A Populist Platform
If a real populist president were elected, or if a majority of those in Congress were populists, what kind of reforms would they enact? What follows are just some of the things I would try to do if I was in a position of power.
The first thing a true populist would do is to focus on the most important issue of our time; the undeniable fact that the vast majority of people are simply not being paid enough to meet the ever increasing costs of living. I don’t mean Bernie Sanders-like rant about raising the minimum wage fifty cents an hour. I mean Huey Long-like emphasis on just where all the wealth is, and proposals to take that ill-gotten wealth and distribute it more equitably among the masses who need it.
We’re about 2000 years overdue for a Year of Jubilee. While it would probably be unworkable to simply absolve all personal debts, I think a compromise could be reached that would still provide massive relief. How about cutting the amount, terms and interest rates on all individual and small business loans in half? Combined with legislation to cap any interest rate on any loan at say 8 percent, I think that would increase cash liquidity for everyone.
A true “America First” policy would involve bringing all military troops home, immediately. We could work out the logistics of military bases in certain countries, but no U.S. troops should be guarding, occupying or bombing anyone in any nation anywhere. Instead, they could be employed at home, guarding our oddly unprotected southern border. There is no reason for an expensive, tacky wall. Those who have been crossing our southern border for decades are doing so because our government wants them here.
A true “America First” policy would slap a 100 percent tax on any corporation that moved offshore. Tax credits could be devised to encourage them to stay in this country, and the more they paid their workers, the bigger the tax credits would be. I would also propose a 100 percent tax on any bonuses given to executives that laid off a single worker that year. And the first thing any real populist would do is to end the disastrous H 1-B Visa worker program, as well as all the other foreign guest worker and student worker programs.
Simply following the recommendations of the Grace Commission from the 1980s would cut government spending by one third, which was discovered to be nothing more than waste. In the thirty plus years that have elapsed since then, I think it can be safely assumed there is even more wasted government funding now.
There should be a complete and thorough audit of the Federal Reserve System. It ought to be abolished, and replaced with a nationalized system controlled by our elected leaders. The national “debt” has been monetized by the Fed and was created by bankers. It isn’t our debt, and should be repudiated. If the bankers who created the debt want to figure out how to pay it back, let them. However, it isn’t the obligation of the people to do so.
The practice of fractional lending needs to be curtailed and replaced with a credit union-type of system, where the funds actually exist in some tangible form. As it stands now, our banking system is legalized counterfeiting. I’m no monetary expert, but if we established a commission led by people like Ron Paul, I’m sure we could come up with a sound, stronger system.
The budgets of our intelligence agencies should be public knowledge. They should be held accountable for everything they’re doing, as well as the cost to taxpayers. At least some of these agencies could easily be abolished. The Homeland Security Department should be abolished at once, and the Patriot Act rescinded. The layers of fat should be cut out of our bloated military budget, and no more inexcusable wastes of taxpayer money from scrapped weapon programs should be tolerated.
Our priorities should be completely rearranged. With no more foreign interventionism, and the elimination of many unnecessary and unconstitutional agencies, plenty of money would be available for the rebuilding of our crumbling infrastructure, including our woefully outdated power grids.
Most every illegal immigrant would leave voluntarily if we simply stopped giving them any government benefits. Proof of citizenship should be required for all government assistance, and the practice of permitting “anchor babies” should be ended. Sanctuary cities should receive no government funding. Obviously, any illegal immigrant caught committing any crime should be deported immediately. With the borders actually being guarded, and no promise of government benefits to lure them, people will simply stop sneaking into this country.
With the advances in artificial intelligence, America has to look at replacing welfare and unemployment benefits with some kind of guaranteed living income. We also should look at trying to house the long-term homeless in abandoned homes and retail properties that have been empty for long periods of time. This would require thoughtfulness and creativity, something our leaders have never been renowned for, but it could be worked out.
Why is America unable to provide free wifi internet access everywhere, when a country like Estonia does? Several other countries provide free or very cheap internet to their citizens. The United States has now dropped out of the top twenty countries worldwide in terms of public wifi network quality. European countries, and even some Third World nations, provide much faster and cheaper broadband services than the wealthiest country in the world does.
While the U.S. lags behind the rest of the world in many crucial areas, we are light years ahead of anyone else in CEO pay. I have long advocated that a maximum compensation package be established for large corporations, tied to a minimum package, so that executives couldn’t make more than say twenty five times what their lowest-paid workers make. That used to be the norm until thirty years or so ago. Even the worst of the old plutocrats recognized that you had to pay people enough to buy their products. But in today’s Ayn Rand-inspired political climate, profits are all that matters. Greed is good.
Part of our infrastructure overhaul should be a true mass transit system that reflects the wealth and technological know-how America possesses. The United States boasts the third worst average commute time among all First World nations. Tallinn, the capital city of Estonia, and Hasselt, Belgium are just two cities that offer zero-fare public transportation systems to their inhabitants. As in all areas, America can and should be doing much better.
I know my conservative friends will remind me that “nothing is free,” and these government services will cost plenty. We already pay enough taxes to receive a well-run socialist state in return. But that’s the problem with America; we don’t get anything in return for what we pay. That is, unless you consider perpetual bombings and occupations of smaller nations to be a benefit. Or that we all benefit somehow from the largely unknown shenanigans of the CIA, FBI, DIA, NSA and other intelligence agencies. We certainly don’t have decent roads, bridges, airports and power grids to show for it.
I would establish a 911 Truth Commission, consisting of impartial researchers, as well as a new independent investigation into the JFK assassination. This would be essential in removing the cloud of suspicion which hangs over the heads of the officials who continue to cover-up the truth about these and so many other issues. “Extreme” leaders like David Duke, Louis Farrakhan and others should be invited to sit down and discuss their concerns, in an effort to establish racial and ethnic harmony. A national commission should be formed to investigate the myriad instances of police brutality and criminality, and the failure of their superiors to hold these officers accountable for their actions.
Much as Huey Long established free health clinics all across Louisiana in the 1930s, we ought to have free health clinics everywhere in this country. We should begin a gradual transition to a single-payer system, like most of the world has. The insurance and pharmaceutical companies will have to “sacrifice” this time, not average people.
Marijuana should be completely legal, and all drugs should be decriminalized. Private prisons should be abolished. All judges should be subject to recall. Direct democracy should be implemented at least partially. With a certain number of signatures, a given number of ballot measures could be put up for a national vote each year. Our elected officials would have to abide by the will of the people on these measures, and the courts could not overturn them.
Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden should be pardoned and hailed as heroes, as should Julian Assange. There must be meaningful prosecutions of powerful political figures that have committed numerous crimes, if only as a symbolic demonstration that no one is above the law.
Much of what I’m saying and writing will be labeled as socialist or even communist. On the contrary, totalitarian societies have never distributed the wealth in any kind of fair way, or delivered essential services fairly to all the people. Populism is far different from socialism or communism. Huey Long, for instance, was attacked relentlessly by both the communist and socialist parties in America. He is hardly a hero in the Soviet Union. It isn’t Marxist to point out how wrong it is for a handful of elites to have more money than they know what to do with, while in present-day America nearly half the population has less than one percent of the collective wealth.
The only way America can be saved from a slide into Third World status and an eventual collapse is to expose all the corruption. We must acknowledge that all these problems exist before we can solve them. As a great paranoid once wrote, if they can get you to ask the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about the answers. America is hopelessly corrupt, from top to bottom. Too many of our people have responded to this perpetual wrongdoing by mimicking the behavior Mike Judge spoofed in his film Idiocracy.
We need to admit that nothing illustrates the sorry state of present-day America better than the sinful distribution of wealth. With Donald Trump exposing himself as more of a plutocrat than any kind of populist, all we can do is hope that the sheeple wake up and finally demand something better.