It’s a misallocation in the marketplace because the small businesses the ones that are creating the most jobs, that are most innovative according to all the studies are the ones that can’t find the credit necessary to operate or can’t afford it if they can find it. It’s the multinationals that are able to find it, afford it, and get it. We are creating a situation that’s injuring small businesses which are the most productive segment of the economy and the segment we are going to have to rely on for recovery. Our policies are just skewed in the wrong direction. I use farm metaphors because I’m a rural boy and I call it hauling hay for economic dinosaurs. I know we are running short of time, so let me ask you one last question. In a recent New York Review of Books article, Kevin Phillips predicts that the country is going to drift closer and closer to fascism. And clearly, most officials in the Democratic Party can’t agree on an alternative platform to head off this threat. Since there is an old political maximum which says you can’t beat something with nothing, what do you believe progressives must do to get the political system moving in a more humane direction? Well, I haven’t read what Phillip’s has written, but all the polls show that the country is becoming increasingly polarized which is very frightening. You see it here in debate in Washington. You see it out in the country. At different levels its grandmas versus submarines. That determination of what we spend money for in Congress do we spend it on programs for grandmothers or do we spend it for submarines. Economic issues increasingly polarize our firms. Do we do something for the benefit of Exxon or do we do something to benefit the local hardware store owner? I see that in public policy here all the time and I’m really worried about that. I don’t know if I’ve heard very often out here any group including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or anybody else, but probably especially the U.S. Chamber, start articulating what is good for America. What they talk about is what’s good for our people. When they talk about “our people,” they’re talking about their folks in the U.S. Chamber or their folks in this organization or that organization. Jim Hightower I think has been successful in Texas because when he speaks to somebody that works for a living and a monthly paycheck, or when he speaks to a mainstream businessperson, they don’t necessarily think Republican or Democrat. What they think is, this is a guy that’s talking about the things that I care about. He’s not for a weak defense. He’s not against the free market. He’s for a strong America and a strong free marketplace. And he’s able to frame it in a way that they can understand. If a U.S. Chamber executive comes to town with a Brooks Brothers suit on and speaks at a service club, he gives them this rap about American business and everybody says, “Yea for American business.” And then next week Jim Hightower comes along and says, “You know folks, that fellow with the $800 suit wasn’t telling you the whole truth. What he was saying was, “let’s bet on Exxon for America’s future,” but there’s a whole set of differences and publicpolicy needs between Exxon and the local hardware store, or between Exxon and the independent business producer in this country that’s producing most of the new jobs.” And I think Jim and some others have been able to frame it in a way that the people begin to understand, whether they are talking about tax fairness or spending programs. I just don’t want to get trapped in the old Democratic tradition of saying the way to solve every program is spend more money. So what do we do? Well, I think that progressives around the country must continue to organize locally. I spent ten years as an elected statewide official. I hope Jim Hightower becomes one in Texas. I think there is a tremendous reservoir of power residing in state and local offices. There are a lot of things that can be done that make good sense, that could move this country back to a country that responds really to the working people and to the independent producers. It’s really an education process. I’ll give you an example. Reagan carried North Dakota with about 65% of the vote, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate just below Reagan and above me on the ballot won with about 73%. So we had a lot of crossover for me to get here. I think it was because I didn’t say the traditional things people expect of a Democrat. I support many of the traditional things as well. You know, I had a television commercial in which I talked about defense and said that defense is an important item. I talked about the strength of America being our patience, our tolerance, our restraint, our good judgment that those are our strengths. But we are fools if we think we can deal with the Soviets and others in an unstable world without some basic military strength. So what kind of investment do we need to be strong? Well, I think we need investment in conventional arms. We need an army that understands what it is to be an army that six out of ten combat divisions aren’t combat-ready. Those are the kinds of things I talked about. Some people who are liberals said to me, “How dare you put a commercial on television talking about defense.” And I said, “Are you a fool? Are you not for a strong America?” I mean why all of a sudden are we willing to allow the Republican Party to be the party that says, “We’re for a strong America?” I’m for a proud, strong, and free America. I’m perfectly interested in articulating that philosophy. We have differences in how we get there but I support that. The Star Spangled Banner and the Battle Hymn of the Republic don’t belong to the Republicans. Yet Democrats somehow have walked away from those kind of notions of patriotism and responsibility and so on, and I think we ought to grab it all back. That’s what I think Jim does, and I think people understand Jim Hightower really well. I also know that the Democrats are not going to be the party of gun control, abortion, and gay rights and win victories for the White House and Congress representing those kinds of issues. That’s not what the person who works all day thinks about. Unfortunately, the way our convention process has developed, those are kind of the issues that have been put up front. So what should we be thinking about? I’ve been after the leadership saying, why don’t we have interest rates on the floor of the House so we can debate interest-rate policies and issues or structural reform of the Fed and so on. I’m not saying we should move in an abrupt fashion, but let’s at least get some vehicles on the floor of the House so we can talk. Why don’t we get safe-harbor leasing you know, the sell-a-tax-break on the floor of the House? I can’t for the life of me understand why our leadership doesn’t take any of those things and run with them. We’re against tax loopholes or at least we’re supposed to be against tax loopholes and we’re supposed to be for tax fairness. If that’s true, why the hell hasn’t the sell-a-tax-break plan been brought to the floor of the House so we can debate it? We can get rid of it on the floor of the House. But I’ll tell you something, this place really clogs up in a hurry when you start asking people to deal with specific things. 0 Al Watkins is reporting for the Observer from Washington this summer. 44%1AEM3H11 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11
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