What I like about Bernie — and my recommendation

ONE: A movement is building. People are questioning the fairness of capitalism and looking at socialism with fresh eyes. Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has been a major spokesperson for bringing the term “socialism” back into our national dialogue. I like that about Bernie.

PHOTO Bernie Sanders speakingI should say right up front, I have blogged on questions I have about Bernie Sanders:  his “communist dictator” remark about Hugo Chavez, who did lead a “political revolution” and moved Venezuela toward socialism, HERE; and Bernie’s possibly becoming a “sheepdog” for a corporate candidate like Hillary Clinton, HERE.

TWO: The second thing I really like about Bernie is that he backs up his rhetoric about casino capitalism and the billionaire class by taking no corporate money. The “contribution rules” on his website include:

  • This contribution is made from my own funds, and funds are not being provided to me by another person or entity for the purpose of making this contribution.
  • I am making this contribution with my own personal credit card and not with a corporate or business credit card or a card issued to another person.

Bernie is following the example of Richmond, California. The Richmond Progressive Alliance candidates, whatever their political parties, refuse corporate and developer money in their campaigns. When they win elections — and they have won, even against millions of dollars that Chevron throws against them — they follow through on their campaign rhetoric and stand up to giant corporations, not just Chevron but also developers and Wall Street banks. Good for Bernie for following the Richmond example.

THREE: The third thing I like about Bernie Sanders is that he includes on his website a list of all the states with the rules for voting in primaries in each of the states. The California link is HERE. That leads me to …

MY RECOMMENDATION

Friends who are “feeling the Bern,” and yet who are disenchanted with the two big political parties, have asked me for my recommendation. Here it is for California; much of it applies to other states as well.

(1) Wait as late as possible before the primary to make any changes if you want to vote for Bernie. The last day to change voter registration in California, for example, is May 23, 2016. To be safe, mark your calendar for MAY DAY. On the 1st of May, change your voter registration, if and only if there’s a solid chance that the Democratic Party institution — which is different from the people — would allow Bernie to be its nominee! How could the DP institution stop Bernie if the people vote for him in droves in Iowa and New Hampshire? Easy, it uses “superdelegates” and control of the corporate media.

(2) Use the power of your voter registration to the max. Do the least damage. Don’t give the parties of the 1% your seal of approval via your voter registration. The Democratic Party has made its decision for 2016: people who are registered “No Party Preference” can can vote in the Democratic primary. California online voter registration happens at http://registertovote.ca.gov/.

(3) After the primary, come back! Mark your calendar for June 8, or maybe INDEPENDENCE DAY. Say “No!” to the 1%, their corporations, and their political parties. Help build that strong third party so many Americans want. It’s no surprise to my friends and colleagues that I recommend changing your voter registration to the no-corporate-money Green Party. The practical and idealistic reason is this: the Green Party is the strongest third party that we have for working families in this whole country. You can bet the system doesn’t make it easy for third parties to become strong — that’s where people power comes in: votes and voter registrations. Jill Stein has a good chance of being the Green Party nominee, and your vote for her in November will help build a real political revolution.

Good luck to us all!

Green Party Should Start Local — Really?

“The Green Party should not run for President and other state and national offices. It should run candidates for local office first, and then build up to higher level offices.” How often have I heard that? Many, many times, including recently after I posted the blog “Bernie Sanders and the Sheepdog Approach.”

I know the advice is well-intentioned, and it sounds reasonable and rational. The only problem is, it doesn’t work. Our political system is not reasonable and rational.

I’ll say this up front: blaming third parties for their weakness is like blaming poor people for their poverty. Sure, we make mistakes, some of them huge. But the system doesn’t cut us any slack — quite the reverse — unlike the slack it cuts the so-called winners of politics and society. Just a few examples of “slack” (in alphabetical order): air-time for your point-of-view, bail-outs, beneficial rulings, corporate welfare, favorable treatment, payback contracts, payback legislation, prejudice in your favor, subsidies both visible and behind-the-scenes. The list goes on.

TEN WAYS THE SYSTEM FIGHTS STARTING LOCAL

NOTE: When I say Democrats and Republicans I am talking about the PARTIES not the INDIVIDUALS, recognizing that the values and behaviors of the parties and the individuals are different. As a form of short-hand I’ll call the Democratic and Republican Parties the Titanics, and the other parties the Alternatives.

1. Electoral rules necessitate runs for higher office. Currently electoral laws keep Alternatives off the ballot in about half the states. State laws vary, and one typical way to maintain a ballot line and be a legitimate political party is to achieve a certain percentage of votes in a statewide race. In general, if an Alternative presidential campaign obtains one-time ballot access and then receives about 2% of total votes in the state, a new ballot line is created. Then Alternative candidates can run for offices from school board to sheriff to US congress. (For more details, see the end parts of Bruce Dixon’s sheepdogging articles, HERE and especially HERE.)

2. Local winners switch from Alternative to Titanic. The greatest and saddest example I know is San Francisco. In the 2000s the Green Party had the wonderful success of having six local office holders. However, five of them switched before taking the next step in their political careers. Matt Gonzalez switched to independent, while Jane Kim, John Rizzo, Christina Olague, and Ross Mirkarimi switched to the Titanics. Could the Green Party have done better in its support of the elected officials and candidates? Yes. Did the Titanics make them offers they couldn’t refuse? Yes.

As a matter of fact, after winning many lower level elections, Bernie Sanders switched from Alternative to Titanic to run for higher office. By the way, if you have it in you to run for local office as an Alternative, do not let any of this stop you. We need you.

3. They fight you just as hard at the local level. Speaking of Matt Gonzalez, as a Green Party candidate for mayor of San Francisco in 2003, he came within 5 percentage points of beating Gavin Newsom. Not only did Newsom outspend Gonzalez 6 to 1, but he brought in a powerhouse of Democratic notables to fight off the terrible threat of a major city having a Green mayor. I don’t think any city facing the terrible threat of a Republican takeover had these folks come to town: Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and Jesse Jackson.

4. They refuse to initiate important national and state policies. Probably by now everyone can come up with a pretty good list of national policies that Alternatives were the first to promote (abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, eight-hour workday, public schools, child labor laws, and programs like Social Security and Medicare). Only later did the Titanics get behind them. In my personal experience, I know for sure many people first heard about State Banks because of my 2010 Green Party run for Governor. Maybe that’s why they arrested me outside a gubernatorial debate. Or was it because I brought up Prop 13?

5. Major problems of the cities and counties can only be solved at the state and national level. Constrained by state and national laws, localities don’t even have the power they need to balance the budget. In California, cities are stuck with raising revenue by increasing parking fees and traffic tickets, and asking the voters to pass parcel taxes. Whether you own a mansion or a hut, you pay the same exact same dollar amount each year on the “parcel.” Prop 13 is the problem, and in 2010, Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman were not talking about keeping only the good parts of Prop 13 and reforming the bad parts that devastated California’s public schools and universities and other public goods.

6. Why not run as a Titanic to get elected and then implement needed solutions? As a Titanic, you have to toe the line, or you will be treated like an Alternative. And as a Titanic, you either take money from corporations and developers, or you benefit from corporate money flowing through the party (unless you’re in the Richmond Progressive Alliance, which runs slates of Greens and Democrats who pledge to take no corporate money, and who have beaten Chevron-backed candidates). You take money from corporations and you essentially work for them. You cannot turn your back on the boss and stay in office.

7. Voters and media focus on President, maybe Governor and Mayor. Many people’s relationship to politics begins and ends with President. There is some focus on Governor, on the Mayor’s office, as well as on Congress. There’s very little attention paid to the rest. By the way, I never want to discourage anybody from voting. My attitude is to use every bit of power we have toward creating a better world. Our voting is an important power, or else why would they keep trying to take it away? My advice to make voting quick and easy is to only vote for candidates who take no money from corporations and developers. That’s how you identify the candidates who are on your side, not the side of the 1%.

8. Alternative parties get attention and motivation through runs for higher office. Nader’s presidential runs starting in 1996 put the Green Party on the map, although there was a huge backlash. (I am working on a piece comparing Anti-Naderism and McCarthyism as to their effects of eliminating Alternatives and keeping us where the powers-that-be want us.) Jill Stein’s presidential campaigns have been a huge boost for Greens across the country. When the Green Party of California ran its first full statewide slate in 2002, Greens were questioning the wisdom of running statewide. At the same time, the local parties wanted us — I ran for State Controller — to come to town to help their locals gain some traction. The state party had seven hard-working volunteers. That’s not a bad thing.

9. People want to vote for values and policies they want. Sometimes when I was wavering about the wisdom — or personal comfort — of running for state office, people would implore me to run so they would have someone to vote for.

10. Bottom line: follow your heart. Take the path life leads you to. If your energy points you in a certain way, go there and hopefully you and your compadres won’t hold you back. There are lots of problems and lots of solutions, plenty of ways to use our own unique combination of gifts and wounds (let’s face it, our wounds help make us who we are) so that we can make a worthwhile contribution to a better world.

* * * *
What do you think? Did I miss some ways the system fights the idea of Alternatives running local and building up?

 

CUBA – at MIA airport, leaving for Cuba!

I have a few minutes to share my questions about Cuba. (And I’m doing this 2nd blog just 2 days after the introduction to my new blog!) Questions for my Cuba trip, random from my yellow pad.
(1) What are the hopes and fears of the Cuban people related to the normalization of relations between the US and Cuba? And how do they differ according to age group. Anyone 55 or younger never experienced the dictatorship that was overthrown as of January 1, 1959.
(2) Religion and spirituality: is it valued? respected? embraced?
(3) Is the 2-type money system getting better or worse for the Cuban people?
(4) Will I be able to see some of the wonderful birds they have there and nowhere else in the world. Like the Bee Hummingbird, zunzuncita or something like that.
Oops we/re boarding!

INTRODUCTION

Hello, and welcome to the first edition of my new blog. This introduction will cover what this blog is intended to be, and how it came about.

I have decided to have two sections, THE POLITICAL and THE PERSONAL. What the heck. It feels right to have two separate sections, though I bet I’ll often find it difficult to decide which is which, or where to put what, and so my apologies in advance for the mix-ups. One reason I’m doing a section on the personal is that although I’ve heard the advice to make blogs and tweets personal, I haven’t followed that advice much. I felt self-conscious about doing that, and, to tell the truth, it’s related to my hating the word “vulnerable.” People tell me, and even an author interviewed on public radio KPFA tells me, that there is power and strength in allowing yourself to be vulnerable. To be known.

I don’t mean to be so serious, but I am a Capricorn and they say we tend toward serious, even as children. Supposedly we grow younger as we get older. That always sounded like a good trait and at age 67, I’m ready. (Yikes, I hate to admit my age. THAT makes me feel vulnerable. Of course, being a baby boomer, I’m sure I don’t LOOK 67, and anyway, according to boomers, the 60s are the new 40s). Despite my seriousness I do believe that the ultimate feminist statement is “girls just want to have fun.” I know that’s true about me. We just want to have fun, which leads to the questions: What is all this crap that’s going on and how can we create a more fun world? That’s THE POLITICAL section. It’s all related. Political. Personal.

In the past I have run for state office in California as a Green Party candidate, beginning in 2002, when we ran the first full slate of Green candidates for statewide office. I ran for Controller in 2002, 2006, then Governor in 2010 (a good year to “Follow The Money” I thought, since we had just suffered a global financial meltdown), and then Controller again in 2014.

I’m recovering.

For the past year I have loved NOT trying to convince anybody of anything. At least I’ve been trying not trying to convince people of anything. It’s really difficult. Sometimes people say the best way to effect change is to model it rather than promote it. Lately I’m thinking that advice is just another way to say, “Shut up.” If we’re just being models instead of advocates, everybody is off the hook. Business as usual. For the past year I’ve been trying to just shut up and live with the way things are. I sometimes hate the phrase, “it is what it is” when it just sounds defeatist.

My last campaign (not just “latest,” but last, I hope) was actually successful in the pathetic terms of our pathetic democracy. As a “third party candidate” I received 5.7% of the vote. Ellen Brown, author of books “Web of Debt” and “Public Banking Solution” got 6.6% in her run for Treasurer of California. We ran as partners, advocating public banking. I expected Ellen to do well, and to break the existing record for percentage of votes received by a Green in a partisan statewide race in California. (That makes me smile: the record she broke was my record from 2002, when I got 5.9% of the vote and it took 10 days to figure out which of the “big two” won.)

The “big two” just reminded me of the “big three” automakers. I grew up partly in Detroit and then went to college there. We all know how the “big three” automakers ultimately trashed Detroit into looking like a war zone, a war zone with some wonderful people with a lot of heart and soul currently staging a regeneration there. We hope. The “big two” political parties have trashed our country. Worsening education and healthcare and  environment and justice-for-all and deepening disparity of wealth.

So, is this train of thought personal or political? I think it’s personal. I’ll try to make The Political section more in line with the slogan of my recent campaigns, “There Are Solutions.” As a preview, the main solution is to use every bit of power you have. And we people have a lot more power than we think, and we can have a lot more fun exercising it for a better world than we think. It is a huge irony that the folks who know how much power people have are the 0.1% who have all the money. They know it; we don’t; and they work diligently to keep us thinking we’re powerless.

* * *

After the June 2014 primary, I thought of myself as burned out but after awhile I realized I was not burned out. I had plenty of energy, but I had to back away from politics. For me backing away meant only doing political things that I really wanted to do, and not doing things just because “I should.”

Rather than “burned out,” what I was after the June 2014 primary was disgusted. It reminds me of an interview I read about Michael Moore when he was filming Bowling for Columbine. He saw the site of the mass killings at the high school in Columbine, and realized that people had obediently stayed behind the lines set out by the officials, even after the shooting had stopped and who knows who might have been saved if the parents and others had just said, “Hell no,  forget this yellow plastic barrier, I’m going in there!” Michael Moore had to stop filming for a week before he could continue in the face of realizing the passivity people were capable of even when it involved the lives of their children. I’m on a flight right now, and thinking about this makes me feel tears wanting to spill out from behind my eyes. It is said and I believe that one of the hardest things anyone has to bear is the death of a child.

The point (I love Ellen DeGeneres for saying, “My point, and I do have one…”) is that people have so much more power than we use. We have voted for people who are not on our side just because we think they have a chance of beating the “other major candidate” who’s “even worse.” Or we don’t vote at all, chalking it up to voter fraud and it doesn’t make any difference anyway, and it just encourages this system, and, and, and. I always want to excuse individuals and blame the system, but this time I was disgusted with people’s behavior. I needed to back away to get focused again on this destructive system.

This past year friends and family have said to me, “I’m so glad you’re not doing politics anymore.” I tell them sorry, it’s only temporary. Like the song I’ve heard many times since I learned ballroom dancing a few years back, “I’ve got you under my skin.” That’s politics. It’s under my skin: doing whatever it is that’s “on my plate to do” in the world.

P.S. I’m hoping for my sake, and apologizing for your sake, that I just write this stuff and post it without endless rewrites. I do want to make it readable, and I know I need to deal with the stream of consciousness mode that seems to be my innate style. I’m thinking maybe, for the sake of those it bothers — and I’m afraid it may particularly be those of you who’ve been raised as men — I could put the really bad tangents in parentheses and if it drives you totally crazy you can just look for the ending parentheses and I’ll try to have the main line make sense. But that sounds like it would violate my goal to just WRITE it, shape it up adequately, and POST it. You have no idea how many un-posted blogs and un-sent letters I have written in my life. Fear, I think, is the culprit. Perfectionism is mostly fear. Ah well. We’re about an hour from the Atlanta airport and I think I’ll do something else now. By the way, I’m writing this while I’m on my way to Cuba for the first time.

Eight months, and rolling up our sleeves

[Written on October 3, 2013]

My daughter Natalia and I “rolled up our sleeves” this afternoon and designed campaign buttons showing people power over money power, with a person triumphing over a moneybag, and the words “Vote June 3, 2014” at the bottom. It’s so much fun to be impressed by what your child can do! By the way, check out her band, https://www.facebook.com/SocialStudies101

Last week I filled out the first questionnaire for the June 3, 2014 primary – exactly eight months from today. There was a question about campaign goals. My goal is this: I want us to win! So, who are we?

We are a huge group of people – we are

  • 89% of Americans who believe there is too much corporate money in politics,
  • the Green Party, whose candidates never take corporate money,
  • other candidates who also refuse corporate money,
  • the new No Corporate Money Campaign that is creating a cool video, to raise thousands of dollars to put up a fabulous website to build a critical mass of candidates who will take no corporate money and voters who will vote for them. Look again at the example of Richmond to see what happens when candidates who don’t take corporate and developer money win. You might want to sign up for their inspiring newsletter; see the left hand column of http://www.richmondprogressivealliance.net/

The trick about California is that we really can start to turn this state around. That’s why it’s so important that good, un-bought people get themselves on the ballot, as soon as possible. Maybe you will consider running, or encourage others to run.

I believe that this destructive corporate-controlled system will crack, and that its unraveling after the crack will proceed fairly rapidly. Why? Because it has happened before. In Latin America people who had not voted – especially the young and the impoverished – started voting, and replaced the old guard. The new governments  championed their people and not the 1% of the world. (And yes, the U.S. government and corporate media are mad – that’s why they lie about Latin America so much!)

I will wrap this up with a big THANK YOU. Last month I said you could mail a check to surprise us when we check the P.O. Box and a bunch of people did! Again, thank you.

Your offers of help are also very encouraging, and a dream I have is to work closely with one or more people who will help our campaign make the best possible use of all the help that is offered! If that person is you or someone you can recommend, let me know as soon as you possibly can!

Another world is possible.

Laura Wells for Controller 2014
P.O. Box 10181
Oakland, CA 94610
510-225-4005
laurawells2014@gmail.com

BLOG WEBSITE: http://laurawellssolutions.com/  is still my best website
WEBSITE:  laurawells.org – not updated yet, but we’ll get there!
FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/laurawellscontroller (thanks to Edy in LA)
TWITTER: @wellscontroller

U.S. income gap widest on record – that’s what happens when we don’t Tax The Rich!

News stories have hit this week with titles like, “U.S. income gap widest on record.” The stories mention UC Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez, and should point out a strong correlation he found during his research:

If you lower the income tax rates on the highest income brackets,

inequality of income is increased.

If you raise those rates, inequality is reduced.

A blog post with more information and graphs is here,

http://laurawellssolutions.com/2012/12/05/tax-the-rich-to-reduce-the-disparity/

At the end of Eisenhower’s presidency in 1960, the rate on the highest tax brackets was 91%. As we know, the rich could still get richer even with those high tax rates, just not obscenely richer. Now the titanic Dems and Reps haggle over a top rate of 35% and 39.6%. Why wouldn’t CEOs start shifting more wages to their own pockets when they get to keep most of it? It’s too much temptation. When they only kept 9% of the highest portion, greed was not encouraged.

The 0.1% use their resources to keep us thinking all taxes hurt all of us. Not true.

In addition to increasing taxes on the super-rich, we can also reduce government spending, and lower taxes on the rest of us. Which government spending should we reduce first? Let’s start with the dumbest expense: high interest paid to Wall Street banks. When we vote people into office who are not sold out to big banks and other corporations, we can create publicly-owned banks that partner with local banks and credit unions, and provide good loans to students, home owners, and community businesses. And we can fund our own projects without high interest tacked on top. See blog http://laurawellssolutions.com/category/public-banking-state-bank/

 

Nine months, to a new birth

In nine months we have a chance for a new birth! Here’s a vision that keeps appearing to me, despite all the bad news I hear.

We will begin to crack this system, by doing the things the 1% – really the 0.01% – do not want us to do.

The simple fact is that we vastly outnumber them and if we stop buying the candidates they have already bought, we will win. Then we will have people in government who will champion – not squash – the great ideas we have, for schools, for justice, for housing, the environment, jobs, health.

Replace is the word we’ve left behind in politics, and it’s the action we need to take. We cannot influence or lobby our elected officials to make them do the fair and sensible things that we regular people want them to do. The 1% is sitting pretty, having convinced us – step by step since the Great Depression of the 1930s – that we have only three choices in elections: vote Democrat, vote Republican, or do not vote at all. Their campaign contributions control the titanic Democratic and Republican parties, and their corrupt practices make us sick of the whole system.

But on June 3, 2014, in nine months, we will have on the ballot candidates who pledge to take no corporate money, and we will have voters who declare their intention to vote in the primary, and to vote for candidates who take no corporate money. Why? Because corporate money in the campaign is the best way to distinguish between people who will be on our side after the election, and people who will toe the line of the 1%.

My fondest wish is that many young people of the occupy and student movements run for office. I feel very fortunate that I’ve been at meetings and events where I’ve seen brilliant facilitators and organizers. They seem to understand that the issues are all connected, and so are all the people. That’s my favorite part of the vision.

We do have the power.

 

CONTACT INFORMATION

Step by step, with help from other people, the elements of my campaign are are coming together.

DONATE?

Yes! If you are able, donations are gratefully accepted. They are very much needed in a practical way for everything from travel expenses to literature and communications, not to mention costly fees to Sacramento. And they are tremendously encouraging, enabling me to reach out and spread the word as much as possible. The two ways to contribute financially are:
(1) Laura Wells for Controller account with PayPal, laurawells2014@gmail.com
(2) Mail a check to surprise us when we check the P.O. Box!

Laura Wells for Controller 2014
P.O. Box 10181
Oakland, CA 94610
510-225-4005
laurawells2014@gmail.com

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