Mike Gravel in Citizen Power, by Mike Gravel

On Principles & Values: Citizen Power: democracy requires participation

There can be no democracy unless it is a dynamic democracy. When our people cease to participate then all of us will wither in the darkness of decadence.
-- Saul Alinsky
"Bull, Senator, it won't work."

"Why not?"

"Because you're talking about something that doesn't exist. There's no such thing as 'citizen power.' Not for people like us." The black youth regarded me with open skepticism, challenging me to prove him wrong. The others nodded their agreement.

Sitting in Harlem in the middle of neglected America, I could readily understand why the idea of "citizen power" was greeted with contempt. What did that mean to these alienated young men & women?

"Wouldn't you like to change that?" I asked. "Be a PART of the government instead of just under it?"

"Sure. But how?"

"You get together and make up a program--that's all a people's platform is--and then you present it to all the candidates. You tell them that they either support IT or you won't support THEM."

Source: Citizen Power, by Sen. Mike Gravel, p. 1-4 Jan 1, 1972

On Government Reform: Start with public financing of campaigns

The public is not going to receive the responsiveness it wants from government until candidates are freed from turning to wealthy private sources for financing needed to win and from the pressures of having to stay in good favor with those same monied interests to remain in office.

A people's platform must insist on the public financing of elections. Only in this way can public officeholders be made responsible to the majority of citizens they supposedly represent.

Public subsidy of campaigns is not a new idea. In 1907 President Roosevelt recommended that political campaigns be paid for by public funds. His proposal was rejected in favor of a limitation and disclosure approach. However, limitation and disclosure are not sufficient by themselves. They may help control campaign costs and reveal where the money is raised, but they in no way address the problems of who puts up the money and what the contributor's pay off will be.

Source: Citizen Power, by Sen. Mike Gravel, p. 24-27 Jan 1, 1972

On Government Reform: Abolish voter registration as precondition for voting

The case for not ending voter registration rests is that election fraud will result. I call that proposition into question. In rural areas, registration was never required; many states were merely swept up in the registration crusade which was aimed at urban abuses. The experience of North Dakota, which has preserved its voter integrity for 20 years without registration, proves the feasibility of abolition.

States could continue to enroll voters just as they do now. However, if an individual fails to register before election day, he could sign an affidavit swearing he is a qualified voter in the precinct and that he has not voted elsewhere in the same election. He then would be allowed to vote, unless there was reason to doubt the sworn statement. In that instance, the voter would be required to cast a challenged ballot and before it could be counted, the same checks could be made as are used under present registration systems. In addition, election day should be declared a national holiday.

Source: Citizen Power, by Sen. Mike Gravel, p. 38-39 Jan 1, 1972

On Government Reform: Replace electoral college with direct election

Citizen participation could be enhanced by abolishing the electoral college system in favor of direct popular election. The argument of those who are opposed only reveals the extent to which equilibrium has become the fundamental value in our system. They prophesy catastrophe for the two-party system which. They see the end of the electoral college as heralding the demise of moderate governments achieved by the politics of coalition.

The much-touted interest in preserving consensus politics cannot be squared with the people's interest in free and public debate of genuinely alternative government actions. The people need representatives who will speak up for them in an adversary fashion against executive government, instead of politicians who subscribe to the philosophy of not rocking the boat in order to preserve their own power. Going along to get along hardly serves the public need for constructive political dialogue.

Source: Citizen Power, by Sen. Mike Gravel, p. 40-41 Jan 1, 1972

On Technology: Empower Congress to make independent scientific conclusions

Congress needs help if it is to perform its adversary function assigned by our forefathers. An Office of Scientific Assessment (OSA) should be established which would equip the Congress with an impressive array of scientists, engineers, and other specialists with the expertise to make independent scientific and technical inquiries and to examine whether or not the advice provided to Congress by the executive departments is politically self-serving, incomplete, or otherwise biased or unscientific.

Congress has no scientists at its own command and is, therefore, at a disadvantage whenever it attempts to question the administration's scientific advice. Congressional committees do hear testimony from so-called "scientific witnesses," but often these experts' "private" scientific research is funded by government grants administered by executive agencies. Obviously, these scientists do not fail to notice which side their bread is buttered on.

Source: Citizen Power, by Sen. Mike Gravel, p. 44 Jan 1, 1972

On Budget & Economy: Make Office of Scientific Assessment to avoid cost overruns

An Office of Scientific Assessment (OSA) should be established which would equip the Congress to make independent scientific and technical inquiries and to examine whether or not the advice provided to Congress by the executive departments is politically self-serving, incomplete, or otherwise biased or unscientific. Congress needs help if it is to perform its adversary function assigned by our forefathers.

Independent advice, before the money is spent, would help, for example, eradicate most of the cost overruns which scandalize the American public. Elected officials look good bird-dogging agencies and exposing cost overruns, but I feel that an elected official should eliminate the problem ahead of time if possible. My goal is to siphon out the surprises before the money is spent, not afterwards. With billions of dollars at stake each year, Congress should have the appropriate tools to assure the people the job is being done right to begin with.

Source: Citizen Power, by Sen. Mike Gravel, p. 44-45 Jan 1, 1972

On War & Peace: US creates threats to our own security by acting out of fear

In the eyes of the rest of the world, this country has shown itself to be one of the major problems of world order. Our desire to use power where and when we please has made us one of the world's most dangerous nations. I am not saying that other nations are more peace-loving. It is only that we have the power to be a danger to world peace with no constraints on our nation's leaders but their own moral judgment.

In Vietnam we have seen that we create the threats to our own security, through our own actions & the commitments our leaders make. By no stretch could the type of government in power in the southern half of a tiny country halfway around the world affect the security of the US or any of its vital interests. By losing sight of the negligible risks to ourselves, by permitting commitments to be made in our name, we became militarily involved. We were our own worst enemy. This is the ultimate threat to the security of a nation, when its own people no longer have confidence in its government.

Source: Citizen Power, by Sen. Mike Gravel, p. 49 Jan 1, 1972

On Homeland Security: Government secrecy creates 1984-style state

During the past quarter century we have witnessed a growing separation of the state apparatus--including the presidency, the Department of Defense, the CIA, FBI, the Department of State, and associated agencies--from the people it is supposed to be protecting. It is axiomatic that the custodians of the state will attempt to preserve it and to advance its interests. But when the state surrounds itself with the structures of secrecy, creates a loyalty system to ensure that those who serve it possess its values, and maintains a surveillance network to detect and apprehend citizens who oppose its purposes, then we are far along toward a 1984-style state when which suppresses citizens and only serves its own interests.

In such a system, policy-makers act on the international scene to advance their own interests and those of the state, rather than those of the citizens they are supposed to represent or the people in other lands affected by their policies.

Source: Citizen Power, by Sen. Mike Gravel, p. 51 Jan 1, 1972

On Foreign Policy: Replace intervention with participation, not isolation

The opposite of our present interventionism is not isolationism, but a new internationalism which embodies the same kind of participation as other, smaller nations have engaged in for decades--diplomatic discourse, active cooperation & assistance through the UN, trade & travel, and other forms of cooperation.

Ironically, it has been the so-called "internationalists" who have isolated Americans, deciding for our allies what their military postures should be, setting up & toppling non-conforming client states, and forbidding travel, trade, & even diplomatic representation with many communist countries.

The new internationalism will incorporate military nonintervention, the tolerance of revolutionary politics, and a reassessment of the inequalities of enjoyment of the planet's resources, which are so vastly, and precariously, in our favor for this historical moment.

We must demonstrate renewed respect for international law & institutions, as our best hope for creating the conditions for peace.

Source: Citizen Power, by Sen. Mike Gravel, p. 56-58 Jan 1, 1972

On Foreign Policy: US should empower UN with stand-by peace force

The US has systematically undercut the power of the UN and used it for our own purposes. We use our influence to secure a UN cover for our intervention in Korea. We deliberately ignored efforts by the UN to produce a peaceful settlement in Vietnam.

The US, as the most powerful country, must now lead the way in building up the power and capacity of the UN to act effectively in areas of conflict.

In the long-run, I believe the UN must develop into the primary peace-keeping force on earth, and we should take the lead in this development.

A more powerful UN must grow slowly, applying its influence initially in regions where the conflicts of interest are limited and where the parties involved want to avoid war and seek peace. Beyond this, it can apply sanctions in cases of colonial oppression to permit independence movements to achieve legitimate ends. And it can maintain a permanent stand-by peace force, to serve as a presence whenever armed conflict threatens.

Source: Citizen Power, by Sen. Mike Gravel, p. 58-59 Jan 1, 1972

On Homeland Security: Cut military budget in half--we don't need such "readiness"

This country has been maintaining its military forces on a wartime basis since the late 1940s. Our overseas forces are ready to move instantly to repel an attack, and the "strategic reserves" in the continental US are ready for deployment overseas within 30 days. The difficulty is that neither we nor our allies believe a war is imminent.

Those who refuse to reexamine our purposes in keeping this vast army deployed around the world must accept responsibility for the snowballing disintegration of our armed forces--disintegrating as their reason for coming together disappears. I believe our military budget need be only half as large as it is to achieve the valid purposes for which we need military force.

The actual defense of the US takes only a small portion of what is called the "defense" budget. We are in the fortunate position of requiring almost no defense at all from conventional attack on our shores. The cost of operating our strategic forces can and should be drastically reduced.

Source: Citizen Power, by Sen. Mike Gravel, p. 76-82 Jan 1, 1972

On Jobs: Citizens Wage: individuals share in nation's total affluence

For a nation supposedly devoted to the ideas of democracy, it is a curious fact that the most important aspect of daily life in America--the aspect of work--is almost totally removed from any association with democracy.

The question a people's platform must address is how every American can participate in the economy and obtain from it the basic financial security which is their share of this material affluence. I believe it should be done through a Citizen's Wage, to which everyone is entitled at birth and which is available to the worker and the poor alike. The Citizen's Wage should be seen as a dividend from the nation's total affluence and as a reflection of each person's right to economic security. The amount paid to the individual should be geared realistically to the level of income needed to maintain a minimum, decent standard of living. The Citizen's Wage should also become an effective tool for the long-run economic improvement of our entire society.

Source: Citizen Power, by Sen. Mike Gravel, p. 91-93 Jan 1, 1972

On Welfare & Poverty: Citizens Wage: $5000 income from feds to banish poverty

[We should institute a] Citizen's Wage, to which everyone is entitled at birth and which is available to the worker and the poor alike. The amount paid to the individual should maintain a minimum, decent standard of living. The Citizen's Wage should also become an effective tool for the long-run economic improvement of our entire society.

The basic Citizen's Wage would be $5,000 a year for a family of four, [with a sliding scale formula so that] anyone earning more than $10,000 would no longer receive the Citizen's Wage [Note: in 2007 dollars, the Citizen's Wage would be about $20,000 a year, phasing out at an income level of about $40,000 -- ed.].

The intent of this plan is simple: to banish poverty and financial insecurity. One could say that this plan comes down to a form of guaranteed income.

Presently we are spending $50 billion per year on welfare and Social Security programs which are totally inadequate. The Citizen's Wage would cost only an additional $15 billion.

Source: Citizen Power, by Sen. Mike Gravel, p. 91-95 Jan 1, 1972

On Welfare & Poverty: Workfare is morally repugnant; why not "wealthwork"?

Our present attitude toward the poor, especially those receiving welfare, contributes to their alienation. This can be seen in the "workfare" philosophy. The program requires welfare mothers of children over 3 years old to go to work [on the theory that] any amount of pay is better than none. The imposition of this discipline strikes me as highly singular, if not outright discriminatory. If work is so necessary to our national fiber, why not insist upon a program of "wealthwork" and force the nonworking affluent to get jobs?

I am trying to point out the dual standard which applies to the poor. We can compel the poor mothers to work because the government supports them. On the other hand, we don't seem to care about the fellow who no longer has to work because he has cleaned up on subsidies or other government largesse.

The whole idea of forcing welfare mothers to work is morally and philosophically repugnant. It's a chain-gang tactic, illustrating how we keep the poor prisoners of poverty.

Source: Citizen Power, by Sen. Mike Gravel, p.107-108 Jan 1, 1972

On Corporations: Purpose of economy is to meet people's needs, not business

It is all too easy to forget the fundamental purpose of an economic system; it is to satisfy the material needs of the people. It is not to "play for real" an elaborate game of Monopoly where the object is to own all property and impoverish all other "players." From society's point of view the object is to produce an adequate amount of things people need at an accept level of quality, at prices they can afford, and with the widest possible availability and minimum environmental degradation.

Measured against these tests, the US economy scores high on only one point--it produces a lot. On grounds other than straight production, our economy is seriously out of whack with the needs of the people.

The government decision-making community, which is supposed to look out for the interests of the people, has historically been "pro-business-corporation." As a result the entire system is badly skewed against the consumer in our laws, our institutions, and our culture.

Source: Citizen Power, by Sen. Mike Gravel, p.119-121 Jan 1, 1972

On Tax Reform: Less regressive tax on poor; more capital gains on rich

The inequities of today's tax system rob the lower & middle income citizens, while favoring the rich & supporting huge corporations, whose owners are taxed at only a fraction of what they should pay. People with annual earnings below $2,000 pay about 40% of their income in taxes of all kinds. People earning below $50,000 pay about 30%. Only for persons earning over $50,000 does the effective tax rate begin to rise, but even then only to 45%. We find the burden of taxes falling just as heavily on the poor as on the well-to-do, partly because everybody has to pay state, local & federal taxes that tend to be highly regressive--sales, gasoline, personal property, real estate, & social security taxes--and partly because of the loopholes built into the present federal income tax system.

The largest loophole is the break given the rich who have capital gains income. Today such income is taxed at a much lower rate than earned income. Capital gains should be treated as ordinary income & taxed accordingly.

Source: Citizen Power, by Sen. Mike Gravel, p.131 Jan 1, 1972

On Health Care: We have impressive resources but need delivery to people

Despite impressive medical resources & progress in eliminating diseases & prolonging life, we do not have a health care delivery system. We have no authority in prescribing how our health needs will be met, even though we pay the bills. This basic fault, more than any other factor, is responsible for soaring costs & the tremendous disparity of care.

Comprehensive care that provides for early detection of disease is unavailable. There are not enough facilities in the right places. There is no effort to assure that health problems will be checked in the whole population.

A fundamental principle of a people's platform must be to establish citizen control over the public and private medical-industrial complex. A national health administration must coordinate efforts with local health districts. The concept of a national health service is not new. It has worked successfully in England & other nations. The difficulties & dislocations will be great in implementing it here, but the step must be taken.

Source: Citizen Power, by Sen. Mike Gravel, p.144-155 Jan 1, 1972

On Education: Vouchers are innovative & imaginative--let's experiment

Unless the educational system is improved to meet the needs of today's changing society, we shall have to consider the implementation of new methods. One possibility is the voucher system soon to be tried on a limited experimental basis. Under this proposal, parents would be given vouchers which could be used to send their children to any school of their choice, public or private, or, if they prefer, to engage in specialized education activities such as apprenticeships. The cash value of each voucher would approximate the amount spent on the education of one child each year by the local school district. The system does offer the flexibility and the element of individual choice so often lacking in our educational institutions. However, many contend it would undermine the public school system & could be used to perpetuate segregation. Nevertheless, it is an innovative concept, something found all too seldom in education, and for that reason it merits further study & serious consideration.
Source: Citizen Power, by Sen. Mike Gravel, p.159-160 Jan 1, 1972

On Education: 25% bonus for teachers in hardship areas

Needy children are getting the short end of the stick when it comes to the quality of instruction. It is understandable that the most experienced, best qualified teachers would choose to pursue their profession in wealthy neighborhoods. Yet, it is the not-so-safe neighborhoods, the not-so-fine schools, and the not-so-advantaged students which most need skilled teachers. The long-range solution is obvious: eradicate urban slums and rural blight. In the meantime, however, I proposed a federally supported supplementary salary program to reward those men and women who elect to teach in educationally deprived areas. Surely if we can pay government and military personnel as much as a 25% bonus for serving in so-called "hardship" areas, we can do as much for teachers here at home. Such a program would enable financially struggling districts to compete more favorably with their wealthier counterparts in recruiting the talent to provide the quality of instruction needed by youth.
Source: Citizen Power, by Sen. Mike Gravel, p.166-167 Jan 1, 1972

On Energy & Oil: Nuclear energy is unwise because of nuclear waste

Coal supplies may last years, but the problems of strip-mining and CO2 pollution are serious. We had better develop other sources of energy or face the prospect of lights that go out or pollution which threatens life.

Our government is pursuing nuclear power. It seems to me we are not thinking about the long-range environmental hazards as we plunge ahead.

It is folly to force us down a road that holds grave potential for contaminating our entire planet. The by-product of this process is not a "little" harmful radio-activity from "burning" atomic fuel as the AEC would have us believe. The amount of radioactive waste, which is small only if measured by the space it fills, is already enormous if measured by the billions of people it could kill

No one knows what will result from all the radioactive waste that has been dumped in the oceans and is still being dumped by other nuclear powers. And that is the point: we will not find out until it is too late--after the radioactivity has escaped.

Source: Citizen Power, by Sen. Mike Gravel, p.177-179 Jan 1, 1972

On Crime: More jails don't cut crime--must address poverty instead

Russell G. Oswald, Commission of Corrections of NY State, pinpointed the problem: "Society has done damn little in ending poverty illiteracy that provide the seeds of unrest and problems that lead people to prisons."

The lesson is clear. More police, more jails, more tough talk will not help. None of these traditionally instinctive reactions to crime can stem the rising tide. So long as injustice and inequity in larger society exist on the gross scale that they do today, all the reasoning and rhetoric and police clubs in the world will not stop the have-nots from going after the goods they seek through the only avenue they feel is open to them--crime. So long as we delay the basic reforms, that long will our cities continue to half-exist, in fear, behind locked doors.

Source: Citizen Power, by Sen. Mike Gravel, p.196-197 Jan 1, 1972

On Crime: Stop punishment for victimless crimes: drugs, sex & gambling

Because so much crime is the product of people who were in prison, an obvious means of reducing crime is to drastically reduce our prison population. That can be done, at no danger to society, almost overnight. How? By eliminating a whole host of common social activities from the law's list of "crimes."

Common activities for which we now punish people--so-called "victimless-crimes" because they affect no one but the participant--include drinking, prostitution, gambling, homosexuality, & use of certain drugs. What is the point of jailing people for these practices? What more towering hypocrisy, what more potent breeder of total disrespect for the law can there be than these "crimes," which are practiced by millions of citizens, but for which only a few are singled out for punishment?

Victimless crimes are a peril to our health only in so far as they are classified as crimes. Some 51% of criminal arrests in 1970 were for victimless crimes. We could very nearly empty our jails by abolishing them.

Source: Citizen Power, by Sen. Mike Gravel, p.214-215 Jan 1, 1972

On Homeland Security: National security is no need for government secrecy

There must be an end to national decision-making in secret and policy implementation by executive fiat. This requires easy access to virtually all information by the public and, with rare and defined exceptions, the removal of all limits on the information available to its elected representatives. The government's shrill claims of a "need" for secrecy must give way to the higher priority of the citizen's right to know.

At present, the scales are tipped heavily in favor of the government. Information is systematically classified and withheld from the public for vaguely determined reasons of "national security" and denied to Congress by the imperious assertion of "executive privilege." These two ridiculously flexible tools of secrecy provide self-appointed decision-makers with a protective shield against public accountability.

Source: Citizen Power, by Sen. Mike Gravel, p.223-224 Jan 1, 1972

The above quotations are from Citizen Power
A People's Platform,
by Mike Gravel (published 1972).
Click here for a profile of Mike Gravel.
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