A Populist Manifesto
The Making of a New Majority
by Jack Newfield and Jeff Greenfield
I am a Populist. Now you need to tell me why you are not.
I read this book and I am sold, hook line and sinker. Never before have I read a book so damn accurate as to what is wrong with the world today. This is a scathing and detailed list of the corrupting power of money in politics; the corporate takeover of every system known to man; the massive consolidation of the media; the revolving door policy and nepotism of most federal agencies; inadequate health care; the overwhelmed and helpless public with no where to turn, no one to trust, and powerless to change anything; A true screaming manifesto that whipped me up and got me angry! Yes, I’ve read these before.. but never has a book like this been so accurate, so documented. So true! Never before has a book provided the solutions either.
I am a populist. Read this book and tell me why you are not.
This startling and mind bending thing about this book is that it was written in 1972. That’s right. This book perfectly pegged exactly what is wrong with with world of today but was written nearly 50 years ago! 50!! Half a century ago! At one point I stopped, still flabbergasted at how old the book was, and realized that to bring it up to date in my head I’d need to do a search and replace of the names of the companies and agencies and issues of the past with the companies and agencies and issues of today to make it relevant. But I stopped again. No, I did not need to do this. The FCC, GM, ConEd, AT&T, etc. all are still here! I realized I did not have to update the book.. but add to the book. The same entities are still doing the same bad shit, but now there are more and even bigger companies to add to this list. The same concentration of money, industries and power is happening today, only at an exponential rate at which the authors would be astonished. Arrgg!!
Why are we not all populists?!? Tell me why??!
This manifesto lists each big topic, ie Concentrated Economic Power, Taxes, Banking and Insurance, Union, Media, Crime, Foreign Policy, Health Care, etc. and details the players, the unfair playing fields, the spin doctors, and the “black hands” that maintain the tilted status quo. It then, however, provides concrete steps and acts we can do to correct the system.
I want to type every word of this book here to force you all to read it. For example, after two chapters of setting the stage the authors dedicate an issue per chapter: Chapter Three is entitled “Concentrated Economic Power” and ends with the authors suggesting the following countermeasures:
1. Break up the biggest corporations
2. Ban all mergers and corporate take-overs by the top 200 corporations
3. Put persistent antitrust violators in jail
4. Change the tax laws and accounting tools that make mergers among bug corporations desirable.
5. Ensure that the corporate that has broken the law suffers the penalty.
Each chapter has such sane and logical steps we can take. Uggh.. I wish I could do this for the entire book, but that would just be silly. But then again… fuck it. Its worth it!
Chapter Four: The Money Changers: Banking and Insurance
1. Prohibit all interlocking directorates among banks
2. Prohibit directors of competing business from sitting on the board of a bank
3. Open up directorship to a wider group
4. Outlaw the equity kicker
5. Close the tax loopholes protecting bank profits
6. Require bank investments in needed housing and for other socially useful purposes
7. Tax the profits by life insurance companies in tax-free reserves.
Chapter Five: Natural Monopolies, Unnatural Profits; Utilities
1. We urge the public ownership of America’s telephone and electric power systems
Chapter Six: Them that Has, Keep; Taxes
1. No more tax-exempt state, municipal, and industrial revenue bonds
2. A drastic reduction – in not an outright repeal – of the favored treatment given to profits from stocks and bonds
3. Taxation of income no matter what the institution
4. 1 90 percent inheritance, gift, and estate tax-exempt to charitable contributions thatr enrich the weathly.MNo
MNo more depreciation and other “intangeable” write- offs
5. A flat limit and decuctaion for meals and travel as business expense
6. A conscious shaping of tax policy that discourage and punishes increased concentration of economic power, that rewards the less affluent, and that encourages socially disadvantageous policy
7. The formation of a political movement to force reform
Chapter Seven: The Great American Dream Machine: Regulatory Agencies
1. Break the industry-agency-industry cycle
2. Interpret “conflict of interest” to include more than ownership of stock of properties in the regulated industry and to carry over beyond tenure in office
3. Make the public interest a required part of any hearing
4. Make appointments a public issuer before elections
Chapter Either: This Land is Their Land: Land Reform
1. Use the antitrust laws to prevent further expansion by the conglomerates
2. Enforce existing laws
3. Revised existing laws to ensure they benefit only those they were intended to benefit
4. The federal government might begin to pursue a policy of direct redistribution
5. Set up federal program and policies to encourage cooperatives
Chapter Nine: What They Say is What You Get: The Media
1. Prohibit absolutely any owner of a newspaper from owning a radio or television station in his own city
2. Require that community groups be given time ion any cable television system
3. Require congressman to divest themselves of all interested in radio and television
4. Turn over partial control of the media to organizations independent of the networks
Chapter Ten: The Great Cop-Out: Crime
1. Strict federal control of firearms and ammunition as an absolute necessity
2. Change police practices that hinder the work of deference
3. Perhaps the most important step in fighting crime is to recognize that the criminal justice system is itself one of the great festering swamps of crime
4. The participation of the criminal’s community – particularly for the blacks, Chicano, and Puerto Ricans – in important in breaking crime cycles,.
5. The corruption of the criminal justice system – from the cop on the beat to the judges on the bench and the politicians who pick them – is a direct cause of crime,
6. We have to understand the connection between out brutalizing prisons and our unsafe streets, and make prison reform the focus of any crusade against crime
7. Something more than press agentry must be done about eh heroine curse
8. Increase citizen involvement in the police process
Chapter Eleven: The Medical- Industrial Complex: Health
1. A free and decentralized systems that treats rich and poor equally should be our national policy
2. The immediate political issues now before the nation is some for of national health insurance
3. Private institutions must be reformed if there is to be better care at lower costs
4. Preventative medicine must become a higher priority for the entire population
5. The routes into the medical profession must be opened up to minorities, and to those whose skills can help save lives even without the full training necessary to become a doctor of medicine.
6. Consumer and community participation (not control) must become part of the running of local health centers
Chapter Twelve: Labor Pains Unions and Work
1. Craft unions should adopt flexible rules for badly-needed construction’
2. Join the effort to find new technology Make pensions funds fully “portable”
3. Use union resource to enable workers to train for new careers
4. Expand union participation in management
5. Organize the unorganized 0 southerners, the young, blacks, women, clerical workers, farm laborers.
Chapter Thirteen: Fight Fiercely, Harvard: Foreign Policy
1. An Unfriendly or ideologically hostile government is not necessary a threat to the United States
2. We must stop seeing foreign nations through the eyes of our political judgments
3. Take the profit out of national defense
4. Make the draft equitable
5. Stop equating corporate interest with national interest. Immediate and total withdraw from Indochina
Chapter Fourteen: Opening Up the Political Process
1. An absolute limit on total campaign spending, with mandatory criminal penalties for violations, as well as the nullification of any election in which the victorious candidate violated the spending ceiling
2. A complete ban on all radio and TV advertising, with stations required to give free equal time to all candidate.
3. Make contributions as well as candidates criminally liable for breaking the law on contributions
4. Require the legislators disclose all of the financial interest that would be affected by legislation on which the speak and vote
5. Open up and decentralize decision-making in federal agencies
6. Communities, neighborhoods, and towns must be given great say in the decisions about their own futures and in the operations of government services.
7. Party reform-democratizing the process of nomination a candidate for president – in imperative
8. Automatic voter registration of everyone at eighteen
A few quotes for good measure:
”Wealth tends to corrupt the mind and to nourish its love of power, and to stimulate it to oppression,. History proves this to be the spirit of the opulent.” – Governor Morris, a leader of he American aristocracy, at the Constitutional Convention.
From the opening of Chapter Five: Concentrated Economic Power:
“Imagine a country that exists withing the United States. Its chief executive gets paid four times as much as the president of the United States. Its budget is bigger than those of the three biggest states and bigger than that of all but two nations in the world. Imagine that its enormous wealth has purchased the loyalty of congressman, senators, and federal officials; and that its lobbyists can shape the tax laws, criminal laws, and economic policy of Washington. Suppose, too, that the United States found that this nation within a nation was directly responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of citizens, and was responsible as well for a third of our air pollution.
If the American people ever were confronted with such a conspiracy, there would be national outrages. Declarations of war would be drafted. Very likely, federal troops would be sent across the border of this aggressor nation to stop the killing and poisoning of our citizen.
Such a nation does exist – today – within our borders. Its leaders are elected by only the wealthiest of people and institutions. It has stood accused of precisely these acts against the American people and it has stood mute, preferring to rely on its economic and political power to exempt it from the laws that apply to the rest of us.
The name of this state if General Motors.”
From Chapter Seven about Federal Agencies, comes this quote from a letter of Grover Cleveland’s Attorney Genera;l offering some advice to a railroad tycoon in 1893:
“The Commission (the Interstate Commerce Act’s very first federal regulatory agency in the rail industry) is, or can be made, to great use to the railroads. Its satisfied the popular clamor for government supervision of the railroads at the same time that that supervisions is almost entirely nominal. Further, the older such a commission gets to be, the more inclined it will be found to take the business and railroad view of things. It thus becomes a sort of barrier between the railroads and the people and a sort of protection against hasty and crude legislation hostile to railroad interested.”
This was written about THE VERY FIRST FEDERAL AGENDY created to oversee the railroad industry to protect the citizens.
From Chapter on media, referring to the FCC’s “fairness doctrine” required fair representation of all points of view on important issues:
“If General Motors wants to advertise a Corvair, or an automobile that pollutes the atmosphere, all it needs is the money. A group wishing to argue that the automobile is a deadly weapon whose use should be restricted gets neither free nor purchased time – that is a “political” issue. “
Are you not a populist now? Please tell me why?
I’ll leave you with this final though. Its from the chapter on taxes, but really can be applied to any issue, anytime:
“The link between wealth and political leverage has cost the American working family billions of dollars that should have been paid by the wealthy. And it has been the venality, cowardice, and corruptibility of our politicians that has permitted thus systems to continue. Only when the public understands the significance of this issues – only when there are marches on Washington, and speeches to the nation, and the kind of fervor that embraces a political issues with a moral argument behind it – can the battle for a fair tax system be won.”
Or… changing the last line of this passage: “… only when there are marches on Washington, and speeches to the nation, and the kind of fervor that embraces a political issues with a moral argument behind it –…can the battle for [ insert cause here ] be won!