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Fred Harris Tackles Wealth

Fred Harris Tackles Wealth image Fred Harris Tackles Wealth image Fred Harris Tackles Wealth image
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nw tl_ wi here ts little about Harris that one ordinarily would associate with a president ial candidate. His earthy country-boy style s as unfamiliar in the contemporary political arena as the fundamental assumptions on which his campaign rests: that "a widespread dif fusión of economie and politica! power ought to be the expressed goal of 'government. " "The baste problem in America, " Harris maintains, "is that too few people have all the money and and nearly everybody else has very little ofeither . . . The question for 1976 is privilege - whether or not the government is going to begin to look after the interests of the average family, or whether it's going to continue to protect the super -rich and the giant corporations." Clearly, the average American family has not been the major concern of government. The updated Joint Economie Report, for example, shows that last year the government used 94 biltion dollars to subsidize the Lockheeds, the PennCentrals, the timber interests and the oil and gas crowd. That's 94 billion dollars taken from the taxpayers' pockets in order to prop up corporations controlfed by the super-rich. Harris characterizes this set-up as a kind of Robin Hoodism in reverse: "it takes from those who work for a living, which is about 90% of the people in this country, and turns it over to the super-rich and the giant corporations. " To combat this, Harris proposes mmediate price controls on monopoly industries, including automobiles, steel, oil and gas, andfa big part of the food industry. Secondly, he urges that the 1 trust laws which already exist be vigorously enforced; by tailmg to ao so, the government tself s responsible for blocking competition. Philip Hart'sSenate Anti-Trust Subcommittee shows that f competition really existed in America, prices would go down 20%. "Well, these industries say tliey believe in free enterprise, " Harris remarked. "I want to give them a strong dose ofit. " Harris criticizes the recent tax cut signed by President Ford as being too small for most individuáis. "The tax cut should have had ao cut for big business. There ought to have been 30 billion for individuals. And we ought to have tripted that, and ought to vet with a tax increase on the Nelson Rockefellers and the J. Paul Getty 's who aren 't paying theirfair share of the dues inour society . . . t turns out that the people who teil us 'Support your country! Support your country! as we ought to, often are people like Nelson Rockefeller, who by his own admission in 1 9 70 or 7] paid zero income tax." In response to the problem of unerrv ployment Harris would like to see a Jobs Program created which would guarantee jobs for everyone who s willing and able to work. With all the work that needs to be done in this country- day care, health care, housing, cleaning up the environment, and so forth- t is criminal that so many people do not have jobs. "We 're paying enormous social and economie costsfor the kind oj unemployment we have, and it is inercdibk that a president would say, with apparent acceptance, that we 're going to have sumething like 8nA unemploy ment this year, and sómething like that all during next year. " It is not surprising that unemployment and crime are increasing at rates parallel to one another. The situation is the same concerning the relationship tween unemployment and admissions in prisons. "You ask me what my immediate anti-crime program is, " Harris tells us, "-U's to put people to work in this country. " In addition, Harris ntends to appointan Attorney General who believes n enforcing the law against what Ralph Nader calis crime in the suites. When the distribution of wealth is grossly disproportionate, the political process will be overrun and controlled by an economically powerful elite. Harris recognizes that what we have had in America is "an elitist foreign policy dominated by an economie class like the Rockefeilers." Rockefeller, contends Harris, "is ilic greatcst living symbol of what's wrong with this country: concentratcd wcalth and power, intervention in Othèr countries' affairs, and a wasteful military 'budget. " Harris does not feel that it is America's role to manipúlate the global balance of power. Starting with the assumption that people are smart enough to govern themselves, Harris goes on to assert that we can no longer have "the kind of secretive elitist foreigti policy we've had in this country, that props up dictatorships around the world. that manipúlales governments and countries in sorne kind of Metternichean way with no discernable principie, l'm against isulationism ," Harris emphasizes, "but that's whaf we've had. We 'vc isolated ourselves from peoptè and nations all over the globe. " I t's insult enough, Harris feels, that our foreign policy primarily serves the interest of the multinational companies, but, "it'sa doublé insult that they won 't even pay for it. They won 't even pay their taxes. And the people ought not to stand for that. " Harris believes that if we put dollar figures to the legitímate security concerns of the country, we will come up with a substantially reduced military budget. He feels our military expenditures can be cut immediately by at least 15 billion dollars by reducing our troops stationed in foreign countries, and by not building new weapons when the old ones are stil) effective. Realizing that we already have the capacity to destroy our enemies many times over, Harris would like to see America take the lead in slowing up the arms race. '77 be the first President to get on TV and explain how we can substantially cut the military budget, and have a much more lean and secure defense, " Harris promised. That people are smart enough to govern themselves applies to America as well as to other countries. If you start with this belief as a working assumption, it is of utmost importance to let the pubcontinued on page 22 "The basic problem in America' Harris maintains, "is that too few people have all the money and power and nearly everybody else has very little of either. The question for 1976 is privilege." IQ I v continued from page 7 lic in on what's happening. Harris, for example, is in favor of establishing a citizen's board that would control the FBI and other organizations in the intelligente network. Quite significantly, he is the oniy candidate who has announced support of the Gonzales Bill pending in Congress, which would reopen the inquiry tnto the assassinatiort of President John F. Kennedy, as well as begin serious investïgations into the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, Harris is optimistic about his chances for 1976. Much of his optimism rests on the new Campaign F nance Law which will help cut the rich down to size. The law, which went into effect last January, is a revolution in Presidential politics. Basically it says that no individual or organization can contribute more than $1,000 to any presidential candidate. There are also severe limits on how much money can be spent in any one state. These new rules will be strictly enforced by groups like Common Cause. The penalties for nfractions are tough: a $25,000 fine and a year in jail, with the penalty applying to the candidate as well as to the contributor. The other part of the Campaign Finance Law is the $1.00 check -off on 17come tax forms which will provide $20 million dollars for each major party candi: date. And that is all the money that can be spent. Henee the entire general election will now be federally f inanced. The implications of this new law are tremendous. No longer will presidential hopeful have to kiss Wall Street's ass for funds, thus obligating him or herself to return the favor through politics that cater to big business once he or she is in the White House. Harris is conf ident that the new law is tailor-made for the kind of grass-roots peoples' campaign he is putting together around the country. He expects to have all 50 states well-organized by the end of this year. lOOOpeopleaweek arealready making written commitments of support, ncluding a sizable majority of those in the audience during his brief stopover in Ann Arbor last month. Harris has good credentials with the Democratie Party, whicb can't hurt his prospects for 1976. Twice elected to the Oklahoma State Senate and twice elected to the U.S. Senate, Harris was co-Chairman of the HumphreyMuskie campaign ín 19681. AsChaitman of the Democratie National Commtttee, he carefutly appointed the membership of the McGovern Commission in such a way as to insure the kinds of reform which they came up with. Büt much haschanged since 1972, which rnakes the next presidential election hard to predict. The Watergate fiasco, the revetations concerning the CIA, the dismal economie picture, and US losses in the field in Indochina have all contributed to creating a mood of suspicion and disgust among most Americans. The awareness of the public has never been so high. There is a low-grade state of rebellion in this country that cuts across previous political leanings. Fred Harris is not the typical politician, and neither is hts wife Ladonna the typical politician's wife. Ms. Harris, a fullblooded Comanche Indian and woman's activist wou ld urovitíe a marked contrast to the first ladies we have seen in recent years. She is nowldirecting a reformoriented foundation called Americans for Indian Opportunity. in addition, she is interested in health care and has served on the commtttee headed by Walter Reuther which submitted the National Health Security Bill. If Harris is to be successful ;n his bid for the nomination, he musí pui together a majority coalition of disenchanted Americans, a task which has proved diff icult in the past, But Harris feels t can be done. The basic weakness in MeGovern's campaign, according o Hirr;$, was that it was hot an economie Hass rroi ment. "If we take the opporlu;tty, " a,;s explains, "economie ckss issues offer - way by whicli we can put this coalition togclher around race and sex and regional and nthcr Unes. Those in the. coalition don 't have io lovc each othcr. I wish they woutd, hut tlwv don't have t. All they have in do is recognize that they are commortty c.xploitcd and that ij they can get thcmselves together, they are a mujority. 90% of the people who pay taxes in this country inake $15,000 or less. But the loopholes start taking effect up around $50,000 or more. That 's 90% a rather arge group to put together a coalition of 50% plus 1 . . . The kind of coalition 'm talking about is nét nearly as weird a coalition as the one we let Nixon put together. He put Harold Geneen, head of ITT, making $812,000 a year, in the same coalition with a telephone operator making $8,500. Now that's a weird coalition. Ifyou follow me around the country, yoa-would find that what I soy has as much ofan appeal to hose who might otherwise have votedfor George Wailace, as it does to those who are attracted to George McGovern. " Such a coalition, however, couid be very fragüe. A problem Harris might encounter is the fact that many lower class white peopie do not wish to be grouped together in the same coalitions as blacks. Politicians have traditionally exploited white racism, particularly among the poor. Fred Harris wili not appeal to peoples' fears and racist instincts in order to win votes. Having served on the Kerner Commission, Harris attributed civil disorders to an inherently oppressive racist system in America. Concerning the candidacy of George Wailace, Harris explicitlystates that Wailace is not the kind of person he would want to be associated with "unless he were to say in public that he was very sorrv that he stood up against the Supremo Court ruling on descgregation and stood in that schoolhquse door and prevented thosc khhfrom going to school. " But the Wallace vote will be a crucial factor in the coming election. Whereas someone like Scoop the Poop Jackson is playing up to potential Wallace supporters by saying he would welcome Wallace as Vice-President on his ticket, Harris is speaking directly to the poor people as poor people. Although Harris has thus far been ignored by the major media, there is a good possibility that when his views are made known on a wide scale he will emerge as a strong candidate. Hopefully, the radical left in this country will not choose to dismiss presidential politics carte blanche because our ideological purity dictates our attitudes. It s all too easy to let rhetoric interfere with perception and action. Ratherthan measuring situations in terms of theoretical rules, let's appreciate the possible alternative that Fred Harris embodies. If Fred Harris should become the next president of the United States, which is not all that far-fetched an idea, the crucial question of cotirse will be - how will Rockefeller and the multi-nationals react when their power structure is threatened? It is hard to imagine the super-rich standing by passively should such a situation arise. A confrontaron of historie proportions would be inevitable. Harris likes to quote a Mexican slogan which says: "La libertad no se mendiga, se toma. "... "Yon don 't get íiberty hy begging, you take it. " Another problem of which Harris is aware s the mixture of cynicism and apathy that prevails n this country with regard to the political process. In 1972, 62% of the people eligible to vote did not do so. But Harris insists that people generally are not apathetic: "Ifynu say people are apathetic, you are describing not thent, but their leaders and lackof chotees. " "People who teil us 'Support Your Country' often are like Nelson Rockefeller, who by his own admission in 1970 or 71 paid zero ncome tax." - Fred Harris f