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How McGaughey's Two Big Issues Fit Together

by Bill McGaughey

  The main political issue is the economic one: rich vs. poor, investors vs. workers, management vs. labor, etc. I am not for class warfare in the Marxist or militant trade-union sense. Hating the rich will get us nowhere. On the other hand, I must acknowledge a huge shift in attitudes and policy on this issue. We now have class warfare directed by the rich against the poor; and, if the poor complain, they are accused of engaging in "class warfare".

I simply believe that working people at all levels of income should get a fair shake. This is not only a matter of social justice but of keeping the economy strong. We need consumers with sufficient income to create the revenues that businesses need to stay in business. Most consumers get that income as workers. Therefore, we need to pay workers adequately. Also, we cannot have a stable trading system if the consumers all live in one country and the producers live in another. Both countries need something to trade.

With respect to gender and race, I see this as an unhelpful element in politics. Each person is born with a certain gender and racial identity. Except in extreme situations, there's not much anyone can do about it. So why is this an issue in public-policy debates? To have all the black people lined up on one side of the issue and all the whites lined up on the other leaves no room to persuade anyone by the merits of the argument. People are forced into deciding on the basis of how they were born.

If there is continuing active discrimination against black people and it is something which government can correct by legislation, then, sure, let's debate whether the legislation should be passed. But I don't see that U.S. society is structured to encourage racial discrimination against blacks. Others may disagree.

I would suggest that the question be decided, not by my arguments, but by each person asking in his or her own heart: Are white people mistreating black people in America? If so, is the mistreatment a matter of policy or is it an individual thing, a product of individual feeling and thought? If the latter is the case, I would question whether government is the proper instrument to address what we call "prejudice" or "hate". Moral persuasion and example are the better remedies.

If there is no mistreatment of blacks or if the mistreatment is on the level of personal feeling, then I say: Let's end the politics of race. The same applies to the politics of gender. Government cannot control what people say, think, or feel. To try to force people to think a certain way leads to what we call "political correctness". This approach simply won't work. People will think as they do even if their thoughts are forced underground. Moreover, the politics of political correctness leads to public cynicism and hate. At some level, each person knows that this approach is wrong. It is inconsistent with a society based on the principles of free speech and free thought. No politician has the authority to tell others what their personal attitudes must be.

I think that the current politics of gender and race works to the disadvantage of white males, the group I was born into. If I am stigmatized politically on the basis of my being a white male, believe me, I soon pick up on this and don't like it. If someone tells me that I am a bad person because of how I was born or that I should have second-class citizenship until others can overcome the wrongs which my kind has committed, I will automatically line up on the other side of the fence politically. Since it is mostly the Democrats who make this kind of argument, I have a knee-jerk tendency to pull the lever against the Democratic candidates in the privacy of the voting booth. I suspect that some other white males feel the same way.

The Democrats may feel that they can get more votes from blacks and from females who have a knee-jerk tendency to vote the other way. Fine, if people are determined to put me down as a white male, I'll try my best to frustrate their plans however the chips fall.

The problem is that we have the Republicans pushing class warfare for the rich and ignoring the legitimate needs of working people in the United States. This is the issue that needs to be addressed politically. The Democrats have some inclination and potential to solve these problems, but they are emphasizing instead the culture wars.

Hillary Clinton was right to be concerned about health care, but, when she talks about human rights, one has the impression she is only talking about children, women and minorities. She's too quick to paint her political opponents as members of a lunatic fringe. Someone needs to ask Sen. Clinton if she thinks white males are fully human and whether they, too, have rights that need to be protected. If her answer is unequivocally "yes", then I'll rethink my instinctive dislike of her.

Another example is the filmmaker Michael Moore. He can agitate all he wants in favor of the "little guy" and the working class in America, but when he publishes a book with the title "Stupid White Men", I'm sorry, he loses me. If someone disrespects me for birth-determined characteristics, I'm inclined to oppose him whatever else he is saying, even if this person too is a white male.

Because the Democrats have taken what I consider to be an extremist position on issues on gender and race, they have given Republicans a free ride on the economic questions. I think that the economic battle cannot be won unless everyone, regardless of gender, race, and other personal characteristics, can be enlisted in this cause.

Right now, President Bush will receive votes simply because he is not a Democrat pushing racial and gender issues. All Bush has to do is straddle the middle - appoint a few blacks to his administration and condemn Trent Lott's remarks, but also file a brief against the University of Michigan's admission policies. White males will vote for him as one of their own. He's not the kind of politician who grovels before women and blacks to win votes as the Democrats do.

My political strategy is to stand up for the white males without disparaging any other group. Because of the extreme nature of the current discussion, this will be seen as hostile to women and blacks. So be it. I intend to stand my ground. I hope that by doing this, other white males will become sympathetic to some of my other issues. Maybe I can bring some of them into the fight for economic justice. These white males will know that, unlike other politicians, I won't throw them to the wolves to get votes. We would truly be working together to create a better society for everyone.

Back to the economic question - I am not in favor of government spending to help one group over another or of deficit spending in general. Instead, I would use government regulation to achieve a better result for working people. In other words, if there is "wealth redistribution", it would not be done through taxation and spending but by regulating the hours of work and adapting the trade system to promote rising living standards around the world without having ours collapse. Government does have a constructive role to play in economic affairs.

My approach would be create a favorable regulatory structure for labor - for all who by their own efforts produce something useful in exchange for a wage - and then put government on automatic pilot. This would differ from the piecemeal approach by which lobbyists determine which groups will or will not get favorable treatment. The politicians would have to give up their choice role of deciding which groups to favor. They might feel less needed.

Some will say that pushing for a shorter workweek constitutes a continuation of class warfare against the rich. Admittedly, the issue of shorter work hours was one which labor unions stressed in their period of militancy. Karl Marx himself was a proponent. But if this "guilt by association" torpedoes my proposal with the business community, they are worse people than I think they are.

I think there are some, even many, within the business community who do care about their communities and who are interested in the fortunes of their particular business organization beyond their own tenure of management. This issue may not appeal to business leaders interested in siphoning off as much wealth out of their organizations for themselves while the getting is good, but it should appeal to others who see that a solid structure of production, income, and consumer spending is good for business in the long term.

I grew up in Detroit, where my father was a top business leader, vice president of an automobile company. I am imbued with the attitude that Henry Ford, William S. Knudsen, Walter P. Chrysler, and others who created and managed the U.S. automobile industry were heroes, deserving of everyone's admiration. (Americans once agreed with that proposition: A poll taken in the early 1920s showed that Henry Ford was the first choice for President of the United States of nearly one voter in three.) Those who created the great structures of American industry, based on mass production, had the idea that the wealth created by such means was meant to benefit everyone. They believed that improved production techniques would allow goods to be produced more efficiently and cheaply so that that wages could increase even while profits rose and the price of the product dropped. Not only did they believe this - they put it into practice. The American industrial model was once the envy of the world.

With respect to work hours, I would let Henry Ford make the case in his own words. (Click on "Henry Ford's statement" at to read what this great pioneer of the U.S. automobile industry said when the Ford plants converted to a five-day, 40-hour week in 1926.) Some will argue that the five-day week was merely window-dressing to disguise the fact that Ford needed to reduce production while his company converted to Model A production or that Ford had personal deficiencies, but I think the arguments stand on their own. For me, Henry Ford's words carry more weight than those of an academic economist or think-tank researcher because Ford actually put them into practice and the plan worked. They are, anyhow, at the core of my economic vision.

Therefore, I'm proud to run for President on a platform of Henry Ford's ideas even as I drive around the country in a Ford car or truck ( or, occasionally, a Plymouth Acclaim) trying to persuade my fellow countrymen of their merits.

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