Steve G.

Posts Tagged ‘income tax’

From Freedom To Fascism

In Civil Liberties, Constitutional Rights, Libertarian, Libertarian Party-US, Media on July 29, 2008 at 5:08 pm

I saw Aaron Russo’s “America: From Freedom to Fascism” for the first time the other night. Russo was my second choice for the 2004 Libertarian presidential nomination, and a lot of people had recommended the film, so I was eager to see it at last.

I had mixed feelings about it. In many ways it was several short films glommed together, and Russo seemed to make only a modest attempt to tie it all together. The first third was largely about the history and legality (or lack thereof) of the federal income tax; the second third about the rise of the Federal Reserve; and the final part about radio frequency identification tagging, the move toward mandatory national identification, and the loss of privacy. There was also a clip from Lou Dobbs about the “North American Union” that even the film itself says was just kind of thrown in there.

On the income tax matter, Russo makes a pretty strong case for the argument that no law exists compelling individuals to pay. He is careful to point out that corporate income taxes are indeed legal, but that even the IRS is unwilling or unable to point to any law passed by Congress and affirmed by the Supreme Court that requires mandatory taxation as it now exists. While the argument presented is pretty one-sided, to be fair to Russo that is only because the “other side” refused to offer a rebuttal. The clearest summary of the situation came from Rep. Ron Paul, who in an interview with Russo said that while there is no written income tax law, there is a de facto law in that the government expects you to pay up, the vast majority of the populace is willing to do so, and big guys with guns will haul you off and take away everything you and your family own if you do not.

I thought the film’s segment on the Federal Reserve was its strongest portion, primarily because the Fed is a subject I know next to nothing about. The history of its creation and impact is told in some detail, but Russo did not convince me that I was getting the full story. He did make me want to learn more about the subject for myself, though, and I intend to do so.

The portion on privacy, RFID tagging, and the like dealt with the subject I am most familiar with, and I don’t feel like I learned much that is new. I consider the Democrats’ capitualition on FISA, the entirely predictable abuse of the PATRIOT Act in the investigation of allegations having nothing to do with terrorism, and similar post-9/11 abuses to be a bigger (though obviously related) pressing matter. But Russo’s look at the privacy issue is an important one. I’ll deal with that in my next post.

Root’s “brain trust” has a brain fart

In Congress, Economics, Libertarian, Libertarian Convention, Libertarian Party-US, Lies and the lying liars who tell them, Politics, Presidential Candidates, Republican, Taxation, US Government, Wayne Allen Root on April 17, 2008 at 6:23 pm

Third Party Watch posted Wayne Allyn Root’s plan to end federal taxation.

It is tax day, April 15, 2008. What a perfect day to announce our proposal to dramatically reform the American tax system. During this campaign for our party’s nomination, several of my esteemed opponents have spoken in favor of imposing a 30% national sales tax on all goods and services- combined with a check paid to everyone in the country (in the form of an automatic annual tax rebate – whether you’ve earned income or paid taxes, or not). Our campaign has received hundreds of requests to comment on the “Fair Tax,” many of them proponents. But after studying the proposal, we conclude that the “Fair Tax” is a bad idea.

The so-called “Fair Tax” is not an advance for freedom; it is a prescription for tyranny and will relegate our descendents to being little more than welfare-dependent wards of the government.

Advocating a “Fair Tax” is bad for our party and bad for America, and we believe that having our party’s nominee advocate this would tarnish the Libertarian Party’s brand.

Our campaign offers a competing vision.

Imagine instead a country where businesses and individuals would no longer need to account to the government for their income. Imagine a country where we can be free from the Internal Revenue Service. Imagine in one instant eliminating individual federal income taxes, corporate federal income taxes, payroll taxes, death taxes, the marriage penalty, excise taxes, and even the dreaded AMT (Alternative Minimum Tax) – all of it at once, gone forever.

No, this is not a dream. It can be a reality in a Root Administration.

Our campaign team’s economic brain trust has crafted an alternative approach that we believe will be attractive to America, consistent with our constitution and right in line with our libertarian ideals. Our plan completely rids America of federal income taxes and the I.R.S., while at the same time restoring power to the American people at the state and local level – just as our founding Fathers intended.

We propose eliminating the income tax and all other sources of federal tax revenues, including payroll taxes, excise taxes and import duties, and replacing it with only one tax: a tax on each state in proportion to its population, with each state deciding for itself how to raise its share of the money.

Not only would this eliminate taxes on income by the United States federal government, it would likely end taxation on income in virtually all states in this country. Most states calculate their own income taxes starting with the taxpayer’s calculation of Federal taxable income. It would be too costly for most states to enact their own income tax systems without being able to leverage the current system of W2s and 1099 filings.

To further reduce the likelihood of even some states imposing income taxes on their residents, if elected I will ask Congress to introduce legislation to update Public Law 86-272 to prohibit states from taxing the business activity of any person or enterprise engaging in interstate commerce, and define this broadly enough to include even the solicitation of customers in more than one state.

Our Founding Fathers understood the power of the purse as an instrument of tyranny. Today, because the U.S. Government taxes its citizens and then kicks back a portion of the money to the states (as it sees fit), the federal government exercises enormous unconstitutional power against the states through various federal mandates, ranging from No Child Left Behind to Real ID. Today’s regime of personal income taxation facilitates this mockery of our system of Federalism.

Our vision for dramatic change in U.S. tax policy is as simple as it is revolutionary in scope. With our plan there will be only 50 taxpayers in our country writing checks to the U.S. Treasury each year. With no other source of revenue to the U.S. Government, the balance of power would be forever dramatically reversed back to the states (just as our Founding Fathers envisioned).

Moreover, because these 50 states (and their taxpayers) will have a bias toward keeping tax dollars at home instead of sending them to Washington, they will have great incentive to mount enormous political pressure against Congress to reduce the size of government- thereby reducing both spending and taxes.

Some of the unnecessary and wasteful federal spending that would be first on the chopping block for this President (a perfect description for the son of a butcher) would be welfare, entitlements of all kinds including corporate welfare, dramatic cuts in foreign aid, a dramatic reduction in military bases across the globe, and dramatic cuts in wasteful pentagon spending. It’s high time to stop spending billions of our tax dollars to defend wealthy allies such as Japan, South Korea and Western Europe.

It’s time to de-fund and eliminate entire government departments and bureaucracies – starting with the Dept of Education (which is not authorized or mentioned in our constitution). The first step toward improving our education system (and saving our tax dollars) is to keep the money at the state and local level, giving less power to the federal government and teachers unions, and more power, freedom and choice to parents.

Under this plan, if Congress chose not to reign in out-of-control federal spending, it runs the risk that states could respond by withholding taxes from the federal government, which is the ultimate “check and balance.”

Power would be restored to the states, just as Thomas Jefferson envisioned when he authored the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson, arguably the most libertarian President in United States history, declared the primary responsibility of the American President was “to render ineffective and invisible the very government he is elected to lead.”

Jefferson and the Founding Fathers intended for taxes to be minimal and up to each state to decide. Jefferson said of taxes, “Government shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.” Jefferson believed taxes were completely up to the discretion of individual states when he said, “The true theory of our constitution is that states are independent as to everything within themselves…” and even went so far as to recognize the right of states to nullify federal laws within their own borders, describing federal intrusion into state matters as “interference by a foreign government.”

Our founding father Thomas Jefferson would certainly approve of this plan to switch the power of taxation and spending decisions from the federal to the state level.

With this one sweeping change, devolving power from Washington to the states, tax and regulatory policy at the state level takes on greater importance. In this environment, competition amongst the states for business and residents would likely become fierce. States that impose high taxes or forms of taxation unpopular with their residents will be punished with losses in population. States that create an environment of low taxation and fair forms of taxation will be rewarded with population gains. Taxpayers will be better able to monitor how their money is spent up close and personal at the state and local level. A major shift of all taxation (and most spending) from the distant and draconian federal level to the state level can only be positive for the American taxpayer.

We believe this arrangement is exactly what our Founding Fathers intended – more power at the state and local level, less power at the federal level, and taxation determined by each individual state. This plan respects our Constitution, expands your personal freedom, restores power to the American people (and taxpayers), and increases the money you keep in your wallet. Please join us in this campaign to restore Federalism, returning power from Washington back to the states and to the people.

Root seems to be merely saying what he thinks libertarians want to hear, and not really thinking this through. He also uses a lot of words to say very little. Most of what he wrote seems intended to talk us into agreeing with him, as if we’re not smart enough to see right through his plan for what it really is.

Many of those posting comments on Third Party Watch pointed out that Root is still learning, and I think that’s wonderful. We should always encourage those who are interested in libertarianism to learn more about it. However, do we want someone who is still learning about libertarianism to represent the Libertarian Party as its presidential candidate? I should think not, especially when their background tells us that they are not a libertarian by nature.

Will his tax plan work? Of course not, especially since many states already tax income and he wants to take that ability away from them, while also placing a huge financial burden upon them. Congress represents the interests of the states, after all. No way will Congress ever go for that idea … unless of course they realize that they can make much, much more money by grossly overtaxing the citizens, and blaming it on the federal government.

The states will not be put off by the necessity of enacting a financial reporting plan similar to that of the W-2, as Root believes. They would just make laws requiring their own forms, and copy the federal forms. They could even just copy the federal laws, and change the specifics, and set up the computer program necessary to keep track of the information. If Root thinks they won’t do that, he has no business running for President, because it is proof that he has no clue how the real world works. Government does only one thing very, very efficiently, and that’s picking the pockets of its citizens.

His plan is setting up the American people for taxation at a rate which could only be described as financial rape. He may be getting rid of the IRS, but he is not really getting rid of income tax, because what states lack in income tax, they more than make up for in other taxes. Taxpayers are going to get hit for a predetermined amount, and it doesn’t matter what the government calls it, it’s still picking our pockets. In reality, his plan will make overall tax rates far worse than they already are.

His plan is not only poorly thought out, it’s dangerous to the American people. In states with a high number of financially disadvantaged citizens, it could prove catastrophic. If the states are required to pay the federal government based upon population, the taxpaying members of society will end up paying far more to the states than they pay now to the federal government, in order to make up for the indigent population. As a result, many working-class families will be taxed into poverty by the states.

I could go on and on, but in short, his “brain trust” had a brain fart. This is not the first time that’s happened. The last time Root put out an issue release, he wanted to bring the entire federal government to an abrupt halt by refusing to fund any federal agencies. He obviously has not thought that through, either. While some libertarians will applaud ideas such as Root’s, the more pragmatic among us will recognize that Root’s ideas are unrealistic. It took over two hundred years for the government to get the way it is today, and that cannot be undone overnight, by Root or anyone else.

Libertarians need to look beyond the facade which is Wayne Allyn Root. This is all part of a much bigger plan for him, which does not involve the Libertarian Party. He is doing exactly what Ron Paul did: getting a name for himself and some support by running for President as a Libertarian, then jumping back to the Republican Party so he can get a seat in Congress, and possibly run at a later date for President as a Republican. Libertarians are nothing but a stepping stone for this man.

Why he thinks no one will see through that is beyond me, except that he apparently believes libertarians are stupid.

A Conversation With Mike Gravel

In Civil Liberties, Congress, Constitutional Rights, Courts and Justice System, Crime, Democracy, Democrats, Drug War, Global Warming, History, Iraq War, Law, Libertarian, Libertarian Convention, Libertarian Party-US, Medical Marijuana, Politics, Presidential Candidates, Second Amendment, Taxation, US Government on March 28, 2008 at 1:21 am

Mike GravelEarlier today, I had an opportunity to speak by telephone with Senator Mike Gravel, a presidential candidate who has switched from the Democratic Party to the Libertarian Party. Senator Gravel welcomed my questions, and I had a very positive impression of him. He is extremely well spoken, and quite passionate about many of the issues near and dear to the Libertarian Party.

My purpose, of course, was to ascertain why he decided to switch parties, and whether he truly holds Libertarian views as opposed to only conveniently holding libertarian views in order to get the LP nomination. I quickly discovered that his most basic belief, which he has provably held for over 30 years, is thoroughly libertarian: the right of the American people to bypass and even overturn Congress and the President, when those elected officials act in contradiction to the will of the people.

Senator Gravel believes that “the American people are not empowered to do anything, and this is wrong.” He therefore believes Americans should have the ability to directly make laws through federal ballot initiatives. At present, many states allow citizens to present laws directly through initiatives which, if supported widely enough, will be placed on the ballot to potentially become law; an example of this is Proposition 215, which legalized medical marijuana in California. Senator Gravel believes citizens should be able to do the same thing on the federal level, under his National Initiative For Democracy.

The government is a tool, the people can use it. But if the people have the direct power to use it, then you’re going to see the government as a real tool, not the tool you have when the special interests determine how the tool of government is handled, by the lobbyists, who pay for the campaigns, who manipulate you to vote for them. That’s the process that has to change.

When he says that the government has the duty to release information to the public, so they can make sound decisions, he is not blowing smoke, nor is he promoting something he hasn’t already done himself. During the Vietnam War, Senator Gravel released the Pentagon Papers, reading thousands of pages into the Congressional Record, so that Americans would finally know the truth behind that war; and his defiance, by informing Americans of information which was previously viewed as classified, was a pivotal moment in American history.

Under his National Initiative For Democracy we, as citizens, could end the war, end the federal income tax, or pass a federal law allowing Americans to carry guns openly; we could make any law we want, as long as there is sufficient citizen support for it. Senator Gravel says that “the real power in this country does not lie with the leadership, with Congress or with the President; it lies with you, the American citizen”. This program would in fact become an important part of the checks and balances system, which Senator Gravel believes should have been in force from the beginning, so citizens could more easily keep Congress and the President in check.

Of course, when he was running for President in the Democratic Party, the Democrats weren’t very happy with that idea. I asked the Senator whether they oppose it because it threatens their power, or if they oppose it because they believe the average American is unable to make sound legislative decisions. He immediately replied, “Both.” He went on to explain that “the average person in Congress believes they are more intelligent than the average American, and there are a few in Congress who are very intelligent; but at the same time the average American is smarter than the average Congressman, and perfectly capable of making sound decisions.”

His suspicion of the leading presidential candidates was made clear when he said, “Don’t trust anyone who says they have all the answers. Nobody has all the answers; I don’t have all the answers. But the American public knows what is best for them, and I trust them to make those decisions.”

Talking war with Senator Gravel, for someone my age who lived during Vietnam, is like getting into a time machine, and going back to the last destructive war this country faced, when he forced a filibuster to end the draft, and thus end the Vietnam war. Senator Gravel was a maverick, and he defied Congress again and again.

As you may recall, even before we sent troops to Iraq, he warned the American public that there were no WMDs in Iraq. I asked him why, in his opinion, President Bush lied about the presence of WMDs. “Oil. He wanted to get control of the oil, and it’s all just more American imperialism and the military-industrial complex.” He went a step further, and agreed that Bush and Cheney should not only be impeached, but that they should face trial for war crimes. “Americans must stop thinking we’re above the law,” he stated. He believes that the United States should stop getting involved in foreign conflicts altogether, and “stop being the world’s policeman”.

Senator Gravel is completely against the War on Drugs, which he categorizes as a failure. “We spend 50 to 85 billion dollars a year on a drug war that does no good to anybody other than criminalizing people who shouldn’t be criminals. We have 2.3 million people in jail right now, and half of them shouldn’t even be in jail …. if you want marijuana, why not go to a package store? A fifth of gin will do more damage to you, to your health, than will a pack of marijuana. As for the rest of the drugs, why not legalize them and regulate them? We put addicts in jail when they aren’t criminals, but there they learn to be better criminals, to steal and commit crime to feed their habit. It’s a public health problem, and we need to solve it as a public health problem, and save all this money we’re spending to keep people in jail for drugs, $30,000 a year for each of them.”

He is therefore in support of decriminalizing and regulating all drugs. “If you need to get some coke, go to a doctor and get a prescription. If you’re an addict, you’ll have to register so we can help you. But the way we do it now, we catch you with drugs, we throw you in jail, and you don’t get any help.”

With regard to whether legalizing all drugs would increase addiction, he states, “That’s what they told us about alcohol, during Prohibition. Alcohol is more addictive than marijuana. Should you go to jail for having marijuana, when you don’t go to jail for having whiskey and alcohol? It’s a stupid policy, it’s gutless, and it’s damaging our inner cities. Seventy percent of the people in jail are African-Americans, and most of it is for drugs. It’s gutless on the part of our leaders to not solve this, to not treat it as a public health problem rather than a criminal problem ….. For those who say we have a drug problem, yeah, we have a problem, and it’s with stupidity at the highest levels of our government.”

As for those in prison for drug offenses, he would educate nonviolent drug offenders – whether it’s a college degree or technical training – then grant them a full pardon so they can not only be released from prison, but also have the tools they need to immediately become fully productive members of society.

He is for Second Amendment rights, saying “I have a weapon, and I’ll fight to keep it.” Insofar as how openly Americans should be able to carry weapons, he referred me back to the federal ballot initiative, saying that the American people should decide that issue.

When I asked him about reducing the size of government as well as its spending, he agreed that it has gotten completely out of hand, and that severe cutbacks should be made. The first steps would be dismantling the IRS (which would no longer be needed with his national sales tax program), and the “War On Drugs” arm of the DEA (since all drugs would be legalized). He also believes that “if we empower the people to make laws, they will shrink the government.”

I could actually hear the thrill in his voice when one question pointed out that libertarians are, by and large, for open borders. He believes that we have so many illegal immigrants here because our own laws caused them to not have work available in their own country; he states that 1.3 million farming jobs were lost in Mexico when NAFTA was passed. For that reason, he believes repealing NAFTA would cure most of the illegal immigration, as more jobs are created in their home countries. As for those who are already here and don’t want to leave, he wants to simply “put them on the path to citizenship.” He believes that we should create completely open borders, similar to what is in place in Europe, whereby citizens could cross into or from Canada or Mexico, with no questions asked.

It is undeniable that the federal government is deeply in debt, and must raise revenue. Senator Gravel, however, is opposed to the income tax, since it over-taxes the poor and middle-class, and grossly undertaxes the wealthy. He therefore proposes dismantling the IRS altogether. He would replace the income tax with a 23% sales tax, and give a rebate each month to every American family to pay for necessities. Senator Gravel believes that this would allow the poor and middle class, who spend mostly on necessities such as food and housing, to have far more disposable income. He believes this program will create the same amount of federal revenue, but in a manner which is far more fair to the poor and working class.

“I don’t know whether it’s a step to end taxation, but at this point it is a good way to fund needed revenue. Right now we tax income and investments, and investment income is taxed at a lower rate than income. We don’t tax the wealthy, and that’s what’s wrong with our system.” He again reiterated that the American people could make the final decision regarding whether federal taxation should eventually end, through his ballot initiative program.

Senator Gravel believes that Social Security funds should be left alone, rather than used by the government for other purposes as is now the norm. At this point, most Americans have already paid into Social Security. He wants everyone’s Social Security funds invested in the free market, and he wants everyone to get an accounting of their money and interest earned, just as if they had invested it with a bank; and if they die before spending what they have invested and earned, he believes that the surplus in their Social Security account should go to their heirs.

As for private investments, he believes his sales tax program with refunds for necessities will give the average American the additional funds needed to save in an IRA or other investment vehicle, as additional retirement savings to supplement what they have already put into Social Security.

He is aware that many libertarians are against Universal Health Care, but believes his plan will meet libertarian standards. He came up with the idea of a Healthcare Security System 30 years ago. Senator Gravel pointed out that he knows the healthcare system “up front and personal”. One year, he ended up with over $150,000 in healthcare costs, and went bankrupt as a result.

He believes the Democratic health care plan, wherein businesses are forced to provide health insurance for their employees, is “the wrong way to go, because it is not the responsibility of businesses to provide healthcare; their job is to be competitive in the global marketplace.” So instead, he wants to enact a Universal Single Payor Voucher plan, similar to the plan which the Veterans Administration has in place. Every American would be given a health care voucher. The vouchers would have a very modest co-pay, and a very modest deductible. Americans would have their choice of hospitals, their choice of doctors, and a choice of five or six plans. There would be no exclusions for preexisting conditions.

He doesn’t think we need to raise taxes in order to provide health care for all Americans; we just need to make our healthcare system considerably more efficient than it is at present. He believes that if we computerize healthcare records, it will streamline the system, because he says 30% of healthcare cost is in paperwork. He intends to provide every American with basic healthcare services, and if they want more or different coverage, they can choose to buy additional or supplemental plans in the free market.

He is aware of Ron Paul’s belief that the Federal Reserve is responsible for the inflationary effects which are harmful to poor and middle-class Americans. Senator Gravel wants to reexamine the Federal Reserve, and study the gold standard with an eye toward a global monetary system, which will better protect the value of our money in a global marketplace.

Senator Gravel was pivotal in shepherding the Alaska Pipeline though Congress, but at this point he would oppose any effort to drill for oil in the Alaskan Wildlife Preserve. He states that instead, he wants us to end our dependence upon oil within five years. His goal would be to replace oil with alternative energy sources.

I asked Senator Gravel if there was any one moment – a light bulb moment, if you will – in which he realized that he was a libertarian. He stated, “Not really. It’s an awareness that goes back 30, 40 years, that the best way to to change things was from inside, within the power structure. Now, it’s time for a change. I am joining the Libertarian Party to become its presidential nominee. I can take the Libertarian Party to a level they’ve never been before. I am against war, I am against taxing income, I am against the war on drugs. I am for smaller government, open borders, and the ability of the American people to self-govern. I am a libertarian. I scored seven out of seven on Reason’s “Seven Ways To Win Votes” – I am for internet gambling, for medical marijuana (but I go much further than that, by decriminalizing all drugs) …. so I’m more libertarian than Ron Paul, because he scored lower. And I will work very hard as the Libertarian Party’s candidate, I will get the libertarians the national playing field they need to grow. And not just libertarians, either. I will raise the playing field for all third parties.”

All in all, Senator Gravel impressed me as sincere, intelligent, and passionate about libertarian issues. I did not at all get the impression that he is a pseudo-libertarian; I think he’s the real deal, because his actions even decades ago indicated that he is a libertarian. He left the Democratic Party because he realized that they are not receptive to his ballot initiative plan, and are not in agreement with his healthcare plan, his opposition to the War on Drugs, and many other issues. He has the presence, he has the speaking ability and dynamic personality, and he has the name recognition and contacts to place us on a more even playing field.

The Democrats’ loss may very well be our gain.

Senator Gravel suggested that those interested in more information about his views read his book “Citizen Power: A Mandate For Change”, which can be ordered online here. It is also available on Amazon.com, but their new book price is actually several dollars higher than the price on his website. Amazon’s description of the book is as follows.

As author of Citizen Power in 1971, Senator Mike Gravel determined that much of what he wrote then is apropos in America today; hence, the release of Citizen Power: A Mandate for Change that reflects the accuracy of his evaluation of problems then, his current position on a number of issues facing America now, and the process that Americans can undertake to become empowered as lawmakers in partnership with their elected officials. Most chapters of Citizen Power: A Mandate for Change present material from the original book, as well as new information and revised positions. The exceptions are Chapter 2: The National Initiative, and Chapter 7: The War on Drugs. All other chapters cover similar topics in both books, but with the senator’s fresh insights for today’s world. Each chapter ends with how the National Initiative, once enacted, could help solve the problems presented in that chapter. The Table of Contents is as follows: Chapter 1 – Now It’s the Citizen’s Turn Chapter 2 – The National Initiative Chapter 3 – America’s Failure in Education Chapter 4 – Tax Reform – The Fair Tax Chapter 5 – The Health Security System Chapter 6 – National Environmental & Energy Policy Chapter 7 – The War on Drugs Chapter 8 – Crime & Punishment Chapter 9 – The Shroud of Secrecy Chapter 10 – American Imperialism Chapter 11 – Global Governance Chapter 12 – Who Stole the American Dream?

All three customer reviews give the book five stars. There is a “look inside the book” feature, and based on that material and given that it was originally written in 1971, then updated recently, I don’t think there is any real question whether Senator Gravel is a libertarian. Based upon his statements in that book, it appears that he was a libertarian even before there was a Libertarian Party.

Here are the reviews:

It’s all about lawmaking!,

February 25, 2008
By Goodrich (Dearborn, MI USA) – See all my reviews

Those who still want Mike Gravel’s original Citizen Power, but can’t afford to pay over $200 for the few rare copies that are available, will be pleased with the new Citizen Power: A Mandate for Change. In some chapters, Senator Gravel has incorporated substantial excerpts from his original book and then updated his thoughts on each issue, often admitting that his position on a certain issue in the 1970s was naive and that he now views that issue with a mature mind. This is a refreshingly candid look at a presidential candidate’s positions on key issues facing the American people today. Most importantly, however, is Chapter 2 and supplemental appendices about the National Initiative, which Senator Gravel and some of the nation’s top constitutional scholars crafted to empower citizens as lawmakers; after all, lawmaking is the cornerstone of democracy. All subsequent chapters address how the National Initiative for Democracy (NI4D)would work to alleviate problems, such as healthcare and education.

From ending the war on drugs to restructuring the UN,

March 8, 2008

Senator Gravel has produced an engaging book! He presents complex and difficult issues facing the US and the world in understandable prose and proposes solutions that call for transformational change. In response to a legislative process controlled by corporations and special interests Gravel proposes the National Initiative on Democracy that would empower the people to legislate through direct democracy in national referendums on issues. In response to ineffective global governance Gravel calls for a restructuring of the UN including an end to veto powers for the permanent members of the Security Council. I was delighted to see his position on American exceptionalism. Granted that we are #1 in the world in the numbers of people in our prisons, on many key measures such as education, healthcare we are far from being the best in the world. I was most pleased by the optimism of Mike Gravel’s vision for the future of America in the world. He sees solutions to problems such as global warming, energy, and national security through greater cooperation with other countries. The beginning of his space policy statement on page 59 is particularly encouraging: “SPACE REPRESENTS A LIMITLESS FRONTIER for humankind. Laws modeled on the Law of the Sea need to be agreed upon to make energy, natural resources, and knowledge available in a manner that fosters greater cooperation, rather than greater competition, among all nations. In keeping with this spirit, space must not be militarized.”

Gravel’s Populist Manifesto,

March 19, 2008
By D. Douglas (California) – See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)

An eloquent and lucid political manifesto by an increasingly refreshing, honest and prudent politician.
Citizen Power showcases a myriad of power-to-the-people proposals, and sways from your politics as usual demagoguery, while Gravel’s prose is filled with solemnity and earnestness, contrary to his political opponents.
The book’s motif is the National Initiative for Democracy, a populist program that will enable ordinary citizens to become legislatures, moreover eliminating large bureaucracies and big government lapdogs.
An emphasis is brought upon the military-industrial complex and its draconian, unproductive results. Suggesting the ultimate disintegration of the latter, if not grave consequences will ensue
Gravel’s proposals on education is most interesting, and offer an ingenious subsidiary, if utilized in orthodoxy, to our failing educational system.
The War on Drugs chapter was dismaying at least, and produced a sharp contempt for the activities our government continues to perpetuate.

I have probably forgotten important topics of this book, and my review is ultimately asymmetrical and lackluster. I can only recommend this fine book, so you can make your own judgments and discoveries.

Senator Gravel was kind enough to state that, if any of our readers have additional questions, I can phone him again to get those answers. Therefore, if you have any questions which aren’t answered here, post them and in about a week I will give him another call to get your answers for you.

Gravel announces Libertarian presidential run

In Congress, Global Warming, Guantanamo, Health, Iran, Libertarian Party-US, Politics, Presidential Candidates, Science, Taxation, Torture, US Government, Veterans, War on March 26, 2008 at 4:59 pm

Mike Gravel

A Personal Message from Mike

I wanted to update you on my latest plans before news gets out. Today, I am announcing my plan to join the Libertarian Party, because the Democratic Party no longer represents my vision for our great country. I wanted my supporters to get this news first, because you have been the ones who have kept my campaign alive since I first declared my candidacy on April 17, 2006.

The fact is, the Democratic Party today is no longer the party of FDR. It is a party that continues to sustain war, the military-industrial complex and imperialism — all of which I find anathema to my views.

By and large, I have been repeatedly marginalized in both national debates and in media exposure by the Democratic leadership, which works in tandem with the corporate interests that control what we read and hear in the media.

I look forward to advancing my presidential candidacy within the Libertarian Party, which is considerably closer to my values, my foreign policy views and my domestic views.

Please take a moment to make your most generous donation to my presidential campaign today. $10, $20, $50 — whatever you feel you can afford.

I want to thank you all for your continued support.

_______________________________

So, what are Gravel’s views on the issues? Here are some issue statements from his website:

The War in Iraq Senator Gravel’s position on Iraq remains clear and consistent: to commence an immediate and orderly withdrawal of all U.S. troops that will have them home within 120 days. The sooner U.S. troops are withdrawn, the sooner we can pursue aggressive diplomacy to bring an end to the civil war that currently consumes Iraq. Senator Gravel seeks to work with neighboring countries to lead a collective effort to bring peace to Iraq.

One of the leading opponents of the Vietnam War, Senator Gravel was one of the first current or former elected officials to publicly oppose the planned invasion of Iraq in 2002. He appeared on MSNBC prior to the invasion insisting that intelligence showed that there were indeed no weapons of mass destruction, that Iraq posed no threat to the United States and that invading Iraq was against America’s national interests and would result in a disaster of epic proportions for both the United States and the Iraqi people.

Today, more than four years into the invasion, the death toll of U.S. troops has climbed over 3,300 with over 50,000 more permanently maimed, some having lost limbs, others their sight. Tens of thousands more are afflicted with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and urgently need psychological care. The Iraqi civilian death toll nears three-quarters of a million, and still there remains no end in sight to the bloodshed.

As President, Senator Gravel will call for a U.S. corporate withdrawal from Iraq and hand over reconstruction contracts to Iraqi businesses which will empower Iraqi nationals to reconstruct their own country.

The National Initiative for Democracy Mike fully supports the National Initiative for Democracy. The NI4D is a way to bring legislative power back to the people. In many states, citizens can put measures on the ballot and Mike believes as citizens of the United States we should all have that power.

Iran and Syria Senator Gravel opposes a military confrontation with Iran and Syria and advocates a diplomatic solution to the current situation.

Global Warming/Climate Change Senator Gravel believes that global climate change is a matter of national security and survivability of the plant. As President, he will act swiftly to reduce America’s carbon footprint in the world by initiating legislation to tax carbon at the source and cap carbon emissions. he is also committed to leading the fight against global deforestation, which today is second only to the energy sector as a source of greenhouse gases. However, any legislation will have little impact on the global environment if we do not work together with other global polluters. China, India, and under-developed nations all work together fighting climate change can only be effective if it is a collective global effort. As President, Senator Gravel will see that the U.S. launches and leads a massive global scientific effort, integrating the world’s scientific and engineering community, to end energy dependence on oil and integrate the world scientific community in this task.

Progressive Taxes – A fair Tax Senator Gravel’s Progressive Fair Tax proposal calls for eliminating the IRS and the income tax and replacing it with a national sales tax on new products and services. To compensate for the tax on necessities, such as food, lodging, transportation and clothing, there would be a “rebate” to reimburse taxpayers. This would be paid in a monthly check from the government to all citizens. The focus on taxing new goods would also help tackle the global climate change problem.

Healthcare Senator Gravel advocates a universal healthcare system that provides equal medical services to all citizens, paid for by a retail sales tax (a portion of the Progressive Fair tax). Citizens would pay nothing for health benefits.

Reproductive Rights Senator Mike Gravel supports a woman’s right to decide if and when to have children. He also supports a woman’s right to make the difficult decision about abortion without interference by government authorities. Comprehensive, age-appropriate sex education, including accurate information about contraception, can always be provided in order to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions. Parity in health insurance and access to specialized family health care services, including family planning education, would also benefit the health and welfare of infants and children, who need and deserve to be wanted and loved.

Immigration Senator Gravel favors protecting our borders and monitoring the flow of immigrants into our country. He also favors a guest worker program and setting up naturalization procedures that would fairly bring immigrants into legal status. America must address the root cause of illegal immigration. Any discussion of immigration must include NAFTA and the concept of “free trade.” The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has been a disaster for the working class of both the U.S. and Mexico and a boon to the international corporate interests. A study by the Economic Policy Institute found that over 1 million U.S. jobs were lost as a result of NAFTA, a third of them manufacturing jobs. In Mexico, 1.3 million farm workers lost their jobs in the same period. This has led to a wave of immigrants looking for work in the U.S. Reforming unfair trade policies spawned by measures like NAFTA will stimulate job growth on both sides of the border.

LGBT Rights Senator Gravel supports same-sex marriage and opposes the Defense of Marriage Act. He supports expanding hate-crime legislation and opposes laws that allow discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or one’s gender identity or expression. Senator Gravel strongly opposes the military’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” legislation on the grounds that it is unconstitutional, as it restricts the rights of gay Americans. He opposes any state or national constitutional amendment that restricts the rights of the gay community.

Social Security Senator Gravel wants to put real money, rather than borrowed money, in the Social Security Trust Fund. He advocates investing it properly and identifying the interests of individual beneficiaries so they can know what their retirement fund is and leave surplus funds to heirs.

Education Access to public education is a bedrock American value. Why is it then that the United States ranks 49th in literacy and that an estimated 30% of our students don’t graduate from high school? Investing in education provides a pathway to a thriving national economy, to individual and family economic opportunity, and to the reduction of poverty. A successful education system requires the commitment of families, the community, and government. It’s time to re-order our national budget priorities in order to improve the American education system. Parent education and access to preschool programs such as Head Start need to be expanded so that children from low income families are equally ready to benefit from elementary school. Universal pre-kindergarten would also enhance readiness. Encouraging our students to be the best they can be will require flexibility from the federal and state governments, within school systems, and from groups with a stake in educational success. Flexibility may mean extended school days and summer learning opportunities or extended school years. It may mean online and broadcast courses to provide access to highly qualified teachers. It may mean charter schools to address the needs of local communities, smaller classes, enrichment programs for students at risk, and vocational options. One thing we know for sure: No Child Left Behind has left too many children behind. It needs to be reformed and adequately funded. It needs to acknowledge the need for a fuller curriculum that encourages critical thinking-not just math and science test-taking. A high school diploma should be the minimum goal for all students; without it, our children will be condemned to a substandard economic existence.

Veteran’s Affairs As President, Senator Gravel would ensure that veterans receive full funding for their most important needs, including healthcare that is indexed to the increasing cost of care and medicine. He would make sure that all soldiers receive a full medical diagnosis to assess what their individual needs would be. He would also make sure that the VA system is fully financed and has sufficient well-trained personnel to provide the finest care that is available. As the Senator says, “We can do no less and we will do much more.” Mike Gravel is the only military veteran in the democratic race.

The War on Drugs The War on Drugs has been a failure. It is time to end prohibition and start treating addiction as a public health problem. This has ravaged our inner cities, and we are losing an entire generation of men and women to prisons. We must regulate hard drugs for the purpose of treating addicts, which would emphasize rehabilitation and prevention over incarceration. We must decriminalize minor drug offenses and increase the availability and visibility of substance abuse treatment in our communities as well as in jails and prisons. The United States incarcerates more people and at a higher rate than any other industrialized nation in the world. Some 2.3 million Americans are now behind bars. This tragedy must end.

Net Neutrality Net Neutrality aims to keep the Internet free from large companies, which are trying to limit the number of web sites their customers can view and the speed at which they can view them. Senator Gravel guarantees a free and open Internet with unlimited access to all sites. He will do this by supporting legislation and regulation that keeps you in control of your Internet usage and promotes free speech.

Human Rights Senator Gravel is adamantly opposed to torture, indefinite detention, and the deprivation of lawyers/speedy trials. He opposes the Military Commissions Act, flagrant ignorance of the Geneva convention, and Guantanamo.

Project Vote Smart

In Barack Obama, Christine Smith, Congress, Democrats, George Phillies, Libertarian, Libertarian Party-US, Politics, Republican on February 14, 2008 at 8:02 am

Project Vote SmartI just ran across a website called “Project Vote Smart“. This site gathers information from various candidates for office, so you can view it all in one place, and even very easily compare the candidates if you open them up in side-by-side tabs on your browser.

It is very interesting to see the “political courage test”, which pins the candidates down on the issues. Unfortunately, it appears that most mainstream candidates (including all of the presidential frontrunners from both major parties, and including Ron Paul) have refused to complete the quiz portion. However, Barack Obama did complete the questionnaire when he was running for the Senate, which gives a good insight into how he views the issues; while Hillary Clinton and Ron Paul both refused to complete it even when they were running for Congress. There is no older questionnaire information for any of the other frontrunners.

I think it’s obvious why candidates wouldn’t want to complete it, since it can later easily be used against them. Accordingly, I think any candidate which refuses to answer those questions should be viewed with suspicion.

Some third party presidential candidates did complete the “courage test” though, including libertarians. I was quite surprised to see that I disagree with some libertarian candidates on a few issues I thought we’d agree upon. For example, I was extremely surprised to see that neither Phillies nor Kubby have chosen to eliminate inheritance taxes (Phillies wants to slightly decrease them, while Kubby wants to greatly decrease them). Yet why should the government get any of it, since it’s a gift from one person to another? Christine Smith is the only libertarian candidate to propose eliminating that tax.

On the other hand, Kubby wants to greatly decrease gasoline taxes and certain “sin” taxes (alcohol, cigarettes, etc) while Phillies and Smith want to eliminate those taxes altogether. On those tax issues, I agree with Phillies. I would agree with Smith, but she wants to eliminate ALL federal taxes (including income taxes); and while that’s an idea I’d love to get behind, I don’t think it is realistic, at least not at this time.

I will have to study the candidates’ responses a lot more closely, and I strongly suggest others do the same. While it won’t help much with regard to mainstream candidates who have refused to answer the questionnaire (and personally, I hold that against them because it is to my mind proof that they plan to say one thing to get elected, and do another once they are in office), it does give quite a bit of insight into third party presidential candidates.

Originally posted on Adventures in Frickintardistan

UPDATE:  I received the following comment from Tom Knapp, Steve Kubby’s Communications Director:

I worked with Steve on filling out the Political Courage Test, and “eliminate” was not offered as an option on the document we got from VoteSmart. I sent them an email when I saw that it appeared on other candidates’ answers, but haven’t ever heard back from them.

Without going over the PCT line by line, I can’t say offhand that EVERY “greatly decrease” would actually have been “eliminate” had that option been visible, the inheritance tax would absolutely have been an “eliminate” item.

Thanks for that info, Tom!