Show Dubya Some Respect

On receiving my first issue of Progressive Populist I was dismayed to perceive a certain lack of respect for our beloved Texas governor. This was particularly distressing since the issue arrived only a day or two after Mr. Dan Quayle had lent his support to Mr. Bush's campaign, thus bringing a pair of intellectual heavyweights to bear on the problems of America. Indeed, their combined IQs total a respectable 45, both read Plato's Republic annually, and Mr. Bush tells us that he reads it in the original Spanish.

Often overlooked is the fact that Mr. Bush, in his Texas governorship has materially reduced certain expenditures for our state. For example, he has appointed a group of multimillionaires to the State Parks and Wildlife board, who promptly eliminated free hunting and fishing licensed for those over 65, and did away with free admission to state parks for the elderly, thus upping state revenues. Furthermore, it may cost you $50 even to enter a State Natural Area, which are little more than state-owned preserves for the wealthy. Take that, old guys!

Note also that Mr. Bush has recently displayed a touching interest in the morality of the populace. The Tigua indian tribe, after suffering abject poverty and persecution for four hundred years, have, through their casino, finally achieved a decent income. But after Richard Rainwater, one of his owners, purchased a casino in Nevada, Mr. Bush has decided that the Tigua casino is destroying the morals of Texas and should be shut down. The Texas Attorney General has been dispatched to erase this threat to our populace.

And Mr. Bush has no peer when it comes to cutting taxes. Did he not give us a 2 percent cut in real estate taxes? True, he backed that up with a $3,000 increase in teacher pay to purchase the teacher's lobby, making it necessary for local taxes to be increased to pay for it. So it is mere quibbling to point out that Mr. Bush's tax cut resulted in a 19.1 percent increase in my annual tax bill.

Hooray for compassionate conservatism! May the bankruptcy judge be equally compassionate to the rest of us.


Lubbock, Texas

Teddy Roosevelt's Progressive Record

I'm glad to hear so many Republicans are invoking the name of Teddy Roosevelt as their idol and one of the cornerstones of the party. He's always been a favorite of mine too. That's why I'm puzzled when everyone from George Will to John McCain puts him in the same conservative lineup with Ronald Reagan. I wonder if they've been reading the same history books as I have. I suppose if one can call himself a conservative reformer -- which to me is as bold an oxymoron as there is in politics -- then today anything is possible.

A case can be made that Theodore Roosevelt was the most progressive President this country has ever had. He personally directed prosecutions against the trusts under the Sherman Act, concluding, "Our laws have failed in enforcing the performance of duty by the man of property toward the man who works for him, by the corporation toward the investor, the wage-earner and the general public." This statement flew in the face of the Old Guard of his own party who tried to block most of the progressive legislation he initiated such as an authority for giving the federal government plenary power to regulate all corporations engaged in interstate business. In his second term of office he did manage to pass the Hepburn and Pure Food and Drug Acts which authorized the formation of the Interstate Commerce Commission and the Food and Drug Administration, despite daily charges in the press of his "subversion, socialism, treason and insanity." Furthermore he called himself a "radical." The editor of the New York Sun even forbade the name Theodore Roosevelt to be mentioned in his journal.

But he even went further to the left later when he tried to recapture the presidency under the Bull Moose banner after a failed attempt at liberalizing the Republican Party. In 1912, he declared that the rich man "holds his wealth subject to the general right of the community to regulate its business as the public welfare requires," and that the police power of the state should be broadened to embrace all necessary forms of regulation. On the political side he advocated not only the initiative and referendum, but the recall of judicial decisions, since as his friend Brook Adams pointed out, "... the Supreme Court had arrogated the powers of a third legislative chamber to quash reform legislation." It is interesting to note that 1912 was also the year that Arizona achieved statehood with perhaps the most progressive state constitution in the country and with each of those provisions. After all, Teddy had set aside most of the state's land in federal domain for posterity, and had literally created the city of Phoenix with the Roosevelt Dam and Salt River Project.

Samuel Eliot Morison in his Oxford History of the American People, published before the Reagan Era, showed the direct connection between Teddy Roosevelt and every Democratic president in the 20th century, in the twin principles of social justice at home and vigorous leadership abroad. Each Democratic president tried to emulate Teddy's "Square Deal" for the working man. Wilson called his the "New Freedom," Franklin Roosevelt, who carried out most of what Teddy had envisioned, created the "New Deal," Truman, the "Fair Deal," Kennedy, the "New Frontier," Johnson, the "Great Society," and so on.

Does any of this sound remotely like Herbert Hoover or Ronald Reagan?

Safford, Arizona

What's a Voter to Do?

In November of the year 2000 we will be going to the polls to choose between two candidates for President who present us with not much difference from which to choose. There is Tweedle dumb and Tweedle dee. Still, I thought the difference was such that we could know which was which. Vice President Gore's position on the Elian Gonzalez matter has obscured that difference.

From my perspective, Gore's position is neither legally nor morally correct. Were the situation reversed with the Cuban government holding a small child from his American parent because they believe our system of government to be evil, at the very least, we would be out in the streets protesting without any incitement from our government. I believe the situation should be clear to all but the most ideologically fanatic.

Beyond Gore's taking a position that is morally reprehensible, it is stupid. His chances of winning in the State of Florida were poor in any case. His chances of winning the State of California were good. Now, he may lose California. He has lost my vote. To me, one stupid president is as bad as any other.

There has to be something wrong with a system where we must so frequently choose between the lesser of two evils in picking the leader of our nation! There really is a need for a respectable Third Party Candidate. I don't know whether McCain is such a candidate. The terms reformer and conservative are contradictory. Were he to be elected President, we would not know whether we were getting the Reformer or the Conservative. He can't be both.

Actually, as I see it, there are no real Conservatives. Those who claim to be conservative are either regressives or reactionaries. A conservative wants to conserve something. I have heard no self- identified conservative speak as though they had in mind to conserve anything. Some are pushing for an unleashed capitalism without regulation while others are simply reacting negatively to the modem world, and seeking to return to an imagined golden age that has never existed.

Rather than voting for one of the major candidates, the other alternative is to vote for a candidate who has no chance of winning the election. I am reluctant to vote for such a candidate as such a vote is often a back handed vote for the candidate you least want to see win. What is one to do?

Santa Rosa, California

Scientists Leave Room for Worry

The National Academy of Science's recent (April 6 news item) review of government guidelines for genetically modified crops concludes that there is "no evidence" that the modified foods currently available are unsafe. This review leaves considerable room for worry.

Evolutionary forces acting over many generations have resulted in general harmony between humans and our normal diet and environment. However, food is genetically modified by the introduction of genetic material from one species into another. The transfer can even be from animal to plant. With these genetic modifications new chemical material will likely be introduced into the altered food. Comparitive epidemiology often correlates serious deleterious effects on humans to the introduction of new chemical compounds into the diet or environment. The resulting illnesses may not manifest themselves until after years of exposure to the new source. Thus the fact that there is "no evidence" that currently available genetically modified foods are unsafe is far from reassuring -- the evidence may not be apparent for many years and then it will be too late to take corrective action.

Santa Rosa, California

Omniscient Market Alleged

In "Greenspan Plays With Fire -- Who Gets Burned?" [4/15/00 PP] Mark Weisbrot cautions that Greenspan's actions could have unintended consequences for all, but also notes that the divergence between the old and new economies reflect a speculative bubble and overvaluation of the "new economy".

Several other recent columns and books by Robert Krugman (NY Times), Robert Kuttner (Business Week), and Robert Shiller (Irrational Exuberance) have focused on the same overvaluation argument.

Certainly there have been some excesses of hype, speculation, and even accidental Ponzis, associated with the "new economy", but far beyond the traditional analysis and dangers suggested by Greenspan, the marketplace is actually accurately valuing the "new economy" based on an entirely new metric.

If we look at the true quality of earnings, the "new economy" is based on positive network externalities, while "old economy" earnings must be discounted by increasingly obvious negative externality costs like pollution, climate damage and resource waste. As these negative externalities or social costs are exposed and judicially forced upon the old resource-wasteful "growth" economy, the market is now finally reflecting lowered valuations.

Traditional valuations based on "growth", which have always been valid in a world of vast resources and limited financial and technical capital, are no longer valid in a world of large overhanging negative externalities and surplus capital.

Quite aside from any speculative bubble, the "new economy" with its positive network externality displacement of energy wasteful business travel and resource gluttony, reflects a new "Natural Capitalism" (Hawken/Lovins) which is "Beyond Growth" (Daly) toward true sustainability

Despite the excesses, I strongly believe that broader economic analysis will reveal that the omniscient market (though few individuals) is already shifted to a valuation model based not on traditional "growth" assessments, but on "sustainability".


Sanford, Maine

Keep Space Peaceful

I'm at a loss to understand why you don't show more support for the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space by focusing editorial attention on its efforts to halt another arms race -- this time the United States' stated policy to become the "Masters of Space".

All efforts to bring about change regarding WTO and IMF will be futile if we do not stop this mad endeavor on the part of the Pentagon and the military-industrial complex. Only one mis-step on their part will result in plutonium contamination of our planet.

You have not called attention to the four days of protest -- April 14 to 17 in Washington, DC -- which includes a day long conference April 15 at American University featuring close to thirty lecturers including Dr. Helen Caldicott and Dr. Michio Kaku. Like the protests and demonstrations regarding WTO and IMF this is truly a global gathering of a broad-based grassroots endeavor to stop corporate domination and exploitation of people and the planet. I urge you to assist this important effort in the future particularly the International Call-In Days -- May 1 to 15 ... Thank you for your attention and time.


Hendersonville, N.C.

Editor's Note: Enclosed was a brochure requesting calls to the White House at 202-456-1111 (fax 202-456-2461) and Congress at 202-224-3121 to register opposition to the weaponization of space. For more information contact the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, PO Box 90083, Gainesville FL 32607; phone 352-337-9274; www.globenet.free-online.co.uk

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