Campaign Statements

TANNERSVILLE, PENNSYLVANIA – The following is a partial transcript of a brief conversation on the American economy between independent presidential candidate Quay Fortuna and a reporter from a regional travel magazine that took place on March 25, 2008.

Question: You’re running for president?

Fortuna: Yes, that’s right.

Q: What are you doing here then?

F: Good question. There’s a primary coming up here in Pennsylvania, of course, but since I’m not running as a Democrat or a Republican, that’s not really a reason for me to be here. To tell you the truth, while the Democrats are still shooting at themselves, it’s hard to get any attention at all, so I’ve been laying low. I’m really just here to get a little last minute skiing in.


Q. I take it you are against the war in Iraq. Do you think the war is the cause of our current economic downturn?

F: I think it’s obvious that it’s one of the causes. When you look at just oil prices, for example, they were staying pretty low after we invaded Afghanistan. They were around $17 a barrel immediately after the invasion began, and they settled around the mid-twenties. Then we invaded Iraq in March 2003, and by January 2004, when it looked like things weren’t going so well, we were up in the thirties. By the time of ‘bloody Fallujah’ in 2005, prices had climbed to the fifties.

Now, it’s not all about the disruption in the Iraqi oil supply – in fact, it’s not all about supply – but the instability of Iraq, a newly-empowered Iran, the re-emergence of Iranian-backed Hezbollah in the summer of 2006, all of these things certainly wreaked havoc on the confidence of commodity traders. And currently, of course, we’re up around $100 a barrel, on the back of rising demand in China and India. So, some experts have been saying that about $35 a barrel of that price hike from 2003 to the present is due directly to the impact of the Iraq war. And that’s hitting us where we live.

Q: You can’t blame the war for the sub-prime crisis, though, can you?

F: Actually, yes, it’s related. And you don’t have to take my word for it. A Nobel Prize-winning economist named Joseph Stiglitz has drawn a very distinct connection between the two. He points out that funding a $3 trillion war over the past five years has created a massive financial drain on the economy, which caused the Federal Reserve, early on – beginning with Greenspan even – to ease the availability of credit by lowering interest rates. I think, and the way Stiglitz says it, the Fed encouraged lenders to give loans to “anybody this side of a life support system.” So the usual credit standards fell by the wayside – and why not? There was so much money to be made through lending, and a market developed around it. And it seemed to make sense at the time to essentially invest all these dollars in real estate, since real estate, so we all thought, doesn’t ever decline in value. So this, of course, led to real estate speculation and a boom in housing prices, and also an overall consumption boom. But it was all pretty artificial, because at the same time, as a nation we were borrowing money from China like it was going out of style to fund the war.

Q: But the sub-prime crisis was caused by banks and their predatory lending practices.

F: Certainly some low-life lenders were guilty of entrapping unsophisticated borrowers and just basically killing them with impossible interest rate hikes, and they should be prosecuted and hung out to dry for it – but that wasn’t the cause of the sub-prime crisis. The cause was a relaxation of lending standards that flowed from the “free money” environment created by the Fed, compounded by the de-localization of mortgage activity – the fact that mortgage portfolios became the subject of speculation that could be bought and sold to investment banks on Wall Street meant that lenders who wrote “iffy” mortgages no longer felt any responsibility for whether they were good or bad. There are plenty of people who borrowed money who shouldn’t have been permitted to do so, and the result is that loans are going bad, buyers of loan portfolios are stuck with a lot of bad paper, margin loans get called, and then you get Bear Stearns going down the tubes.

Q: You sound like you support the government bailing out big Wall Street banks. What about all the homeowners who are losing their homes?

F: Wait, those are two different questions there. And they’re not at all simple ones. I think the Fed did a good deed by extending credit to J.P. Morgan in order to buy Bear Stearns – but that was ultimately all about J.P. Morgan making a shrewd business decision to buy a fundamentally good investment house, a good franchise, that had badly overextended itself. Not everyone should be so lucky. And I think that Wall Street learned a valuable lesson from the sub-prime crisis – you’ve got to hold the mortgage banks accountable for what they do when you transact business with them in this way.

With regard to homeowners – not being able to pay the mortgage has a lot of causes in this country these days … it’s not just about patently unsustainable teaser rates, but about the lack of decent jobs, spiraling fuel costs, jittery banks …

As I said before, the first, most important, most fundamental thing that needs to happen in order to improve some of these things is for the U.S. to stop draining the American economy by spending $50 billion that we don’t have every three months to support a war in Iraq.

Next, while the Fed is going out of its way to make money available through lower interest rates – which is the right approach, despite the fact that lower interest rates created the boom and bust, because the worst thing you could do now would be to fold up the tent – but, unfortunately there aren’t enough community-oriented banks, down close in the trenches, to facilitate the kinds of curative refinancings that need to take place to keep marginal homeowners in their homes. The knee-jerk reaction of most commercial banks is to toughen lending standards to the point where they’re practically impossible.

There needs to be a happy medium. What we need to do ultimately is to stimulate a return of genuine community lending in this country, in which local banks loan money to local people, keep the paper locally, and exercise a sense of community stewardship, so that they can, in effect, manage their customers through the rough patches. We need banks that are like the ones our grandparents did business with. And I don’t want to over-regulate and force commercial banks to become good community citizens; I want to encourage good community citizenship from existing banks through a variety of incentives.

And that’s not just a matter of keeping people in their homes, but in the longer term it is about keeping the fabric of our communities knitted together, to solve the problem of the chronically “unbanked” in this country, and to encourage local, sustainable economic activity.


Q: What do you think of President Bush’s stimulus package?

F: It’s a little bit silly, really. $1200 per working couple. That’s barely a mortgage payment for some people. My biggest problem with it, though, is that there is no guarantee that the money circulates in the way that the government wants it to circulate. $1200 that quickly goes to an electronics manufacturer in Korea or to oil producers in the Middle East, means that the hoped-for stimulation within our own economy comes to an all-too-abrupt end. If it’s going to have any meaningful impact at all, it has to keep circulating within our own economy.

My own proposal would be to give the $1200 in scrip, almost like a separate form of currency, that can only be monetized in actual dollars under certain circumstances – if it is deposited irrevocably into a six-month savings vehicle of some kind, for example, to encourage savings. Or, ultimately, if it is spent and not saved, it can be monetized only by an American depositor at some point during the chain of potential exchanges — and wherever it goes, its use and exchange is tax-exempt until some date in the future. The idea would be to encourage the circulation of the scrip within domestic channels, creating sustainable exchange activities that keep community economies humming – but under no circumstances would the scrip have any value through foreign exchange. It would not come to rest until it does so in American hands, within an American account. If you did something like that, then perhaps $1200 per couple would begin to have a significant impact on the economy.


Q: What about regulation? Would you suggest restricting the activities of banks in light of the subprime crisis?

F: Well, as I said, I believe that Wall Street has learned a lesson about buying mortgage portfolios, and that they will develop new customs and practices to avoid the kind of crisis that Bear Stearns just suffered in the future. The low-lifes will have to find something else to sell to Wall Street.

As to the behavior of those low-life mortgage lenders, I believe that they represent a classic example of the many ways in which corporate America takes advantage of lax federal regulatory oversight to gouge hard-working families in this country. It’s not just low teaser rates with hidden interest rate bumps – it’s also about excessive ATM fees and inexplicable charges on your checking account statement, cell-phone contracts that have hidden charges and no ability to terminate, hidden fees in your cable bill and your utility bills, extortionate penalties for missing a payment by one day, and so on and so forth. “You, too, can get the Internet for only $19.99 per month,” the ads will say, but you’d better check the fine print. The average person ultimately has no idea what anything costs anymore, because corporations have developed hundreds of ways of masking the ways in which they can charge you.

So-called free market exponents, like the guys over at the American Enterprise Institute, argue that regulation of these activities is fundamentally anti-capitalist. Free market capitalism only works the way it’s supposed to, however, when there is a good flow of information. The “invisible hand” that Adam Smith told us all about – that force by which, if each consumer is allowed to freely choose what to buy and each producer is allowed to choose freely what to sell and how to produce it, the market will settle on prices that are beneficial to the all individual members of a community – is really impossible when you don’t give the consumer a full of set of cards to play with. The sub-prime crisis and the damage it has done to certain sectors of our economy is only one example of how the “invisible hand” has been tied up by the lack of disclosure regulation, by the lack of consumer protection regulation. So, in order to restore free market capitalism to its optimum strength, we need to reactivate the Federal Trade Commission and level the playing field again between consumers, on the one hand, and corporations, on the other.


Q: How is the skiing at Camelback?

F: Not so hot.


OUTSIDE KNOTT’S BERRY FARM, BUENA PARK, CALIFORNIA — My name is Quay Fortuna, and I am running for president of the United States.  I’m also a Christian – which is really none of your business, as a voter in a presidential contest.  I am aware, however, that the fact of my faith probably requires an explanation.

Mike Huckabee, a Baptist preacher and a candidate for president, incorrectly declared not long ago that most of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were Christian clergymen.  The highest count that could confirm was that 4 out of 56 signers were men of the cloth.  Another presidential candidate, John McCain, recently stated that this nation was founded upon Christian principles.  It is tempting, during this Thanksgiving season, to think of the pilgrims at Plymouth and to agree with Mr. McCain; however, one need only remember the band of horse-trading opportunists who landed at Jamestown thirteen years before the Mayflower ever got to Plymouth to realize that Christian principles weren’t the exclusive reason for the colonization of North America.  It is as accurate to say that, because the Declaration of Independence was signed by 56 white property-owning men, that this country was founded upon white, male or mercantile principles.

And yet, at the same time, public life in America has never been, and was never intended to be, as clinically secular or as morally relativistic as some activists would have us believe.

The story of church and state in this country is unfortunately not one simple, straight forward narrative of the operation of religious faith within a bold experiment in republican government.  It is, rather, a bundle of many stories:

  • It is the story of men like William Penn, a Quaker who was persecuted for his faith in England, and who established the colony of Pennsylvania as a haven of religious freedom for anyone who believed in God; and yet it is at the same time the story of how, in the late 1700s, the Pennsylvania constitution required officeholders to affirm their belief in the divine origin of the Old and New Testaments, thus eliminating the chance that a freethinker, or even a Jew or a Muslim, could hold political office there.
  • It is the story of Roger Williams, who found himself subject to religious oppression by the Puritan government of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and his subsequent exile to Rhode Island, where he established a colony based on the principle of church neutrality in affairs of state.
  • It is the story of the establishment of the colony of Maryland as a haven for Catholics in North America, and the subsequent prohibition of Catholicism there by Puritan leaders that lasted until after the American Revolution.
  • It is the story of the battle between Patrick Henry who, after the American Revolution, attempted to lead the passage of a bill establishing the Episcopal Church as the state religion of Virginia, and James Madison, who subsequently authored the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, prohibiting the federal government from making laws “respecting an establishment of religion” or laws that prohibited the “free exercise of religion.”
  • It is the story of the customary 19th century American public school curriculum, which typically required Bible reading and encouraged the teaching of general and common doctrines of Christianity; and yet it is also the story of 10-year old Thomas Whalen, a Catholic, who in 1858 was required to recite a Protestant translation of the Ten Commandments at a Massachusetts public school, and who was whipped for a half hour when he refused to do so on the advice of his parish priest, setting off a controversy known as the Eliot School Rebellion. 

It is, ultimately, the story of the pitch, roll and yaw of thousands of incidents over the course of more than 200 years of American history — some significant and some petty, some public and outrageous, and many very private and painful — that reflect the tensions embodied in the co-existence of church and state within a society.  These tensions come from the same place within our civic culture that scared some voters about the Catholic faith of Al Smith in 1928 and that of John F. Kennedy in 1960, and that raise questions about Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith in 2008.  They were, in essence, the same tensions that were reflected in that phrase of the founders, the “separation of church and state,” the tensions alluded to by Thomas Jefferson when he wrote: “Believing … that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.” 

We didn’t invent the concept of separation of church and state here in America.  To be sure, both Madison and Jefferson were familiar with the ideas of John Locke and other Enlightenment philosophers on the subject.  But they were also both familiar with Thomas Aquinas, a 13th century Dominican friar, who, while no advocate of democracy, had a command of logic that frequently parted the gray clouds of his era to reveal a timeless blue sky.  In his Summa theologiae, Aquinas recognizes two distinct yet overlapping communities existing within any rightly-organized society.  One is a secular political community, led by secular political leaders, who are charged with preserving an orderly society by maintaining internal and external peace and by ensuring the satisfaction of man’s material necessities.  The goal of a secular political community is the attainment of the secular common good.  The other is a spiritual community, through which moral virtues and a moral code of conduct are inculcated, and the goal of which is the spiritual common good – eternal life for those who are virtuous.

Significantly, Aquinas doesn’t believe that it is reasonable for a secular political authority to make laws abolishing all sins.  For Aquinas, while it is good to enact laws that encourage virtue and discourage vice, sometimes it makes good sense to do neither — particularly where the threat of punishment behind a law will have little effect on whether a sin is committed or not.  One need look only as far as the Tenth of the Ten Commandments themselves to see the wisdom in Aquinas’ approach:  we do not legislate against the cold thoughts that comprise greed or envy, though these are sins and are the roots of the sin of theft, because it is impossible, without an overt accompanying physical act, to prove what lies within the mind of a human being.  No responsible earthly government makes a thought into a crime. 

I won’t, as president, be seeking to administer this country wholly in accord with all of the dictates of Thomas Aquinas, even if I will, privately, aspire to be his equal in faith.  But there are other good reasons why I believe that the single-minded preoccupation with “values issues” – and the breed of activist, pro and con, that is produced thereby — is a symptom of deterioration within both the spiritual community as well as the secular, political community.

My most serious objection – whether as a Christian, as a believer in civil liberties, or as a civic-minded American — is the notion that my responsibility to my community in any of these roles can be fulfilled simply by voting for a candidate for federal office who, for example, promises to either ban abortion or preserve the legality of it, or by giving money to activists or lobbyists.  These gestures are lazy habits encouraged by those pathological politicians in Washington, aiming to goof you into buying their Capital-centric bill of goods and to divert your attention from their failures in practical governance.  They are lazy habits that are ultimately engendered by the tragic falsehood that a president can solve all of your problems.

Such habits have created a fat economic subculture of professional political mercenaries – a feeding frenzy of pollsters and press flacks, media advisors and white-paper hacks, smooth lobbyists and sharp lawyers, lap-dog sycophants and pundit-bookies, grass roots agit-irritators and prime-time TV squawking heads – getting paid to slash away at the flesh of the enemy in a bloody, suspiciously endless fight over God or liberty.  Not only is it the wrong question, in most cases, but it has all the dignity and grace of a schoolyard brawl — or, if you prefer, of moneylenders at the temple, reaping grotesque profits at the expense of the pilgrims of both God and liberty.

As a concerned member of my community, I am appalled at how the ability of me and my neighbors to affect change and build a better tomorrow — in the yards and on the porches and in the kitchens and family rooms where we actually live — has been hijacked by pro-pol hired guns whose primary everlovin’ daily objective is to draw dark, jagged lines of battle separating me and my neighbors.  The problems in my neighborhood need immediate attention, and we simply don’t have any more time for such paralyzing nonsense.

As an advocate of civil liberty, I stand ready at a moment’s notice to put on Voltaire’s jumpsuit, helmet and boots, preparing to fight to the death to support the right of my fellow citizens to enjoy a freedom that I do not have any use for today, and yet … I cannot help but have a queasy feeling in my gut while supporting the unadulterated right to commit an act of will that, in the abstract, most of my fellow citizens fervently wish would never occur again in any instance.  Call it a human frailty in me if you will, but it diminishes my ability to breathe fire.  And my love of liberty lifts my eyes to other injuries to freedom in America – warrantless surveillance, guilt by association, charges of disloyalty levied upon earnest critics of federal policy – and forces me to ask myself another quiet question:  Does being a warrior in the fight for liberty foreclose my ability to prioritize among freedoms, or do I have to fight equally for all freedoms and ultimately compromise my effectiveness?

As a Christian, speaking only for myself, my conscience will not permit me to rest assured that I have done God’s will by simply supporting a “values” candidate.  I cannot help but wonder what my God’s reaction will be, when I reach the gates of paradise, and He asks me what I’ve done to deserve eternal life.  “In your name, I voted for James F. Copensmythe.”  What?  Is that all you have to say about the sanctity of life?  What about actively helping the poor and the hungry?  What about getting up out of your chair and striving for peace?  What about facing your neighbors and healing the fractures that divided your community?  Did you actually let someone talk you in to believing that their assumption of political power with your assistance was good enough to supplant the stewardship with which I entrusted you, to assume responsibility for what happens around you?

If we take, alone, the top three pro-life organizations and the top three pro-choice organizations in America, we are looking at an aggregate annual budget that is probably approaching $30 million.  Such organizations have no doubt been spending some amount on their causes since the 1970s, since the Supreme Court handed down Roe v. Wade – 30 years of spending on pro-pol hired guns, reaching a figure, in all likelihood, of say hundreds of millions of dollars.  If this money had stayed in our communities rather than ending up in the coffers of national lobbying groups or the pockets of mercenaries – how much could we have spent on feeding, clothing and ministering to the needs of children?  How much time could we have spent building self-esteem in young women and encouraging discipline and social respect in young men?  How much could we have done to honor both liberty and the sanctity of life in our own communities, and to improve the context of this painful debate?

My instincts as a candidate for office lead me to wage battle, first and foremost, for the restoration of political power to our communities, both to permit and to require self-determination.  And while I refuse to judge anyone else’s faith, my instincts as a Christian lead me to aspire, outside of my political identity, to assuming the role of God’s steward within my community – a role, according to Paul, in his epistle to the Apostle Titus, that requires me to act without arrogance, to reign in my temper and aggression, and to avoid being greedy for sordid gain; a role that requires temperance and self-control in the conduct of holy work.  

Politics is ultimately a game for the proud, with one’s name emblazoned colorfully across handbills and a big voice to shout down opponents; Christianity is ultimately a life of humility.  On this Thanksgiving Day, I am thankful that I live in a country that permits me, if I have the fortitude for it, to play a good public game in the service of civic goals, while living a true private life within my community in the service of God.

I thank you for listening, and I’ll be seeing you along the trail.

IN A DIRT TURNOUT ALONG BLACKSMITH RD., NEAR LESLIE, GEORGIA – I’ve come here to talk with you today about agriculture, and U.S. agricultural policy.

Someone was telling me today that they thought it was unusual for an independent presidential candidate to have a policy on agriculture.  To be honest, I think it’s rare even for a mainstream presidential candidate to talk about agriculture during the campaign.  Except in Iowa.  They come to Iowa, and they pronounce a few platitudes about subsidies and crop insurance, and as soon as the Caucuses are over, they forget they’ve ever heard of farmers.

Farmers, you see, aren’t much of a voting block.  ADM, Cargill, Noble Group, on the other hand – the big players in international agribusiness – they have a powerful lobby, and there’s no real need for a mainstream presidential candidate to go public with his or her agricultural policy when all he or she has to do is to call a few of the big boys over for cocktails and hash it out with them in private.  Cheney-style.

But that’s the real reason that I’m here to talk to you today about agriculture.  Washington politicians now seem to take it for granted that the true constituents of a national agricultural policy are the ADMs and Cargills of the world, with some lip service paid to the independent family farmer along the way. 

This top-down view of agriculture in this country is symptomatic of an even greater structural problem:  over the course of four generations, the natural connections between, and awareness of, the food that we choose to eat, the processes by which it is grown and prepared, and the land from which it emanates, have been all but erased from the American consciousness.  The only way most of us experience agriculture today is on the back-end of a shopping cart rolling down Aisle 3 at the Winn-Dixie, or in the drive-through at a Burger King – and with every order comes a heaping helping of denial.

Our lack of awareness about where our food comes from helps to mask serious systemic problems in American agriculture, what it is doing to our economy and our environment, and what we end up eating:

  • The current subsidy system in this country, which was designed in the 1930s to help farmers manage risk, now favors large agribusiness over small family farms — ten percent of all farms now receive almost three-quarters of all subsidies.  This inevitably contributes to the consolidation of farming activities in the hands of a small number of producers, disrupting rural community life and the health of rural economies.  As I’ve said before, absentee corporate ownership tends to suck the life out of communities, and can quickly kill what remains of a community when “external economics” no longer make sense for an absentee corporate owner to remain there.
  • Ninety percent of all subsidies go to the production of just five crops:  wheat, corn, cotton, soybeans and rice.  The current subsidy system discourages crop diversity by rewarding the planting of this select group of crops — usually from a narrow group of generic varieties pushed by multinational seed suppliers — without regard to the practical desirability of crop rotation.
  • This generic, monocultural approach to agriculture is eroding biodiversity among both plants and animals.  About 7,000 different species of plants have been raised as food crops in the history of human agriculture, but only fifteen plant and eight animal species are now relied upon for about 90% of all human food.  Why should we care?  When someone rips up huge areas of good land to plant generic seeds for sale into the international food processing supply-chain year after year, not only is the natural balance of the local ecology disrupted — which inevitably leads to the disappearance of certain varieties of plants and animals, and interferes with natural processes of pollination, soil regeneration and the building up of resistances to pests and disease — but in the end we find ourselves eating tasteless food, and gradually losing valuable technical knowledge, unique to our localities, of how we interact with, learn from, and can be nourished by, our local environment.
  • Synthetic chemical pesticides and fertilizers, designed to enhance yields, are polluting our soil, our water and our air, to the detriment of our environment as well as to our health.
  • Apart from the pollution, industrial agriculture is also contributing to the erosion of soil and the consumption of water at unsustainable rates.  If you don’t think that’s serious, it’s worth noting that unsustainable uses of water and soil were among the primary reasons why the great ancient Mesopotamian civilizations ultimately failed.  Remember, they used to call that part of the world “the fertile crescent.”
  • And here’s the big one folks, the one that hits you where you live.  If none of what I’ve told you is troubling thus far, consider this:  agribusiness in the 21st century is almost irretrievably dependent upon fossil fuels.  It uses them in the chemicals it sprays on our food, it moves the Earth with them, and it burns millions of gallons of them hauling lettuce from California to Kalamazoo, or grapes from Chile to Chattanooga.  Oil went up over $90 a barrel today; and when fuel prices really bust through the roof, we will begin to see the price of fuel passed onto us in the form of higher prices at the supermarket, and we will begin to see certain staples disappearing from supermarket shelves.  This is inevitable within a system of agriculture which favors meeting consumer demand from geographically disparate regions of the Earth, almost to the total exclusion of local production for local needs.

If we choose to look at agricultural policy as food policy in this country, then the constituency suddenly becomes everyone who eats … rather than a few agribusiness giants.  And this is the first important point I want to make:  our national agricultural policy is not supposed to be some political afterthought, a bit of esoterica hashed out behind closed doors.  It means food, and it means life.  It is a fundamental, defining aspect of American culture.  And if it is sick, then we are sick — as a people.

The second important point I want to make is that to fix the system, we need not kill international agribusiness.  In fact, we don’t want to — our production of wheat, corn and soybeans, in particular, gives us global strategic rewards that we would be unwise to ignore.  But we do need to balance the structural advantages available in this country to large agricultural companies with a set of structural advantages that can be made available to sustainable, local agricultural enterprises.

What does sustainable agriculture look like?  What kind of agriculture do we want to cultivate, to balance the iniquities of industrial agriculture in this country?

  • First, and most significantly, it involves increasing the amount of local production for local use in our communities – for the ultimate improvement of our food security and for the reduction of our dependence on fossil fuels.
  • Second, as a flipside to the agribusiness approach to agriculture in this country, sustainable agriculture is an ecology-based approach.  It can be but does not have to be purely “organic,” but it certainly must be low-input and regenerative — “farming with nature,” promoting biodiversity, recycling, conserving water, protecting soil from erosion … and making a modest profit.
  • Third, we have to take the manpower issue seriously.  Increasing the number of people working for a fair wage in agriculture in this country is not a sign of economic “backwardness,” but a gesture toward our future as a people.  We have some work to do to restore the nobility of farming as a profession within this country.

I think the first step, in order to promote the development of sustainable agriculture in this country, would be to cause the federal government to recognize the value of sustainable agriculture, to simply acknowledge that it is something that should be promoted within our country. 

Then I would begin to address structural advantages.  Much as I would bifurcate the securities regulatory schemes between large, multinational and small, community-oriented businesses, so would I bifurcate the regulatory schemes between large, multinational agribusiness and small, community-oriented sustainable farming enterprises – regulation needs to be scaled to the size of the enterprise so that the regulatory cost of small-scale farming does not overrun its feasibility; and there needs to be a significant component of community stewardship over sustainable farming activities.

In order to build a more robust market for the products of sustainable farms outside of commodity supply chains and corporate vertical integration, I would propose tax incentives for enterprises that sell a large percentage of agricultural goods from local sources.

Total U.S. agricultural subsidies number in the billions of dollars each year.  Taking even a small percentage away from the current subsidy system and creating a “sustainable farming capital enhancement fund,” to assist in the development of community-supported agriculture and small farmer cooperatives, and to promote, through community-developed educational programs, natural and sustainable farming methods, would have a tremendous impact on the development of sustainable agriculture in the U.S.

The entire population of the world is capable of surviving on the products of current world food production, yet even here in the U.S., we live with extremes of hunger and of obesity.  Our system is out of whack.  By bringing agriculture back to our communities in a sustainable way, closer to our own doorsteps, the process of managing our way back to equilibrium will begin.

In the meantime, try something new.  Buy from local farmers.  Make time to cook for yourself, with fresh, locally-grown ingredients; invite your friends over for a home-cooked meal.  Start a kitchen garden.  You won’t regret the way these little things will change your life.

I thank you for listening, and I’ll be seeing you along the trail.

NEAR PRITCHARD PARK, ASHEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA – Last week I was in Midlothian, Virginia, where I described the current state of that town’s economic vitality, represented in large part by a high median household income, large suburban homes and the presence of numerous big box stores like Wal-Mart and Home Depot.

While it all looks pretty good today, I expressed a concern that Midlothian, like a lot of relatively affluent suburban communities throughout the country, functions to some degree at the mercy of the multinational corporations who planted those big box stores there; and that in the event of a flight of multinational corporations, such suburbs might find themselves unable to survive — at least not in the manner to which they’ve become accustomed. In a world of diminishing resources and a higher cost of fuel and credit, such a scenario is not necessarily so improbable.

Here in Asheville there seems to be less dependence on big box stores, at least around here, and there is a more conspicuous presence of locally-owned and operated businesses, many of them supplied locally as well. It is this type of economic activity – not the locally-owned franchise of a major fast food chain, or the locally-operated big box store, but truly local, sustainable enterprises that make more with less, that circulate dollars within a community rather than exporting them to absentee business owners, and that enable a community to rely less on exports through local manufacturing and growing – that will help communities to reclaim their ability to control their own economic destinies.

Sustainable development advocates will say that gross domestic product, or GDP, is a flawed measure of economic performance, and I agree. I think this passage from Bill Bryson’s I’m a Stranger Here Myself tells the tale better than I can:

I was recently in Pennsylvania at the site of a zinc factory whose airborne wastes were formerly so laden with pollutants that they denuded an entire mountainside … From a GDP perspective … this was wonderful. First there was the gain to the economy from all the zinc the factory had refined and sold over the years. Then there was the gain from the tens of millions of dollars the government must spend to clean up the site and restore the mountain. Finally, there will be a continuing gain from medical treatments for workers and townspeople made chronically ill by living amid all those contaminants. In terms of conventional economic measurement, all of this is gain, not loss … [T]he more recklessly we use up natural resources, the more the GDP grows.

Given that, from the point of view of achieving a sustainable economic environment, GDP is a lousy way to measure the economy, yet it continues to be one of the ways in which the U.S. government likes to report to us on American economic success.

Before we completely throw it out, however, it is worth noting that GDP does manage to capture one category of activity that sustainability advocates tend to dismiss, but that is essential to the development of any business enterprise – that is, the sum total of economic activity revolving around the formation of capital for a business, including the costs of raising financing, transaction costs, and the trail of journal entries associated with the speculative exchange of investments in the financial markets. For better or worse, these costs inherently exist within an economy that produces successful national businesses.

As I said in my last stop, the ability of a multinational corporation to access the capital markets that produce this type of activity is an inherent structural advantage available to entrepreneurs who would create such businesses. The capital markets to which I am referring are singularly unavailable to an entrepreneur who would create a sustainable local enterprise due to two main factors: first, there is the high cost of regulation — and here I’m referring to the collection of regulations that apply to the issuance and exchange of securities in this country, which is prohibitive for a relatively small, local enterprise; and second, there isn’t sufficient scale within these enterprises to interest the players on Wall Street or its side streets. Like Linda Evangelista, Wall Street bankers don’t get out of bed for anything less than $10 million. … Actually, I think Linda Evangelista said she wouldn’t get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day, but you get the picture.

And yet, I submit to you that in a world of rising fuel costs it will be essential for the American economy to re-tool itself and figure out ways to bring significant capital to the promotion and development of sustainable local enterprises … the kind of capital, by the way, that is entrusted to Wall Street by people and institutions who, ironically, live right down the block from you, that is aggregated and managed by shrewd speculators, and that fuels the powerful investment engine that exists within our capital markets.

Sustainability advocates tend to think of the capital markets as dirty and icky institutions. When pressed on the issue of raising capital for the development of local sustainable enterprises, they tend to reach into a tired yet quaint old bag of tricks that might include tax-funded community development organizations, certified Small Business Administration lenders, or non-profit development authorities and community loan funds. They’re all well and good, and I commend their efforts – but in an environment in which there is competition for capital, these initiatives are the equivalent of navigating a kayak with a teaspoon. What is needed, to significantly improve the balance in our nation between fuel-dependent multinational businesses and sustainable local business, is a much heavier paddle.

So, the question is, how do you get capital markets interested in local businesses?

Local Enterprise Public Offerings (LEPOs)

First, we have to attack the regulation question.

If I were to want to start, say, a locally-owned and operated alternative fuel bus company here in Asheville, the cost of securities regulation pretty much limits my sources of capital to a small circle of family and friends, and perhaps a loan from a friendly local bank or a leasing company. If I wanted to offer stock to the public of Asheville, where my business will be located, I would essentially be subject to the same kind of securities regulation that applies to a multinational corporation, with some minor differences. Now, it is quite appropriate that a multinational corporation whose stock trades on the New York Stock Exchange or NASDAQ should be required to spend significant capital on accounting and legal costs on a daily basis in an effort to protect a widely distributed group of public investors – from pension funds to mutual funds to you and me – and to mitigate the potential for financial misrepresentations that might have an effect on the value of the stock that we buy. But I’ll never be able to afford to have even a hundred Asheville residents buy my bus company stock – even if they all live nearby, can physically stop by and see me and watch how the business is doing, and have some sense of who I am and my integrity as a businessman.

Without doing anything to change the way in which a multinational corporation participates in the capital markets and raises capital through public securities offerings, I would call for state and federal securities regulators to carve an alternative path for the development of truly local sustainable enterprises – not just local offices or local franchises of national businesses – by permitting a class of public offering available solely to such enterprises. A Local Enterprise Public Offering, or LEPO, would permit local enterprises to raise capital in small chunks from a large number of community investors – people who, at the time of issuance, dwell in the same community as the business itself. So, for my bus company here in Asheville, I would be permitted to raise some equity participation from anyone who lives in Asheville without having to file an 80-page registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission or the North Carolina Department of State – as long as I provide some basic disclosure material to my buyers. Rather than require expensive audits, local enterprises would be required to publish annual compilations of their financial statements, as well as an audit every three years, and would be required to present financial information on an annual basis to a community finance committee made up of non-affiliated local business leaders, who would in turn publish annual “findings” on the financial health of the enterprise – without fear of liability, I should add. The weight of Annual Findings should stand on the local reputations of the people involved in the enterprise.

In essence, for the sake of developing local sustainable enterprises, we will trade the expense and complexity of state and federal securities regulation for a system of community stewardship.

Wall Street on Main Street

With the availability of a lower cost option for public offerings, it becomes likely that regional investment banks and investment advisors would see the advantage of participating in LEPOs, acting as underwriters or placement agents for them, and we would want to encourage that. With the involvement of investment banks and advisors, a trading market for LEPO securities would naturally develop, and because the enterprises are small and not as widely-held as multinational corporations, such trading, with some adjustments in regulations, should be permitted to occur in the over-the-counter markets, the so-called “pink sheets.” Some ability to sell off an investment in a local enterprise would make LEPOs a more attractive investment vehicle, and I would support the ability to trade local enterprise stocks outside of the community after a defined period of time (say, a holding period of one year) in order to increase the potential for greater trading volumes for local stocks.

Still, low trading volume in local enterprises would put a damper on investment enthusiasm in LEPOs. What makes an investment in the stock of Target or Starbucks seem to be a relative safe one is the knowledge that if I want to sell my Target or Starbucks stock, there is an active trading market in it; under normal circumstances on any given day, hundreds if not thousands of people buy and sell it, and as a result the market price of that stock has, at least, an internal authenticity to it. While we can never expect LEPOs, in and of themselves, to experience robust trading, there is another opportunity to create a nexus between local business activity and Wall Street capital markets: the development of Community Local Enterprise Pools, or CLEPs, as publicly-traded investment opportunities.

A CLEP would be, in part, an index fund of publicly-traded local enterprises within a community, as well as an investment pool for funds that could be used in the development of sustainable local enterprises, thus giving a community a means of accessing capital markets directly.

How would this work? Once the initiation of LEPOs within a community reaches a small critical mass – say 5-10 active local enterprises – a community would qualify to form a CLEP and take it public, putting its managers in a position to raise a minimum of $10 million in an initial offering. The use of proceeds? A portion of the fund would be used to buy and hold community LEPOs, and the rest would be used to invest small amounts in additional sustainable local businesses, either in LEPOs or in private equity transactions. CLEPs would be subject to normal securities regulations and would be permitted to trade on a major market, such as the NYSE or NASDAQ, under the community name. A portion of each trade in CLEP stock, say 0.5%, would be retained by the CLEP for future investment – call it a commission, if you like. The scale of these entities would lend themselves to being targets for analysis and trading by Wall Street firms.

Would it be so strange for a nation of investors to look up “Asheville” on the NYSE, and to buy it or sell it? Not any stranger than it is to trade “Oil” or “Cotton” as commodities, or to trade in “Carbon Offsets,” or even in virtual shares in movies, celebrities and music, such as those offered under Cantor Index’s Hollywood Stock Exchange. Or, indeed, it would not be any stranger for a schoolteacher in Austin, Texas to buy shares in “Asheville” than it is for an insurance salesman in Connecticut to buy some stock in Arkansas-based Wal-Mart. This is the mad, crazy magic of a national system of speculative exchange, and it incidentally provides an essential basis for the flow of capital toward productive uses.

So I urge you, those of you who fight the daily battle to mold your communities into self-reliant, sustainable economies – don’t be afraid of speculation as an economic activity. It can be turned to your advantage. And, in my view, it probably needs to be in order for America to be appropriately prepared for a Post-Petroleum Age.

I thank you for listening, and I’ll be seeing you along the trail.

ALONG COMMONWEALTH CENTRE PARKWAY, MIDLOTHIAN, VIRGINIA — I want to talk with you today about economic development.

With all due respect, though, not the sort of economic development that the good people over at the Chesterfield County Economic Development Office do. Or the kind of economic development they do at the Richmond Department of Economic Development or, at the Virginia Economic Development Partnership.

It is fashionable these days in metropolitan armchairs to second-guess the work of such agencies, but, generally speaking, my experience is that to the extent that they stick to their charters, they do their work fairly well. Their aim is to bring businesses to town with a portfolio of incentives and homegrown advantages – perhaps the availability of skilled labor, capital, tax breaks — and to find them adequate space. There’s nothing wrong with that kind of work, but its impact on you, the average resident around here, is bound to be fairly limited.

Different forces, however, have converged to create what you have along here on the Parkway. Right here, almost within earshot were it not for the traffic, we have Target, Stein Mart, Pier 1 Imports, Kohl’s, Best Buy, TJ Maxx, Old Navy, and of course, the big behemoth over there, a Wal-Mart Supercenter. Around the corner, to the East, you have K-Mart and Costco, and off to the West, we have a number of places to eat. I saw a Papa John’s Pizza, Outback Steakhouse, Hardee’s, Taco Bell and Little Caesar. All this, not to mention a couple of Starbucks’, the Home Depot and the Lowe’s, and the Walgreen’s, the CVS and the Rite-Aid. All with brightly-colored signs, all with ample parking.

Is there anything that you want right now that you can’t find at one of those places, or in any of the other national chains that you can get to within 5 minutes of here? To a time-traveler from the 1950s, it would be as if he had stumbled upon the crossroads of paradise, right here at Hull Street Road and the Parkway. It’s the final act of the old Disney attraction, the GE Carousel of Progress, come to life – seemingly unlimited product choice and availability; “space age” technology making life easier and more efficient both in industry and the home; climate-controlled environments in which to live, shop and work; transportation that seamlessly connects people with goods; and relatively stable wages and easy credit to make it all accessible to the average American.

Within 6 hours to the West of us, however, we see the flipside of this phenomenon. Go to the Western part of this state and visit towns like Grundy or Clintwood, and you can see what happens to a community when the local economy is no longer sustainable. The five and dime and the corner drug store close down. Downtowns become ghost towns. When we take a look, we cluck our tongues and say, it’s a shame that the coal industry died there – but that’s what happens when you put all your eggs in one basket. Lack of economic diversity is just bad business for a community, especially when it all hinges on a shaky business model. With the rise of concerns about acid rain and coal pollution, it turned out that the coal industry – as it operated in the 1970s — was an inherently unsustainable business model. Clean coal technologies might turn that around – in fact, they might ultimately contribute to our nation’s energy independence if appropriately fostered — but it is perhaps too late for towns like Grundy or Clintwood to really come back to life.

It begs the question, though: is there anything shaky about the business models underlying a suburb like this one? Is there a sense in which this suburb is not appropriately diversified? Is there anything in the business model of a Wal-Mart that might threaten the paradise at Midlothian’s crossroads?

Just look at the issue of fuel costs for a moment. Wal-Mart’s much-vaunted business model relies upon its efficient supply chain management – “just-in-time inventory,” much of it being transported to our shores on merchant ships from half-way around the world, that is making its way on trucks to a Wal-Mart near you even as you are taking your purchases out to the parking lot. In support of this system of supply chain management, Wal-Mart’s trucks drive about 900 million miles a year transporting goods to about 4,000 U.S. stores, spending in excess of $100 million a year in fuel costs. And that figure doesn’t even count the amount of fuel burned to bring goods to North America from plants in China. Now, to its credit, Wal-Mart is rolling out a so-called “green initiative” that will double the fuel efficiency of its truck fleet by 2015, with a combination of improvements to its existing trucks and the introduction of hybrid light-duty trucks, but they still need to do something about their corporate habit of starting up diesel trucks and keeping them warm and idling at distribution centers in the service of its “just-in-time inventory” strategy. Fuel prices hit Wal-Mart’s bottom line in another way: prices at the pump affect the driving habits of Wal-Mart’s customers, leading Wal-Mart’s CEO to caution stock analysts a couple of months ago that sales might decrease as a result of less traffic to the stores.

So, let’s suppose, for a moment, that I’m one of the Waltons, running Wal-Mart. Let’s say that, even compared to today, fuel prices are going through the roof, and that, despite our Wal-Mart sustainability program, I am seeing that the cost of transporting goods to each one of my 12 locations in Virginia is beginning to outweigh the benefit of having 12 locations in Virginia. So I send my analysts off to do some spreadsheets, and we calculate how much we could save in fuel costs if we closed this location or that one. We can assume, today, that the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Midlothian is a gold mine and that I’d rather close three other locations just to save this one – but who knows? I could just as easily, however, decide it’s not worth the trouble. So let’s say I close down the Midlothian Supercenter.

So – what happens next? Well, of course, everyone employed there is out of a job. We have a vacant space on the highway, a shuttered building. I’m going to try and sell it, but while I’m waiting, I’m certainly not going to be putting much money into keeping it up. So it becomes a blight on the highway. And now you have to find some other place to shop – perhaps somewhere further away from your homes, which will add to your personal fuel costs. Will other businesses follow suit? As business traffic diminishes, sometimes that happens. At the very least, it knocks the wind out of a suburb when a high-profile retail outlet leaves. You are well aware of what happens to a suburban commercial area when one or two anchor tenants clears out – those are the dingier, less fashionable suburbs of Richmond, right?

Notice that I, as a Walton in charge of Wal-Mart, didn’t figure anything about the health and welfare of Midlothian into my calculus. Heck, I’m a Walton living in Arkansas – what do I even know about your health and welfare, except in so far as it relates to my store’s monthly financials?

Let’s suppose that Midlothian becomes a dingy, less fashionable suburb. Well, you could just move to another suburb, right? The bursting of the housing bubble and the uncertainties about the future of mortgage rates and even the availability of mortgage loans now serve to complicate, at the very least, our ability to simply pick up and move to the next suburb, however.

Let’s assume, though, that conditions are such that it won’t be that difficult for you to move to the next paradise. How do you intend to mark your time on this planet? What kind of legacy do you want to leave? It is possible that your children and grandchildren will treasure the stability of a community and a sustainable way of life as a greater heirloom of your existence than the suburban home, the mutual fund, and the transient way of life that you’re intending to leave them.

I don’t mean to diminish your accomplishments – they’re virtually the same as mine, and I’m proud of mine. But you and I, as members of the top tier of the global economic pyramid – we also pride ourselves on taking measure of and understanding the changes that are going on around us, and having that combination of courage, an education, some capital and some smarts to adjust and take advantage of change. That’s who we are – and these are among the qualities people are always talking about when they talk about the resilience of the American people.

A Cornell economist named Stuart Hart has written an interesting book called Capitalism at the Crossroads. In it, he talks about the next great opportunity for multinational corporations in a world of finite resources, global environmental concerns and over-saturation in Western first-world consumer markets: green, sustainable industry oriented toward the needs the 4,000,000,000 people at the bottom of the global economic pyramid. About half-way through the book, he talks about the people of Ladakh in the Himalayas as a model of how a Western economy, without trying to conform to local structures, can ruin a local way of life. Up until the late 1970s, according to Hart and to anthropologist Helena Norberg-Hodge, protected by regulations that limited travel to the region, Ladakhis grew crops and utilized water in a sustainable fashion; they operated their community in a way that minimized waste and encouraged a sense of responsibility for one’s neighbors and one’s environment; and crime was nonexistent. In the late 1970s, the Indian national government threw Ladakh open to tourism. Traffic increased, contributing to congestion and air pollution; the introduction of Western notions of wealth and luxury, and a cash economy, led Ladakhis to see their way of life as inferior; local self-reliance eroded, slums grew up in the place of farms, and crime rose. As Hart puts it, “In effect, the ‘development’ of the region led to the systematic dismantling of Ladakhi culture and a growing economic dependence, cultural rejection, and environmental degradation.”

There is a sense in which all of us, even those of us living in relative affluence out here in the American suburbs, are at the bottom of a pyramid. Out here on the trail, I’ve talked about the many habits of our daily life that conspire to diminish a sense of community among us, perhaps giving us a false sense of autonomy as we go about our business in relative isolation. Just as we have lost our political autonomy to the rise of a synthetic federal giant and the pathology of Washington politicians … just as we have lost our ability to control the moral and ethical tone of our communities to the seductive charms of consumerist isolation … so, too, have our communities lost the power to control their own economic destinies. We have put all of our eggs in one basket, and that basket is the one being toted by a group of national and multinational corporations.

The triumph of the 1950s dream of unlimited product choice, seamless transportation, stable wages and easy credit, has a dark side, and that is that our local economy is very much at the mercy of absentee investors, national or multinational corporations who have figured out a way to market their brands to an entire nation and who have set up their pop stands, or rather their big boxes, just down the road from where we live. They’ve really been brilliant and should be lauded for their ability to tap into that gradual transformation of our habits that has resulted in suburban living – and my point is not to criticize them or organize a boycott.

I don’t want to take down the big boxes. In fact, I’m hoping that, for example, the Lowe’s and Home Depots of the world heed the advice of Stuart Hart, and find ways of reaching out to emerging needs in our suburbs — in a world of finite resources, global environmental concerns and consumer over-saturation — rolling out product lines to make the craft of home energy production easier, and to perhaps encourage the growth of the community food greenhouses through other product lines. Such corporations have great resources at their disposal to ready themselves for the next wave in American consumer activity – they have access to regulated capital markets, and they have bargaining power, both for labor and for goods. It is only up to them to try and do it.

But, as I said, they can leave town any time they want. So I want to see towns like Midlothian have the ability to develop local suppliers, sustainable local manufacturing and locally-owned and operated retail establishments — to achieve a balance between the somewhat fragile, potentially mercurial paradise at the crossroads, and an economy that is invested in the future of towns like Midlothian and its residents. To do so, you and the community of Midlothian need to be structurally empowered to carry on activities beyond the light duty of the Chesterfield County Economic Development Office. We need changes in the way that the federal government and federal regulations currently inhibit the development of small, local businesses. In short, we need to balance the natural advantages available to multinational corporations with a set of natural advantages that can be available to a community attempting to achieve economic self-reliance and sustainability.

Here, I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of showing you a weakness in our system, and a growing problem on our economic horizon. At my next stop, I hope to shed some light on some ways in which the federal government can begin to delegate some of its authority in such a way as to help communities develop through local capitalism, and can empower them to avoid the tragic Ladakhi result of “economic dependence, cultural rejection and environmental degradation.”

I thank you for listening, and I’ll be seeing you along the trail.


EXTERIOR DE LA IGLESIA CATÓLICA DEL ST. PETER, PLEASANTVILLE, NEW JERSEY – Como la muestra sobre el umbral allá dice, “Welcome” y “Bienvenidos.”

Ustedes pudo haber notado que tengo una vocal en el final de mi apellido. Un grupo de mis abuelos vino a este país de México enseguida después de la vuelta del siglo 20th; el otro grupo nacieron en Kansas e Illinois. Hablo inglés decente cuando la ocasión lo exige, pero hablo español muy mal porque mi abuelo rechazó dejó a sus niños hablar español en todos. Deseo hablar ustedes hoy, en español malo, como un “lapsed Latino,” y como un Americano.

Hay muchos de la charla sobre la inmigración estos días — reforma de la inmigración, la inmigración ilegal, una pared a lo largo de la frontera del sur de los Estados Unidos, inglés como la lengua oficial, etcétera y tan adelante. Es una edición muy emocional – no apenas para la gente que vive cerca de la frontera, pero por todas partes en este país. Iguale aquí en Pleasantville.

Puede ser que sorprenda a gente que vivo en California o Texas saberlo, pero aquí en Pleasantville, en New Jersey del sur, Latinos representa el cerca de 25% de la población. Y como miramos abajo del Pike aquí, excedente en Atlantic City, vemos las siluetas de los edificios donde muchos de ustedes trabajamos — en las cocinas y los casinos, y la limpieza fuera de los cuartos del hotel. Y al sur y al norte de aquí, no lejos ausentes, muchos de ustedes tienden a los céspedes de los cursos de golf.

Preocupar cosa sobre el discusión de la inmigración en este país es, como sucede a menudo en discusiones calentadas y emocionales, que ningún lado está diciendo qué las incomoda más. Los que gritan el más ruidoso sobre la inmigración ilegal pueden contener apenas su deseo de limitar la inmigración legal profundo, y su desdén para el multiculturalismo – la idea que un número de grupos culturales o religiosos distintos pudieron gozar de estado igual dentro de América. Alguna gente dice que el desea construir una pared a lo largo de la frontera de U.S.-Mexico para los propósitos de la seguridad. Ése es bullshit. Si desearan seguridad, también estarían clamoreando para una pared a lo largo de la frontera de U.S.-Canada, ¿no?

En el otro lado, muchos partidarios de “fronteras abiertas” ocultan el hecho de que desean no hacer caso de la inmigración ilegal porque da lugar a una abundancia del trabajo barato y inexperto. La existencia del trabajo barato es ciertamente un hecho que también revela la pregunta de las limitaciones de los recursos naturales de América, un otro efecto secreto de la inmigración. Pienso que solamente las personas mas ingenuas creen que la política de la inmigración es simplemente una pregunta de la actitud de América hacia derechos humanos.

Creo que la capacidad de controlar la entrada de extranjeros en un país es una característica esencial de la soberanía. Es el principio de base que permite a una nación definir las expectativas de la ciudadanía. Sin embargo, también creo que el “multiculturalismo” que es temido por los opositores de la inmigración no es tan muy diferente del “melting pot” que hizo nuestro país una presencia innovadora y resistente en el mundo durante el siglo 20th.

La teoría del “melting pot” de la inmigración americana era que la gente extranjera podría venir a este país en números restrictos; y sin requisitos educativos formales, asimilarían gradualmente en la sociedad americana en su propio paso — aprender la lengua inglesa y las derechas y obligaciones políticas americanas, con todo preservar a un cierto grado su cocina y costumbres nativos. El proceso de la asimilación no requirió ninguna intervención del gobierno.

Una de las razones que teoría del “melting pot” tenida éxito durante el siglo 19th y el vigésimo siglo temprano, sin embargo, era la existencia de comunidades transitorias vibrantes a través de las áreas metropolitanas importantes de los Estados Unidos. Sí, alguna gente llamó a tales comunidades “ghettos,” solamente tales “ghettos” también fueron unidos a los partidos políticos activos y a otras sociedades políticas que formaron la base de la fuerza política en América. Los grupos tales como Tammany Hall en New York City y otros artefactos del sistema del “ward heel,” con todas los defectos de tal sistema, invitaron a nuevos inmigrantes en la sociedad, dándoles una cierta capacidad al trabajo dentro de las filas de los ejércitos de la élite política, de expresar agravios y de jugar para el adelanto. Labor unions tenían un impacto similar en la asimilación de inmigrantes.

En América de hoy, no sólo la influencia de partidos políticos en el nivel de la vecindad tiene declinado perceptiblemente, sino que así que tiene la influencia de labor unions. De hecho, hay no solamente muy pocas comunidades transitorias a venir a la ayuda de los inmigrantes que desean al assmiliate y al avance en América, pero la comunidad sí mismo es una víctima de la vida suburbana en este país. Las ciudades grandes y a sus habitantes no hacen caso en gran parte a los políticos nacionales que saben que los votos y las donaciones de la campaña vienen de los suburbios.

Peor todavía, la política local ha sido robada de su significado por esos políticos patológicos en Washington. Actividad política local es ahora toda sino relegado a disputas sin contexto, decontextualized squabbles, sobre lo que dice en los libros de textos de nuestros niños, sobre las zonas de las propiedades inmobiliarias, y sobre cuántos cops vamos a poner en la calle. ¿Y qué todo ese producto? Como la cola que meneaba de un perro muy grande, salvaje y sucio, actividad política local produce las escuelas que están fallando a nuestros niños; decisiones de las zonas que producen áreas comerciales todos mezcladas que dividen a comunidades como la que usted ve cerca aquí en Tilton Road; y ningunas soluciones particulares al comportamiento criminal local.

Con todo en Washington, tales problemas se consideran sobre todo ser problemas locales, divorciados totalmente en sustancia de los problemas que el presidente y el congreso demandan dentro de su jurisdicción. Sometería que tales problemas son solamente problemas locales hasta el punto de los políticos de Washington hayan acortado las alas de ciudadanos interesados en nuestras vecindades para ejercitar la autodeterminación verdadera. El gobierno impotente produce resultados desconectados.

Nos hemos convertido así que separado de nuestra participación en gobierno americano que estamos teniendo apuro el confirmar de nuestra propia relación con nuestro país. ¿Es maravilla que el honduran recientemente llegado no puede hacer las cabezas o las colas? ¿Es maravilla que no hay deseo inmediato de aprender inglés?

Hay buenas razones de limitar el número de inmigrantes a los Estados Unidos — para la conservación de nuestros recursos naturales, y tener en cuenta la comodidad ordenada de la diversidad cultural mientras que preserva a nuestras instituciones políticas únicamente americanas, las que promueven independencia y tolerancia. Además, ha sido la política de los Estados Unidos para limitar la inmigración a través de mucha de nuestra historia. La limitación de la inmigración a 6.5% de la población del U.S. anualmente — levemente más que el porcentaje de inmigrantes como parte de la población del U.S. en 1980 — es un blanco razonable.

Sin embargo, como comentarista George Will ha precisado, muchas ciudades americanas han procurado abrazar a inmigrantes como los medios para el desarrollo económico. Como él observó con respecto a Pittsburgh,

Pittsburgh es no más larga una ciudad del acero. Su patrón más grande es la Universidad de Pittsburgh y de su centro médico. Pero como el resto de América, todavía necesita una infusión constante de los inmigrantes de los inmigrantes… va a adonde han ido otros inmigrantes de su país. Cuando es europea la inmigración parada, Pittsburgh no se convirtió en una destinación para los inmigrantes del latino america y de asia. Los americanos que se quejan por la inmigración no saben lo que sabe Pittsburgh: Todavía necesitamos a inmigrantes. Los necesitaremos siempre.

Por esta razón que supliría, supplement, la limitación de la inmigración con un programa homesteading del siglo 21st — proporcionando los micro-loans baratos y las concesiones a los inmigrantes tan bien como incentivos fiscales a los patrones — diseñé animar a inmigrantes que se muevan en las partes del país donde está el trabajo barato en la fuente corta para los trabajos que los americanos no realizarán — así disminuir la carga de la inmigración de Latino en el sudoeste Estados Unidos. El trabajo barato de inmigrantes legales podría, en hecho, producir un desarrollo económico más eficaz, especialmente en un mundo en el cual las demandas de la independencia de energía requerirán a consumidores comprar alimento localmente producido y productos localmente manufacturados.

Además, financiando de las actividades federales de la inmigración (honorarios, penas, etc.) será proporcionado a las comunidades apuntadas para ayudarles a llevar las cargas asociadas a ocuparse de la llegada de nuevos inmigrantes. Una comunidad puede decidir que poca acción es necesaria; o puede decidir a suplir los presupuestos locales del cuidado médico, del childcare o de la aplicación de ley; o puede decidir a proveer de la educación del civics y de la lengua para los adultos, directamente, o la ayuda de organizaciones caritativas. Tales medidas son importantes dentro de una sociedad en quien las comunidades transitorias no existan.

Mi propia predisposición pudo ser consolidar la educación bilingüe para ambos niños y adultos — pero comunidades se invitan para hacer lo que él necesita consolidar ellos mismos — socialmente, económicamente y éticomente. (Incidentemente, pienso que los americanos podrían estar parada mucho más la educación de la lengua. Ése es porqué cuando fijo estas observaciones en mi blog, las fijaré en español. Qué divertido!)

Igualmente importante es la necesidad de imponer penas costosas y sanciones del criminal en los patrones que emplean a trabajadores indocumentados, y de deportar puntualmente a las personas que no han entrado en el país legalmente. Ustedes pensarían que no sería necesario decir eso, sino que es necesario — para el motivo del éxito del siglo 21st “melting pot.” Puesto que ustedes viven dentro de una nación de recursos limitados, sé que ustedes entienden esto.

Es la naturaleza humana que cuando carecemos la potencia de tomar las decisiones para nosotros mismos sobre vida dentro de nuestras comunidades, tenemos un miedo exponencial mayor del desconocido. Los extranjeros, en detalle, han representado para los americanos, en términos mythological, el misterio más espantoso. Si podemos comenzar a reorganizar el gobierno de una manera que restaure potencia a las comunidades, mientras que en el mismo tiempo poniendo límites razonables y eficaces en la inmigración legal, distribuyendo los efectos de la inmigración a través de más tierra, y emprendiendo guerra en la inmigración ilegal … podemos apoyar el desarrollo económico alrededor del capitalismo natural y local, y nosotros podemos quizás comenzar a alterar las opiniones del gente que todavía teman el desconocido, de modo que puedan decir orgulloso y con seguridad, como la iglesia del St. Peter aquí, ambos “Welcome” y “Bienvenidos” a todos que vendrían vivir y trabajar.

Gracias por escuchar, y los veré a lo largo del camino.

EPHRATA, PENNSYLVANIA – I’d like to begin by asking you to join me in saluting those who have given their lives in the service of our country, both in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, those who were there and are now home, and those who remain there. As we are here in Pennsylvania today, I ask that you remember, in particular, three American men who died in Iraq last month: Specialist Camy Florexil of Philadelphia, who died in a roadside bombing near Baghdad; Specialist Zachary Clouser of Dover, who died in a roadside bombing in Adhamiya; and Sgt. 1st Class Raymond R. Buchan of Johnstown, who died in small arms fire in Ta’meem.

After World War I, when the British were attempting to create the nation of Iraq, they were cautioned by an American missionary. “You are flying in the face of four millenniums of history if you try to draw a line around Iraq and call it a political entity!” he said. Very quickly, the British figured out what the American missionary meant – when a provisional government attempted to assert its control over the people in the region, full-scale tribal revolts broke out throughout Mesopotamia. British army personnel were murdered, and a holy war against Britain was declared by the Shi’ites in Karbalah. On August 7, 1920, The Times of London asked, “[H]ow much longer are valuable lives to be sacrificed in the vain endeavour to impose upon the Arab population an elaborate and expensive administration which they never asked for and do not want?”

It wasn’t nationalism that caused the tribal revolts then, nor is it a desire to conquer some nation called Iraq that inspires them today. The leaders of the various tribes that make up the Iraqi population, then and now, thrive on anarchy and fanaticism, and are united only in seeing very clearly a big old red, white and blue bull’s eye on the backs of American troops and the “Iraqi nationalists” who support them. The only sense of nationalism that Iraq has ever enjoyed was the punitive nationalism of a totalitarian regime.  For almost 40 years, Saddam Hussein was Iraq; and before him, the face of Iraq was either a propped-up monarch or a military strongman. The notion that Americans would be greeted as liberators, and that from the outpouring of affection for America would grow a desire for a unified democratic nation, was a naïve notion from the beginning.

The U.S. must find its way out of Iraq.

The decision to enter Iraq was one driven by ideology, not necessity. Our country was ill-prepared for it, and frankly, and rather embarrassingly, we never got up to speed.

When one of those pathological mainstream presidential candidates has a good idea, my policy is to admit it. Democrat Joe Biden and Republican Tommy Thompson, who just terminated his own candidacy, each have some good ideas on Iraq. Joe Biden calls for a partition of Iraq into a rough confederation of Shi’ites, Sunnis and Kurds. He says that a centralized federal government of Iraq should remain in charge of border security and the distribution of oil revenues. Tommy Thompson says that oil revenues should be divided “in thirds among the national government, the provincial governments and individual Iraq citizens,” a sort of Alaskan revenue-sharing plan for Iraqi oil. I like what they say – give the three regions of Iraq as much autonomy as possible … tell them to form their own governments and keep us out of it… break the problem down into chewable bites … take the piss out of the ethnic and regional conflicts … give ordinary Iraqis a livelihood outside of the seductive economy of terror …

And like a fat boy getting off the see-saw, let’s stand up and take our leave, allowing al-Qaeda, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and the Mahdi Army to come crashing down on their collective asses, without a countervailing American ass to buoy their violent activities.

It is not a perfect solution. Certainly there will continue to be bloodshed in Iraq while the borders of the three semi-independent states of Mesopotamia take shape, but at least it needn’t be American blood that is spilled in some vain attempt to impose a government upon them that they haven’t asked for and do not want. Iran is smart enough to realize that it can waste a lot of time and resource trying to manage the remaining conflict – that was the job that its intelligence operatives like Ahmed Chalabi called upon the Americans to do for them, after all. The importance of al-Qaeda in Iraq within a Sunni-dominated sub-state will diminish over time, as will the activities of a Mahdi Army within a Shi-ite-dominated substate; al-Qaeda, in particular, thrives upon opposition to its aims, and its support will begin to shrink, as they have begun to in al-Anbar province already, with the press of day-to-day subsistence after the end of American occupation. Yes, strongmen will fill the voids — strongmen who will need to sell us oil in order to sustain their power — and something like stability will return to the region. Meanwhile, we can focus on U.S. energy independence; the only genuine way of achieving victory over Middle Eastern terrorism is to be strong enough to abandon the policy of U.S. intervention there that riles up the blood of future terrorists.

Iraq was a failed experiment in fighting a war on the cheap, and fighting to impose a democracy on people who are fundamentally disinterested in it. So let’s remember a few other things. War is a tool that we use to protect our nation and its interests. It is not a tool that is effective in the propagation of democracy where democracy has not previously existed. Doing that is like taking a sledgehammer to a hunk of raw granite and hoping that, in the end, it will turn out looking like Michelangelo’s Pieta. We should remember that waging war in order to promote democracy is bound to fail.

We should also remember that waging war without the full commitment of the American economy and the American people, from the very wealthy on down, is bound to fail. If we need to go to war, we need to use every available resource to do so; if our resolve is tested by that standard in any way, then perhaps we shouldn’t be going to war in the first place. As I have said before, if we had courageous leaders in the country, we would be fighting “a real war on terror … [with] a comprehensive strategy that includes a domestic economic plan oriented toward preparedness. They would level with us and actually require real sacrifices from all of us — on a national, equalitarian scale of the kind we witnessed during World War II,” instead of giving tax breaks to the wealthy and telling the rest of us to roll over and go back to sleep.

This has been the message of my campaign all along, and it will continue to be my message: in order for us to succeed at whatever important national objective may exist, we must all participate. We can’t just continue to sit on the couch, cursing at the news. Each of us has to examine our own role in providing moral authority within our communities, and we need to exercise courage in seizing the initiative. In the case of war — a war waged for all the right reasons — we need to seize the initiative to sacrifice all that our country needs in order for us to win. In doing so, we exercise the liberty that our soldiers die for, and we honor their memory.

I thank you for listening, and I’ll be seeing you along the trail.

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