Hovde, upon seeing the federal government jump off of the capitol dome, would think it a good idea for Oregon state government to do the same. I wonder, too, what other federal standards she and the Conservatives and Libertarians standing "just to the right of center" with her here in Oregon think we should adopt because they are federal standards.

Those now styling themselves as being "just to the right of center" often argue, in regard to Roe v. Wade, that the United Sates is a federal republic in which things should be worked out in the laboratory of the states, as the people there see best for them.

Well, here in Oregon our current minimum wage is an example of that very principle at work. Is Ms, Hovde, on behalf of those Just to the Right of Center saying that the people of Oregon--you--aren't smart enough to govern yourself as you see fit? In passing the minimum wage law does Ms. Hovde think you were too stupid to know what was good for you? Do you, the voters of Oregon, need some "smarter" entity (see below) to set the minimum wage at an "appropriate" level?

Ms. Hovde skips on to say that you should "never mind" that one in six people in Oregon receive food stamps but here she's wrong--you should mind this fact, although not because it has anything to do with the minimum wage. The sad fact of one in six Oregonians being on food stamps should be firmly laid at the feet of the class war waged on you from Just to the Right of Center.

Would people making a minimum wage that was lowered to a level "appropriate for the economic conditions" (to be determined, apparently, by those Just to the Right of Center) be earning enough to ineligible for food stamps?

Is she gunning for two in six people in Oregon getting food stamps?

She returns to being correct, however, when she says you should "never mind that Oregon would need 1,200 to 2,000 new jobs a month to stay even with population growth" because there is no hope that cutting the minimum wage will increase the number of jobs.

Think about this: employers wouldn't "invest" the money from cutting wages in hiring new people because they would have to pay for the book keeping and the tax contributions and unemployment insurance and all the rest of the overhead involved in having workers. More employees, with the same revenue, would lower the bottom line.

So, Ms. Hovde's advice to "never mind" anything she said is, pretty much, good advice. It's all irrelevant to the minimum wage and proves nothing.

Does she just want to distract you into continued sacrifice to those tired and once more discredited economic idols so you heed the guidance of their priests--you know, the people like her and good old David (what was his last name?) who stomped off the editorial page once there were fewer people on his side of the Red Rover game than on the other.

Or is she so taken with her faith in her savior--the hidden hand--that she really thinks that there is such a thing as a free market, one that is beyond the manipulation of human beings, especially human beings with a lot of money?

It doesn't matter which, of course. If you were in the middle class, or aspired to be there, the people now presenting themselves as being from Just to the Right of Center have knocked the snot out of you for 30 years. And if you listen to her they will keep right on doing that.

You made some real progress between the Great Depression and President Reagan, but that's gone, dismantled and sold for scrap by so called Liberals as well as the Conservatives--those Just to the Right of Center--all of whom rely on the campaign contributions of those who, perched on piles of money, can hire/bribe politicians to set things up to make their piles larger. And you know where the money comes from to increase the size of their piles. But that's another post. One you've read, from me, several times, now.

Just as in my day, these people--whatever they call themselves in the moment--have handed you this stuff for years. Now they have been in charge of economy for the last eight years, after chipping away at the safeguards built into it for twenty years before that. All the time talking about tax cuts bringing prosperity and unleashing the power of capitalism.

How has that worked out for you?

If they are right why are you so worried about the future they have created for you?

In the end you will have to crawl out your window, away from the control of the Just to the Right of Center Libertarian Conservative types, if you are going to set things right in Oregon, set things right for you and for your children.

Trust me, I know this is hard.

But remember, this aint beanbag. This is class warfare Ms. Hovde is waging on you, from Just to the Right of Center, as it's been waged on you for years. And you are losing.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Pair to Draw To

We are going to have HB 2005 and people on both sides are, as usual, deceiving you.

And you need a dead guy to see through this...

One of them, Senator Ted Ferrioli, says it will undermine your wonderful initiative system and the other, Secretary of State Kate Brown, wants you to think it is a significant step toward fixing it. Neither is truthful.

Look, all this new law addresses is signature collection and how ballot titles are selected.

If you think this is big onions you need to look for perspective in someone else's garden.

This bill touches none of the real problems that the initiative causes you. For example, once this bill becomes law:

1. Unfunded mandates benefiting single interest groups will continue to undermine the budget process, changing the spending priorities worked out among the competing interests in that process that your state constitution, like all state constitutions, is required to provide for you if it is to conform to the republican form of government clause of the US Constitution. (Did you ever actually read the Supreme Court cases that uphold the initiative process? I digress...)

2. Expensive, deceptive propaganda campaigns, based on simplistic slogans and the manipulation of symbols and emotions, will continue to limit the amount and quality of information available to voters, especially information about consequences unintended by advocates or contrary to the interest of voters.

3. Un-vetted provisions written by people not artful at drafting statutes will continue to be jammed into law, requiring extensive rewriting and even changing of laws that are already on the books.

4. The Oregon constitutional structure will continue to be distorted, not just by cluttering up that Christmas Tree document with measures that should be statutes but also by limiting the ability of the legislature to make or change policy and by promoting minority rule.

5. The initiative will continue to used to take apart the social and economic infrastructure upon which middle class well-being depends and the burden of paying for what government continues to do will continue to be shifted away from those who benefit the most from that and onto those who are disadvantaged by it.

Ignoring these, only some of the real problems the initiative causes you, both sides in the HB 2005 debate are putting on a show.

See Senator Ted Ferrioli? He speaks for those who have so effectively taken over the initiative to profit from using it to advance their anti-middle class agenda. If HB 2005 doesn't really do any harm to his team, why would he (and they) be so upset about it? Perhaps successfully addressing these meaningless problems will embolden those who might want to do something about the serious ones. Besides, such howling as he has been doing is part of the effort to keep you thinking that in having the initiative you have something valuable to you.

And then there is Secretary of State Kate Brown. Her dog in this fight are those in the middle class or upwardly mobile toward it. These are the people, like you, who have been victimized by the success of the Good Senator's team at hijacking the initiative. Through some mixture of nostalgia, ignorance and wishful thinking you continue believing that the initiative can be fixed so as to fulfill the vision my friends and I had when we implemented it all those years ago. Maybe Ms. Brown has as much hope in small steps as Senator Ferrioli has fear of them.

Well, good luck with that. If you are clinging to our dreams remember we supported the single tax, too. If you don't know what that was use Google.

As I have explained to you in previous posts, there is no way, given the way that money corrupts it, that the initiative system can ever be of use to anyone except Senator Ferrioli and those who run the poker game it's turned into--a game of Oregon Hold Em Down and Fleece Em at which you can never afford to buy a seat.

Is your brain as dead as I am?

The initiative needs to go.

Don't even try to mend it. Just end it.

And while you're at it, next time you think about the average kicker check, ask somebody who gets the ten biggest ones.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

number 41--and drowning

Wednesday June 10, 2009 and the Oregonian is reporting that a little boy died and his sister was saved by "good Samaritans" while the official emergency response--from Portland Fire and Rescue--took 30 minutes to lumber to the scene in the David Campbell, a boat built in 1927, and not built for the mission into which it was pressed that night. Part of the delay had to do with a slow speed of the craft--a quarter of the speed of a boat stationed on Hayden Island that responds to such incidents in that neck of the river--and part to do with the necessity to raise the Steel Bridge to let the big old boat through. Another boat--stationed with the Campbell but out of service for repairs--could have cut 7 minutes or so off the trip.

Now, understand, the Sheriff's Department has a separate rescue capability--with craft faster and a lower profile, not requiring the raising of a bridge between here and there and capable of making the trip at 39 MPH. But, because of "budget cuts" those faster, shorter boats are not on duty at the time of night these children hit the water.

Oregon ranks #41, according to the US Census Department, in state and local tax paid, per capita. Yeah, for all the times you've been told that you are overtaxed here in Oregon you are #41.

In Bill Sizemore talk, that means you are in the 9th "best" state and local tax situation in the country.

Congratulations, Oregon.

Thanks, Bill.

To all the the other costs of being in that exalted class of the "top" 20% for local state and local taxation add the death of one little boy.

But it's not just keeping the Portland Fire and Rescue budget "reasonable" that you could connect to this benefit conferred on you by the tax bashers, if you cared to pick up a pencil.

The "reasonableness" of the budgets of the several agencies that fall into the definition of "mental health" here in Oregon is also responsible for this boy's death and for whatever is the ultimate fate of his mother--sick enough to have pushed him and his sister off of the Sellwood Bridge.

There are probably a number of other underfunded parts of your social, governmental and economic infrastructure you could connect to all this--and plenty of other unfortunate victims you could put on the other side of the ledger. Most of them just die out of sight.

But it may be a comfort to know that whatever was not available to help this wretched woman there will be a prison cell available for her--with no wait list or exemption for a pre-existing condition.

Look around at everything else the lack of which is considered "reasonable"--acceptable--in exchange for your "great" tax rate here in Oregon.

Of course, there is always room for improvement. After all, Oregon business taxes are rated #2 in the country by an advocacy group that skews its numbers so as to make such taxes seem as high as possible in its propaganda.

Imagine how great you'd have it living here in Oregon if your state and local taxes were the second lowest, per capita, in the country!

Makes me glad I'm dead.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

et tu Democrats?

Am I dead, or are you?

I have been saying that money corrupts the political process for more than 100 years. Most often my examples to prove this is have described the Republican Party and the people who own them.

That's not fair.

Today I want to talk about how, notwithstanding propaganda and folklore and all the symbols they like to manipulate, the Democratic Party is not somewhere you can go to find representation based on your best interest. It's just as bought and paid for as the Republicans.

It's just the system: it's the money.

Let us take a field trip to the US Senate. I helped turn that body from the millionaire's club it was during the Gilded Age into...into...well, into the millionaire's club it is today. Didn't mean to do that, but I did it.

My thinking was that if we took selection of US Senators out of the hands of state legislators and had people vote directly for them, then Senators would be more likely to do what voters want. Common sense, right? Well, no. Like most of what's called "common sense" it was based on faulty premises so it did not do what my Populist and Progressive brothers and sisters and I thought it would do.

It did make the Senate like the House of Representatives which, since the Constitution was adopted, is made up of people elected by "the people." Big deal. No one there has ever really cared about what's happening to anyone except the people who bankroll them.

And it doesn't matter which party you belong to. Samey-same. I'm guessing, now, that even if we Populists had caught on (or as you would say, today, "gotten traction") the big money guys would have bought us off. Hint: the real change will come when the buyers can no longer buy.

But for two things it would strike you as ironic that a glaring example of this would play out on May 1, 2009. First, it plays out every day in Congress and every state legislature (and county commission and city council and ....) in the United States. Second, most of you don't even know why it would be ironic that the best interest of the people is thwarted by big money on May Day.

May 1, 2009--The Durbin Amendment was killed as 12 Democrats (including the newest Democrat, Arlen Specter) voted against it.

The Durbin Amendment would have given bankruptcy judges back the ability to adjust the terms of a mortgage so that people could stay in their homes and the banks would still get paid what they were owed (just not the premium wind fall profit they get through foreclosure).

The Durbin Amendment would not have instituted some new "socialist" idea--it would have rolled the law back to where it was 30 years ago. That's when bankruptcy judges lost this ability in one of a string of major legislative victories, battles won by wealth, in the current class war that has been successfully all but dismantled the American the middle class.

The Durbin Amendment would have helped 1,700,000 Americans stay in their homes rather than losing them to foreclosure.

The Durbin Amendment was supported by unions, civil rights organizations, and those representing retired persons. It was opposed by the American Bankers Association and real estate lobbyists.

I know you're not allowed to say "class warfare," in this country, but I wonder if you can you even recognized it when you see it, when it's being waged against you.

Richard Durbin said on the floor of the Senate on May Day 2009 that the American people were about to find out whether the people or the bankers owned that place.

He already knew who owns the place, and the Durbin Amendment went down with 12 Democrats voting "no."

Senator Nelson (D-Florida) has received $1,400,000 in campaign contributions from the bankers over the years and it's estimated that 3,700 homeowners he represents will lose their homes thanks to his "no."

Senator Landrieu (D-Louisiana) has received $2,000,000 from bankers and real estate types over the years and it's estimated that 12,000 homeowners she represents will lose their homes thanks to her "no."

Here's a telling epitome of how this works:

"Sen. Ted Kaufman, a Democrat from Delaware, a state nearly wholly-owned by the financial industry, voted his conscience, opposing the banks. He is not running for reelection. "I'm liberated from fund raising," said Kaufman afterwords.

"His Delaware colleague, Democrat Tom Carper, voted with the banks."

He is liberated from fund raising, the man said, and therefore allowed to vote his conscience. Remove the imperative to raise campaign contributions and integrity springs right out, like Jesus from the tomb.

And next week it's credit cards.

Next week it's the bankers and their Senators versus credit card holders (you!) who want relief from the contracts of adhesion that allow the banks, among other unfair provisions, to raise interest rates without notice, even making increases effective before providing notice to the customer, even on balances that existed before the rate increase, and without any kind of process or recourse.

Sure, the bought-and-paid-for R's are going to be there to help the banks try to knock the snot out of the people like you, even those among you who elected them. But D's will be right there with them. Doesn't matter which you voted for, this last go 'round: they turned you and the rest of the middle class over long ago to people we used to call plutocrats. Plutocrats--not you--fund political campaigns. You, not the plutocrats, get pushed away from the table where, as old law school professor of mine used to say, you can put on your tin beak and peck with rest of the chickens.

I don't mind sounding like a broken record: you are equal to the bankers--dollar for dollar you are equal. They have millions of dollars worth of equality. And you have...

In America "money is speech." That's why no one hears you--Democrat or Republican, Clinton or Bush. Big money talks more loudly than your small money. You might be better off buying whiskey or a big screen TV. Or a share in a community garden along with a good sturdy tent.

Hey--even Obama: Obama's "team" is made up of bankers who got us into this mess and who are friends with those who are getting federal money right now (and I am thinking they are going to get more next week when the "stress tests" on the banks are made public).

By the way, President Obama has made a very big deal out of credit card reform. We'll see how that works out for him--for you. I wonder why he was luke warm about the Durbin amendment.

Class warfare? The bankers and their ilk have political office holders sending your money to them to cover "their" losses. They get these office holders to do this by giving them campaign contributions and then paying lobbyists to make sure that the recipients of their largess don't forget where it came from.

That's the millions of dollars of "free speech" they use to drown out your voice--in many instances your TARP money supports their ability to do that to you.

Now, if you received a federal grant you would be required to forego lobbying--but not banks. And don't tell me they don't lobby with the TARP funds, they lobby with "other" funds. That's as stupid as saying campaign contributions don't buy a Senator's vote but only "access." Fact is that the TARP funds free up "other" funds to pay for lobbyists. It doesn't matter which pocket it comes out of, you are paying for that fountain pen and the ink that they use to rob you!

In my day we tried to do something about this dynamic. Yeah, some of our stuff backfired on us and made things worse. But we tried and some of the Populist/Progressive ideas got picked up by FDR and formed the base for the strongest middle class in history. Now that middle class, and the stability it brought to the United States, has been sucked dry and its assets trickled upward to create the most wealthy oligarchy in history.

Is the best you can come up with in the middle of this a strategy pitting one pile of money against another pile of money and thinking that one of those piles of money is going to care about anything except making itself bigger at your expense?

Really? What if the problem is the big piles of money dominating politics, in the first place?

And you think I'm dead?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Catching up on the Mail

Although there is a "comment" feature to this blog people seem to want to respond by email. No Problemo. But really...

So Representative Wingard was kind enough to respond to my quoting the union official about the use of the rainy day fund. He wrote:

"Mr. Uren:

The Democrats control the House and Senate in this State. They and they alone decide whether or not we use the Rainy Day Fund money. Your union organizer has you focused on the wrong party. Democrats currently run this state.
Rep. Matt Wingard"

So I am pleased that Representative Wingard is in favor of using the rainy day fund to tide over state employees and schools and apologize to anyone I might have misled (the union will have to do its own apologizing) for associating Representative Wingard with "Republicans."

And the same to Senator Kruse...

Dear William,
You have that wrong. The republicans have been advocating for the use of the rainy day funds for months. It has been the Governor and the democrats, but mostly the Governor who have been saying no. In fact the Governor said he would veto any bill spending any of the rainy day fund.
Senator Jeff Kruse

I hope they will write me soon and let me know how they feel about the NW Republican website's lying about the Employee Fair Choice Act, too.

At the bottom...comment...

So I haven't heard from the union organizer...about this...where do we suppose she got her information?

Another Big Lie in the Relentless Class War on the Middle Class

You have to admire their nerve. The NW Republican website is the worst commercial ever for free speech and is a prime example of why the Greeks and our Founders had it right when they feared factions and tyrannical government based on democracy.

When you step out of the picture--and trust me some day you will be joining me "out of the picture"--you'll see what a shocking irony it is that there is a now a political party called "Republican" that has no idea what a republic is. Well, maybe they do and cynically use the name, but I rather think that they are hiding something that they don't know anything about, to begin with.

This party of republicans (and if you stop long enough to reflect you'll realize that those two words are in contradiction to one another) has ruled and is attempting to regain power, with bankroll democracy.

They spend vast amounts of money to manipulate, brainwash, condition and confuse people so that they either don't vote or vote against their own interests. They have waged a class war against the middle class for more than 40 years now and they aren't about to quit now. They have successfully convinced the American middle class to commit mass suicide. Smart Republicans, like Mark Hannah, understood that a strong middle class...never mind. Another story, for later, maybe.

The NW Republican is but one small, home grown example of how this works (for "writ large" look at Rupert Murdock). Take this website's Big Lie Piece about the Employee Free Choice Act. This legislation, they say, will take a way the "right to a secret ballot" in the process of workers choosing whether or not to be part of a union. It does not do that, at all, and if you don't believe that go here, or here, or here. Or do your own Google search. If I am lyin' I'm dyin'.

So it's untrue. Yet the NW Republican website repeats the lie.

A great line I saw on on this is that business has been claiming that union membership has been declining for years--proving that workers don't want unions. Yet a bill comes along that would provide some balance against the power businesses have to stop union organizing and business has gone completely off of the farm with fear and dire warnings of...of..."socialism" and the loss of the "sacred" right to a secret ballot.

(You want to know about socialism? Google "single tax." You'll be as glad as I am that I failed that that one!)

So, if workers don't want unions how come the hysteria over the non-loss of the "sacred" secret ballot?

(And frankly the only thing "sacred" to Republicans is keeping secret the fact that the real ballots--the ones that really count in getting elected and running the state and the county--are dollars contributed)

Why is it necessary to lie about doing away with the secret ballot to defeat the enhanced ability for workers to get something they "don't want?"

The idea is to repeat this lie so often that middle class people (or people who once were middle class or people who would like to be middle class) will be convinced that it's true.

The only thing sadder than to see such a blatant lack of integrity on the part of the NW Republican is the numbing realization that so many people are going to believe it's true.

The people behind the NW Oregonian web page should be ashamed of themselves. But I don't know they are capable of shame. It appears to me that their corrupt ways have finally made them blind.

Had enough, Oregon?

Enough is Enough in Oregon?


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

a great one liner

I heard a union organizer say the other day that some Republicans in the Oregon legislature are hesitant to use the "rainy day" fund to help get through the next year or so.

You are looking at cuts in the school year, big increases in tuition as state schools, massive cuts in the state workers who make up the social safety net and who knows how many people thrown out of the middle class or what other kinds of hardship will heaped onto them as the country works its way out of this mess--and the R's can't put their hand out the window and feel the wetness?

And you have the second highest unemployment rate in the country (being just a little bit better off than Michigan in this regard is like having a few more paved roads than Mississippi).

"If there was ever a rainy day," said this union organizer, "this has got to be it."

Perhaps Fox News needs a weather channel.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Buddy, can you spare $959,800,617?

Thousands of Oregonians who thought they were members of the middle class have been dropped into free fall; laid off, their savings and their homes sucked into the black hole of corporate privilege and profit.

How are you doing? Trying to figure out what to do when the unemployment runs out? When the beginning of the fall semester in Corvallis starts?

So, your cut of a billion dollars pulled out of the collective ears of middle class Oregonians would come in handy, right now.

But it's not in your collective ear. You paid that much last year in reparations...taxes...for having lost the class war waged on you by the Insider District of Columbia Corporate Funded Public Relations Shops and Lobbying Groups (IDCCFPRSLG) on behalf of the corporate tax relief.

That particular group, by the way, with one of its subsidiaries in Oregon, asked you to tie tea bags on your glasses yesterday and blame progressive taxation and spending on a social safety net (two things that don't really exist, anymore, if they ever did) for the fact that you are being impoverished.

The United States Public Interests Research Group (USPIRG) and The Oregon State Public Interest Group (OSPIRG) marked the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's death and the deadline to pay federal taxes by issuing reports to tell you that the middle class is being downsized by use of the federal and state tax codes.

You are not dead, yet, are you?

By the way, the total amount of tax subsidies paid to US corporations, according to these reports, is $100 billion per year. And in case you think this is something new the total for last ten years is $1 Trillion.

Why hasn't Bill Sizemore snapped to this?

As I have pointed out: dollar for dollar you are all equal in Oregon, in this country.

How much equality do you have in your wallet?


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Getting Rid of Party Primaries

I used to be big on party primaries.

I am one of the people who left you saddled with them.


Lame, I know, to say this, but I wasn't alone.

We Populists and Progressives liked the idea that the people would go to the polls and choose the candidates who would run for office representing their parties. Made sense. Candidates that most of the people in a party wanted to vote for was the person to be the standard bearer. Much better candidates would emerge, we were sure, than those chosen by the bosses of the parties in smoke filled rooms.

I'm not much on "makes sense," anymore--I am more into results. Death has made me an empiricist. What are the results of having party primaries? Have they done for you what we thought they would?


And so much "no" that it begs the question: how could we have been so wrong?

(I've been over this with you before but the answer to that question is so obvious that it bears repeating often. If those at whom reforms are aimed can spend as much money as they like to resist them then all such efforts will be undermined and turned into vehicles to perpetuate the evil it was hoped they would eliminate. Live--or in my case, die--and learn.)

So, check the outcomes.

Get to know some of people in political office today. If you have a long perspective you will find that the quality is not a bit higher, today, than it was when we started agitating for primaries; not one little bit better.

The Oregon Legislature, for example, is just as much a "representative body" today as it was 1n 1890--you will still find some of the smartest and finest people you ever met there, and you will also still find some of the most ignorant and corrupt popinjays to every walk the face of the earth. And you will find that most of those legislators know this is true although they have different lists of which among them is in which category.

Although there are far more women there now (one of the few real improvements in government that we actually made back then was helping women get the vote), as many of them have joined the ranks of the latter as the former group.

These "representatives" still, of course, represent the same forces as those who, before them, were chosen at conventions. If you doubt that check out the campaign financing. Buying "access" means getting to hold the strings that make them dance and making sure they dance with them that brung them.

OK. No change. None. Nothing. (Today I believe you call that "Bupkis?")

So, how many millions of (your) dollars are spent on these primary elections that have not changed the quality of candidates running for office or helped build the middle class? How many of those (your tax) dollars came from those among you who don't care about any party on the ballot; from those who cannot get the party they do care about on the ballot, from those who are not particularly inclined toward any party except those on tailgates at Civil War games?

Party primaries have turned out to be a government (taxpayer) subsidy for political parties--for the two party stasis--and to ingrain in power the very factions that the Founders of the Republic predicted would be a pox on our political houses.

In other words, the descendants of the wealthy and powerful interests that chose the candidates before party primary election system still choose the candidates but now in a dog and pony show of democracy that is paid for by you.

If the result is the same, why not save the money (or spend it on schools--many of your children still cannot afford college) and let the parties choose their own candidates any way they want to?

The only difference party primaries has made to your system is that vast amounts of money get raised and spent to manipulate you in to casting vote after vote based on slogans and lies to elect people acceptable to (and ultimately funded and owned by) the same kinds of wealthy and powerful interests that selected them in the 19th Century. And they get to call this "democracy" like that was some kind of great deal for you to pick up the tab.

The only way to get control of all this democratic tyranny you have going on is to get control of the money.

(Another quick review: You will always be equal to one another in this country--dollar for dollar. If you have $100 to contribute then you are $900 less equal than a guy with $1000 to give. If you want everyone to be equal in your "democracy" then everyone has to be worth the same small amount of money to the candidates).

Because if you don't get control of the political money it will subvert anything you try to do--just as it has turned around the initiative, party primaries and most every other reform I or anybody else ever took a shine to.

I'll be discussing most of these reforms, in time, as I have discussed some of them, previously.

Because I think that sooner or later you are going to wise up.

I have lots of time and little else to do.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Me and Bill Sizemore? As if...

I have a news flash for Rick Attig, Associate Editor at the Oregonian, and for Greg Wasson, a lawyer and all around democracy activist from Salem who’s been working on a book documenting the initiative in Oregon—which is necessarily (I guess, sadly) also about me.

Mr. Attig writes

“If the father of Oregon's citizen initiative and referendum, William S. U'Ren, were alive today, what would he say about Bill Sizemore, the electoral pest responsible for most of the initiatives on the November ballot?

“The answer probably would surprise you.

“Greg Wasson, a Salem lawyer who is writing a book about the history of the Oregon initiative, says that U'Ren would have "felt a certain kindred spirit" with Sizemore.”

The truth of the matter is that I don’t have dirt in common with Bill Sizemore (he, for example, is on top of it and I am under it).

To say that I, the person who headed up the implementation of the initiative in Oregon, feel like a kindred spirit with Bill Sizemore is like saying that Wright Brothers would feel like a kindred spirit with those who firebombed Dresden or lit up the London skies during the Battle of Britain because they used airplanes to do it.

It’s true that, like Bill Sizemore, I took cash from an out of state underwriter to pursue the single tax, which I am now glad didn’t pass because it would have been even more effective in destroying the middle class than the initiative has turned out to be.

If I had succeeded at that I’d have one more thing to be sorry I helped to start. The initiative, the referendum, recall, primary elections—all of these things have worked to accomplish exactly the opposite of what we had in mind for them, as well as destroying representative government (with all its warts) and replacing it with democracy. As I have said in previous posts, money has perverted all of these things and I repudiate all of them. There are a couple of things I am proud of, but for the most part...can you say co-optation?

Sometime I’ll write more about some of these other things that I wish I had nothing to do with. But for now let me just say two things about me and Bill Sizemore.

The first is that he has used the initiative in so many well documented underhanded and dishonest ways that he could be an exhibit in any debate to prove that the Greeks and our founding generation in this country were absolutely right about why democracy is a terrible form of government and why destroying a representative republic to create "democracy" is the beginning of tyranny.

We Populists and our Progressive Republican cousins were not dishonest, we didn’t cheat, and we didn’t lie. And we didn’t make war on farmers or workers, on lower and middle class people. We were honest and above board and in so far as we “made war” on anyone it was wealthy, powerful people (like the railroads and timber companies) who had their hands around our political/economic throats, just as their descendants have their hands around your throat, right now.

And that is the second thing I have to say about me and Bill Sizemore: he's not only a convicted crook but he has used the initiative to make war on the very people we Populists and the Progressive Republicans were trying to help and used it to benefit the people around which we were trying to put some limits.

Bill Sizemore’s use of the initiative petition has been one front on the 40 some year war on the middle class that has created your current “recession” as one manifestation of the centralization of wealth and power.

Mr. Attig’s article ends with this paragraph:

"’Everything that's been done to make it harder for Sizemore, has made it harder for everyone else,’ Wasson said. ‘U'ren would be very upset about the loss of respect for the Oregon initiative.’

Give a guy (even a dead guy) a little credit for being able to see how things have turned out and to change his mind about things—in my case, a lot of things.

Until there isn't one anymore you can't make it hard enough for people trying to use the initiative.

So, if you've been reading you know that I have changed my mind about a lot of the things I used to think would help the middle class (and those hoping to get into it) because they have been shown to do the opposite. If you’ve been reading this blog you know the things like the initiative have been used to destroy the middle class by destroying our republican form of government and replacing it with democracy.

Remember Benjamin Franklin, asked about what he and founders had produced in the new Constitution. “We have given you a republic, if you can keep it.”

We haven’t and it's a disaster. My complicity in its destruction is what has me going on and on here—from the grave, no less--to keep trying to get this across to you.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Mend? Why not end? The Initiative in Oregon

Time to say die, Oregon.

Well, it may seem easy enough for me to say I'm willing to do that, but it's time for people in Oregon to "say die" in regard to the initiative and referendum (and throw in the recall, too).

But instead of facing the situation squarely, the City Club of Portland is putting a lot of effort into "Mending not Ending" this institution of mass democracy that has been taken over and is now rip snorting its way through Oregon's statutes, constitution and budgets just as the legislature does when the anti-middle class forces can get it to sit, stay and heel the way it could back in my day.

And you are wondering where the middle class went?

Money now buys and sells and places things on the ballot, and manipulates voters more and more and resources are shifted gradually from supporting and strengthening the middle class.

Look, I am responsible for the initiative in Oregon. I didn't invent it or even start it although sometimes people say I did. I was one of the leaders to implement it in Oregon and I will go to my grave regretting that.

OK, I didn't actually start regretting it until I was in my grave. But in my defense it didn't become the Frankenstein's monster I now urge you to kill until after I died.

As I have said: because, dollar for dollar, Oregonians (and Americans in general) are equal you in the middle class will never be the equal to the people who are behind most of the initiatives (or even political candidates), these days.

We Populists and our cousins in the Republican Party, the Progressives, thought we could beat them and put the farmers and those of us who would some day be called "cloth coat Republicans" in charge of government. But our experience makes abundantly clear that you will never beat them, you can only beat them back, temporarily, and then beat them back again when that needs to happen. It's like having forsythia planted outside. Keep the pruning shears handy--and sharp--or it will fill your yard.

The initiative is a perfect example of their ability to bind their victims with leash intended to control them. Originally intended to get around the lock that capital (in the form of the timber industry and the railroads) had on the legislature, it is now just one more tool in the box of pumping resources out of the middle class. Wealth now uses the initiative and the initiative delivers more wealth.

Follow the money.

Who funds most initiatives these days?

That you can look up. It's undeniable that initiatives are rarely funded by the middle class.

Who does it serve?

That you have to think about.

All that tax limitation stuff? Don't think about how many property owners got "tax relief." Think, rather, about the 100 "property owners" who got the most money from those limitations.

(It's like the "kicker" checks: don't think about the average amount of the kicker--demand to see who got the 100 largest kicker checks. "It's our money." Pul-eeze)

The primary beneficiaries weren't individual human beings, at least they weren't considered such prior to a certain line of US Supreme Court holdings that read the civil war amendments to apply to "super human" "citizens."

So, did the initiative serve the middle class regarding the tax limitations? No. This is one example of how the initiative has been used systematically destroy the middle class.

The crime initiatives? Help the middle class?

These caused a massive transfer of wealth from education and the social safety net to the people who build and sell things to a bloated prison system. And what has been the impact on the middle class of the dismantling of education and the social safety net?

(Don't forget--as has been said many times--Measure 11 caused crime to start going down in Oregon at least a year before it passed and in 49 states where it didn't apply. You can look it up.)

Follow the money.

I do not disagree with the thinking of those who are currently trying to reform the initiative system in Oregon. Republicans (and everyone else) in Oregon should read what they have to say and think about it and tell their friends about it.

And read what the Federalist Papers had to say about "democracy," while you're in the library (if the library in your community is still there--supporting and maintaining the strong middle class that is the base of freedom and capitalism).

These "mend not end" people are guilty only of timidity and pulling punches.

The only place they are wrong is in their conclusion.

Take it from me, from the "Father of the Initiative."

We Populists and Progressives were wrong. We didn't foresee paid petition circulation, we didn't foresee the 30 second ads and the "yes means no" titles and we really didn't foresee the ridiculous idea that "money is speech."

Their money will always bend it, so don't mend it--end it.

So, although you will never beat them, you can beat them back. And to maintain a wide and strong middle class--the base of the republic, any republic--you need to do that, over and over.

Put legislative power back in the imperfect but far better republican process of representative government. Money will usually win there, of course (at least as long as we have the "dollar for dollar" equality of "money is speech"), but it can no longer win as big, there, as it can on the playing fields of Sizemore. After all, if it could, why would it be out using the initiative process? If the people behind the Bill Sizemores of the world could use the legislature as well as they could back in the Gilded Age we would not even know his name.

If you think I don't have more to say about this you don't take into account the amount of time I have on my hands.

I am just getting warmed up.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Yes, class warfare.

When I heard that Karl Rove considers Mark Hanna to be his role model I almost came up out of this grave. When I realized, though, that it was the form of Senator Hanna, not the content, that Rove saw himself emulating I felt a little better--as much as "feeling better" can have meaning to me, anymore.

Mark Hanna was an Republican kingmaker in the 19th Century and he was no Progressive (he kept TR--a great exploiter of reform sentiment--off of the Republican ballot for President, at one point), let alone a Populist. He nonetheless understood something that Rove and your current Republican leadership never did and never will. Oh, they get the inter relation between business and government. Boy, do they get that. They just will never get that stable capitalism, not predatory capitalism is the key to making this thing work.

When George Pullman refused to arbitrate a dispute with his workers Mark Hanna sent his brother to persuade him to do so and, upon the refusal, upon the beginning of the nationwide strike that ensued, Good Senator Hanna said words to the effect that "Any boss who won't meet his men half way is a damned fool."

You, know, like Hanna knew, that class warfare has and will go on forever. You can no more stop it than you can credibly deny it. Nothing is more ridiculous, except perhaps for a self--aggrandizing perpetrator of domestic violence on a Friday night front porch in his sleeveless undershirt surrounded by cops yelling about how she had it coming or your big brother telling your mom that you hit him first, than pundits and US Senators crying about wealthy victims of "class warfare" as they stuff bags of lobby money into the dikes through which things like minimum wage and union organizing bills try to seep.

What we (Mark and I and you) know, despite our different times and places, is that people like Vanderbilt and Karl Rove don't understand the self delusion--they underestimate how much one has to feed the goose to keep her laying. (Of course, it could be my delusion that they think it's important to feed the goose. Sometimes it looks as though they believe that geese come and go and when one is starved to death another jumps onto the nest.)

Class warfare is so smooth, now, that the bosses have workers who don't see they are not met halfway and think they are well off and don't have to care if anyone else is, until the Vanderbilts and Roves have driven it all into the ground and realize their true situation. They start to ask where their cheese (or 401k "balances") have gone and all of sudden they are told that they are waging "class warfare" (tsk, tsk) against the rich.

Forget the lack of justice in all this just appreciate the danger to the stability of the country, of any country. If you want to see one of the most refined manifestation of this dynamic look at Mexico where 6,300 died in the drug wars last year. Although those running that show are not trying to redress the grievances of the poor in a country with a small middle class, a smaller upper class and a huge underclass, they are nonetheless one kind of outcome of a sustained, one sided class warfare.

The genius idea of the United States seemed to be, long about the time I died, what the red diaper babies of the Sixties would come to call the "em-bourgeois-ment" (the "middle-classing") of the working class. Giving the blue collar worker a stake in the system seemed to have provided a context of relative labor peace and an infrastructure out of which came a rising tide of prosperity for the whole country.

Mark Hanna was the Karl Rove, and the Charles Begala, of the Progressive (and Populist) era, at least in the sense that he was the strategic mastermind. His famous statement about meeting workers half way made them think they had a piece of the piece, a stake in the outcome. It made them middle class. It made the country prosperous and stable.

But with the Karl Roves (in both parties) in charge these last 30+ years that has changed. The middle class is shrinking--has been shrunk--by Republican Conservatives doing the bidding of those who aspired to and then attained the status of "too big to fail" and, therefore, too big to need to worry about how the rest of you were doing or what you would say about how well they were doing.

And that's where you are right now, as a Republican Party, as a country.

The American people may well be waking from their Stockholm Syndrome Nightmare/love affair with "conservatism" and Fox News (not to mention CNBC and all the rest of the media more worried about its access to "newsmakers" and corporate profits than in telling people what's going on) may not be able to lull them back to sleep.

To take the shell of the Republican Party back, and to regain political legitimacy (and integrity), Progressive Republicans have to return to Mark Hanna's vision. We have to stop destroying the midde class and start allowing people to re-promote themselves into it. It may mean a return to interest rates of 6-10% on investments, but it will also mean having the kind of stability upon which prosperity that doesn't shrink by 30% on a cycle is maintained.

You have to moderate and modulate class warfare.

A modest proposal: stop the war on unions. Meet the workers halfway. But don't do it like the Democrats want to to do it. They want to improve the strength of one side vis a vis the other. You want balance. You want stability.

Propose something truly progressive: compulsory arbitration of disputes over wages, benefits and working conditions. Put both sides on an even playing field.

Few who have ever been involved in a strike (other than those who fight for both sides--the union organizers and the lawyers who represent the bosses) have ever liked strikes--they are ugly for those involved and affected and often don't make any economic sense for one or both sides.

A complete system of dispute resolution through mediation and arbitration exists in the United States. Why not use it?

Class warfare is unavoidable in a capitalist system. But using government as a platform from which to fight it, which is how we got to where we are now, is self destructive. Government should be a countervailing, balancing mechanism.

No one knows when to quit when it comes to centralizing power in his own favor. And the Progressive approach is to make sure, as the republican Constitution of the United States tries to make sure, that no one has the ability to centralize so much power that the whole structure is brought down by their ability to overreach.

Today's Republican Party thinks there is no reason to do any balancing.

Libertarian fantasies about human nature, about rational people who will act in their own (and everyone else's) best interest are as obviously false as the socialist fantasies about human nature. They are actually, at bottom, the same fantasy--that humans are "perfectable."

But you know better. You know that everyone wants "socialism" for himself and "free enterprise" for everyone else. You know that we all need to both watch and watch out for one another.

So, if you are a Republican who has had enough of the dysfunctional relationship between the middle class and the concentrations of wealth that control the Party, and if there are other Republicans willing to talk to the American people about expanding the middle class, decentralizing economic/political power and controlling the ability of any group to wage economic and political warfare on any other group, the time is ripe to step forward. There's a future there. If you would be more inclined to vote for the Romney who ran for President thirty years ago than the one running right now now is the time.

As I said in the beginning, though, I don't think that you can do it. I think if you try those who control the party now will expell you as they have expelled anyone, over the years, who held onto views like this. I think you'll be forced to start another party to pursue this agenda--one between, in the middle of, the current Republican and Democratic Parties. But I also think that the experience of trying to regan control of your own party, and being rudely rebuffed for talking common sense, will be necessary to impart enough "off your ass" to you to get it going and get it done.

So good luck. I'll be watching. Got nothing else to do.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Decentralize Economic Power -- Part Two

I said yesterday that you should understand the elephant in the room, so to speak--the real, unsolvable problem of American politics that you have to work around in trying to regain influence to create a livable society.

That problem is, of course, money.

I, for one, never underestimated the power of handing out rail road passes, little bribes, to people who work in Salem, if you get my drift.

And you can't underestimate the power of handing out campaign contributions, big bribes, to people who work in any capital, state or federal.

You will never really bust up the Trusts and the "too big to fails" because they have the power of money and you will never break that power.

Anyone who says you can is lying to you and setting you up first for disillusionment and then for bitter, irrelevant radicalism.

And those say all this money is not corrupting the system are those with whom one should not associate except in most formal or wary ways. Such people are either deluded or deluding (or both). Both delusion and the motives to delude others are contagious.

None of the remedies envisioned to take the influence of money--and end the control of the "too big to fail"--will work. Even President Obama (and isn't he something?) took the money when he could get it. Sure, he needed to. Get it?

You can be both cynical and optimistic. You have to be both cynical and optimistic.

Buckley v. Vallejo may be remembered as the epitaph of the Republic but it's really just the final FDA (Federal Democracy Apparatus) approval of that almond scented snake oil that has been accumulating in the body politic since the day that Benjamin Franklin challenged us to keep what he and the rest of the Constitutional Convention had come up with.

The idea that spending money is free speech would seem ridiculous but for all the money behind convincing and bribing people to believe it's true. If we really want to do that why don't we just say I can use "speech" to persuade voters by sending each a check? Why do we settle for half measures? Why allow money be spent to lie to voters, scare and flatter them, manipulate their emotions and symbols but not just pay them off?

If there is buying and selling going on, and it always will be, then political power will be just one more market commodity. With apologies to both Woody Gutherie and Mao Tse Tung, political power grows, at least in this time and place, out of the barrel of a fountain pen (or an electronic transfer of funds). And as much as you try to prune that bush it will always grow back.

Get over it and work around it.

I do have a modest proposal, if you are still interested in a futile quest for "purity." Not my cup of tea but one has a lot of time, where I am, to think about stuff that is theoretically possible but out of any realistic question.

Start with the basic truth: dollar for dollar all Americans are equal.

If one person has $500,000 to spend on a politician (or a group of them) then he (and that person is most likely still a he, at least for now) is equal to anyone else who has $500,000 to spend the same way.

Notwithstanding the fact that you have the same number of ballots to fill out (probably) in November that those two have you are not their equal.

Are you with me, here?

Say you spend $50 on a politician, say a Senator. Say you go to see that Senator and you are in the waiting room with one of you fellow citizens who spent $500,000. (Actually, that $500,000 citizen is not going to be sitting in the waiting room with you, but you know what I am saying).

Who gets to talk to the Senator and who gets a few minutes of some intern's time?

Whose input is going to influence the Senator's judgment?

Will that judgment be about what's the best policy or what's the policy most likely to get another $500,000 scoop of ice cream?

So you don't think this is good, do you? Don't you want everyone to have an equal influence over politicians? You want citizens to have an equal chance to help their representatives get a clear picture of what's involved in a situation, right? This decision maker is elected on the basis of the voter's confidence in his or her ability to assess such situations and to, on the basis of the information you all give them, make the best judgment possible about what to do. Right?

To have a system like that everyone in that Senator's waiting room has to have an equal opportunity to tell her story and, if what she says makes sense and has fact behind it, to influence the ultimate outcome.

The only way to do that is to figure how all of you can be worth the same number of dollars to that Senator. And the the only way to do that would be to limit the price of access to something most people could afford (say $100 per candidate per election) and to provide that only individual human beings could contribute. The limit would apply to everyone, including the candidate.

That way, when the Senator looks at those in the waiting room they are all worth the same amount of money, in his eyes.

Ah, but yes, Buckley v. Vallejo. The Supreme Court has found that this kind of scheme is not Constitutional. It's not a sound decision but there it is. So, you would need a Constitutional amendment to limit campaign contributions this way, to make you all equal--not equal dollar for dollar but actually equal--in the eyes of political office holders.

And now we are are back at where I was telling you that there is no way you can wring the bribery and its attendant corruption out of American politics, there is no way you can actually decentralize economic power.

Do you think that there is a chance that the members of Congress who see those $500,000 voters--or, more likely, their lobbyists--every day are going to go for limiting campaign contributions to $100 per person per campaign? And if you can envision that (having been into the silly smoke, apparently, or a high school civics class recently) can you see enough state legislators going for that to approve the amendment?

If you can see that then you are not seeing all the money those $500,000 voters will spread around in both Congress and state legislatures to make sure you'll never really see what you are hallucinating.

They will say, aside from claims that "free speech" is sacred, that this system would not raise enough money to run the kind of campaign it takes to get elected these days. The answer to that, although it won't do you any good to give it, is that such would be one more great benefits of such a system.

Without all that money candidates would have to do something other flood television airways with 30 second shots of waving American flags, children, mushroom clouds and scary people of every imaginable ethnic group. They might have to discuss issues and say something other than making affirmations that they "approved this message."

So. Like I said: you are not going to be able to really decentralize economic power except by striking at the foundations and you can't do that given the fact that centralized economic power built and control the system. You cannot use the system to destroy the system. If you try to go outside the system you can't do it, either. They will kill you. That is what you are up against.

But do not despair, Progressive Republicans, you can make inroads into the problem, and the inroads are worth making. Your half measures are taken in a world that will always will be a more or less evil place--but it means a great deal whether it is more evil, or less. So make those half measures.

Next I will talk to you about how Progressives should lay down class warfare--or, at least, turn it into something like a class football game--as a way of re-asserting themselves in their own party or in a new party and then in American politics.

By the way, did you notice how Democrats have taken the title "Progressive" lately, to re-brand themselves from "Liberal?"

Think about that.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Decentralize Ecomonic Power -- Just Part One of Part Two

Aside from aligning with the middle class against the plutocrats, Republicans (or Greens, for that matter) interested in finding their way to political relevance need to talk about decentralizing economic power.

This is tricky, though. This is a river into which one can wade too far and only people like the Wobblies would actually try to get to the other side. Such as they will always drown. Take it from a former Populist.

You are not, remember, a revolutionary. You are a Progressive Republican. It will be necessary and good to keep pointing that out as you fight first for control of your Party (or create a new one) and then of the country. Emphasize the plain lesson of history: if the likes of you are not taken seriously then there will be real revolutionaries with which to contend. You are here to take the wind out of the sails of both the Black Pearls and Flying Dutchmans of politics and economics, if you catch my drift.

In my day Progressive Republicans were strong in Oregon (and elsewhere) because, like us Populists, they took on the big interests. Timber companies and railroads owned the state legislature (and the rest of government, too) and they got bigger and bigger expecting the rest of us to just put on tin beaks and peck among the rest of the chickens.

The progressive reforms were aimed at preventing what you are going through right now, what's in the cards for ever-growing piles of money. We didn't want to destroy those interests and neither should you. We just tried to balance their power because we understood (as they did not, still don't and never will) that as their piles of money grew bigger and bigger they are not be able to stop reaching and taking more until they have destroyed themselves and everyone else in the process.

We were trying to cut them down to size and work around them, not destroy them. They can't be destroyed. You can only hem them in and work around them and then only temporarily, at least by any particular means.

The Republican Party (or a new party) will get a lot of support if it explains over and over, as we Populists and the Republicans used to, what large, concentrated and uncontrolled wealth does to self government. You have plenty of contemporary examples to make your case. Teddy Roosevelt didn't go very far into this, but he started talking up "trust busting" in a way that it needs to be talked up, again.

And his cousin borrowed a lot of Progressive Republican ideas after our wave had crested and the Party again belonged to those who controlled President Hoover (go easy on Herbert until you know more than you do about him. He lived here in Oregon for a while and his sin was no greater than that of any bought and paid-for politician. You may hear from him, again, too. He's not happy with what popular history has turned him into and who has more time to blog than the dead? Who has more of an inclination toward self justification?).

Now you are hearing a lot about enterprises that are "too large to fail," those that hold you all hostage (Not me, of course. There's not much percentage in holding the dead hostage--except metaphorically--although it's been tried).

Once again the people running these corporations have made themselves (and their stockholders, temporarily) wealthy creating an economic train-wreck and then turned around and threatened the rest of you with even more dire consequences if you didn't finance fixing the now-bankrupt system they created to make themselves rich at your expense, in the first place. And, once again, when it's fixed (again, at your expense) they will still own it and there will be another go 'round. It's like those movies of you love so much--Casablanca or Rocky Horror Picture Show--always playing everywhere for another generation to join the audience of those old hands who like to see it over and over.

I hear some Democrats in Congress lately saying things like "too big to fail means too big to exist" but they always over react and from them it sounds more like a slogan than a promise, or even a prayer. I can tell they don't get (or are in denial about) the implications of that: anything that has to be that big to work will impoverish and enslave us if it's left in the hands of people who understand its "value" and "possibilities" for making money (and therefore creating power).

So, you'd think that anything we truly need that also has to be that big must be firmly in hands of a government that understands the general welfare and is under the watchful eye of a populace that does, too. And that would be your mistake (and that of the Libertarians and the Socialists): none of us acknowledge human nature, at least in ourselves. If we don't acknowledge the truth about human nature then we won't understand the general welfare, at least when our own ox is involved. Any chance we get we all send the general welfare over the hill for a personal advantage. Can you look around right now and say, with a straight face, that people left to themselves have enough sense to govern themselves?

Fact is, we all need to be supervised: closely. No matter who we are there needs to be always someone who can stop us as well as someone who can pick us up when we fall.

So, government is not any more the answer than "free" markets. Keep those two grappling with one another and live in the space their fighting creates.

Don't worry too much about the D's; they will eventually go as far South as Nixon did to avoid doing more than talk that talk about counter-balancing control of wealth (Clinton did) and for obvious reasons. Only the "too big to fail" are up to financing all the campaigning necessary to bring in the sheep every couple of years or so. And if the conflict goes to another arena the "too big to fail" won't fail: look at the Wobblies.

So back off from the idea that the government ought to outright own large enterprises. Economic decentralization could be about something bigger than getting insurance companies out of the banking business, adjusting marginal tax rates and putting a state name after that of the pieces into which things like Standard Oil are divided, but there is only so far you will get with that bigger problem.

There is only so far you want to get. Does the name Robespierre mean anything to you? Trotsky? If not, Google them. If that doesn't get across to you then find a book about their times and if you still don't get it then click to link to IWW on the left and have at it.

As I said, you should only wade into this river--not try to cross it all the way. As Progressives, who are not revolutionaries, you should, though, at least clearly understand the basic problem, the problem that you intend to face with half measures.

Next: Decentralize Economic Power (part two)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

An New/Old Republican Party

The Republican party becomes more weird every day, appealing to an ever decreasing hard core base. It seems, even to me, a dead man, less based in reality by the moment. It's almost as though, to steal a line from a pundit, they have been smoking too much Grassly to be in touch with most Americans outside they are calling "the beltway" these days.

I can't help but remember that a larger segment of the voters were attracted to this Party when it advocated different ideas, ideas that Republican leaders have purposefully kicked out of the platform over the past forty years.

I was on the political field when the Progressive Republicans were at it, as a Populist leader here in Oregon, and as time went on realized that they had it more right than we did.

I once dabbled in running for political office--an endeavor for which I discovered I did not have a suitable temperment. Before my delusion was dispelled, however, someone told me that a candidate needed to give people three reasons to vote for them.

If Republicans today would start with three changes in its appeal I think they could make a comeback--not only to power but to the integrity that Progressive Republicans and Populists (like me) tried to establish in Oregon and the Federal governments.

Today I will present the first of these changes, with the others to follow over the next few days.

1. Strengthen the middle class

Read the books: a strong middle class is the prerequisite of happiness and prosperity.

For example, it seems to me that they could be talking about modifying the tax code to favor building a strong middle class rather than exploiting the middle class to finance the government designed to create a stronger and wealthier upper class.

Perhaps, as a small example, they could equalize the tax rate on investment income and income from a salary.

Perhaps, as another small example, government could encourage education of a larger number of children, instead of ways for rich children to escape public schools and to break teacher unions.

There are a great many other things that could be done to strengthen the middle class and therefore restore economic stability.

Tomorrow, and the following day, I shall explain two other things that the Republican Party could start advocating if it wanted to restore its sanity and influence.