Fed Offenses

I just got my first issue of The Progressive Populist and have been reading all morning. Not a bad piece of work. I plan to distribute pieces of it to my acquaintances in the medical industry.

I gotta tell ya, though, Jim Hightower's and Molly Ivins' tiresome whining about Alan Greenspan is vaguely aromatic of those who accuse him of being an agent for the Elders of Zion. Molly's statement that he favors complete deregulation of the financial services industry is demonstrably false, and she should know it. He's not my favorite guy either, but the fact is, your readers -- and apparently Hightower and Ivins -- know so little about anything any central bank does, or should do, that Molly and Jim may as well be speaking Swahili. Molly's credibility is suspect anyway, since she's become the Clintons' apologist. I think too many journalists allow themselves to become too attached to too many powerful people, of whatever party.

[As for Greenspan's preoccupation with inflation:] It's the law. Like it or not. The law (notwithstanding the Humphrey-Hawkins provisions that require the Fed chairman to stay after school to explain himself to the most poorly qualified, politically motivated teachers of economics we could have) demands that he whip inflation first, now and always.

The primary purpose of the Federal Reserve Act was and is to guard the value of the currency. After we left the gold standard, a big goal of the the early "progressives" and "populists," (Y'all seem to have appropriated both of these culturally weighted monikers. I guess one's already the title of a periodical and the latter's a museum piece in the ground with Bryan) was the easier credit that leaving the fixed standard implied.

Obviously, it appears to be in the interests of the have-nots to make money easier to create and borrow. Since that, by definition, makes the money less valuable, the haves made the Federal Reserve responsible not only for banking the banks, but guarding the haves' henhouse, as well.

Now, we may bitch and moan that Greenjeans is doing too good a job, but he is, in fact, doing the job the law assigns him.

I suggest Hightower and Ivins aim their broadsides at the people responsible for defining Greenspan's job and responsibilities -- the Congress.

But woe be to he or she who dismisses inflation or its prospects too easily. Those whose interests Ms. Ivins and Mr. Hightower so nobly defend are those least able to cope with the destruction of savings by inflation, a prospect Ivins and Hightower so airily dismiss.

I find it interesting that the people most prone to Fed-and/or-Greenspan-bashing are boosterish, speculative growth-at-all-costs Republicans and lefty Democrats. Do they have something more in common than either wants to admit?


Waterloo, NE 68069

Email dickp@dtn.com

Editor's Reply:
The Humphrey-Hawkins act, passed in 1977, during a time of high inflation, also set a target of 4 percent unemployment and placed stable prices on par with full employment. It appears that Greenspan, in his focus on keeping inflation low, has ignored the mandate to encourage full employment.

Nice Won't Cut It

Having reviewed Pat McGeever's letter published in the April Progressive Populist attacking my piece, "In the Belly of the Pods", I feel I must respond -- if nothing but for the sake of any future progressive movements, anywhere.

Pat is a nice, gentle man. Perhaps too gentle. I first met him at the October 19th march/rally at the FBI and statehouse buildings. Pat chose to walk his dog during our march, if that tells the reader anything (I found it insulting to the rest of us). Pat chose not to use the Alliance as an active conduit for campaign finance reform -- the latter being the "spoke in the wheel" of all other political injustice and unfairness. Matter of fact, at the only real rally we few progressives had outside a Republican fund-raiser, Pat was conspicuously absent. So much for activism on his part -- or the Alliance.

My point: Indianapolis is what the pundits name it: Nap town. There is no real, true progressive mobilization here. I arrived 1-1/2 years ago, thinking that a state capitol held promise for citizen action. I implored the few who attended Alliance meetings to start a massive letter writing campaign and a series of weekly demonstrations at the statehouse. I implored them to adopt the Maine Clean Elections ideal here and now in Indy. After all, the legislature, as I write, is supposedly debating and formulating campaign finance reform. As you probably realize, its all "smoke and mirrors." The Democrats are, as a group, as guilty as the Republicans -- they don't want real change. The one newspaper here (a Quayle family publication) won't even address public-financed campaigns as an alternative.

As long as the decent, caring Pat McGeevers stand silent and do nothing to raise their voices (which is the point I was making in my article), Indiana shall remain beholden to the rich special interests -- by both parties (or is it really one party?).

I spoke before the "blue ribbon" phony committee on reform -- I challenged them ... to address total public-financed campaigns. Where were the Alliance members?

The challenge to all of you reading this in Anywhere USA is to raise your voice. Write letters, form groups of just plain citizens and challenge your elected officials. Challenge them with the Maine ideal. How about a new non-partisan group, nationwide, called FED-UP (For Electoral Democracy-United Public)? Lets all raise the roof and demand true reform. How about it, Pat? How about it Naptown? How about it America?


Indianapolis, Ind.

Editor's Reply:
The name might not be as catchy, but Public Campaign recently was set up to promote publicly financed campaigns. For information write Public Campaign, 1320 19th St. NW, Suite M1, Washington, D.C. 20036

Be Pure or Be Gone

Over the past several months, Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) has been promoting himself to the American people as a strong supporter of campaign finance reform. However, Senator Feingold's recent fundraising practices and legislative efforts have left me with some serious doubts about his credibility on this important issue

First, according to Federal Election Commission records (FEC), Senator Feingold has accepted more than $541,000 in political action committee (PAC) money between 1989 and 1996. Just in the last two years alone, Senator Feingold has taken more than $96,000 of this special interest PAC money.

It is widely known that PAC's give money to politicians for only one purpose -- to influence legislation. If Senator Feingold believes that he can take their money and then vote against them, he is deceiving himself as well as his constituents. The fact of the matter is that if an elected official takes special interest PAC money he or she is obligated to do whatever that special interest wants. There are no exceptions.

Second, the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill (of which Senator Feingold is a co-sponsor) is nothing more than "political gimmickry" because it includes virtually none of former California Governor Jerry Brown's specific proposals for comprehensive campaign finance reform which he outlined in his 1992 Platform in Progress. These proposals included the following:

1) Limiting individual campaign contributions to $100, 2) Banning of all PACs, 3) Providing free television and mail to all qualified federal candidates, 4) Raising the voluntary taxpayer checkoff to $25 for the public financing of campaigns, 5) Rolling back Congressional and White House salaries, 6) Imposing 12-year term limitations, and 7) Installing a binding none-of-the-above option on the ballot

If Senator Feingold is serious about cleaning up the current corrupt campaign finance system, why hasn't he incorporated these specific provisions in the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill?

As voting citizens, we must insist that our elected officials be held to the highest moral and ethical standards when it comes to financing their political campaigns. Elected officials who say that they support real campaign finance reform must lead by example by not engaging in the type of practices that they are supposedly trying to outlaw. Before Senator Feingold can meet this much higher standard, he must first begin by not accepting any future PAC donations and then follow up by amending the McCain-Feingold bill to include Jerry Brown's proposals for comprehensive campaign finance reform.



P.O. Box 161

Richfield, WI 53076

Greens for Unity

Patrick Mazza does a good job of describing the development of the new Association of State Green Parties in the May issue. He is less authoritative when delineating the issues between the ASGP and The Greens/Green Party USA. I speak as a long-term member of GPUSA who has become increasingly impatient with their failure to adapt to and support the many emerging state Green Parties. I am also one of the concerned Greens who have gathered endorsements to the Unity Statement from 423 active Greens, 27 Green locals and county councils, and 8 state Green Parties, all of which would rather not see a national fight over the claim to be the "legally stuctured national Green Party federation."

Mr. Mazza states that "many local circles of Greens ... look with disfavor upon messing around with states and elections." I don't believe any Green locals fit this description. A few individual Greens were quite vocal in their opposition to the Nader candidacy, but they actually have very little influence, even within GPUSA.

The emphasis on a debate over autonomy also misses the mark. GPUSA has absolutely no control over its member locals and state parties (as one might expect of a severely underfunded volunteer organization). The real challenge is achieving bottom-up control over the national board which, though espoused by both ASGP and GPUSA, is easier said than done. GPUSA definitely has problems in this area while ASGP has yet to be tested.

The most concrete difference between the two national Green organizations is that ASGP is essentially formed of and by state Green Parties while GPUSA was formed by Green locals and now represents Green locals, regions of locals, and (a few) state Green parties. Another key difference is that GPUSA only claims to represent active Greens who have paid a $15 national membership fee while ASGP hopes to represent all Greens in their constituent states.

One final clarification: Mazza remarks, "Many key state parties such as California have never joined [GPUSA]." He failed to point out that when the GPCA considered this question this spring, they also decided not to join ASGP but overwhelmingly endorsed the Unity Statement. Similarly New York, Texas, Minnesota and Florida have not joined ASGP and have endorsed the Unity statement.

Ultimately, the Green Parties in these large states will hold the keys to the future of the national Green Party. They seem willing to take their time and do the job right. I am quite hopeful that by the end of 1998, the Greens in the United States will pull together to form an effective, broadly-based, and "legally-structured" national Green Party.


102 Catbrier Circle

Afton, VA 22920

Email: probinson@mindspring.com

See the Unity Forum at http://www.envirolink.org/greens/hn/uforum.html and the Statement of Belief by the Greens for Unity at http://lonestar.texas.net/~ekliii/greens/unity.html.

Greens Believe in Politics

Your reporting on the Association of State Green Parties [ASGP] (May 1997), leaves much to be desired. It omits, for example, the question of why North Carolina Greens were specifically dis-invited from participating in last November's founding of the ASGP. Could it be because we are, in writer Patrick Mazza's words, "married to a purist eco-anarchism" and consider electoral politics to be "trying to beat the master with the master's tools?"

Well, quite to the contrary, the Orange County (NC) Greens have won four elections to local office, as much success as just about any recent progressive third party effort. As well as running candidates, we conduct candidate forums, raise election issues, and make endorsements. We couple this with issue activism that has ranged from an innovative local campaign for candidate spending limits to energy efficiency and solid waste reduction programs to our current proposal for a county living wage ordinance. We are also committed to public education and to building alternative institutions like the grassroots newspaper, The Prism, now in its eighth year of publication.

This is the kind of politics that most Greens believe in and practice. Greens understand that government is only one locus of power and that elections alone are an insufficient means for bringing about a just and ecological society. However, unreported by Mazza, a faction of Greens split off in 1992 who want a Green Party that focuses narrowly on electing candidates to office. They saw last year's Nader campaign as an opportunity to woo new Greens, attracted by the glitzy excitement of presidential politics, into their camp. Thus, the ASGP was born.

Mazza's biased portrait of the long-standing national organization, the Greens/Green Party USA, is in keeping with the record of other ASGP founders. They have, for years, claimed, on the one hand, that there was no national Green organization while, with the other, sustaining strident attacks against it. Thus, it was not surprising when, last year, they organized the Draft Nader Clearinghouse that was in many ways the direct forebear of ASGP and encouraged Nader campaign volunteers to organize independently of existing Green Party efforts.

Unfortunately, G/GPUSA also has its problems, most notably a decision-making structure that has not kept up with the development of state party organizations. As a response to being hampered by two competing and flawed national organizations, a group of Greens is working diligently to create a unified national organization. The participation of principled Greens of good will from both camps gives us hope for success.

But progressive populists for whom the principles of Green Politics resonate should not be put off by the disharmony at the national level. It should be remembered that both camps are comprised primarily of local and state party organizations that are hard at work building a new kind of party that is committed to social justice, grassroots democracy, nonviolence, and ecology. So far, Greens have achieved success around the country in places like Arcata, Calif., Santa Fe, N.M., and Chapel Hill, N.C. This success has come regardless of whether those Greens are affiliated with ASGP, G/GPUSA, or neither.

The Green Party is the only truly independent party among the recent formations. Green Politics works and it makes sense. Those who seek a principled, progressive, and independent politics will find their local Green Party organization to be a welcome home and, by strengthening it, will contribute to building the strong national presence that will carry us into the next century.


Dan Coleman

133 Windsor Circle

Chapel Hill, NC 27516

Email: pamichae@postoffice.


(author of Ecopolitics: Building A Green Society [Rutgers, 1994])

Mazza responds:

Dan Coleman is playing some games with words here. In fact, Coleman and the North Carolina Greens were invited to the founding meeting of ASGP in November. They were welcome to attend. But Coleman wanted an invitation specifically extended to his chapter. That was not forthcoming because the meeting was for state parties and state party organizers. On that basis, he declined to attend.

Perhaps the reason for that has something to do with the negative and mythological views he perpetuates regarding the Association of State Green Parties and the Green Politics Network, the "faction" that "split off" in 1992 to "focus narrowly on electing candidates to office." As Coleman says, most Greens are committed to an approach that includes both electoral and community-building activities, and this is no less true of the Greens that make up ASGP and GPN than Greens in general.

Ironically, Coleman acknowledges the real reason for that new organizations -- The old group, The Greens/Green Party U.S.A., has a "decision-making structure that has not kept up with the development of state party organizations." State parties aiming to run election campaigns have found that structure a blockage, making TG/GPUSA incapable of providing the positive support state parties need from a national-level organization.

Coleman refers to longstanding tensions between TG/GPUSA and many state-party-oriented Greens. However, the issue has not been whether there is a national-level organization, but whether there is one that is competent and capable of supporting state parties.

These points are also very relevant to Robinson's critique, which likewise acknowledges governance problems in TG/GPUSA and its failure to support state parties. There are two ways to exert central control. One is outright negation. The other is blocking the affirmative. The latter is the prime problem with TG/GPUSA. GPN and then ASGP were formed to fill the gap. ASGP aims to affirmatively support the growth of Green parties in every state, and eventual creation of a legally structured national Green Party federation.

In response to another of Robinson's points, I probably should have used a less confusing term than "local circles" to describe electoral-unfriendly Greens. I was referring to more informal groupings rather rather than officially recognized Green locals.

Coleman references Draft Nader Clearinghouse organizers urging formation of state Draft Nader committees separate from existing Green Party organizations last year. That has often been been represented as a hidden agenda to break those organizations. Anything but -- it was done to maintain a firewall between Ralph Nader, with his self-imposed spending limit of less than $5,000, and groups that might make independent expenditures. Parties, using their ballot line to nominate Nader, could not credibly make such expenditures. Now that the campaign is over, the parties are once again the organizing centers in each state.

Both Coleman and Robinson refer to the efforts of "Greens for Unity." ASGP has endorsed continuing dialogue with the group, and of course everyone wants to see a united, national Green Party. ASGP obviously does not represent everyone, though it does include some of the more successful state parties including Maine, New Mexico, Oregon and Hawaii. Our basic position is that any national party must be composed of autonomous state parties, and that any national organization must provide affirmative support for those parties. We expect unity will grow organically from those basic principles, and will continue to talk with all Greens on this basis.

As Coleman indicated, there is far more that unites Greens than divides us. So while we disagree on specific points, I join with Dan and Peter in hopeful expectation that Greens will find their way to create a united and effective national Green Party sometime in the next few years. The condition of the planet and our society demands it.

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