On March 15, 2014, the Illinois Green Party held a membership meeting. Paula gave the following talk at the social.
Membership Meeting Talk: 3/15/14
Thank you for asking me to speak at this meeting. I am undertaking my second attempt to save the world by running for Congress. This is a difficult task.
There are three main problems that Greens face in our quest, once we manage to get on the ballot. (Which, of course, is a major undertaking in itself).
One is getting the word out. We have little access to corporate media, which is where most people get their information. We don’t have enough people to go to every door and pass out leaflets. This leaves us with a whole lot of people who never hear our message.
The second problem is what happens when people do hear our message. Let me share a story from the last election. I have worked at the same place for 20 years. They know me there. Last election, one of my Republican co-workers earnestly shared with me her conversation with her sister, a Republican farmer, who listened to the debates and questioned my co-worker about my out-there views. My co-worker said that she told her, “The thing is, you only hear 2 points of view all of the time. Point A and Point B. But that is not the only range of opinions! There are people who think C and D”. I was so proud of her! 20 years of working with me hasn’t really turned her into a Green, but she does realize that corporate media and the corporate parties don’t cover all of our possibilities!
Noam Chomsky agrees with my co-worker. He points out “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum – even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.” And he points out that people learn “both” sides of the “debate”, so that soon mere soundbites suffice, and people can just loudly assert the slogans of their “side”, and everyone can follow them.
You know how this works: Should we attack Syria directly, or only fund the “rebels”? Should we torture terror suspects or just assassinate them from the air? Should we cut funds for education and services or cut teachers’ pensions? We hear these false “choices” every day. Then, along comes somebody like us. And we reject the premises that both A and B accept.
But it takes us so long to deconstruct the premise and explain our position that we don’t fit into a soundbite, and the slogans we come up with often sound bizarre to ordinary people conditioned to only hearing “A and B.”
Let’s take the issue of jobs, one of the most common components of the Democrat and Republican chants and slogans. I was invited to a debate at a right wing, Christian radio station out in the cornfields, last election. Only the Republican and I showed up. One of the questions was “How can the government help businesses create jobs?” The Republican went on and on about tax cuts and deregulation. You know the drill. I said, “the government shouldn’t be involved in helping businesses. That is interfering with the free market. The government should make sure that all citizens have access to an income, including providing work at a living wage, if the corporations aren’t capable of it.” While I did use the phrase “free market,” a familiar phrase to a Republican, I used it in a way that made his head spin! And the concept of government directly employing people, common in this country since FDR, is no longer part of the allowed discourse.
I frequently bring up the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment Act of 1978, which mandates that if unemployment rises above 3%, and the “job creators” (or robber barons) can’t employ people, then the federal government should step in and employ people directly, doing socially necessary work. Most people have never heard of this law. Obama does not faithfully execute this law. It is up to us to extend the bounds of allowable debate.
General Electric, for instance, paid no income tax for years. This, according to current rhetoric, should have inspired them to “create jobs.” Instead, they laid off 34,000 workers. And Obama then put the CEO of General Electric, Jeffrey Immelt, in charge of his so-called Jobs Council.
The banking crime spree of the 1980s led to thousands of bankers going to prison for their crimes. But when Clinton/Gore came into office, they introduced a program called Reimagining Government. How did they imagine government? Pretty ineffectual, according to William Black, a former federal bank regulator, who has testified that he quit in disgust when Al Gore came and announced their new policy – they would no longer prosecute banking crimes. We can see from the ensuing banking crime spree that Obama imagines the same kind of crime-enabling government. Why is this not part of the public discourse? Only Greens can really reimagine government.
Government should make sure that every American has food, clothing, shelter, education and health care. Greens are capable of learning from the last 33 years of trickle-down policies that showering tax dollars on favored corporations does not lead to prosperity. We look around and see cities that look as if they have been bombed, complete with shell-shocked citizens wandering around crumbling factories and houses. We see people living in cars and in doorways, begging for spare change. We see mountains blown to bits, as well as occasional neighborhoods, when pipelines explode thanks to our crumbling infrastructure. We see polluted air, water and the massive destruction of the Gulf of Mexico. We see Obama bragging about opening up more public land and water to the oil companies than any previous president. We saw that his response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill was to open up Alaska to the oil companies. We see that Obama’s reaction to the Fukishima meltdown was to OK the first new nuclear power plants in over three decades, complete with tax giveaways. He also dealt with increased radiation by raising the acceptable limits. Our country is being stripped for parts, by a gang of thieves, who use the mass media to daze and confuse the people.
During the Bush years, there were people, myself included, who called themselves the “reality-based community,” based on a comment by Karl Rove that the US was an empire now, and acted like one, while the reality-based community studied their actions, but had no power to stop them. Unfortunately, when the Empire changed heads, millions of people lost touch with reality, blinded by hope of change.
So the Empire marches on, but now there are far fewer people in the reality-based community.
Ironically, many times the Greens are scorned for being unrealistic, for not living in the real world. What is the “real world” according to acceptable opinion? It is a world in which money is all-important, a world of finance, stocks, bonds and derivatives, a world in which the planet we live upon is merely a source of resources and food comes from grocery stores, and billionaires are “job creators.” A world in which the US has the God-given right to dominate the planet, and Americans are entitled to bomb anyone, anywhere in the world. Because in this “real world,” Americans can bomb people into democracy, or drone wedding parties to stamp out evil. Peaceful cooperation is considered dreamy-eyed idealism, but killing people in order to save them is viewed as hard-headed common sense.
Although the American empire asserts that it is entitled to dominate the world, its people aren’t entitled to food, water or shelter, and anyone who does feel entitled to such things is labeled a lazy “taker.”
I am still a member of the reality-based community and I know that we live on a small beautiful jewel of a planet, which has gone through many changes in its 4 billion year history. The Holocene Era in which we evolved has a delicate balance, which we are destroying. I know that in reality, we depend on our environment to keep us alive. Our economic system is a subset of the environment, and our monetary system is a subset of our economy. Instead of changing our ecosystem, we need to change our economy.
“Money doesn’t grow on trees,” we are told. In their world, trees are infinite, but money is not.
But money, of course, is a human invention, and it is created, for the banks, at least, with a few computer keystrokes. Trees, on the other hand, are not infinite, and the destruction of the remaining forests on this planet is a real concern for us. And destroying trees for “housing starts,” to help the “economy,” when this country already has 10,000,000 empty houses, should be a crime. Instead, it is good business. Meanwhile, if you damaged one of those empty houses, you would be charged with vandalism, the destruction of our remaining forests is called “growth.”
And “growth” is one of those concepts that both corporate parties chant constantly. We must have more growth, faster growth, higher levels of growth. Greens point out that unlimited growth is impossible on a finite planet, but this concept is not considered “reasonable.” I won’t argue this here, because I’m sure that everyone here is familiar with this slogan. However, this would be one of our slogans that are incomprehensible to a “normal” American.
Thanks to Ellen Brown, the Green Party candidate for Treasurer in California, more people are familiar with the concept of debt-based money. They can see that when money is privately created, in the form of debt, that only the principal is created, and the money supply must continually inflate, in order to pay back the original debt, plus interest. The only way to do this is by enticing people to continue to go into debt (buy a house, buy a car, buy a college degree, go shopping with credit cards, open a small business, etc.) You hear the exhortations constantly. The Federal Government is the borrower of last resort, but they prefer to have ordinary citizens bear the burden.
Our solution is to nationalize the Federal Reserve, which is a private consortium of banks. The Constitution says that Congress shall have the power to regulate money. Greens say that the monetary system must serve the people, not the 1%. We are told that the two most hotly argued topics in 19th century America were slavery and the monetary system. It turns out that the end of slavery didn’t stop racial inequality, and, equally, the establishment of the Federal Reserve, tasked with smoothing the booms and busts of capitalism, didn’t stop economic inequality, and the need for a publicly controlled money system.
After we create a public money supply, we must use it to make sure that every American has the basics of life, including clean air and water, and healthy food. This means protecting the environment and changing our food production to ensure that we improve our soil, instead of stripping it. The Green New Deal should include housing built to provide shelter, and not as a form of speculation. Health care and education should be government supplied and non-profit. People can be put to work retrofitting and insulating housing, building public transportation, building renewable energy, planting trees and making sure that our elderly and disabled are taken care of. As the original New Deal did, we should encourage art, music and literature. Business is on its own, in a truly “free market”, except for regulations that protect workers, consumers and the environment. Co-ops should be encouraged. We must think of future generations, as well as other creatures on this planet, in everything we do. Only civilizations that live within their planetary means can survive.
That brings us to the third big problem that Greens have in saving the world. After we have reached people with our message, and after we have convinced them that our programs are sound and achievable, we hit the last hurdle.
“I like everything you say, but I won’t vote for you, because you can’t win, and I don’t want the evil one to get in”.
I find this maddening, because I can’t fathom voting for someone you don’t agree with just because they can win. But this attitude is VERY common, as I’m sure you all know. Especially among liberals, whom Rahm Emmanuel famously called “f….king retards”. Whereupon they proved it by scolding him for insulting developmentally disabled people, instead of realizing that supporting Democrats and thinking that you can then “hold their feet to the fire,” and make them go against their overlords, is truly a sign of a lack of thinking ability.
But despite all the daunting challenges we face, in trying to reach a voting population habituated to what we might call “bi-polar political disorder,” there are encouraging signs that at least some people are starting to wake up and smell the benzodiazepine. Global climate change is getting harder to ignore when extreme weather events have a way of introducing a dose of reality with force. The hard-core Obama-bots are hard to reach but five full years of illegal wars, drone strikes, attacks on civil liberties and privacy, and the other evils noted, have taken a lot of bloom off that rose. And five full years of Pat Quinn, who took office around the same time, have led many people to realize that he is little different from Scott Walker, except for the rhetoric. Meanwhile, in our part of the state, the threat of fracking has aroused the populace in a manner that we’ve never witnessed before.
I don’t have any magic answers on what it will take to get more people to vote for their true interests. But I do know that this is an election year and we need all hands on deck. We need everyone to get out there and spread our message, in any way possible. Don’t forget old stand-bys like letters to the editor and calling into talk shows, as well as door-to-door canvassing and leafleting large gatherings. We are all in this together. Those of us who are running for office won’t get anywhere if everyone doesn’t pull together. We need you – and the people of this country need us, more than ever.