I would have a new Federal Reserve system that would have a minority of bankers on it and be inclusive of full community needs. I would bring the system that controls our money into broad public control. Bill Greider [author of Secrets of the Temple and a founder of the Financial Democracy Campaign] says we should have let the S&Ls go. If they can’t make money lending on housing, let them go, and create a new financial transaction tax a fraction of a penny on every single transaction that takes place in the economy. That would create a pool of billions and billions of dollars, which would be used for housing. You would go down to the local housing agency and say, “Here are the papers, I’m qualified,” and you’d get a home loan. It would be that simple. What we’ve seen with the Reagan revolution is that Washington has let go of social programs. Responsibility is shifting from Washington to the states and to the local governments. So take your model for -financial democracy and tell me how we can make it work [on the state and local levels] . Well, it’s already being done. Harold Washington was doing these things in Chicago. For example, Washington succeeded in steering city business away from the political old-crony network and awarding contracts instead to members of low-income minority communities. His other major economic battle to municipalize electric power ended in a defeat that included a victory: In threatening a city takeover of the electric-distribution system, Washington scared Commonwealth Edison into substantially lowering the rates it charged small business. Lowering those rates was Washington’s aim in raising the issue in the first place. The most important thing is the philosophy, which is that it’s the ordinary people who do the most extraordinary things anyway. People want to build: If you give them the tools and some help, they pick them up and make them work. You trust people at a local level, and you invest in these people. Bush, in his education plan, said he wants 535 demonstration projects, one in each Congressional district. But they’re already out there, and he had nothing to do with them. What they need now is investment, so they can become more than just a local school or a class, so they can expand and become generalized. The Reagan-Bush line is that, if we just get government out of the way, things will happen. That’s not the way it works. There are people who will innovate, because people are creative and they have to make something work, but it’s the role of government to get behind them. It’s “percolate up,” instead of “trickle down.” What’s next for the populist movement? The populist movement is going .on stronger and stronger. It’s expressing itself in this savings-andloans issue. It’s expressing itself in housing and educational issues all across the country. If you go down to. the Chat ‘N Chew Cafe and talk to people, you will tap a very progressive streak. People want to build, and they want to have the tools of self-help in their own hands. You know, “trickle-down” is a pernicious philosophy. Even if it worked, which demonstrably it does not, it says to people, “you don’t matter,” that we’re gonna invest in a few wealthy people at the top and if you be good and sit there with your bowl at the bottom, some of it will trickle down to you. We need a philosophy of “percolate up” economics. If you look at the polls around the country right now, almost anywhere you go, they show that middle-class people who also represent the vast majority of the votersbasically think the government isn’t doing anything for them. So they’re against higher taxes. They ‘re against government spending on anything, because they figure it’s all going to the rich or the poor, and they get nothing from it. How RICHARD BARTHOLOMEW Jim Hightower do you deal with that? Well, we dealt with it in Texas by talking about investment in enterprise, investment in children, investment in workers and the work ethic. We approached it with a language that fit within the culture. And then we offered programs that were of general benefit. We also said what we were going to do with the money. I don’t want my taxes raised, either, because I think they’re going to spend it on the wrong things. So I want to know what they’re going to spend it on. When we raised money, we raised it for very specific purposes. For one bond program, we got the voters to invest in homegrown food-processing systems. Instead of building new rail spurs and giving tax breaks to out-of-state conglomerates to build processing facilities, we let the local people build their own. We had enough live demonstration projects around to say, look, it works. That was not a program that said, this is for minority farmers, this is for poor people. It was a program for enterprise. Now, we had a commitment to affirmative action and a staff that reflected the community, so we made damn sure that the minority groups were represented in the program. We didn’t say, this is just for black folks, but we had press conferences where all these black farmers would talk about how they built this facility in this town, and everyone said, “Hey, that’s okay, that’s good.” You can even get the Dallas Chamber of Commerce to get behind that. You have to deal with the concern “Government isn’t doing shit for me.” That’s what I’m arguing with the Democratic Party about I’m saying that we have to devise programs that will do something for people. We have to say, the government is going to invest in you, you are the people who will rebuild America. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11
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