http://www.whitneyforgov.org


Welcome

I’m Rich Whitney, Green Party candidate for Governor of Illinois. There are many problems facing our state, but the budget crisis, and the related problem of school funding is the number one issue facing the people of Illinois today – because until we come to grips with the flaws in our tax system, our system of school funding and the structural deficit, it will be very difficult to tackle any of our other pressing problems- such as rising energy prices and the need to develop new sources of energy.

Our present tax system relies too heavily on property taxes to fund our schools and is one of the most unfair systems in the nation, taxing lower- and middle-income workers at more than twice the rate as the extremely wealthy. I am campaigning for a comprehensive tax reform, based on House Bill 750, which would make our tax system more progressive, ease the burden on lower and middle-income working people, while raising enough revenue to fund our schools at the recommended foundation level, adequately fund our colleges and human services, pay health-care providers on time and meet – rather than cheat our pension obligations. This plan would also provide mandatory property tax abatements of 20-25 percent per school district, so that homeowners and farmers will finally get some badly needed property tax relief.

In this race, I am the only candidate who is standing up for the people – running on a platform of clean government, clean energy, universal health care through a single-payer system and a commitment to full employment at a living wage. Green Party candidates do no accept corporate campaign contributions – we cannot be bought or sold and we are serious about fighting for government of, by and for the people. Please support real change in this election and vote for me, Rich Whitney, on November 7th.


Rich Whitney's Biography

Rich WhitneyRich Whitney, 51, is an attorney and partner in the Carbondale law firm of Speir and Whitney. Born in Connecticut, he received his Bachelor's Degree in telecommunications at Michigan State University in 1977. He has long been politically active in support of the labor, environmental, civil rights, women's and antiwar movements.

A magna cum laude graduate of Southern Illinois University School of Law, he now practices in the areas of employment law, civil rights and criminal defense. In collaboration with former SIU law professor Donald W. Garner, Whitney was involved in nationwide legal battles to regulate tobacco advertising, on behalf of the public health community, including the American Medical Association, the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association and Public Citizen. In his legal practice, he has also taken on challenging and sometimes controversial cases to protect First, Fourth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, combating political patronage in employment, harassment and unjust firings of coal miners, prison employees, police officers and many other workers.

Whitney is also one of the founding members of the Illinois Green Party and wrote a good portion of the Party's platform. In 2002, he ran for state representative for the Party in the 115th District, winning enough votes to make the party a legally “established” party in the District. He ran again in 2004, maintaining its established status and increasing his vote total to over 3,800 in a largely conservative District. Meanwhile, he has continued to be actively involved in local political battles to protect the environment, resist the construction of another Wal-Mart in Southern Illinois that will result in urban sprawl and oppose the Iraq War/occupation. He also has been active in his local ACLU and NAACP. He is a proud member and supporter of Voices for Illinois Children and the Midwest High Speed Rail Association.


Blagojevich Is Gambling on Your Child’s Education

Jan. 13, 2006

Three recent news stories have highlighted the huge problems with the education system in Illinois: Our state’s schools, overall, are badly funded, with record levels of inequality, and, not surprisingly, are performing poorly. But instead of responding with a sound plan to address the problem, Governor Rod Blagojevich predictably has come up with another band-aid – relying on more gambling to finance school construction. Specifically, breaking his promise not to expand gambling in the State, he is now looking to permit the State lottery program to begin running electronic Keno games in taverns and restaurants statewide.

“Rod Blagojevich is trying to fix our increasingly bankrupt schools and state budget by bankrupting more low-income workers who are susceptible to the temptations of gambling,” says Green Party gubernatorial candidate Rich Whitney. Whitney has long opposed legalized gambling, on the ground that it preys especially on the poor and the desperate, and that it brings ruin and misery to far more working class families than the few who luck out.

The news that Blagojevich is looking to Keno as his latest “quick fix” scheme to shore up the State’s increasingly shaky budget follows two recently released studies that have once again called attention to the dismal state of Illinois schools.

One study, conducted by Quality Counts 2006, published in the current issue of Education Week magazine, gives Illinois an overall grade of C+ but graded Illinois a D+ in school funding.

This follows the 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) report, released in October 2005 by the U.S. Department of Education. The NAEP, sometimes called the “nation's report card,” is a national, standardized assessment based on regular testing of a sample of fourth and eighth grade students in math and reading. While the latest results show gains at the national level, Illinois was one of the many states that did not see such progress. The overall average score for Illinois fourth and eighth graders in reading and math did not show significant gains from the 2003 NAEP results.

Further, the 2005 NAEP results show that Illinois continues to have some of the worst achievement gaps in the country and has not succeeded in narrowing them. The achievement gap between poor students and non-poor students in fourth grade math is the largest in the nation. In reading, the gap is the third biggest in the country. The story is no better for eighth graders, where there is the second largest gap in math and eighth largest in reading. The sizes of these gaps are not significantly different from those found in the last nation's report card in 2003.

These gaps are not a result of high achievement by non-poor students. They primarily reflect the extremely low achievement of poor students in Illinois. For instance, the scores of poor fourth graders in Illinois make the list of the ten worst scores for poor students in the nation.

The achievement gap in Illinois is not surprising, considering the spending gap among school districts in Illinois. Depending upon how it is measured, Illinois has either the highest or second-highest school inequality in the United States. The average low-poverty school district spent almost $2,500 more pupil than the average high-poverty district, reflecting the second largest funding gap in the nation. In 2003-04, the highest spending school district in Illinois spent $19,361 more per pupil than the lowest spending school district, increasing the gap by $4,000 compared to the year before.

Both the poor performance of Illinois schools and their rampant inequality are due to our State government’s failure to provide adequate education funding for basic school expenses and our State’s overreliance on property taxes for school funding. The Education Funding Advisory Board (EFAB) determines a recommended per-pupil minimum funding level (or foundation level) by examining the resources used at fiscally efficient, high-performing schools where at least two-thirds of the students meet the state's learning standards. In April 2005, EFAB increased the recommended foundation level for the 2005-06 school year to $6,405 per pupil. Yet, the state's foundation level for the 2005-06 school year is over $1,200 per pupil short of this recommended level. This lack of State support for education places an overwhelming burden on local communities to finance education, with local property taxpayers providing 62 percent of funding for school districts. Typically, communities with the greatest needs have the fewest resources upon which to draw. Schools on the state's academic watch list have considerably higher rates of poverty and lower property wealth, as determined by equalized assessed value (EAV) per pupil, than the state average. Due to their relatively smaller property tax bases, these communities have higher tax rates than the state average. Despite these high tax rates, they struggle to generate adequate revenues, and spend less per pupil than the state average. Thus, the school districts with the greatest academic needs and highest poverty lack the resources to invest in programs that can help close the achievement gap.

Meanwhile this system imposes a property-tax burden in Illinois that is about twenty percent above the national average, imposing an unjust burden on working and middle-class homeowners and on our farmers.

Both the problems and their causes are nothing new – although they are growing worse. Yet Rod Blagojevich hasn’t lifted a finger to remedy this problem, even though a few members of his own party have come up with a reasonable plan – House Bill 750 – for shifting the tax burden from local property taxes to the state income tax. Leading House Republicans are also opposing the bill and the Republican Party was equally culpable for failing to address the education crisis in Illinois when it was in power.

This longstanding bi-partisan failure demonstrates the need to bring new leadership to the State of Illinois – through a new party of the people, the Green Party. The two parties that are bought and controlled by corporate money don’t want to adequately fund our schools (or provide numerous other services needed to serve the public good) because they are more concerned with protecting the wealth of their benefactors by keeping their tax burden low than they are with serving the needs of the vast majority, the working people of this state, from the poorest to the middle class. Only the Green Party and candidates like Rich Whitney can be counted on to serve the people’s interest – because they are organized around the party’s principles and values, and they refuse all corporate donations as a matter of principle. For a commitment to quality schools for all, support Rich Whitney for Governor!


How We Can Win Health Care for All

The United States is the only industrialized country in the world that does not guarantee health coverage for its population.

The U.S. spends far more on health care per person than any other country in the world – in fact more than twice as much as the average for other rich countries. We have the best technology and certainly among the finest physicians. Yet we are not getting our money's worth in terms of good health.

The United States ranks near the bottom of the industrialized world in life expectancy, infant mortality, and other standard measures of health. The World Health Organization ranks the United States 37th in overall quality of health-care performance. No wonder, since so many don't have health-care coverage at all and millions more have inadequate coverage.

The situation is growing worse. Double-digit increases in health care costs are leading more employers to drop health insurance coverage for workers or their family members, and to raise costs for those who keep coverage. According to one recent report, “health insurance premiums for workers are rising around three times faster than their wages, and health costs eat up a quarter of earnings for more than 14 million Americans.” This survey of 35 states found that health insurance premiums rose by nearly 36 percent between 2000 and 2004, while average earnings rose only 12 percent. It added that “Family health premiums paid by employers and workers rose from $7,028 in 2000 to $9,320 in 2004. The average amount paid by workers for this coverage rose from $1,433 to $1,947 during that period.”

Thus it's no surprise that the number of people without insurance or with inadequate insurance is rising rapidly. Here in Illinois, we have about 1.7 million uninsured, and about twice that number, 3.5 million, are uninsured during some part of the year. Eighty percent of the uninsured are working people and their dependents.

Even those who have insurance are feeling the impact of rising costs. Employers across the country are passing on rising health care costs by forcing workers to accept pay cuts to keep their health care coverage and to pick up more of the cost of their health insurance. Millions of workers have to pay much of the cost of their insurance premium out of their own pocket, and often have to pay the entire cost of insuring their spouse or children. Increasingly, they have large co-payments and deductibles that still leave them stuck with big medical bills. With out-of-pocket expenses already averaging almost $1,000 per person each year (and, as just shown, nearing $2,000 per worker per year), it should come as no surprise that health care expenses are the number one cause of skyrocketing personal bankruptcy rates in this country.

With health care costs projected to more than double over the next decade:

Studies show that when workers lose their jobs, the prospect of getting another job with comparable health insurance is bleak – especially for the tens of millions of workers with preexisting health conditions. And in a system in which health-care coverage depends upon employment, the rising cost of health care will encourage more companies to use part-time and temporary workers to avoid having to provide benefits.

Why is this happening? And what can be done about it?

As to why, health care is the most profitable industry in the nation and it is perhaps the most shameless example of unbridled corporate greed in the United States. In the guise of cost-containment, it redistributes resources from sick people and their care-givers to wealthy businessmen and shareholders.

Our health care system is also enormously wasteful. Every year, hundreds of billions of dollars of health spending gets wasted paying the administrative costs of a fragmented and inefficient private health insurance system. Most private insurers are run for profit. In addition, the top executives in the insurance industry often pull down annual salaries that run into the millions, or even tens of millions. The private profits and the huge CEO salaries necessarily comes out of the pocket of patients and/or employers.

In addition, the web of private insurers creates a huge amount of unnecessary paperwork and bureaucracy. Insurers make money by not paying bills. Their profits rise when they can find ways to avoid paying bills, passing them on to either the government, other insurers, or to you, the patients. As a result, the administrative costs of the private health insurance system are almost ten times as great (per dollar amount of health-care payouts) as the administrative costs of the Medicare system. Or, to use another point of comparison, our nation spends over 31 cents of every health-care dollar on administrative costs, while Canada – which provides high quality health care to all of its citizens, through a single-payer, government-insured system – spends only 16.7 cents per dollar on such costs.

The huge gap in administrative costs between the U.S. and Canada arises from their differing mechanisms of paying for health care. While Canada has a single insurance plan, or “single-payer”, in each province, that pays the bills for everyone, the U.S. has a complex and fragmented payment structure built around thousands of different insurance plans, each with its own regulations on coverage, eligibility, and documentation.

Functions essential to private insurance but absent in public programs – such as underwriting, marketing, and corporate services – account for about two-thirds of private insurers' overhead. In addition, private insurers have incentives to erect administrative hurdles – by complicating and stalling payment they can hold premiums longer, boosting their interest income. Such hurdles also discourage some patients and providers from pursuing claims.

The waste that results from the system of private insurers is even larger than just the difference in administrative costs. The efforts of private insurers to avoid paying claims force hospitals, doctors' offices, and other health care providers to spend hundreds of billions of dollars dealing with paperwork from the insurance industry.

A fragmented payment structure is inherently more expensive than a single payer system. For insurers, it means the duplication of claims processing facilities and reduced insured-group size, which increases overhead. Fragmentation also raises costs for providers, who deal with multitudes of different insurance plans — one study pointed out that there are at least 755 insurance plans in the City of Seattle alone. This means providers must determine each patient's insurance coverage and eligibility for a particular service, and keep track of varying co-payments, referral networks, approval requirements and formulas. In contrast, Canadian physicians send virtually all bills to a single insurer using a simple billing form or computer program, and may refer patients to any colleague or hospital.

The multiplicity of insurers also precludes paying hospitals on a lump sum, or global-budgeted basis as in Canada. Global budgets eliminate most billing, and simplify internal accounting since costs and charges need not be attributed to individual patients and insurers.

Little wonder, then, that the Canadian single-payer health system is better at controlling health-care inflation. Health expenditures in the U.S. are currently rising three times as rapidly as the U.S. Gross National Product; in Canada they are rising at a rate only slightly greater than growth in the Gross National Product.

In sum, a poorly regulated, corporate-dominated for-profit health care system eliminates choice, erodes care, increasingly sticks you with the bill anyway, and inflates administrative costs while boosting profits and CEO compensation.

While the costly administration of the insurance industry is one of the biggest single sources of waste in the U.S. health care system, it is not the only one. The United States also spends far more on drugs each year – more than $200 billion in 2004 – than any other country in the world. Drug prices are the most rapidly growing health care expense. Drugs are projected to cost the country almost $520 billion annually by 2013, more than $1,700 per person.

There is no reason that drugs have to cost this much. With few exceptions, drugs are cheap to produce and would sell for a low price in a competitive market. Drugs are only expensive because the U.S. government grants the pharmaceutical industry unrestricted patent monopolies. These patent monopolies allow drug companies to charge as much as they want, without fear that competitors in the market will undercut their prices. The United States is the only country in the world that gives the industry unrestricted patent monopolies. As a result of these unrestricted patent monopolies, people in the United States pay twice as much for their drugs as do people in Canada or other rich counties. Some drugs sell for prices in the United States that are three or four times as high as the price that the same drug – subject to the same quality and safety standards – sells for in other rich countries.

This, unfortunately, is a problem, or failure, of national policy that will mostly have to be solved at the national level, notwithstanding our Governor's current attempts to challenge the federal government on it. So there's not much I can propose on that account, except to say that the we could improve our ability to use our State government to negotiate a price with the industry if we had a single-payer system.

Clearly, a single-payer health-care system would seem to have tremendous advantages over the present system. But I'm sure most of us have heard common objections to this idea:

  1. This is “socialized medicine.” Do we really want the government in charge of health care?
  2. People in Canada have rationing and have long waiting periods. Some Canadians come to the U.S. to get faster treatment, so their system can't be all that good.
  3. Maybe this would be a good idea on a national scale but it will not be feasible for a single state like Illinois to adopt such a plan; and
  4. This will drive our taxes up.

Let's address these in turn.

First, a single-payer health care plan is not the same as “socialized medicine.”Government is not going to be delivering the care. It's going to pay for it. Your doctors, other health professionals and hospitals will remain private, just as now. The medical decisions are left to the doctor and patient, and you have your choice of doctors, unlike the lack of choice that many people have now. A government health-care agency will perform functions of health planning, creating an overall budget, making budgetary decisions and negotiating reimbursement rates with doctors and hospitals. It will be like any other agency that oversees a public service. Because it is a public agency, problems will be aired in public. Nothing will be hidden or swept under the rug. The agency will be accountable to the people, in contrast to the lack of accountability in our health care now.

Second, as to rationing and waiting periods in Canada, “single payer” does not mean that our system would have to emulate Canada's system in every respect. Notions of rationing in Canada are highly exaggerated. There are problems with some services in Canada, depending on which province you live in. For example, some shortages exist in radiation treatments for some cancers. However, Canadians with end-stage renal disease, for example, receive more kidney transplants on average than U.S. citizens do. U.S. citizens receive more procedures than Canadians, but Canadians receive more overall care – more testing, more evaluation by physicians, more overall health services than Americans do. (JAMA, 1996;275:1410.)

Also, keep in mind Canada spends one half what we spend per person. A single-payer system does not dictate how much we spend. And if we kept spending twice as much as Canada (on actual health-care services, not waste) we would not experience the same shortages.

In other words, it's a matter of public will, or you get what you pay for. What is actually happening in some provinces of Canada is a systematic attack by the right wing to underfund public health care in order to let the forces of privatization and corporate greed get their foot in the door – much like the right wing in this country has systematically underfunded public education in order to push their agenda of cutting taxes for the rich and push privatization in education. First they cut the budget, then they turn around and say, “Aha! See, government programs don't work – we need to turn this over to private business.” And unfortunately, some voters, some of the time, fall for it. And then you end up with the worst of both worlds, publicly subsidized profiteering.

But it doesn't have to be that way. The experience of other nations – not just Canada – proves that when you keep progressive-minded people in office, single-payer health care can work, and work well.

If comparisons with Canada are troubling, think of Medicare instead. Despite some recent controversial tinkering with Medicare, most objective observers would have to agree that Medicare has been a successful positive example of a government program that works and works rather well. The administrative overhead for Medicare is literally nearly 10 times cheaper, per health-care dollar, than the administrative overhead of private insurance plans. A single-payer system is like Medicare for everyone, which does kind of make sense, since the elderly are not the only people in our society who get sick.

Well, then, if we can't wait for universal health care in the United States, is it feasible to have a single-payer plan in Illinois?

Assuming that our states can be as efficient at administering health-care as the Canadian provinces, one recent study in the International Journal of Health Services showed that states like Illinois would save more than enough to fund universal coverage without any increase in total health spending.

In Illinois, for example, the administrative savings alone – about $12.3 billion – would be equivalent to $7,362 per year per uninsured resident, clearly more than enough to cover their health-care costs.

What does this mean? We could provide quality health-care for all Illinois residents – better than what the overwhelming majority are getting now – and the amount of tax revenue needed to cover it would be less than what most insured residents are paying now in insurance premiums, not to mention co-pays and deductibles.

The details of how it would work in Illinois have not yet been worked out because our government has not yet seen fit to commission a study on single-payer in Illinois. However, the State of Vermont did a study on how it could work in that state and the findings were very eye-opening.

Under the Vermont proposal, public funds now used for government programs (Medicare, Medicaid, etc.) would be folded into the unified system. A payroll tax and an income tax would replace all insurance premiums and deductibles. A payroll tax of 5.8 percent and an income tax of 2.9 percent would be adequate to fund the system. The annual cost to employers would be about $1,450 per worker, far less than the cost of insurance premiums.

Under the model studied, there would be no premiums or deductibles to collect and administer except for a $10 co-pay for most services. Any benefits provided under Medicaid not covered under the plan would continue.

Families earning under $75,000 would pay less than they currently do while getting full health coverage. Businesses with fewer than 25 employees also would save, between $225 and $995 per worker. Employer costs for retiree benefits would drop substantially, saving employers another $30 million, because many covered services would be part of the universal plan. Physicians practices and hospitals would see no net loss in revenue.

Every Vermonter would receive comprehensive healthcare with free choice of provider. Providers could spend more time with patients and less on administration and paperwork. Savings could go to prevention and public health improvement, further reducing long-term costs.

Under the Vermont plan, the total savings to the people of Vermont would be $118 million in the first year. Single-payer in Illinois would obviously have a much bigger payoff because of the advantages of economies of scale. So, yes, obviously our taxes would go up because any publicly funded system would obviously have to be funded with tax dollars. But the increase in taxes would be far less than the savings we would realize by not having to pay health-insurance premiums and our overall cost of living would go down. There would be big savings to businesses, especially small to medium businesses that struggle to pay for health care, and this, in turn, would stimulate spending in other areas and be good for our business climate and our economy.

The wealthiest nation in the world clearly ought to be able to deliver quality health care to all its citizens, no less than Canada and other industrialized nations. Health care is a critical social good that demands that collective interests prevail over private gain. It should be viewed as a right, not a privilege. Accordingly, I support, and will fight for universal health-care in Illinois if elected – because it clearly would serve the public good.

Sources:

“Health Insurance Costs Rise Faster than Wages” (Maggie Fox, Reuters, 9/28/2004).

Dean Baker, Center for Economic and Policy Research, “Insuring the Uninsured: The Gains from Reducing Waste,” 9/12/04, available on the web at <www.cepr.net>.

Jobs with Justice, “Waste Not, Want Not: How Eliminating Insurance and Pharmaceutical Industry Waste Could Fund Health Care for All,” available on the web at <www.jwj.org>.

Various materials from Vermont Health Care for All: <www.vthca.org>.

Himmelstein, Woolhandler and Wolfe, “Administrative Waste in the U.S. Health Care System in 2003: The Cost to the Nation, the States and the District of Columbia, with State-Specific Estimates of Potential Savings,” International Journal of Health Services, Vol. 34, 79-86, 2004.


Full Employment at a Living Wage:

The Problem: Not Enough Good Jobs for All Who Need Them

The official unemployment rate in Illinois is currently about 5.5 percent. Unofficially, unemployment is much higher, since the official rate does not include people who still want jobs but have given up actively searching for them. And as we know all too well in Southern Illinois, many of those who are employed have marginal jobs ­ low wage, temporary or part-time jobs that don't pay enough to support a family and have no health-care or other benefits.

Let's start with a basic question: Why? Why, even though American workers are among the best educated and most productive in the world, do we still have the problem of widespread unemployment?

The Cause: The Private Sector Is Not Designed to Create Full Employment or High Wages

If we think about it, the answer isn't too hard to find: Our present economic system is not designed to create full employment. The giant corporations that dominate our economy today are not in business in order to employ people. They are in business for one reason only ­ to make the maximum possible profit. And that means that they are driven to eliminate jobs, to employ as few workers, working as hard as possible, at the lowest wages that the job market will let them get away with. If they can meet the same production goals by paying lower wages somewhere else, including poor nations like Mexico, Haiti, China, etc., they will close up shop here and relocate there. If they can eliminate jobs through automation, they will do that. But clearly, they ­ and the “private sector” as a whole ­ are never going to create job opportunities for all who need them.

To need them, and promote equality of opportunity, we cannot rely on the private sector. We must look to our government, and to our own efforts as a people, to fill the gap.

The Solution: Creating Full Employment at a Living Wage Must Become a Goal of Government

You would think that creating good jobs for all would already be a goal of government. After all, the Preamble to our Illinois Constitution states that our government was formed to “eliminate poverty and inequality; assure … social and economic justice” and “provide opportunity for the fullest development of the individual.” Yet both the Democratic and Republican politicians in Springfield today have pretty much ignored this obligation. In fact, in his budget addresses, Governor Blagojevich has repeatedly boasted about how many State jobs he has eliminated!

Of course, we all want to eliminate waste in government. But there are plenty of unmet social needs and lots of truly useful work that people could do if our government were to provide the means. Here are ten ways that a good, responsive government could go about creating quality jobs, while improving our quality of life:

A Ten-Point Plan for Creating Good Jobs for All

1. Renovating our infrastructure. A commitment to renovating and properly maintaining our infrastructure ­ waterways, bridges, roads, rail lines, public buildings and facilities ­ would create thousands of good engineering, construction and maintenance jobs.

2. Building new, high-speed rail systems. Our over-reliance on the automobile as a principal means of transportation is exacting a terrible toll on our environment and makes us overly dependent on foreign oil. Building a new system of high-speed railways inter-connecting Chicago, Springfield, St. Louis, Carbondale-Marion and other key centers, supplemented by improved mass transit systems throughout the state, will be good for the environment, improve our quality of life and be good for our economy. Every billion dollars spent on rail transit creates 7,000 more jobs than the same amount spent on road construction.

3. Improving energy conservation. A uniform statewide energy efficiency code could reduce our state's energy consumption by over 30 percent, while creating over 59,000 new engineering, maintenance and construction jobs by the year 2015.

4. Supporting the development of clean, renewable energy. If Illinois were to adopt the “20/20” plan ­ requiring 20 percent of its energy supply to come from renewable energy sources by the year 2020 ­ Illinois consumers would save about $3.6 billion from lower energy bills, Illinois farmers could earn about $8 million from wind energy lease payments and over 56,000 new jobs would be created. Lower energy bills for businesses and consumers alike would stimulate spending in other areas of the economy, creating still more jobs. Measures to encourage the use of bio-energy, such as bio-diesel fuel, would benefit Illinois farmers, create more jobs and improve our environment.

Coal can also play a part in this energy future ­ but only if we force the energy corporations to use the Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle process, which can burn high-sulfur Illinois coal almost as cleanly as natural gas ­ and immediately retire older plants that kill thousands of people every year and contribute to global warming while burning out-of-state coal. Meanwhile, research into other clean-coal technologies, such as using coal to generate hydrogen fuel cells, should be stepped up. More immediately, we need to establish a major grant-and-incentive program to install energy-saving geothermal heating/cooling systems in homes and businesses. This could employ thousands of currently unemployed former coal miners and other industrial workers at good, safe jobs that pay a decent wage.

5. Supporting small businesses — for real. Although giant corporations make headlines when they employ — or lay off — workers by the thousands, it is the thousands of small businesses in the State that are actually the best job creators. Small businesses already get a tough break from the federal government, where they got socked, for example, by the Self-Employment tax, then have to pay again on the same income on their income taxes! The State of Illinois doesn't help matters, as it overloads small business owners with the so-called Replacement tax and unemployment insurance payments, on top of payroll taxes, sales taxes and numerous fees — all of which require hours of paperwork to process. While some of these taxes are essential, we can and should do better at reducing the burdens on small businesses, by eliminating some fees and better consolidating our tax structure. In addition, the State can and should do better at assisting small businesses and especially new startups by making low-interest revolving loans and grants more readily available.

6. Promoting capital improvement and public works. Besides renovating our infrastructure, we need to improve it, by, for example, building better parks and recreational facilities, libraries, schools and low-income housing, all of which are badly needed.

7. Creating more, better-paying social service jobs. The Illinois Department of Human Services, the Department of Employment Security, Department of Children and Family Services and other state agencies could be used to gainfully employ people in the service of others who need help — drug and alcohol rehabilitation, prison rehabilitation programs, adult education, job placement, parenting education and prenatal care, child care, public health, elderly care and more. These agencies are understaffed and its workers underpaid. Yet investments in “human services” pay off in the long run, as they reduce the social costs of crime, poverty and disease.

8. Raising the minimum wage. A full-time job should provide enough income to support a family but many jobs today don't pay nearly enough. The buying power of the minimum wage has fallen by more than 20% since a peak in 1979, even as productivity has increased by more than 35%. If the minimum wage had kept up with increases in productivity since 1967, it would now be around $11 per hour. I would support raising the minimum wage to $7.50 an hour right away, and then gradually increasing it until it approaches its 1967 value, adjusted for inflation and gains in productivity. Partial exemptions could be permitted for start-up and small businesses, hardship cases and summer youth employment.

9. Passing a living wage law. A living wage law would require State government to pay its own employees a living wage, and require every firm that receives a benefit from the State ­ such as a contract, subsidy or tax exemption ­ to pay its employees a living wage. The law would define a “living wage” as a wage equivalent to the federal poverty level for a family of four, (roughly $8.30/hour), plus full health benefits, or, alternatively, 25% above the federal poverty line for a family of four. Businesses that receive a benefit from government ought to be required to return the favor to the State and its people.

10. Making corporations accountable and encouraging other forms of business ownership. A corporation is a special form of business ownership that exempts owners from legal liability for any misconduct. Originally, in exchange for this privilege, state governments would charter corporations under strict conditions, placing limits on their business activity and requiring socially responsible behavior. Today, however, corporations have become so powerful that they control state governments instead of the other way around! In Illinois, they have used their great power and influence over government to win hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of special tax exemptions and subsidies — causing much of the State's current budget crisis.

The people of this State need to fight to reclaim our democracy from the power and influence of the giant corporations. That is why this campaign, like other Green Party campaigns, does not accept corporate campaign contributions. If elected, I will fight to restore corporate chartering laws and regulations needed to curb corporate misconduct and promote the social good. I will also promote worker ownership and control of corporations, and workers' cooperatives, as an alternative to the corporate model based on exploiting workers. Instead of using tax breaks and subsidies to enrich giant corporations that behave irresponsibly, we can provide modest tax credits, grants and low-interest revolving loans to worker-owned enterprises and to those corporate entities that agree to hold themselves accountable to the public interest.

When corporations do behave irresponsibly by shutting down and/or relocating production facilities, local governments should be authorized to use the power of eminent domain to take control over those facilities and turn them over, either to their workers, organized as a cooperative, or to homegrown small businesses.

Questions and Answers

If you create all these government jobs, won't this raise my taxes?

Obviously, any government job program will cost money. But it won't cost as much as you might suppose. Money spent on good job creation will obviously reduce the costs spent on unemployment insurance, welfare and other services to the poor, and in the long run will reduce the costs imposed by crime and other social disorders.

Our tax system in Illinois is in need of a major overhaul. Years of big tax giveaways to big corporations and the wealthy have made a mess of our State budget. To address this problem, and meet other social needs like the need for good jobs, overall tax revenues will have to go up. It's better to be up-front and honest about calling for a tax increase than to duck the issue and pretend that our stubborn budget problems will go away.

However, if elected, I will fight to overhaul our tax system to make it more fair, reversing the special favors for big business and the wealthy, placing more of the burden on those best able to pay, and reducing the burden on lower and middle-income workers. This tax reform plan also includes provisions for badly needed property tax relief. (See my budget position paper for more details.)

Besides, setting aside a reasonable share of our collective wealth to provide for the common good is what government is supposed to be about. People naturally resent paying taxes when government is wasting money on things that do not benefit society. But spending tax dollars on projects that create high-quality jobs for all, while improving our quality of life and our environment is money well worth spending.

Won't this just drive businesses out of Illinois?

The gains in employment will far outweigh any losses. Some businesses will be attracted by having a well-educated and well-trained workforce, higher productivity and a high quality infrastructure. The Whitney/Green Party plan for full employment would give Illinois a big advantage on that score. Government-provided universal health care — which I will also fight for ­ would provide a huge cost savings to businesses, especially those that employ highly trained, better-paid workers, and would make Illinois a very attractive place to do business.

A well-paid, fully employed work force would also provide a tremendous surge in consumer spending, which in turn would attract additional business, as well as spur investment in existing and/or new businesses. The Whitney/Green Party plan would also counter the problem of “runaway shops” by using the State's power of eminent domain to take hold of their facilities and place them under new ownership, as described in point 10 of the program.


A Message to Labor: The Green Party Is Your True Ally!

Year after year, it's the same old story: The leadership of most labor unions in the nation repeatedly urge their members to vote for Democratic Party candidates 99 percent of the time. The Democratic Party candidates will make a few appearances at union meetings or union-sponsored events and pay some lip service to being “friends of labor.” Then, if elected, they go about their “business as usual,” supporting the same basic corporate agenda as the Republican Party, except perhaps on a few token issues. They take labor for granted. The union leaders get mad and criticize the Democratic politicians for not living up to their word. But then the next campaign season comes around and they kiss and make up ­ and start the process all over again.

The relationship between organized labor and the Democratic Party resembles that of an abusive marriage, with labor being too submissive to walk out. But hasn't organized labor taken enough abuse, after NAFTA, CAFTA, support for anti-labor foreign governments, support for runaway corporations, unfair trade with China, etc.? Shouldn't it get out of this bad relationship?

And what about here in Illinois? Look at what the Blagojevich administration has done to working people in this state. Other than a small increase in the minimum wage and the usual pork-related construction jobs, it's practically all bad news: Thousands of state workers have lost their jobs, leaving others to deal with impossible workloads. Our social service agencies, correctional facilities and health-care providers have been taking hit after hit. Unfair political patronage hiring and promotion seems about as prevalent under Blagojevich as under George Ryan. Our schools remain horribly underfunded, leaving most teachers as overworked and underpaid as ever. Our universities are struggling to get by and have to shift more of the financial burden on to students and their working parents. And in order to pander to conservatives by claiming that he didn't raise taxes, Governor Blagojevich has chosen to attack state workers' and teachers' pensions instead, making it the most badly underfunded state pension system

This Illinois gubernatorial race presents an excellent opportunity for organized labor to make a break from its abusive relationship with the Democratic Party. There is no good earthly reason for unions in Illinois to support Blagojevich in this election — and Judy Baar Topinka has not given unions any good cause to vote for her, either. Yet there is another alternative: My own campaign on the Green Party ticket.

Both as a political activist and as an employment-law attorney, I have always been an advocate for working people and their unions. I have always strongly supported the right to organize and the right to strike. And while the violations of these rights is a problem that has to be fixed at the federal level, a Green Party victory in this race will help pave the way for future successes in federal races.

When I first helped organized the Illinois Green Party in 1999, I made sure that it was explicitly pro-labor in its outlook. As one of the authors of its current State platform, I wrote the following:

“While the Republican and Democratic Parties essentially represent two wings of the same wealthy class of corporate owners, the Green Party stands up for the interests of the social majority of working people and their families, as well as those who cannot find work and those unable to work.

“In order to serve those interests, the Illinois Green Party is dedicated, first and foremost, to the goal of empowering working people. Those who create society's wealth should have the power to determine what is created, how it is created, and how it is distributed through democratic means. We support a fundamental restructuring of our economic system toward that end. More immediately, we support government policies that will improve the quality of life for working people in all areas, not only materially but also with respect to more leisure and family time, access to health care, better working conditions, and a better environment, both inside and outside the workplace.

“The objective of empowering workers also means vigorously supporting workers' right to organize. At the national level, we call for the repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act and similar measures, that will make it easier for workers to organize without interference from their employers and to bargain with the employers effectively. We support fair trade policies that aim to lift labor standards around the globe, not so-called “free trade” policies that undermine both labor and environmental standards at home and abroad, and that undermine national sovereignty in favor of corporate-dominated bodies like the World Trade Organization.

“The Illinois Green Party is committed to the goal of providing genuine full employment, at wages and with benefits that will allow every working person to be able to support a family.”

In this campaign, I have applied these principles by campaigning for a Ten-Point Plan for Creating Good Jobs for All. This includes support for a living wage law and new public works initiatives for sustainable energy and sustainable transportation. I am also campaigning for universal health care through a single-payer system. I am the only candidate in this race who is campaigning for House Bill 750, a union-supported tax reform package that will eliminate the structural deficit, adequately fund our schools, our social services and our pension system, without raising taxes on lower or middle-income working people ­ and while giving the people real property tax relief.

In fact, in every position that I take, in every policy that I propose, I always ask myself, “How will this affect working people and their families?” My goals as a political advocate are to advance the interests of working people, of the disadvantaged, of civil rights and liberties, of grassroots democracy, of peace, and of the environment. And that's what this campaign is all about.

Please do the right thing for yourselves, for your members and for all working people this election season. Stop banging your head against a brick wall by supporting Democrat leaders who are already devoted to their corporate sponsors. Support a real people's campaign. Support a real party of labor. Support Rich Whitney for Governor and help turn out the vote for the Green Party this November.


Keep the Guard Out of Iraq

“I will fight to keep the Illinois National Guard at home – out of Iraq!”

Rich Whitney’s position paper on his pledge, if elected Governor, to veto any further mobilization of the Illinois National Guard for purposes of serving in Iraq.

The current war and occupation in Iraq is plainly illegal and immoral. It is illegal under established international law, under the U.N. Charter and under the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal. And it is immoral under a certain moral code that tells me that we shall not kill, we shall not steal, we shall not bear false witness against our neighbors and we shall not covet our neighbor’s goods – even if those goods happen to include massive amounts of oil.

The illegality of the invasion of Iraq under international law has been well demonstrated by a number of analyses. One particularly good example is the report, Tearing Up the Rules: The Illegality of Invading Iraq, published in March 2003 by the Center for Economic and Social Rights. (See http://www.cesr.org/iraq/docs/tearinguptherules.pdf for a copy.) As that report explains:

Under Article 1(1) of the Charter, the world organization’s central purpose is “to bring about by peaceful means and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace.”

Similarly, Article 2(3) obligates member states to “settle their international disputes by peaceful means,” while Article 2(4) provides that: “All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.

It is beyond dispute that these provisions, and the Charter as a whole, impose a general prohibition on the use of force to resolve conflicts in international relations. The Security Council and General Assembly have consistently reaffirmed this legal principle. . . .

Only two exceptions, specified in the Charter and supplemented by customary international law, permit the lawful use of force. First is the right of individual or collective self-defense in response to an armed attack, under Article 51. Second is the specific authorization of force by the Security Council as a last resort to maintain international peace and security, under Chapter VII.

Since the U.S.-led coalition invasion of Iraq did not meet either of these exceptions (it was never attacked or even threatened by Iraq), it was plainly an unlawful act of aggression.

After the horrors of World War II, the Allied forces convened an International War Crimes Tribunal at Nuremberg, Germany, which tried and convicted many of the Nazi war criminals who had caused and carried out the Third Reich’s atrocities. At that time, the U.S. government was in the forefront of condemning wars of aggression – no matter what the “excuse”:

Preventive war is unequivocally illegal. In 1946, the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg rejected Germany’s argument that it had been compelled to attack Norway and Denmark in self-defense to prevent a future Allied invasion. The Tribunal concluded that these attacks violated customary law limits on self-defense and instead constituted wars of aggression whose prohibition was demanded by the conscience of the world. As the Tribunal stated: “To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

No excuse offered by the Bush administration for invading Iraq – not the claimed “weapons of mass destruction” (even if they had existed), not the repressive and brutal nature of the Hussein regime (which our government had supported for many years prior to 1991), not its false suggestion that the regime had some “ties” to Al Qaeda, and not its after-the-fact phony “justification” that it was motivated to promote democracy (even as the U.S. government today provides military support or aid to over 30 dictatorships around the world) – can alter the fact that the invasion was a “supreme international crime.”

We must make it clear to the Germans that the wrong for which their fallen leaders are on trial is not that they lost the war, but that they started it. And we must not allow ourselves to be drawn into a trial of the causes of the war, for our position is that no grievances or policies will justify resort to an aggressive war. It is utterly renounced and condemned as an instrument of policy.

Robert L. Jackson, Chief Prosecutor at Nuremberg and U.S. Supreme Court Justice, August 12, 1945.

It is a morally sickening development that our government – which once championed the cause of international law and order, as shown here – has sunk so low as to commit the very kind of crime that was universally condemned at Nuremberg. Every good and patriotic American should be offended by what the Bush administration – and its Republican and Democratic “yes men” in Congress – has done to sully our country’s good name.

It follows from this that good and patriotic Americans have a solemn civic duty to try to right the wrongs that have been committed. And let no one confuse that duty by claiming that there is an overriding duty to “support the President,” “not divide the nation” or “support our troops.” That is total rubbish! Our duty is to stop our government’s criminal conduct! Of course we support our service men and women and want them to be safe. That’s not the point. We do not oppose them; we oppose our government using them for an illegal war and occupation.

The executive branch, including the President and the armed forces, is supposed to be the servant of 'We The People.' We fought a revolution to establish the right of the people to have that control over government. It is not only our American right and privilege, it is our duty to raise our voices and criticize our government when it is in error. As Thomas Jefferson once warned, “Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves are its only safe depositories.”

Another renowned President, Teddy Roosevelt, who was not exactly a pacifist, agreed. He once proclaimed, “To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.”

It is precisely because we have a civic duty to right the wrongs being committed by the present administration, and halt the misuse and abuse of our young men and women who have been sent to fight and die for an illegal war that I have promised, if elected, to do everything humanly possible to keep the Illinois National Guard at home – out of Iraq.

Under our State Constitution and statutes, the Governor is the Commander in Chief of the Illinois State Militia or National Guard. The history behind the “State Militia” simultaneously constituting the “National Guard” is itself revealing. Without going into great detail here, we should remind ourselves that, in the early days of the Republic, many of the Founding Fathers did not even support a standing army, and preferred to entrust the nations’s security to the armed “Militia” – that is, the armed people. This reflected the Founders’ understanding that the real purpose of having an armed force at all was for defense of the nation – not engaging in wars throughout the globe.

Unfortunately, over the years, as ambitious corporate interests gained power and influence over our government, and our government, in turn, began intruding into the affairs of other nations with armed force, the State Militias gradually became more federalized as the “National Guard.” By 1933, all persons enlisted in a State Militia were simultaneously enlisted in the National Guard of the United States. And just as the U.S. military generally began being used to intervene in other nation’s affairs, the purpose of the National Guard itself became perverted from a purely defensive purpose to becoming a tool of the same corporate-driven quest to dominate other nations.

Up until 1952, the federal government could only order National Guard units to active duty in periods of national emergency. In that year, Congress lifted that requirement, placing the National Guard under broad federal authority – but it left in place the requirement that the governor had to consent to the mobilization. In other words, the governor of any state could veto any particular request to mobilize the Guard in that state.

In the 1980s, the Reagan administration began mobilizing the National Guard for various “training missions” in Central America. Some governors refused to consent. Congress responded by passing a new law – called the Montgomery Amendment – which eliminated the power of governors to veto any mobilization of their State Militia by the federal government “because of any objection to the location, purpose, type, or schedule of such active duty.”

I believe that this leaves governors with the power to veto any federal mobilization of the National Guard because of the illegality and immorality of the mission or assignment. And it is on that ground that I will, if elected, assert the Governor’s right to veto any mobilization of the Illinois National Guard for service in Iraq.

The National Guard, as the name implies, is supposed to be guarding the nation – not serving a deadly and illegal fool’s errand in Iraq on behalf of the gang of corporate robber barons that is now dominating our government. Unlike Rod Blagojevich, I will not consent to sending our young men and women – many of them kids who just thought they were going to earn their way to a college degree – to fight and die in the service of corporate greed, in an ill-conceived war that is making us less safe, more hated around the world and that is starving our state and local governments of funds to meet human needs at home.

I realize that under Illinois state law, whenever a part of the Illinois National Guard “is called or ordered into the active military service of the United States by the President” or the Congress, “it shall be the duty of the Governor as Commander-in-Chief to furnish such troops . . . .” [20 ILCS 1805/3.] However, as I interpret this provision, it was not intended to supersede the authority provided under federal law for a governor to withhold consent when doing so is necessary to serve the interests of the State; rather, it is intended to set forth a basic “duty” that may, in some circumstances be superseded by a greater duty.

Second, under another, even higher law – the principles of the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal – as a government official, I would have a responsibility not to commit or further “an act which constitutes a crime under international law.” Indeed, the Nuremberg principles state that, “The fact that a person who committed an act which constitutes a crime under international law acted as [a] responsible Government official does not relieve him of responsibility under international law.” They also state that, “Complicity in the commission of a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity . . . is a crime under international law.”

Unlike our present governor, I will not be even a complicit or passive participant in a crime under international law. I will do everything possible to prevent the sacrifice of any more human life in the service of such a crime.


Note: Rich Whitney, like the Green Party generally, opposed the War in Iraq before it began. Whitney spoke at anti-war rally in November 2002. In early 2003, the Shawnee Green Party and other organizations presented over a thousand petition signatures to the Carbondale City Council urging the City to go on record opposing the invasion of Iraq. By a 4-3 vote, the Council declined to adopt the resolution. Whitney prepared this statement, which he was denied the opportunity to present, along with others who supported the resolution. However, it was later published in a local newsweekly.

The Shawnee Green Party, along with the Southern Illinois Peace Coalition and other concerned citizens, has been conducting weekly peace vigils every Saturday at noon, at the Town Square Pavilion in Carbondale, since the Winter of 2002-2003. Whitney has attended the vigils regularly.

Statement in Support of the Resolution Opposing War Against Iraq by Rich Whitney, for the Shawnee Green Party, 3/18/03

To the Carbondale City Council and Hon. Mayor Dillard:

I speak tonight as a representative of the Shawnee Green Party. In the last general election, 21 percent of the voters in Carbondale cast their vote for the Green Party in the race for state representative. The Party has asked me to speak on behalf of that constituency tonight. The values on which the Party is based include the values of non-violence and grassroots democracy, and on that basis, we ask you to please vote in favor of the Resolution.

That we oppose going to war against Iraq is no secret. But I would like to focus tonight on the democratic principles underlying this Resolution. It has been suggested by some proponents of war that true patriotic Americans must rally around the President at this time and that dissent is somehow anti-American. It has been suggested by at least one member of this Council that this Resolution is inappropriate, because it should be the City's role to support our troops, and telling the President that we don't want them to be fighting this war will somehow disrespect or undermine them.

If any of you hold these notions, I ask you to reconsider. For with all due respect, these notions are profoundly mistaken, and go against everything this nation is supposed to stand for.

In our democratic republic, it is the role of the people and their elected representatives to ultimately determine whether the nation should engage in war in the first place. Criticism of an executive decision to go to war is not the same thing as criticism of the troops fighting it and I think it insults the intelligence of our service men and women to presume that they can't understand that clear and basic distinction. In any event, the amended version of the Resolution makes that point explicit.

It is most unfortunate that Congress has abdicated its own Constitutional duty to declare or not declare war, and ceded it to the President. However, our constitutional scheme presupposes that the people are the fourth branch of government. The executive branch, including the President and the armed forces, is supposed to be the servant of 'We The People.' We fought a revolution to establish the right of the people to have that control over government. It is not only our American right and privilege, it is our duty to raise our voices and criticize our government when it is in error. As Thomas Jefferson once warned, “Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves are its only safe depositories.”

Another renowned President, Teddy Roosevelt, who was not exactly a pacifist, agreed. He once proclaimed, “To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.”

And there is nothing more democratic or All-American as town-hall meetings and resolutions like these to convey the message of the people to the President and Congress when we come to the conclusion that their actions are wrong.

These principles apply in times of war no less than in times of peace. As Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., opined recently, “Of all the decisions a free people must face, the question of war and peace is the most crucial. Before sending young Americans to kill and die in foreign lands, a democracy has a sacred obligation to permit full and searching discussion of the issues at stake. There is no obligation to bow down before an imperial presidency.”

Schlesinger cited a number of examples of famous American dissent against war, including Mark Twain's scathing criticism of the Spanish-American War, and another one that should have special meaning to us:

In 1848 the House of Representatives itself resolved that the Mexican War had been “unnecessarily and unconstitutionally begun by the President of the United States.” A few days later a young congressman attacked the presidential justification for the war as “from beginning to end, the sheerest deception.” Explaining to a friend his opposition to the war, Rep. Abraham Lincoln of Illinois challenged what is known today as the Bush Doctrine of anticipatory self-defense: “Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion… and you allow him to make war at pleasure.” The Founding Fathers, he continued, “resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us.”

Of course, the current plan to attack Iraq is even less justifiable, as there is no “invasion” for us to repel. And that really gets us to the heart of the matter. For despite President Bush's best efforts to rationalize it, there is no getting around the fact that he would have the U.S. government attack and invade another sovereign nation that has not attacked us - or attacked any other nation, for that matter, in 12 years. He would make us the aggressor, at a terrible human and economic cost, disregarding international law and the U.N. process, inflaming world opinion against us, and probably generating a good deal more of the very terrorism that he professes to be fighting.

In this regard, we would do well to consider the words of the first “George W” - George Washington - who once warned:

I have always given it as my decided opinion that no nation has a right to intermeddle in the internal concerns of another . . . and that if this country could, consistently with its engagements, maintain a strict neutrality and thereby preserve peace, it was bound to do so by motives of policy, interest, and every other consideration.

Mr. Mayor and Council, if you truly believe that there is justification for our government to attack Iraq, then let us hear the justification and debate it. But do not rest your argument on the ground that dissent during wartime is un-American or unpatriotic. If we are correct that our Chief Executive is jeopardizing human life for no good or just reason, then our dissent is very much a part of a long and proud American tradition, it is our moral and civic obligation, and it is more patriotic than remaining silent.


Why the War and Occupation of Iraq is Still Wrong Speech by Rich Whitney, Shawnee Green Party on the second anniversary of the Iraq War Carbondale, Illinois

3/19/2005

Two years ago, the Bush administration lent new meaning to the term, “March Madness.” Today, we are gathered here to commemorate the invasion and register our continuing opposition to it.

As citizens of the wealthiest and most powerful nation in the world, we have a special responsibility to watch what our government does, learn the facts about what it is doing, educate our fellow citizens about what it is doing, and, if we find that it is doing something wrong or harmful, mobilizing the people to halt or correct what it is doing.

This is what being a good citizen in a democratic republic means; it is a civic duty and it is what this demonstration is all about. It is not un-American to criticize your government when it commits wrongs. Rather, it is the very essence of being a good American citizen. It is demonstrating love for your country and it is true patriotism to act to correct what the government is doing in our name.

Unfortunately, we are handicapped in these efforts when most of our news media don't do their job but instead foster ignorance by simply acting as cheerleaders for the existing policy.

A case in point: We are now hearing new justifications for the war. The new line, now being propagated by the mainstream news media, goes something like this: “Well, maybe President Bush was wrong about the weapons of mass destruction. But the invasion has still done some good. After all, we got rid of a nasty dictator. Now the Iraqis are enjoying the fruits of democracy. Look at all the people who voted in the ‘purple finger revolution.'And our success in Iraq may just help us spread democracy throughout the Middle East.”

Even many so-called liberals are falling for this line, wondering out loud if maybe George Bush got it right after all.

Leaving aside that this viewpoint cavalierly dismisses the terrible human cost of the war, this is wrong on so many levels that I couldn't possibly list them all this afternoon. But let me just highlight a few.

First, the war was fundamentally wrong, not because the Bush administration was wrong, or even because it flat-out lied, about Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction and about ties between Saddam Hussein and Al Quaeda. The war would have been wrong even if Iraq did have weapons of mass destruction. The fact is, our government attacked and invaded another sovereign nation that had not attacked us, had not threatened us, and posed absolutely no threat to us. That is what made it wrong; that is what made it illegal – and it is still wrong and illegal.

Second, you cannot impose “democracy” at the point of a gun. You can coerce or entice people to vote but that's not democracy, not if there's no real control by the people. The U.S. government has already told the new political leadership in Iraq that they had best not call for the withdrawal of U.S. troops. The elections followed the destruction of Falluja, which virtually guaranteed that most Sunni Muslims would boycott the elections, and that the insurgency, which has now brought terrorists into Iraq, will continue, perhaps turning into a civil war. What kind of “democracy” is this?

Third, none of this changes the new economic domination of Iraq by U.S. profiteers, which was, and remains, one of the principal true motives for the invasion. When Paul Bremer first took over in Iraq after the invasion, his very first act on the job was to lay off about 500,000 Iraqis from their civil service jobs. Then he began overseeing a “reconstruction” process that took away jobs from Iraqis and turned them over to foreign private contractors. Corporations like Bechtel are raking in millions while schools, hospitals and infrastructure are being repaired at a snail's pace, often incompetently. Now the International Monetary Fund is in Iraq, pushing privatization of state enterprises, which will mean more foreign control of its assets. The so-called “democracy” is a smoke-screen for the systematic looting of Iraq and continued bilking of U.S. taxpayers.

Finally, while George Bush gives speeches in which he repeats the words “freedom” and “democracy” over and over again, what are the facts about our government's foreign policy? The truth is, our government is giving away, and promoting the sale of, millions of dollars' worth of weapons to dictators around the world – today, right now. And it is outrageous that the mainstream news media do nothing to expose this.

The independent watchdog group Freedom House lists 45 nations in the world today as dictatorships. It uses fairly objective measurements of civil and political rights to come to its conclusions and it does not seem to have an ideological bias. It includes in its lists so-called “left” or communist governments like that of Cuba and North Korea, right-wing dictatorships like the current regime in Pakistan and monarchies like Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

I compared this list of the world's dictators to two State Department publications: The latest listings of recipients of U.S. foreign aid, including military aid, and the latest listing of countries that received military weapons or equipment from sales made by U.S. arms manufacturers, with State Department permission.

The result: Of the 45 dictatorships in the world today, the U.S. government – your government, your tax dollars at work – either gave military assistance or authorized the sale of weapons and military equipment to 33 of them. To name just a few, they include Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Kazakhstan, Syria-controlled Lebanon, Rwanda, Uzbekistan (where political detainees are routinely tortured and have even been boiled alive), and, purchasing over $1.1 billion in U.S. weapons in 2003, the monarchy of Saudi Arabia, the country from which most of the 9/11 terrorists actually came. And, by the way, a look at aid and sales figures from previous years shows that such support for dictatorships occurred under the Clinton administration only somewhat less than under the Bush administration.

The notion that U.S. foreign policy is guided by the goal of promoting democracy is a Big Lie.

Now, if we don't stand up as American citizens to do something about this corporate big-money dominated, oil guzzling, greenhouse-gas belching, militarized economic and political order in this country, and replace it with an economic and political order that represents real human values, then you can bet some future U.S. president will decide that one of these countries isn't serving corporate America's interests anymore – and then he'll announce: “Hey! This country's run by an evil dictator! They have weapons of mass destruction! (Don't ask where they got ‘em!) They have rape rooms! They're a threat to their neighbors! We need to invade!”

Because, after all, that is exactly what happened with Iraq. And if we don't combat ignorance now, this will happen all over again.

So let's step up the other war – the war to win over the American people to take back control of their government. Let's get the facts out. Let's get the truth out. Let's engage our friends, co-workers and neighbors. Let's engage the media. Let's engage our representatives. We know what needs to be done. Let's organize to do it better.


“We need to mobilize to save our Republic!”

The following is the text of an address given by Rich Whitney, Green Party candidate for Governor, on the occasion of the third anniversary of the War in Iraq, March 18, 2006, in Carbondale, Illinois. Whitney began by asking for a moment of silence for Tom Fox, the member of the Christian Peacekeeper Team, and member of the Virginia Green Party, who was murdered by his kidnappers in Iraq earlier in the month.

War.

Lying to the American people about the reasons for war.

Torture.

Kidnaping and transferring people to other countries for purposes of torture.

Imprisoning people without charges or allowing a hearing.

No-bid contracts.

Stealing of elections with the use of corporate manufactured voting machines.

Spying on American citizens without any court oversight, in violation of the law and the Constitution.

The President breaking the law and saying he doesn't have to follow it.

A Senator meekly suggesting that the Senate discuss censuring the President for this - and he gets attacked for it.

A bill is introduced to make it a crime for the media to report the crimes of the administration.

New threats of yet another war.

What the hell is happening to our country?

I submit to you that what we are seeing, right in front of our eyes, is nothing less than the crumbling of our Republic. And unless we the people mobilize to stop it, the powers now controlling our government will continue on this path. Even now, although a plurality of 50 percent of the American people favor a rapid withdrawal from Iraq, 70 percent of our troops and at least 70 percent of the people in Iraq favor a rapid withdrawal, and 47 percent of the Iraqi people actually support the attacks on American forces; even though the War and occupation of Iraq has been a complete and unmitigated disaster that grows worse by the day, our government continues to stay on this disastrous course.

I propose to you that the peace movement today must not only be engaged in the fight to end this war. It must become engaged in a larger struggle against the forces of corporate America that brought us into this War, and that are now rapidly, undermining our civil liberties, expanding executive powers and threatening to undermine the Republic itself. We must be part of a broader struggle to save the Republic and restore genuine democracy.

Perhaps some of you think that I overstate the case, that things are bad, but not that bad. But consider the words of one of the architects of our Constitution, James Madison, who warned:

“No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare,” and that “A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defence against foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home.” And he further warned, “If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.”

It is no coincidence that this so-called war on terror is being used to systematically undermine our civil rights and liberties and strengthen the executive branch.

Now consider the words of Benito Mussolini, the architect of fascism, who said, “The first stage of fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of State and corporate power.”

Who among us can deny that we are well into this first stage? Is there any thinking person who believes that the criminal misconduct of Jack Abramoff is anything more than just an extreme example of business as usual in the halls of Congress and the White House? Should anyone be surprised that the Bechtel Group got awarded hundreds of millions of dollars in no-bid contracts after it contributed nearly a million dollars in campaign contributions to Republican candidates? Or that the more than 70 American companies awarded over $8 billion in contracts for work in postwar Iraq and Afghanistan donated over half a million dollars to the presidential campaign of George W. Bush? What kind of democracy do we still have when 80 percent of all political contributions now come from less than 1 percent of the population?

We all know that Bush concocted false alarms about weapons of mass destruction as a pretext for war. But what was the real reason? Perhaps there were several reasons but I submit that the principal one is the economic drive of multinational corporations to control resources, markets and sources of cheap labor - which has always been the underlying motive for war in modern times.

Consider: In May 2003, Bush Executive Order 13303 indemnifies the corporate looters such as ExxonMobil and Halliburton from prosecution, as well as soldiers and private security guards committing crimes against Iraqis.

Consider: Before U.S. proconsul L. Paul Bremer left Iraq in June 2004, he imposed his '100 Orders' that were designed to transfer the Iraqi economy form a centrally planned economy to free market economy by U.S. fiat. The so-called Bremer reforms are similar to those imposed on underdeveloped nations strangled by the International Monetary Fund. For example, Order 39 pushed the privatization of Iraq's state-owned enterprises; allowed 100 percent foreign ownership of Iraqi businesses; equal treatment of foreign firms with domestic firms; unrestricted, tax-free remittance of all profits and other funds; and 40-year ownership licenses. In short, it allows U.S. corporations in Iraq to own every business, do all of the work, and send all their money home. Nothing needs to be reinvested locally to service the Iraqi economy, no Iraqi need be hired, and workers' rights can easily be ignored. Foreign corporations can withdraw their investments at any time. Order 81 is designed to destroy Iraq's traditional agriculture system in favor of U.S.-style corporate agribusiness. Today, Iraqi farmers are forbidden to save their own seeds; they are forced to purchase them from agribusiness corporations.

Consider: Auditors from the General Accounting Office and the Pentagon discovered that $8.8 billion that passed through the new Iraqi government while Bremer was in charge is unaccounted for, with little prospect of finding out where it went. Iraq oil is sold unmetered and more than $4 billion in oil export revenue was sold off illegally to U.S. cronies.

Consider: Labor unions in Iraq have been suppressed, and leaders killed, while Kellog Brown and Root, awarded a $12 billion contract, pays workers as little as 45 cents an hour.

Meanwhile, our so-called “reconstruction” efforts are a joke, mainly used to line the contractors' pockets, while many Iraqis continue to suffer without electricity, clean water and other basic infrastructure. The U.S. is destroying Iraq on a daily basis and hampering Iraq's economic recovery for the sole purpose of selling Iraq's public assets and resources on the cheap to U.S. corporations, without consulting the Iraqis.

And we the taxpayers are paying for all this. The cost of the Iraq War is now at $315 billion and counting. Between the escalated military budgets and Bush's tax cuts for the rich - further evidence of a “merger of State and corporate power” - we now have record deficits and a $7 trillion national debt. Every man, woman and child in America now owes about $30,000 apiece to the holders of that debt, much of it foreign interests. The cost of the war to us in Illinois alone comes to about $17 billion - more than enough to provide health care to every uninsured person in the State, more than enough to pay the salaries of 323,500 elementary school teachers; more than enough to outfit over 40 million homes with renewable electricity. And that's not counting the human cost of 91 Illinoisans killed and over 650 wounded.

Even our troops are getting screwed - the bulk of the money is going to the corporate profiteers, not them. Back in the Vietnam War, there was an apocryphal story about how a peace protester had spat upon a returning Vietnam Veteran. There is no real evidence that this actually occurred but the Right loves to repeat the story. Today, however, it is our own government that spits on our veterans - and it does so while they are fighting as well as when they get home. They are poorly outfitted, poorly protected; they are using Vietnam-era helicopters - and many get denied proper care when they come home.

Now the Bush administration has just issued a document that actually seeks to justify the Preemptive Strike Doctrine: Once again, it is asserting that what is illegal for the rest of the world is okay for our government to do. It is trotting this out because it is now seeking a justification to attack Iran.

That is why it is important for us to understand, as I have argued many times before, the war in Iraq was wrong, and illegal, not because there were no weapons of mass destruction. It was wrong and illegal because we attacked a nation that did not threaten to attack us.

After the horrors of World War II, the Allied forces convened an International War Crimes Tribunal at Nuremberg, Germany, at which it tried and convicted Nazi war criminals. At that time, the U.S. government was in the forefront of condemning wars of aggression - no matter what the “excuse.” As the Tribunal stated: “To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

As Robert L. Jackson, Chief Prosecutor at Nuremberg and U.S. Supreme Court Justice, stated:

We must make it clear to the Germans that the wrong for which their fallen leaders are on trial is not that they lost the war, but that they started it. And we must not allow ourselves to be drawn into a trial of the causes of the war, for our position is that no grievances or policies will justify resort to an aggressive war. It is utterly renounced and condemned as an instrument of policy.

That is why, no matter what Iran may or may not plan to do to defend itself, there is no justification for our government to attack Iran. It would be another war crime.

That is why, in my own campaign for governor of this State, I have made the Iraq War a campaign issue, by promising to veto any further mobilization of our National Guardsmen and women for duty in Iraq, on the grounds that the war in Iraq is plainly illegal and immoral.

This, too, is but one part of the larger struggle. Whether you do it as a Green, or as a Democrat trying to make that party more progressive, or as a concerned Republican, or through your church, your peace organization, or some other organization, please get engaged in this struggle:

We need to not only mobilize against the war.

We need to mobilize to protect the integrity of our vote.

We need to mobilize to stop corporate influence over government.

We need to mobilize to defend our civil liberties.

We need to mobilize to save our Republic.

Thank you.


A Sustainable Energy Policy

“I am proposing what I have described as a “New Deal” for sustainable energy development – because a serious effort to build a sustainable energy future is not only necessary for all life on the planet; it will be good for our economy, creating tens of thousands of new, quality jobs.”

The Times Demand Change: For a “New Deal” on Sustainable Energy

The people of this State, this nation, and this planet, are now threatened by two related crises: the twin threats of global warming and the end of the era of cheap oil.

Global warming is an environmental catastrophe that is already in progress, and it increasingly threatens our economy as well.

The end of cheap oil – what some refer to as “peak oil,” meaning the point at which the practical extraction of oil has reached or passed its peak – is an economic catastrophe that is already in progress, and it increasingly threatens our environment and quality of life as well, as it increasingly drives the current economic and political leadership of this country into disastrous wars.

The situation is critical, and yet the leadership of both the Democratic and Republican parties is maddeningly slow and astoundingly irresponsible. It's as if you saw a family's home on fire, right now, and you went and warned them – and their response was to debate whether maybe they ought to go out and by a hose sometime next week. Worse than that, half of the family would be arguing against buying a hose, since “some combustion is natural” and “there is no scientific proof that fire destroys wood.”

Katrina and the record 2005 hurricane season weren't freak accidents. Since the 1970s, tropical storms in both the Atlantic and Pacific have increased in duration and intensity by about 50 percent. Two-thousand five was one of the two hottest years in recorded history. Nineteen of the hottest 20 years have occurred since 1980. It is a fact that the polar ice caps and glaciers of the world are melting. It is a fact that permafrost in the northern tundras is thawing, releasing even more greenhouse gases. A recent study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that CO2 levels in the atmosphere have now reached levels that have not been seen on Earth for over a million years. Industrially generated global warming is a fact, recognized by nearly every scientist not on the payroll of the oil companies – and yet, the leadership of the two corporate parties continue to bury their head in the sand.

It is outrageous that during this energy crisis, we do not have any significant tax incentives or purchasing requirements that will support the development and installation of solar, wind, geothermal and biomass energy production.

Meanwhile, not only has our oil-based energy system and oil-and-auto-based transportation system motivated the corporate parties to get us into a disastrous war, it's having a serious impact on our standard of living at home, not just because of the cost of war, but also because of the skyrocketing costs of heating our homes and commuting to work. Whatever we might think about the lifestyle choices that some people have made – and part of the answer does lie in educating people to make better ones – the fact is that we need to make genuine energy-efficient consumer and transportation alternatives more available and accessible to the people.

Yet the Republicans and Democrats in Congress have caved in to the demands of Big Oil, Big Auto and the highway lobby. For example, the corporate media didn't report it much, but average fuel economy for all 2006 motor vehicles actually declined from 2005. The figures came out just a few days after the House Rules Committee blocked an attempt to require an increase in fuel economy standards of 10% by 2016. This outrage illustrates how irresponsible corporations and their political prostitutes in Congress and the White House are taking us in the wrong direction. And the Big Three Auto makers wonder why their business is in decline!

The threats of global warming and the end of cheap oil are, as I said at the outset, a problem for the people of the world and our country, not just our State. But that doesn't mean that we can or should simply wait for action at the global or the federal level. We can't afford to wait, and the present leadership in Washington is part of the problem, not part of the solution. Illinois is the seventh-largest economy in the U.S. It has huge agrarian resources, it has a lot of farmland that could be put to good use making biomass and wind energy, it has a talented labor force, and it has a lot of unemployed people who certainly could use well-paying jobs performing socially useful work. We are well situated to turn a negative into a positive and help pull our nation, and then the world, in the right direction.

Unfortunately, our present leadership in Springfield is also part of the problem, not part of the solution. And nothing symbolizes that better than the television ads that are now running on behalf of Blagojevich re-election campaign. What is the big job promise that Rod Blagojevich is pushing right now? More roads. Yes, he does promise some mass transit and school construction projects, but the biggest single category: More road construction. That means more urban sprawl, more reliance on the automobile, more reliance on an outmoded and dangerous means of transportation. That's what Mr. Blagojevich offers: A bold leap into the 20th century.

Blagojevich's proposed budget for 2007 simply holds the line on spending for AmTrak. That's not nearly enough. I say that we need a major state commitment to mass transit, including high-speed rail. A person should be able to get on a train in Chicago and get to Springfield in an hour, St. Louis in two hours, or Carbondale in three. The trains should be running frequently so that people will take them more. We need more of a commitment to mass transit. We need to expand light-rail options to medium and then small-size cities. This is not pie in the sky. It is doable. It just takes the political will.

A major commitment to rail will be good for the environment and our economy. On average, the emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, for rail transit per passenger, are 4.5 times lower than those of a car and 7.5 times lower than those of an airplane. More importantly, there is greater potential for using renewable energy systems to run electric-powered rail than there is to run individual automobiles.

Electric locomotives powered via 3rd rail or catenary wires will require no modification to be able to use power from renewable energy sources like wind, solar or biomass. Rail transit also produces far fewer of other toxic emissions than cars. Similarly, rail freight produces far fewer emissions per ton-mile than hauling by trucks. Rail travel is more energy efficient than automobile or air travel and reduces our dependence on fossil fuels. Even if we were to just complete the high-speed rail project on the Chicago to St. Louis corridor, projections indicate that we would save more than 6-1/2 million gallons of fuel each year.

Rail transit also means more jobs. A billion dollars spent on rail transit creates 7,000 more jobs than a billion dollars spent on highways. So while Mr. Blagojevich keeps talking about jobs, his public works priorities are not the best job creators.

But more energy efficient and less polluting transit is only one part of the solution. We also need major new commitments to clean and sustainable energy production and to energy conservation.

Rod Blagojevich promised in 2002 that he would push sustainable energy sources like bio-diesel and wind power – and yet only two-tenths of one percent of our State's energy needs are now being provided by such sources. In fact, he raided the Renewable Energy Resources Trust Fund for $9.5 million and the Energy Efficiency Trust Fund for $3 million, to put into the general fund, as part of his strategy to fund his improvident budgets so that he can continue to brag that he balanced the budget without raising taxes – even though the money for these funds comes from you, the taxpayers, every time you pay your electricity or gas bills. So he has taken your money, that by law is supposed to be devoted to grants and loans to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency in Illinois, and shoveled it into the general budget – just like he's done with money for pensions, money for social service agencies, money for other special use funds – all so that he can turn around and pretend to be a fiscal conservative. One consequence of this is that some people who installed solar water heating or photovoltaics in their homes, expecting a rebate under a program administered by the Renewable Energy Resources Trust Fund got the unpleasant surprise of finding out that the money was gone.

Similarly, Blagojevich promised to retire or clean up the dirty old coal-fired plants that slowly kill thousands of people every year with their emissions, and not permit new plants unless they use the best available technology. He broke both promises, earning him a grade of “D” from the Illinois Environmental Council in the area of air quality and energy. In short, his record on energy has been dismal. This in a State that is well poised to be a leader in developing sustainable energy.

I can and will do better because the times demand change – we have to do better. I am proposing what I have described as a “New Deal” for sustainable energy development – because a serious effort to build a sustainable energy future is not only necessary for all life on the planet; it will be good for our economy, creating tens of thousands of new, quality jobs.

By “sustainable energy,” I mean conversion from fossil fuels and nuclear power to safe, clean, renewable sources of energy like solar, wind, geothermal, biomass and fuel cell technologies. Equally important are energy conservation and efficiency, including energy-efficient transportation. The savings to businesses and consumers alike would provide more disposable income, stimulating our lackluster economy.

I do not need to recite the details of my proposed New Deal here. Why? Because the work has already been done by other organizations in the environmental movement.

I am basing this plan primarily on the work of three organizations:

First, is Repowering the Midwest: The Clean Energy Plan for the Heartland, a coalition project led by the Environmental Law & Policy Center, the Union of Concerned Scientists and several regional environmental groups, whose work is found on the web at repowermidwest.org.

This is a blueprint for producing economically and environmentally sound power by unleashing the Midwest's homegrown clean energy potential and reducing our overreliance on some of the Midwest's oldest and most polluting coal and nuclear generating plants that currently account for about 95 percent of the region's electricity generation. To achieve this, the Clean Energy Development Plan calls for:

1. Implementing cost-effective energy efficiency technologies to level off the region's overall electricity demand. These energy efficiency technologies, ranging from efficient lighting and ballasts to Energy Star® appliances to state-of-the-art industrial motors, can save business and residential consumers money. On average, these new technologies cost less than the cost of generating, transmitting and distributing electricity from coal, gas or nuclear plants. And

2. Reducing the region's overdependence on coal and nuclear plants by developing more renewable energy generating technologies: wind and solar power, and biomass energy from agricultural crops. This transition to cleaner, smarter energy would energize our economy. The new jobs created would be more than twice the total employment in the Midwest electric utility industry, and they would be distributed in both metropolitan and rural areas. This transition would create jobs, for example, in manufacturing and installing modern commercial lighting and efficient ballasts, and Energy Star®-rated appliances. It would create jobs manufacturing and assembling wind turbines and solar panels. It would generate new sources of farm income from wind turbine leases and growing and processing biomass energy crops.

The Clean Energy Development Plan identifies six concrete policy initiatives that will get us where we need to be. These include building up a State Energy Efficiency Investment Fund and Renewable Energy Investment Fund, improving our efficiency standards and building codes and monitoring and enforcement practices, establishing an Illinois Renewables Portfolio Standard that requires all retail electricity suppliers to provide eight percent of their power from renewable resources by 2010, and 22 percent by 2020, and taking steps to improve small generators' ability to connect to the grid. One of the failures of the Blagojevich administration is that it still has not established and enforced statewide interconnection standards for distributed generation, so that small producers of solar and wind power can reap the economic rewards of their investment.

Adoption of this plan would reduce global warming-causing carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) by 51 percent, acid rain-causing sulfur dioxide emissions (SO2) by 56 percent, and smog-causing nitrogen oxide emissions (NOx) by 71 percent. Emissions of particulates, mercury and other heavy metals would also be cut, leading to a significant reduction in asthma, respiratory ailments and other public health problems. The catastrophic risks of a nuclear power plant accident and the volume of radioactive nuclear wastes would also be reduced as nuclear plants could be retired. Another benefit would be better electricity reliability. Increased energy efficiency will ease the strain on transmission and distribution systems.

It is estimated that adoption of this plan will create 57,000 net new jobs in Illinois by 2020 – and that's on top of providing a new revenue stream for our often struggling farmers.

Second, the Apollo Alliance has a similar set of policy prescriptions, detailed in a report called New Energy States: Energy-Saving Policies for Governors and Legislators. The Apollo Alliance is a broad coalition of labor, environmental, and more forward-looking business groups that aims to achieve sustainable energy independence within a decade. Their program, found on the web at www.apolloalliance.org, is organized around 10 basic policy objectives, including some of the same points included in Repowering the Midewest, but including other objectives, such as smart urban redesign. What is especially impressive about this organization and its site is that it surveys measures and policies that have been tried out in all 50 states and provides information on what works.

Third, the Illinois Public Interest Research Group, or IL-PIRG, one of the non-profit public interest consumer and environmental advocacy organizations founded by Ralph Nader, found on the web at www.illinoispirg.org, is constantly coming up with new energy-efficiency and sustainable energy policy proposals. For example, in one recent report, it noted that the following 10 commonly used consumer and business products sold in Illinois are not currently required to meet minimum energy efficiency standards: Ceiling fans, commercial clothes washers, commercial refrigerators and freezers, exit signs, large packaged commercial air conditioners, low-voltage distribution transformers, set-top boxes (cable, satellite, digital TV converter boxes), torchiere lighting fixtures, traffic signs, and unit heaters. If these 10 items were simply required to meet existing minimum energy efficiency standards:

In sum, my proposed “New Deal” for job-creating sustainable energy and transportation in Illinois is not “new” in terms of the specific ideas and policy proposals it contains. But a lack of good ideas has never been the problem. There has never been a shortage of sound, feasible, well-thought-out proposals for solving the energy crisis or the environmental crisis or meeting the need for quality jobs that serve the public good.

The problem is not that no one has come up with good solutions. The problem is that the political institutions that have dominated our government for far too long won't permit them to be implemented. The leadership and office-holders of the Democratic and Republican Parties are corporate-sponsored. They are financially supported by the same giant corporate and monied interests that have always profited from using the natural environment as a toxic waste dump, that profited from the destruction of train and trolley lines in order to push us into relying on individual gas-burning vehicles, that have profited from shrinking the public-interest sectors of government in order to keep their taxes low, ven as they have expanded the military-industrial complex and private-contract sectors of government, so that they can profit from corporate welfare.

That is precisely why the Green Party, and getting Greens elected to office, is the solution. We don't play the corporations' game. We are not corporate-sponsored. We do not accept corporate campaign contributions, period. We are a party based on principles, starting with the four pillars of grassroots democracy, ecological wisdom, social justice and non-violence.

That is why I, and the other Green candidates, do not need to be persuaded or lobbied by the environmental movement in order to move us toward a sustainable energy and transportation future. We are part of the environmental movement.

That is why we do not need to be persuaded or lobbied to oppose militarism and war. We are part of the peace movement.

That is why we do not need to be persuaded or lobbied to recognize that government has a responsibility to ensure full employment at a living wage – in part by providing public works and conservation jobs that will truly serve the public good. We are part of the labor and social justice movements.

We are part of, and work with, these and other progressive movements –but the difference is that we are actually trying to get elected and gain control of government, so that all of the good policies that these organizations fight for can finally get enacted, and we can restore government of, by and for the people, instead of government of, by and for the wealthiest and most powerful corporate bankrollers. The further difference is that, by doing so, we can combat the root causes of the social ills that plague us today, instead of constantly fighting the symptoms.

I have described this program as a “New Deal” for sustainable energy and transportation for several reasons. First, the scale of the effort needed to create a sustainable energy future is comparable to the effort needed to combat the Great Depression of the 1930s – and the crises that presently confront us today are every bit as serious as those of that era.

Second, as with the New Deal, the programs I am proposing are built on the principle that government public works programs can be dedicated to protecting and enhancing our natural environment and resources rather than promoting their desecration. Some of the programs I have in mind could even be modeled on the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Finally, while I am not suggesting that Franklin Delano Roosevelt is a model to be emulated in every respect, he recognized the threat posed to democracy and government in the public interest by what he described (in his 1936 Address to Congress, for example) as an “economic autocracy” of monied interests. He even warned of the dangers that would befall us should this economic autocracy regain control of the reins of government. In that regard, his understanding of the root causes of the problems confronting us ring true today.

So it is fitting that we adopt the name of his programs that were aimed at promoting full employment, conservation and the public good, as we combat the economic autocracy of today.

Our struggle, the struggle to elect our first-ever Green administration in Springfield, is part of our larger struggle to dismantle economic autocracy once and for all, so that we can all enjoy the fruits of both political and economic democracy. Please join with us and support this struggle to gain a Green foothold in government and win a mandate of the people – so that we can usher in a new era of peace, prosperity, full economic opportunity and living in harmony with nature.


Rich Whitney on GLBT Issues

The following are Rich Whitney's answers to a series of questions posed by the Windy City Times, a leading voice of the gay and lesbian community in Chicago.

1) Do you have or would you install a written policy in your office regarding sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination?

Yes. Thankfully, the Human Rights Act now provides some such protection. I would work to ensure that same-sex partners of executive branch employees enjoy the same benefits as partners of heterosexual employees — and would work to expand such protections to the people of Illinois through legislation.

2) What is your position on the implementation of HIV names reporting (which involves tracking HIV cases by name rather than alpha-numeric code)?

My understanding is that this is already underway in Illinois under the Blagojevich administration — but I would reverse this practice. I recognize that some well-meaning organizations that opposed the practice on principle now reluctantly favor the switch because of the threatened cut-off of federal funds. I understand their reasoning but respectfully submit that it is a Faustian bargain. Considering the record of the Bush administration on privacy issues (in a word, wretched!), resistance is more imperative than ever. Under the Bush Administration, the CDC's motives are suspect. Look at how quickly Bush became a proponent of military quarantines with respect to the still-hypothetical threat of avian flu! Look at how his administration has trampled on longstanding protections of civil liberties and conventions against torture. This is not the time to cave in and give these right-wing extremists lists of names of HIV-infected persons! This administration is not above creating new “Guantánamos.” We are living in very dangerous times. I would rather see our own State make up for the loss of federal funds (see next answer) than give the Feds any more means for further repression.

More generally, I oppose such implementation on grounds that it constitutes an unwarranted invasion of privacy and is less effective than systems that protect anonymity. Names reporting will yield faulty data and cannot be relied upon to measure the HIV epidemic accurately. It creates a climate of fear that discourages testing and creates more barriers to people getting treatment.

3) What is your position regarding funding for HIV/AIDS treatment and education? Also, do you favor mandatory Medicaid coverage of those with the disease?

I am an advocate of universal health care in Illinois through a single-payer (state funded, through payroll deduction tax) system, that would include comprehensive coverage for all recognized illnesses, including HIV/AIDS. In the meantime, while fighting to implement such a system, yes, I favor mandatory Medicaid coverage of those with the disease. I am also a strong advocate of preventive health practices and education, and HIV/AIDS education should plainly be a high priority.

4) If applicable, have you taken any steps to further HIV/AIDS treatment and education programs? If so, what are those measures?

I am not an incumbent, so this answer does not apply, except in regard to my advocacy for universal health care and preventive health care, which is of long standing.

5) What is your position regarding comprehensive sexuality education?

I have long been a strong advocate — to promote public health, to save lives, and to make every child born into this world a wanted, cared-for child.

6) The impact of the domestic HIV/AIDS epidemic is hardest on racial minorities. How do you propose addressing those populations?

See previous answer. Promoting comprehensive sex education effectively presupposes addressing some broader problems with our State's schools — which have the worst inequality between rich and poor school districts in the nation. I am the only candidate in the Governor's race that has come out in favor of major reforms to improve school funding and reduce this inequality at the same time, through the tax fairness initiative known as HB 750, or at least something substantially similar. But that's only part of the answer to your question. The other part of the answer is that we need to develop culturally sensitive and diverse curricula that can impart essential sex education in an effective and meaningful manner to racial minorities. The curriculum needs to speak the language of today's youth, including minority youth, if the message is to be communicated effectively.

7) What is your position regarding the treatment of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) inmates in prisons and juvenile detention centers? What proposals can you offer to help rectify the problem?

Prisons need to be made safe environments, period. Prison rape and physical abuse need to stop being socially accepted “realities” of prison life (not to mention providing fodder for sick, dehumanizing “humor”) and must be halted, period. That's step one. The purpose and philosophy of corrections also needs to be changed. The purpose of a prison should be limited to protecting society from persons who have proved to pose some genuine material threat to society, and to engage them in intensive rehabilitation — it is not to “punish” them or treat them inhumanely as some sort of societal retribution. That's step two. A better, more truly rehabilitative prison environment could go a long way in halting the abuses suffered by LGBT prisoners in particular. Beyond that, I would support separate facilities for the transgendered, with access to hormone therapy as previously prescribed — once again, the purpose of prison is to rehabilitate not punish or further trample upon people who may already suffer from low self-esteem. As for out lesbian, gay and bisexual inmates, special care must be taken to safely house them, via housing on separate wings where requested. Access to condoms should be permitted. And conjugal visits should be permitted for outside partners, gay or straight, at least for most categories of prisoners.

8) Have you started or would you start sensitivity training for your staff members regarding LGBT issues?

Well I would hope that a Green administration and staff would prove to be already sensitive to LGBT issues. Our party is organized around our 10 Key Values, one of which – “social justice” – entails a commitment to creating a “world free of all oppression based on class, gender, race, citizenship, age, or sexual orientation.” However, recognizing that even well-intentioned people are products of their environment, I would certainly initiate sensitivity training where needed at the first sign of any oppressive or hostile acts aimed at lesbian, gay, bi or transgendered persons.

9) Do you favor same-sex marriages?

The short answer is yes, I would support and sign any legislation that gives same-sex partners the same rights and privileges as different-sex partners. My actual personal preference would be to get government out of the “marriage” business altogether. In a perfect world, the government would only recognize “civil unions” for everyone — gay and straight — and “marriage” would be the word strictly used to describe religious ceremonies, not state-sanctioned contractual personal relationships. But if I can't accomplish that, I have no problem just supporting “marriage” for all, on an equal basis.

10) Do you favor civil unions?

See previous answer. Yes. Whatever it's called, same-sex partners should have the same rights and privileges as hetero partners.

11) Do you favor hate-crimes legislation that increases penalties for crimes based on the sexual orientation or gender identity of the person attacked?

Generally, yes, in order to discourage hate crimes. The only caveat is that I generally do not favor “hate speech” legislation or codes, since I am a strong believer in the First Amendment. However, when speech crosses the threshold into assault, defamation, “fighting words” or other established exceptions to the First Amendment — and certainly when it crossses the threshold between speech and conduct — then that's a different story.

12) What is your stance regarding legislation related to the curbing of the use of methamphetamines? If applicable, what is your record concerning this issue?

Although I generally favor the decriminalization of most drug offenses, and treating substance abuse primarily as a public health problem, not a criminal justice problem, I do think it is appropriate to keep methamphetamine use criminalized. The substance is too immediately destructive and addictive to treat it otherwise.

However, I presume that your question is probably more directed at the recent laws limiting the purchase of over-the-counter cold medications, etc. I have already heard of some bizzare stories about retailers improperly restricting normal purchases of such medications, misinterpreting the law, etc. I haven't studied these laws in detail yet but it appears to me that they have erred too far on the side of restricting law-abiding consumers. We don't need to be casting aspersions of criminality at people already suffering from a cold or flu! Education, public health, building stronger families and a stronger economy — these will probably do far more to curb meth production and use than ill-conceived laws that overbroadly target consumer purchases.

13) Do you believe that LGBT individuals should become foster parents?

If they want to. They should be held to no greater or lesser standard than other applicants.

14) Do you believe that LGBT individuals have the right to adopt children?

If they want to. They should be held to no greater or lesser standard than other applicants.

15) Are any members of your current staff openly LGBT?

Well, in my small law partnership, we have exactly one employee, so no.

16) Please list any and all experience you have regarding LGBT-related issues.

In most phases of my life, including the present, I have had gay and/or lesbian friends. Although I am straight and married, I have never had any problem going to primarily gay and lesbian bars and other establishments to share some fun with friends. That may sound a bit trite, but the point is that I honestly do not have any “hangups” about sexual orientation. I try to keep my ear close to the LGBT community, occasionally attending public meetings and otherwise listening to what political issues are of greatest importance to that community. As an attorney who practices civil rights and employment law, I have tried to provide services to members of that community whenever the need has arisen and I have been approached to do so. I lived in San Francisco between 1978 and 1981, when the AIDS crisis first broke out and the community had to deal with it — and with the homophobia that led to the murder of Harvey Milk in that great city, so I have been well attuned to those issues.


Where I Stand on Gun Control and the Second Amendment

Green politics is progressive politics, not “liberal” paternalism. I support the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms.

Why?

Because a nation founded on liberty should not cede to government an exclusive power to enforce submission.

Because a democratic republic that truly enjoys the confidence of its people should have nothing to fear from its people bearing arms.

Because history provides numerous examples of extensive gun control and/or governmental disarmament of the people helping to pave the way for totalitarian rule.

Because an armed populace can be an important check – perhaps not the most important check, but a substantial one nonetheless – on the oppressive use of force, whether from a government that deigns to turn on its people, or by others.

Because this right, like the other rights designed to protect individuals contained in our Bill of Rights, won by the bloodshed of our Revolutionary forebearers, is one of our Constitutional birthrights.

Because citizens in a free Republic have a right to use reasonable means to defend their persons and their property.

Because hunting is a part of our culture and way of life, and, for some persons of limited means, still an important, and even necessary way, of supplementing their income and food supply.

Obviously, this right, as important as it is, needs to be tempered by common sense. Few rights are absolute. For example, I have fought vigorously to defend the First Amendment, in the courts and as a private citizen, yet there are limits to it. The First Amendment does not entitle a business to commit fraud in advertising. It does not entitle a troublemaker to shout, “Fire!” in a crowded theater when there is no fire. It does not give an advertiser the right to use a sound-truck to blare advertisements at high volume in your neighborhood at 2:00 o’clock in the morning.

The same is true of the Second Amendment. Few people would argue that the Second Amendment entitles citizens to bear hand grenades, bazookas or missiles. Lines do have to be drawn. And we have to be honest enough to admit that sometimes it is difficult to know where exactly to draw that line in a manner that best serves the interests of the people. We have to consider the interests and safety of responsible police officers and other public servants and their families. We have to consider the interests of people in neighborhoods where crime and gun violence is so rampant that they consider guns to be part of the problem, and not, as we generally view it in Southern Illinois, part of the solution.

Nonetheless, the weight of evidence supports the conclusion that homicide and other violent crime declines where law-abiding people have the right to carry firearms to defend themselves and deter violence by others. Therefore, I support right to carry in Illinois, with appropriate objective training, licensing and background check requirements. I lean toward “open and carry” as opposed to “conceal and carry,” since the deterrent effect of firearms would seem to be enhanced by their visibility.

On the other hand, I do believe that the State needs to be more proactive in keeping firearms out of the hands of people who do not have a legal right to own them – by more aggressively monitoring gun shows and gun dealers, using sting operations and the like.

The point of a sensible gun policy is to keep firearms out of the hands of people with any violent history while allowing law-abiding citizens to bear them.

Most of the existing measures that have been adopted to keep guns out of the hands of persons with a criminal history, and to establish some accountability for firearm ownership, are fair and reasonable. I support common-sense measures to promote safe and responsible use of firearms, and to keep them out of the hands of children, but I do not support measures that infringe on the fundamental right of the people to bear arms.

On the sometimes hotly contested issues that arise when trying to draw the right lines, I promise to solicit the views of the people, let the citizens be heard at public meetings, get all the facts and arguments on the table, and draw the lines that are best supported by the facts.


Reproductive Rights

I respect the point of view of people who strongly oppose abortion on religious or moral grounds because I can appreciate the fact that they are acting on the basis of strongly held principles - much like the Green Party, and this campaign, are also motivated by deeply held principles. However, not everyone in our society agrees with the religious precepts holding that abortion is immoral - and one of the principles that I believe in is that it is not the proper role of government to adopt the precepts of any one set of religious traditions and force them on the rest of society.

Therefore, I do not believe that it is the proper role of government to intervene in a choice that women should make for themselves, and force them to bear unwanted children. Besides, making abortion illegal is not the best way to reduce its frequency; it would only return us to the circumstances that existed in 1973: wealthier women would still be able to obtain a safe abortion while poorer women would not, and many of them would obtain an unsafe or deadly “back alley” one instead.

Where there is broad agreement, however, is on the proposition that abortion is an experience to be avoided if at all possible. We can stop making abortion such a divisive issue by working together to reduce the incidence of abortion - but without criminalizing it.

The unifying goal should be to help women avoid unwanted pregnancies in the first place and help make every child a wanted and well-supported child. We can enhance women's full right to reproductive choices by improving women's (and men's) economic opportunities, by working toward the goal of promoting full employment at living wage (or better) jobs. The evidence indicates that this would be much more effective at reducing the incidence of abortion than criminalizing it - and besides, it is a goal that we ought to have anyway!

We also need to combat ignorance by improving our education system, including better sex education. We need to promote greater access to, and use of, contraception, including “morning after” or emergency contraception. We need to provide genuine societal support for single mothers who do choose to bear children, so that they can provide a nurturing home environment for their children through infancy before having to return to the workforce.

Through this combination of policies, we can reduce the incidence of abortion while still respecting women's right to choose.


For a People’s Budget: Fiscal Responsibility, the Public Good and Fair Taxation

A Green View of the 2007 State Budget by Rich Whitney, Illinois Green Party Candidate for Governor

February 15, 2006

Last week, I was discussing Illinois politics with a couple of voters in Carbondale, when one of them, out of the blue, said, “I’m not going to vote for any candidate who does not promise to raise taxes.” Her friend agreed, saying, “I feel the same way.”

I turned to them and said, “Well, you’ve got at least one person you can vote for.”

These sentiments are no longer unusual in Illinois. Illinois voters are waking up to the need to save government for the public good.

For years, the conventional wisdom, shared by both Democratic and Republican politicians, is that you cannot get elected unless you promise to cut taxes, or at least not raise them. During the Ryan administration, they did cut taxes – in the form of tax breaks and doling out other special favors for giant corporations and the wealthy. This paved the way for the structural deficits our State has suffered under since 2001. But Rod Blagojevich has been a prisoner of the same conventional wisdom. This “conventional wisdom” wrongly presumes that all the voters care about is themselves; that they are selfish, and that all they want to hear from a candidate is whether he or she is going to lower their taxes, or at least not raise them. It presumes that voters can’t comprehend that if you cut taxes too far, you can end up cutting your own throat, because you have made it impossible for government to serve the most basic public functions.

Over the last five years, our own State has proved that very point. While Governor Blagojevich has repeatedly bragged that he has balanced the budget without raising taxes, what he doesn’t care to talk about is that he has done this at a tremendous social cost. For example:

Illinois voters are waking up to the fact that we can’t go on like this – that there is a crying need for government that truly serves the public interest. As a Green Party candidate for Governor, I am here to challenge the so-called conventional wisdom – because it isn’t working – and give the people of this State another choice at the ballot box this November: A choice for fiscal responsibility and serving the public good.

Our State government needs to be placed on a sound fiscal footing, by enacting badly needed tax reforms to raise new revenue, while at the same time making our tax system more fair to lower- and middle-income taxpayers. And I am the only candidate in this race who is being up-front in pledging to do just that.

Barring some major surprise today, Rod Blagojevich would rather rely on schemes like more State-run gambling in Illinois – which is a hidden tax on the poor – and letting future generations contend with our under funded pension system, than on doing what is right and necessary to fund our State government in a responsible and fair manner. His sole Democratic challenger, Edwin Eisendrath, and his leading Republican contender, Judy Baar Topinka, have each waffled on whether we need to raise taxes – shouldn’t they have a position on this by now? Meanwhile, the other Republican contenders, in pledging not to raise taxes at all, are either harboring a delusion or are actually planning to give us even more disastrous cuts in funds for our schools, universities, elderly care facilities, family services, pensions, environmental programs and more.

Unlike each of these candidates, I am the only candidate for Governor who is campaigning explicitly for House Bill 750. The product of a genuine people’s advocacy group, the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, [ctbaonline.org], the bill would couple a general increase in the State income tax with tax credits for lower- and middle-income taxpayers, along with a dedicated fund, to provide badly needed property tax abatements to local taxpayers. Overall, the plan would raise enough funds to adequately fund our schools, begin solving the pension mess, getting our social service agencies back on track and allowing us to make some real headway through projects that represent genuine progress – like a job-creating “New Deal” to promote sustainable energy production and sustainable transportation in Illinois.

House Bill 750 has been supported by a number of citizens’ groups, like Voices for Illinois Children, the Better Funding for Better Schools Coalition and A+ Illinois, a broad-based coalition supported by such diverse groups as the Illinois Farm Bureau, the Chicago Urban League, Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois and a number of labor unions. It has been supported by a few good progressive Democrats who have reintroduced it into the legislature after its defeat last year. Unfortunately, their own Democrat Governor won’t back them on it! He has promised to veto the Bill if it passes.

Yet House Bill 750 would address several crucial issues at once: The under funding of our schools, school funding inequality, our regressive tax system, our over-reliance on the property tax and our structural deficit.

Our tax structure in Illinois is fundamentally unfair, placing far too much of the tax burden on those least able to pay – the poor, and low-to-middle income workers and farmers, and small businesses – while giving most of the breaks to those most able to pay, the big corporations and the extremely wealthy. That is the main reason why our State is under funded. According to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, Illinois is the 6th worst state in the nation in terms of being regressive, that is, in terms of taxing lower and middle-income taxpayers at a higher rate than the wealthy. When all taxes are taken into account – income, sales, excise and property taxes, and the effects of federal offsets, the poorest 20 percent of Illinois taxpayers pay 13.1% of their income in taxes, the middle 60 percent pay, on average, about 10.1% of their income in taxes, while the top 1 percent – people with an average income of $1.3 million per year – are only paying 4.6% of their income in taxes. Years of special tax favors to big corporations also means that these wealthy non-persons are also not paying their fair share of taxes, either.

Meanwhile, although the personal income tax burden in Illinois is more than twenty percent below the national average, its property-tax burden is about twenty percent above the national average, imposing an unjust burden on working and middle-class homeowners and on our farmers, orchard growers and wineries.

Here are the main features of House Bill 750:

First, it would generate $7.25 billion in new revenues by increasing the personal income tax to 5%, the corporate income tax to 8%, eliminating corporate “tax expenditures” (i.e., special tax breaks) and expanding the scope of the sales tax to include personal and consumer services, which are presently exempted.

Second, the increase in the income tax would be offset for low and middle-income families through a refundable credit , which costs approximately $900 million.

Third, $1.8 billion would then be devoted to increase the foundation level of our schools.

Fourth, under another dedicated fund, local taxpayers would receive a property tax abatement of 20-25%, with poorer districts getting the 25 percent abatement but all districts receiving a guaranteed minimum of at least 20 percent. Structuring this as an abatement ensures that no school district loses any funding, because they would be required to continue assessing at the current rate.

Now, that’s the basic plan. What are the advantages of this plan?

First, the State assumes 51% of the cost of funding education (the national average). The education Foundation Level is increased by more than $1,000 per child, implementing the recommendations of the State Education Funding Advisory Board.

Second, under the refundable earned income credit part of the plan, the bottom 60% of all income earners do not pay higher income taxes, and the bottom 20% of income earners actually realize a net tax decrease. Our homeowners and farmers finally get some real property tax relief. Our tax system is made more fair, relieving the burden placed on those least able to pay.

Third, Illinois will still have the 7th lowest income tax rate nationally. It will remain a low-tax state, ranking in the bottom third of all states in total state and local tax burden.

Fourth, Illinois gains more school funding fairness, narrowing the gap in school funding, without forcing wealthier districts to spend less but giving a real boost to poorer districts, while ensuring that they cannot play a shell game with property taxes, as we have seen happen with lottery revenues.

Fifth, the State’s structural deficit is eliminated! Five years of austere budgeting, seeing thousands of state workers’ jobs eliminated, wages frozen, pensions attacked and vital social services, including money for higher education, cut to the bone, will finally come to an end.

The choice is clear: Rod Blagojevich won’t do anything about the unfair and backward system of taxation in Illinois because it’s more important to him to say “I didn’t raise your taxes” for political advantage – and to shelter his friends in big business – than to do what’s right.

By repeating this claim, he is hiding the fact that the real issue is not whether the state income tax rate, by itself, goes up or down; the real issue is whether the overall tax system is fair, equitable and responsible, and whether government is spending wisely, to serve the public good.

I will do what’s right. I will fight to get House Bill 750 – or something like it – passed. I will get our State government back on a sound financial footing. I will do what is necessary to save and improve our schools, make higher education more affordable to students and parents of limited means, and make sure that workers receive the pensions they were promised. I will finally give the people badly needed property tax relief.

The budgetary disaster that confronts Illinois is a bi-partisan failure, generated by fiscal irresponsibility and special favoritism toward corporate interests that is shared by the current administration in Springfield, its Republican predecessor, and both corporate parties in the legislature. That is why we now need tri-partisan politics in Illinois, by getting Greens elected to office – and we need it now.


The 2007 Budget: A Call to serve the public good through fiscal responsibility and fair taxation Rod Blagojevich proposes election-year gimmicks and more irresponsible budgeting. Judy Baar Topinka proposes nothing. Only Rich Whitney proposes a budget to serve the people.

The comedian Lewis Black once described the difference between the Republican and Democratic parties this way: The Republican Party is the party of bad ideas, while the Democratic Party is the party of no ideas.

In the race for Illinois Governor, however, this description needs revision: It is Democratic incumbent Rod Blagojevich who has been proposing one disastrous budget after another, while his Republican opponent, Judy Baar Topinka, so far has failed to advance any specific proposals for solving the state's budget mess.

That is why I am confident that the voters of Illinois are ready to welcome the Green Party on the ballot this November: The people of this State need, want, and will be clamoring for, another choice on the ballot besides Rod Blagojevich and Judy Baar Topinka – a so-called “choice” between an opportunist who gives us slick, populist-sounding proposals, without bothering to fund the most basic functions of government, and a candidate who talks about fiscal responsibility but who has given us no specifics and who hasn't even taken a position on tax policy yet.

Think about that one: She wants to be Governor. She's been the State Treasurer for 12 years now. Don't you think that she ought to have a position on taxes by now?

Last month, Rod Blagojevich's unveiled his Budget Proposal for Fiscal 2007. It did represent a new turn for the present administration – but it's not a turn for the better. After three straight years of pushing through budgets that have devastated human and social services, starved hospitals, health-care providers and elderly care facilities, robbed special use funds, cut environmental initiatives, eliminated necessary state jobs and otherwise stripped useful state programs of needed funds, Blagojevich has proposed some modest increases in human services spending for 2007. This should not surprise anyone – it's an election year.

In addition, he has pushed some new pet projects that seemingly serve a public good, like his All-Kids program to provide affordable health-care to all children in the State and his proposal to provide universal pre-school education and reduced kindergarten to 3rd-grade class size in Illinois. However, on closer examination, these proposals amount to political showboating, and are more calculated to enhance Blagojevich's chances for re-election than they are aimed at enhancing the quality of life of the people of Illinois.

Why? Because while Rod Blagojevich has talked the talk, he has failed to walk the walk of enacting the tax reforms needed to put our State on a sound fiscal footing. As the Chicago Tribune recently put it, “If hundreds of millions of dollars go to these new programs, what do we tell the doctors, hospitals and pharmacists who have been waiting months, even years, to be reimbursed for treating Medicaid patients?”

Similarly, A+ Illinois, a broad coalition of children's advocacy, labor, civic and community organizations fighting for better public schools, made the following comment about Blagojevich's education proposals:

“Preschool learning and K-3 class size reduction are important areas shown to improve student learning. However, we also need to make sure 3- and 4-year-olds can go on to K-12 environments that are conducive to their long-term success . . . . Right now, there are far too many schools across Illinois that don't have the bare minimum funding needed to ensure their kids meet the state's learning standards.”

A+ Illinois goes on to point out that the Blagojevich budget only increases per pupil spending by $170 – not enough to keep up with inflation, and still falling $1,070 short, per pupil, of the state foundation level recommended by the Education Funding Advisory Board – whose members were appointed by Blagojevich.

These are just a couple of examples of the misplaced priorities of the Blagojevich administration. He has bragged about eliminating 13,000 State jobs in his previous three budgets – as if eliminating thousands of jobs during an economic downturn is a good thing – and yet he fails to mention that we're talking about the elimination of jobs in the Department of Children and Family Services, the Department of Human and Family Services, including child support enforcement jobs, Department of Natural Resources jobs, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency jobs, jobs supporting tourism, agriculture, and the Department of Corrections.

On this last point, let me clarify, that, while, as a Green, I support sweeping reforms of our criminal justice system, to decriminalize many drug offenses, and emphasize rehabilitation and alternatives to prison, we still need a safe and well-staffed Department of Corrections. In fact, we need more and better trained counselors, prison educators and parole officers to help people succeed as citizens.

Blagojevich, however, has cut prison education programs by more than 30 percent, virtually eliminating college programs, and left many prisons dangerously understaffed – which simply cannot be justified from any political perspective. We have a maximum security prison here at Tamms where they couldn't afford to keep the lights on in some sections. We have prisons in this state where one correctional officer may be left alone in the yard with 300 inmates or has to move a line of hundreds of inmates by himself.

Blagojevich trots out a new plan for veterans' health care, but his budget cuts have caused major staffing shortages at the state-run homes for aged and disabled veterans. At the home in Quincy, for example, veterans are bathed just once a week. The veterans in Anna are lucky. They still get bathed twice a week.

Wards of the state – the severely mentally ill and developmentally disabled – are no longer getting proper care from the Guardianship and Advocacy Commission. The average caseload for state guardians in Illinois is now more than twice the recommended national standard. Wards of the state – some of our most vulnerable citizens – typically get a half-hour visit from a guardian once every three months.

Child-protection workers in the DCFS are failing to keep up with court-ordered caseload requirements due to staff cuts. Between 2001 and 2005, their staff has been cut 22 percent while there has been an 11 percent increase in child abuse investigations. Investigations are not getting completed in the required 60 days, which places more and more children at risk.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has had its staff cut 13 percent since 2001, while the Department of Natural Resources has been cut 26 percent. The Bureau of Air Quality and the Bureau of Water Quality are no longer able to adequately monitor emissions, even though Illinois ranks 3rd in the U.S. in number of neighborhoods with high health risk from air pollution and groundwater contamination is a serious problem in this state. State parks and forests have had to eliminate services and programs. Rod Blagojevich got some headlines for supporting tougher mercury standards but his IEPA staff can't fully enforce existing regulations. And meanwhile, he continues to support a new “mine-mouth” coal-fired plant in Marissa that will not use best available technology, and that will dump more mercury into our environment, contaminating waterways throughout Southern Illinois.

Blagojevich has described all this as “streamlining” government. Actually, it's more like steamrollering over government. If Rod Blagojevich came to your house with a bulldozer and demolished two or three rooms, I suppose he could call that “streamlining” your house. And that's essentially what he's done to our State government. Now he comes back, after doing this for three years, and he offers to build back one new room for “All (your) Kids” – and he wants you to vote for him because of it!

Actually, it's even worse than that – because it's as if he's building the one room by dismantling another one, paying for it by raiding your kids' saving account, and then taking some of your money in a friendly poker game. What I'm referring to is Blagojevich once again balancing the budget and paying for his high-profile initiatives by raiding special use funds, deferring pension obligations, issuing bonds that will have to be paid by future generations, and expanding state-sponsored gambling.

His 2007 budget proposes to sweep special use funds, once again, for another $144 million. So once again, no more money for land conservation purchases. And that tax credit you were promised for installing solar heating on your home? Sorry! It disappeared!

As Blagojevich correctly points out, the underfunding of our State pension system was actually worse under his Republican predecessor. Yet he's still failing to address a mounting problem which will become harder to fix with each passing year. Illinois now has a $38.6 billion pension liability deficit, the largest in the country, and an asset to liability ratio of 60 percent, one of the worst rates and well below the fiscally prudent level of 80 to 90 percent. Recommended targets for ramping up the state's contributions gradually, over a 50-year schedule, were not met last year and won't be met again this year.

This means that future Illinois taxpayers are going to get stuck with steeper and steeper pension obligations, or State workers are going to be cheated out of promised pensions – or both – all because Rod Blagojevich needs some extra cash for his showcase programs right now, in order to get re-elected.

Finally, there's that perennial favorite, more state-sanctioned gambling – a hidden tax on the poor that preys upon the ignorant, the compulsive and the desperate. Now Rod Blagojevich wants yet another riverboat, and to introduce Keno to bars and restaurants around the State. The fact that this idea shortly follows a $10,000 campaign contribution from the gambling industry is, no doubt, pure coincidence.

So here we have Blagojevich constantly bragging about balancing the budget without raising taxes, but he has done this, not only by cutting into vital social programs and jobs, but by raising fees, raiding special use funds, short-changing the pension system (including swiping $2 billion in new bonds that were supposed to be paid into the pension system), giving our state university and college students double-digit tuition increases, deferring Medicaid payments to health-care providers, shifting some burdens to local governments, selling state buildings, and, perhaps worst of all, neglecting our schools, which rank 48th in the nation in per pupil spending, the worst in the nation in inequality between districts, and one of the worst in achievement gaps between districts.

Why? Because Rod Blagojevich is a servant of the same corporate interests and a prisoner of the same kind of thinking that is pushed by the extreme Right: Taxes are bad, government is bad; government has to be shrunk. You can't talk about raising taxes, oh no. The voters won't stand for that.

The assumption behind this is that all voters are inherently selfish; they only want more money in their own pockets and are too stupid to realize that some government programs are needed to ensure our quality of life and that if you cut taxes too far, you can end up cutting your own throat, because you have made it impossible for government to serve the most basic public functions.

The Right likes this, of course, because then they get the big tax cuts for the rich, and, when government programs can't function well on less money, they turn around and say, “See, this proves government doesn't work; we need to privatize everything.” Then you end up with the worst of both worlds: taxpayer-supported private profiteering with lousy services.

Rod Blagojevich isn't quite that bad, but he goes along with the same basic program. The only difference is that he uses these few gimmicky liberal feel-good initiatives to get elected – and he does it at the expense of other, less popular programs, and at the expense of future generations.

Fortunately, I believe that Illinois voters are not stupid, and that if given the truth, they can and will vote for their true interests. Many are already waking up to the fact that we can't go on like this. As a Green Party candidate for Governor, I will give the people of this State another choice: A choice for fiscal responsibility and serving the public good.

Our State government needs to be placed on a sound fiscal footing, by enacting badly needed tax reforms to raise new revenue, while at the same time making our tax system more fair to lower- and middle-income taxpayers. And I am the only candidate in this race who is being up-front in pledging to do just that.

I am the only candidate for Governor who is campaigning explicitly for House Bill 750. The product of a genuine people's advocacy group, the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, the bill would couple a general increase in the State income tax with tax credits for lower- and middle-income taxpayers, along with a dedicated fund to provide badly needed property tax abatements to local taxpayers. Overall, the plan would raise enough funds to adequately fund our schools, begin solving the pension mess, getting our social service agencies back on track and allowing us to make some real headway through projects that represent genuine progress – like sustainable energy production and sustainable transportation.

House Bill 750 has been supported by a number of citizens' groups, like Voices for Illinois Children, the Better Funding for Better Schools Coalition and A+ Illinois. It would address several crucial issues at once: The underfunding of our schools, school funding inequality, our regressive tax system, our over-reliance on the property tax and our structural deficit.

Our tax structure in Illinois is fundamentally unfair, placing far too much of the tax burden on those least able to pay – the poor, and low-to-middle income workers and farmers, and small businesses – while giving most of the breaks to those most able to pay, the big corporations and the extremely wealthy. That is the main reason why our State is underfunded.

According to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, Illinois is the 6th worst state in the nation in terms of being regressive, that is, in terms of taxing lower and middle-income taxpayers at a higher rate than the wealthy. When all taxes are taken into account – income, sales, excise and property taxes, and the effects of federal offsets, the poorest 20 percent of Illinois taxpayers pay 13.1% of their income in taxes, the middle 60 percent pay, on average, about 10.1% of their income in taxes, while the top 1 percent – people with an average income of $1.3 million per year – are only paying 4.6% of their income in taxes. Years of special tax favors to big corporations also means that these wealthy non-persons are also not paying their fair share of taxes, either.

Meanwhile, although the personal income tax burden in Illinois is more than twenty percent below the national average, its property-tax burden is about twenty percent above the national average, imposing an unjust burden on working and middle-class homeowners and on our farmers, orchard growers and wineries.

Here are the main features of House Bill 750:

First, it would generate $7.25 billion in new revenues by increasing the personal income tax to 5%, the corporate income tax to 8%, eliminating corporate “tax expenditures” (i.e., special tax breaks) and expanding the scope of the sales tax to include personal and consumer services, which are presently exempted.

Second, the increase in the income tax would be offset for low and middle-income families through a refundable credit , which costs approximately $900 million. Third, $1.8 billion would then be devoted to increase the foundation level of our schools. Fourth, under another dedicated fund, local taxpayers would receive a property tax abatement of 20-25%, with poorer districts getting the 25 percent abatement but all districts receiving a guaranteed minimum of at least 20 percent. Structuring this as an abatement ensures that no school district loses any funding, because they would be required to continue assessing at the current rate.

Now, that's the basic plan. What are the advantages of this plan?

First, the State assumes 51% of the cost of funding education (the national average). The education Foundation Level is increased by more than $1,000 per child, meeting the recommendations of the State Education Funding Advisory Board.

Second, under the refundable earned income credit part of the plan, the bottom 60% of all income earners do not pay higher income taxes, and the bottom 20% of income earners actually realize a net tax decrease. Our homeowners and farmers finally get some real property tax relief. Our tax system is made more fair, relieving the burden placed on those least able to pay.

Third, Illinois will still have the 7th lowest income tax rate nationally. It will remain a low-tax state, ranking in the bottom third of all states in total state and local tax burden.

Fourth, Illinois gains more school funding fairness, narrowing the gap in school funding, without forcing wealthier districts to spend less but giving a real boost to poorer districts, while ensuring that they cannot play a shell game with property taxes, as we have seen happen with lottery revenues.

Fifth, the State's structural deficit is eliminated! Five years of austere budgeting, with all the problems that I have described, will finally come to an end.

The choice is clear: Rod Blagojevich won't do anything about the unfair and backward system of taxation in Illinois because it's more important to him to say “I didn't raise your taxes” for political advantage – and to shelter his friends in big business – than to do what's right.

Judy Baar Topinka won't tell us what her budget plan is, other than stating that she doesn't like Rod Blagojevich's plan. That alone is reason not to vote for her. But we do know that she is also beholden to the same corporate interests that buy and sell both Republican and Democratic politicians. Chances are, she would not push the same liberal feel-good programs as Blagojevich – but she would continue to cut spending on vital social programs.

I will do what's right. I will fight to get House Bill 750 – or something like it – passed. I will get our State government back on a sound financial footing. I will do what is necessary to save and improve our schools, make higher education more affordable to students and parents of limited means, and make sure that workers receive the pensions they were promised. I will finally give the people badly needed property tax relief.

The people of this State deserve a better choice than the “choice” between a corporate-sponsored con man and a corporate-sponsored media image. That's why we need you to join our fight, the Green Party fight, to give the people a real choice.

The budgetary disaster that confronts Illinois is a bi-partisan failure, generated by fiscal irresponsibility and special favoritism toward corporate interests that is shared by the current administration in Springfield, its Republican predecessor, and both corporate parties in the legislature. That is why we now need tri-partisan politics in Illinois, by getting Greens elected to office – and we need it now.


Open Source Software

The State of Illinois spends millions of taxpayer dollars on proprietary software and operating systems for computer systems. Often this locks the State into expensive sole-source procurement arrangements. At the same time, some of the largest Corporations in the United States are saving millions of dollars by using freely available Open Source solutions, solutions which use standard document formats. The Open Source Movement is emerging as a competitive rival to privately developed and marketed software, producing programs of equal or better reliability and security. The State of Illinois needs to be at the forefront of this new wave of technology development.

If elected, therefore:


Controlling Light Pollution: A Green Concern

Today, people who live in or near cities have lost much of their view of the universe. The view is often substantially diminished even for people who live in smaller towns and rural areas. The spectacular view of the night sky that our ancestors had on clear dark nights no longer exists. The great increase in the number of people living in urban areas has resulted in a rapid increase in urban sky glow due to poorly designed, inefficient outdoor lighting, brightening the heavens to such an extent that the only view most people have of the Milky Way is when they are well away from cities. This excess light in the sky has an adverse impact on the environment and seriously threatens to remove forever one of humanity's natural wonders, our view of the universe.

This sky glow that adversely affects the environment and compromises astronomical research is called light pollution. It is wasted light that does nothing to enhance nighttime safety, utility, or security. Such wasted light only serves to produce glare, clutter, light trespass, light pollution, and wastes energy, money, and natural resources in the process, all the while creating additional pollution at the source where the wasted energy is produced.

The negatives associated with light pollution include:

If we as a nation want to achieve energy independence, one of the simplest steps is to end light pollution.

Following are some solutions that minimize light pollution without compromising in any way nighttime safety, security, or utility:

We must do what we can to protect the nighttime environment. All the solutions have benefits of maximizing the quality of the lighting, reducing pollution, saving money, and saving energy. Eliminating Light Pollution is another of the key environmental issues confronting our civilization, one of the simplest to remedy, yet one that most people are unaware of.


Why I Oppose the Peotone Airport Proposal (Adapted from presentation to S.T.A.N.D. — “Shut This Airport Nightmare Down” — Peotone, Illinois, May 11, 2006)

Thank you all for inviting me to your meeting.

I am a civil rights attorney from Carbondale and the Green Party's candidate for Governor of Illinois. I drove all the way here from Carbondale to be with you tonight, about 5 hours. And when I'm done, I will be driving straight back for another 5 hours because, unlike professional politicians, I have to keep my day job and go to work tomorrow.

Now some of you might be thinking, “I'm not going to vote for that guy. He's crazy to be doing that!” But I'm doing this because that's how strongly I feel about this issue. We have got to stop this foolhardy airport proposal.

I actually belong to a similar citizens' group in Southern Illinois that we formed a few years ago, called “CARE” — Citizens Against Reckless Expansion. That group was organized to fight against some equally foolish road expansion proposals — the proposal to expand State Highway 127, a nice country road, into a freeway, so that people could drive from St. Louis to Carbondale faster; the proposal to build a new Interstate 66 right through the Shawnee National Forest, and the proposed widening of Highway 13 between Carbondale and Marion.

Fortunately, the first two proposals have more or less fallen through, for now, due to lack of funding. However, the Highway 13 proposal is part of Governor Blagojevich's “Opportunity Returns” program. This proposal is ridiculous because Highway 13 is already four lanes wide on that corridor and there is no traffic flow problem that can justify the expansion; there is no reason to widen it to six lanes. The so-called “Opportunity Returns” program looks an awful lot like “Pork as Usual” to us.

Just like STAND opposes the Peotone Airport, CARE opposes these road projects because we see them as promoting more urban sprawl, more senseless development, more of the “Wal-Martization” of America. Just like you do not want to see your land transformed into another Chicago suburb, we did not want to see our land transformed into another Greater St. Louis area suburb. Like you, we do not oppose economic development, but we insist that it has to be smart development, development that makes sense for the people who live there.

So, if I am elected Governor, you will not need to “lobby” me to stop this airport. I am already with you. In fact, here is my membership application to join your organization! [Turning in application to STAND President George Ochsenfeld.]

You also will not have to worry about my “selling out” once elected. The Green Party is a party based on principles, not corporate money. We refuse all corporate campaign contributions. Our principles, what we call the 10 Key Values, include the Green values of Ecological Wisdom, Grassroots Democracy, Social Justice and Community-Based Economics. And these principles explain why I am completely with you in opposing this ill-conceived proposal to build an airport in Peotone.

Let's talk about Ecological Wisdom:

First, as I indicated, this proposal will promote urban sprawl.

An airport in Peotone will obviously lead to urbanizing this area, bringing in more auto traffic, more development, and more congestion, from here to Chicago. That's more wasted energy resources, more wasted time stuck in traffic, more pollution and more greenhouse gas emissions.

We need to preserve our agrarian land in the United States. In the U.S. today, there are over 38.4 million acres that are now paved over with roads and parking lots. That's more land covered in asphalt than the size of some entire nations. Every day, the United States loses 3,000 acres of productive farmland to sprawling development ­ the equivalent of Delaware every year. We can't keep going on like this. We are killing ourselves. The people need to make a stand now, just like you folks are doing here, and just like we've been doing in Southern Illinois. It's got to start somewhere, and it is starting with people standing up in their own communities, just like this.

Second, environmental sense means economic sense.

Agriculture and wide open spaces must be seen as an economic strength, not a weakness. The capacity of Illinois farmland to help meet our future energy needs through biomass energy and wind energy is tremendous and we have barely begun to tap into it. This will be a great source of economic strength and new job creation in the future ­ but not if we pave over it.

It also makes no economic sense to be expanding airport facilities and expanding more roadways from here to Chicago, at a time when the era of cheap oil is coming to a close. I just heard on the radio driving up today that oil is now up to $73 a barrel. We need to be promoting more sustainable forms of transportation like rail and smart urban planning, so that people don't have to drive so much. And if you want to talk about jobs, sustainable transportation like rail is a far better job creator than spending more government funds on roadways or airports. Every billion dollars spent on rail creates 7,000 more jobs than a billion dollars spent on road construction. That brings me to my next point about the environmental issues here:

Third, energy-efficient mass transit is a far better way to address this problem.

I am a member of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association and I support high-speed rail in Illinois. That will go much further to alleviate traffic congestion and airport congestion than building this fool airport. It will be better for the environment and our economy.

Consider Greenhouse gas emissions: On average, the emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, for rail transit per passenger, are 4.5 times lower than those of a car and 7.5 times lower than those of an airplane. More importantly, there is potential for using renewable energy systems to run electric-powered rail. You can't do that with cars or planes. You can't put a solar panel or a wind generator on individual cars or planes to power them. But you could use solar or wind energy from the grid to power high-speed rail.

Consider Congestion Relief: Rail reduces airport and highway congestion and the associated pollution. Expansion of high speed rail in particular would reduce costs associated with highway and airport expansion as well as productivity lost in travel time. Rail can get you right downtown in Chicago, and most other cities, where you can then take mass transit to most destinations, or rent a car if you need. Airports are necessarily further removed from urban and mass transit centers and encourage more driving.

Consider Speed: For distances of 500 miles or less, rail travel can be as fast or faster than other modes of transportation when all factors are considered (highway congestion, parking, going through airport security, travel to air hubs, etc.) Of course, this advantage will be heightened if we make the commitment to high-speed rail. With high speed rail, people should be able to get on a train in Chicago and be in St. Louis in a couple of hours, or Carbondale in a couple of hours, etc. There is no reason why we can't have bullet trains here just like they have in some European countries, and Japan.

Let's talk about Grassroots Democracy, Social Justice and Community-Based Economics.

First, this proposal is a huge waste of resources for an airport we don't need.

It makes no sense to be expanding air transit at a time when the era of cheap oil-based fuel is coming to a close. To the extent that some short-term relief is needed, the airline industry can expand O'Hare or use Rockford.

Second, you have a right to make your own economic decisions.

I'm sure most of you did not choose to live here because you wanted to become the latest Chicago suburb. You have a basic right to choose to maintain the character of your community. It should not be the role of State government to push you or force you to become something different.

Third, to force you to give up your land is a gross abuse of eminent domain laws.

About three years ago, I wrote something for CARE that I want to share with you, because it really applies to your situation as well. Let me just quote you a couple of paragraphs:

“These Projects [the road projects I referred to] Trample on the Property Rights of Farmers, Homeowners and Small Business.

“It is well established in our system of law and under our Constitution that a government of the people does have the right to take private property when it provides due process through condemnation proceedings and pays fair compensation and when it is legitimate and necessary for the common good. But it violates the spirit, if not the letter of the Constitution when a State government comes in and strong-arms people, taking their property for what is at best a highly questionable purpose, and which I maintain is actually destructive of the common good. Since the safety of Highway 127 can be improved by putting in a few strategically located passing lanes, there is no public necessity that can justify condemning and taking people's land for the entire stretch of Highway as proposed.

“The government should not be robbing farmers, shop owners in Pinckneyville [where the proposed 127 Freeway would go through], or homeowners to put in another freeway or widen an existing one. It's time for the people to tell their government, ‘Stop!'”

Folks, change just a few words — substitute Peotone Airport for Highway 127 and use the Rockford Airport for putting in passing lanes — and the exact same wording applies to your situation. Eminent domain should only be used when there is a demonstrated public necessity and a public good that will be served. Here, not only would this not be a public necessity or a public good; to take your land for this proposed Airport would actually serve to harm the public interest. It simply cannot be a justification for eminent domain.

I must confess that I don't know exactly where Rod Blagojevich and Judy Baar Topinka stand on this issue — although, as far as I can tell, they haven't spoken clearly about it at all. (In fact, I'm not sure that I know where Judy Baar Topinka stands on any issue!)

But now you know where I stand. I appeal for your help in our petition drive to get on the ballot, and then, in our campaign. To help in our petition drive, we hope you will sign our petition to get our State Slate on the ballot, and you can go to our website, www.whitneyforgov.org, to download petition forms and an instruction sheet if you are willing and able to help us further. Your support will be appreciated. Thank you.


Rich Whitney Supports Illinois Wineries in Fight Against Distributors

As a Green Party candidate for office, I support community-based economics and grassroots democracy - two of our Party's “Ten Key Values.”

That's why I am siding with Illinois wineries - which are mostly small and/or family-owned, locally oriented businesses - in their current struggle against large, multi-state liquor distributors, which are attempting to prohibit them from selling their products directly to retailers, restaurants and individual consumers.

The current battle arises from recent Supreme Court and federal court rulings that require all states to treat in-state wineries and out-of-state wineries equally, with respect to regulations on sales. Thus, if in-state wineries are allowed to sell directly to retailers and restaurants, for example, out-of-state wineries must be permitted to do the same.

The big liquor distributors in Illinois have responded by introducing legislation (HB 4350) that would bar all wineries - in-state and out - from selling directly to retailers and restaurants. In addition, the bill would limit direct shipments of wine to consumers to two cases per year.

If such restrictions are enacted, it would inflict a crippling blow to the still-fledgling Illinois wine industry, in order to protect the monopolistic control of the market by distributors. While the distributors understandably oppose the loss of some revenue from out-of-state wineries making direct sales to retailers, restaurants and consumers, the reality is that most large winery operations from California and other states will still rely on distributors to get most of their product to market. They would have our State crush Illinois wineries in order to avoid a very modest impact on their own business. That is unacceptable.

Illinois wineries are playing an important role in providing suitable and sustainable economic development in Southern and Western Illinois. They help these regions maintain their natural beauty and rural character while creating jobs and giving an important boost to a growing tourist industry. Last year, our wineries produced almost 500,000 gallons of wine and generated about $20 million worth of revenue, while helping to attract about 150,000 tourists to Illinois.

However, the distributors have more money at their disposal, and have contributed millions of dollars to candidates of the two corporate parties over the years in an effort to get their way. They provide yet another illustration of powerful corporate interests trying to buy legislation in Springfield.

As a Green, I am a supporter of small and community-oriented businesses. I also favor encouraging local and regional consumption of locally produced products, because that is more energy efficient than encouraging unnecessary transportation of comparable products from other regions. Therefore, I conclude that Illinois wineries are on the “Green” side of this issue - and I am with them.

Of course, support for the wineries in this particular battle is just one of the ways in which I will fight for the interests of Illinois wine producers, fruit growers and farmers.

My budget reform proposal, based on HB 750, will finally provide these producers badly needed property tax relief.

My “New Deal” for sustainable energy and sustainable transportation in Illinois will include promotion of wind power and biomass energy production, which will provide our farmers and other agrarian producers with new sources of revenue.

I will also take the initiative to promote

Meanwhile, on this immediate issue, Illinois wineries should know that there is one gubernatorial candidate who fully supports protecting their right to sell their product directly to retailers, restaurants and individual consumers.


Farm Issues and Policies: Where I Stand

I am running for Governor in order to truly represent the interests of the people - not giant corporations - in Springfield. By the “people,” I mean working people, the disadvantaged, the middle class and small business owners. This includes the family farmers and other small or medium-size farm owners, orchard growers and winemakers, who together are a vital part of our local economy - and who need strong representation in Springfield.

Farmers have not been getting such representation from the Democratic and Republican parties and their candidates, because the Democratic and Republican parties are too much under the control of the giant corporations who fund them and their campaigns. The Green Party, on the other hand, is a people's party that does not accept corporate campaign contributions - so we can't be bought off by big money. One of our principles is “grassroots democracy.” We fight to make “government of, by and for the people” a reality.

That's why, if elected, I will fight hard for a number of other measures that will help you. These include:

Decisions regarding the use of pesticides and herbicides should be based on objective, fair, scientific evidence of their long-term impact on agriculture and human health, and fair consideration of farmers' viewpoints. Those decisions must be enforced fairly, across the board. Another part of the solution is to encourage integrated pest management techniques and develop sound, economical alternative methods of pest and weed control. We also need to make organic, non-corporate farming a more viable choice by providing positive financial incentives for those who meet objective, enforced organic certification standards.

As for Genetically Modified foods, I support the position of the American Farmers Union, which calls for a moratorium on the patenting, licensing and introduction of GMO foods “until the broader legal, ethical, and economic questions are resolved.”

I do believe that we should encourage wider production and use of ethanol but not on quite the same scale as my opponents. Of course, the large campaign contributions being doled out by Archer Daniels Midland to each of my opponents ($50,000 to Blagojevich and $25,000 to Topinka) may account for some of the enthusiasm.

Experience should teach us that when it comes to energy policy, we shouldn't put all of our eggs in one basket. I support a diversified approach to clean energy production - mainly because there are job-creating economic gains to be made from other biofuels, wind power (which would also provide revenue for farmers), geothermal and solar energy, as well as coal gasification. We need to be investing State resources, creating incentives and imposing requirements to support each of these sources of energy production, not just one or two.

I also have concerns about the emphasis on corn as a primary source of ethanol. By some calculations, even if all the corn in the U.S. was used to make ethanol, it would only replace 21 percent of our current fossil fuel consumption. A sounder approach for ethanol would be to use a combination of crop residues and switchgrass.

But these are reservations, not opposition. I do support ethanol development. I do support incentives to expand E-85 availability, a 10 percent biofuels fuel standard in Illinois and State use of flexible fuel vehicles. But I also insist that we need a balanced approach to clean energy development.

These are just some of the measures I will fight for if elected as your next Governor. In general, farmers, orchard growers and winemakers can count on me to be a real advocate for their interests in Springfield.

 
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