© 2019 Larry Smith for Congress

I always stand with working people.

I was born in Birmingham, Alabama in the 1960s, during that city's unfortunate attempts to put an end to the Civil Rights Movement. My father was a switchman for the railroad, one of the few jobs in the South that had union representation. My mother never worked outside the home, but my parents were able to raise my two sisters and me in relative material comfort. We always had food to eat, a nice home, and more than one car--all on a single wage.  In the mid-1970s, I went with my dad to the picket lines as the railroad workers successfully went on strike to get health insurance. He told me then "always stand with working people." We didn't agree on a lot of issues, but we always agreed on that.

 THE ISSUES 

 

SINGLE-PAYER MEDICARE FOR ALL

One of the reasons I am running for Congress is to promote single-payer full-coverage Medicare For All as a national healthcare system. For-profit medical insurance is not only immoral, it is not cost efficient for the American people or the government.  The United States is the only major, developed country that does not provide medical service to everyone as a right, yet we pay twice per capita for insurance than the average of other countries with a healthcare system.  

MFA would cover every American, with no costs other than a Medicare premium--probably less than most people are paying now each month for their insurance.  That would mean no more deductibles, co-payments, or that 20% charge that most companies add on after you have met their other restrictions. Moving to MFA would mean that no one would every die again because they didn't have healthcare; no one will have to fight with their insurance company again when they tell you that a procedure isn't covered because of a preexisting condition or that you've maxed out your policy for the year; no one would every get sicker because they do not have enough money to go to a doctor; and no one would ever have to declare bankruptcy because they spent everything they had to pay a medical bill. You could go back to school, change jobs,  or even start a new business without losing you medical coverage.

Is this too good to be true? What the insurance companies, Republicans, Corporate Democrats, and the news media never admits--although they all know it--is that MFA is actually projected to be cheaper than our current system. Every legitimate study (including one funded in part by the right-wing Koch brothers) shows that MFA is a better deal--some by trillions of dollars depending on the time frame in question. Yet, opponents always make the argument that "MFA will cost ten trillion dollars" (this amount is just for purposes of example), while not explaining that the current system would cost 11 or 12 trillion over the same amount of time. They want you to think that figure represents an additional ten trillion on top of what we already pay. That tactic is misleading at best.

The truth is, we cannot be sure exactly how much the total cost of the program will be upon implementation. It may cost slightly more or less than the current system, although most Americans will save thousands of dollars a year on average with MFA. The need for profit would be eliminated, administrative costs would plummet, and costs could be controlled--making the healthcare system stable for future generations.    

Another side benefit to MFA is that small businesses are exempt from the payroll tax for healthcare (large corporations will still be responsible for a portion of the costs) that they are now forced to pay.  This could be used to expand the business, hire new workers, or increase wages for existing employees. Someone wanting to start a new business would also benefit from this feature, since insurance for employees is a major expense for entrepreneurs.

In summary, MFA would be be comprehensive, stable, and a boon to small businesses. There is a reason that every other major nation has a single-payer system. They realize it is the only way to cover every citizen and control costs for the present and the future. Insurance, hospital, and pharmaceutical companies know this as well, and will spend as much money as needed to try to defeat this program because of their own greed. Republicans and centrist Democrats, who get large campaign donations from these entities, will try to defeat it as well. Phil Roe gets most of his campaign money from these groups. As long as he and others like him represent us in Congress, we will never have real healthcare--we will only have insurance (but unfortunately not all of us). 

 

STOPPING INTERVENTIONIST WARS

First off, let me say that I support defending the United States from all enemies both foreign and domestic. If the people of United States were threatened, I would fight to defend them myself. My father served in World War II as a Marine, piloting an amphibious tank during the island battles at Okinawa and Peleliu. I am proud of his service and all of the other brave soldiers who have fought and many times given their lives for this country. 

Unfortunately, as a result of the Cold War and the U.S. position after World War II, our country began to spend a large portion of our budget on weapons of war; and we have not slowed down yet. On January 17, 1961, Republican President Dwight Eisenhower warned Americans about the union of armed forces and defense contractors, which he referred to as "the military industrial complex." Eisenhower argued that the combination of those powerful forces could one day become a threat to our democracy. Military spending escalated in the 1980s under Ronald Reagan, and continued to rise even after the fall of Communism by 1991.  The new focus for the military became the war on drugs in Latin America and the war on terror in the Middle East. The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 led to a massive military spending increase, with the regime-change wars in Afghanistan (that is still going on), and Iraq gaining special appropriations outside the regular defense budget.  Our foreign policy has remained remarkably bipartisan from 1980 through the present.   Yet Iraq today is in chaos, while the Taliban's position in Afghanistan comes closer, and closer to full recovery. 

One of President Trump's many promises in 2016 was to stop the interventionist wars. He argued, motivated by his primary advisor at the time, Steve Bannon, that America should not be "the policeman of the world." Many people voted for Trump for that reason. It is possible that he intended to follow through with it, but simple underestimated the political clout of the military industrial complex. The president continues the war in Afghanistan, intervened in the civil war in Syria, tried unsuccessfully to foment a coup in Venezuela, and has increased tensions with Iran. He also vetoed a bipartisan bill that would have prevent U.S. aid to the Saudis in their genocidal war against the impoverished nation of Yemen.  Trump and Bannon have now gone their separate ways. 

The United States spends more than 50% of its discretionary budget on the military. It also spends more on military expenditures than the next seven countries combined, and operates between 700 and 800 military bases worldwide. There is no country or coalition of countries that poses a realistic threat to the United States. Why do we need to continue to spend our money this way? How does this help working Americans?

The human and material costs of our foreign policy since the Second World War have been staggering, leading to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of American soldiers and countless foreign combatants and civilians. This campaign supports an end to the interventionist wars, a decrease in defense spending, and a resolve to only use warfare as an instrument of foreign policy if American citizens or our allies are in eminent danger. This is not a call to disarm, but it is a call for a reasonable foreign policy that would most likely have the side effect of decreasing world tensions among the other major military powers who have their own domestic concerns. 

 

INCOME INEQUALITY AND A LIVING WAGE

Income inequality is generally misunderstood, as are the methods for dealing with the problems associated with it. As a progressive, I understand that the redistribution of wealth is not simply a social justice issue as most of those who oppose it argue. It is also an economic issue—one that in some ways is simple to understand and in other ways is incredibly complex.

 

The simple part is that the private parts of our system, which will be with us for the foreseeable future, can’t work if all of the money is at the top. When just a handful of individuals own over half of the wealth in the United States, they cannot possibly stimulate the economy not matter what the level is of their conspicuous consumption. When the money is distributed more evenly—when it’s in the middle—masses of people can afford to buy new cars, homes, or even start new businesses. At the moment the money is all at the top. The charts and graphs look very similar now to what they looked like before the stock market crash of 1929. Something has to be done to make that happen, since banks and corporations are not going to give up their power and wealth voluntarily (although it would be in their long-term best interests to do so). How did we get in this position?

In 1975 the Trilateral Commission published a position paper entitled The Crisis of Democracy, which argued among other things that the United States was suffering from an "excess of democracy." Systems of control that existed before the 1960s had to be restored and expanded so that multinational corporations and other elite interests could move to the forefront in the United States and other Western powers. This served as a blueprint for the rise of what historians refer to as the Neoliberal Revolution, or sometimes simply as "globalism." I want to note before moving on that this is not a conspiracy theory. The Trilateral Commission is a real organization that puts out position papers. While it does represent the global liberal elites, it is not a secret organization. There meetings are not open to the public, but they are not secret, and their work is published openly and read by U.S. and other Western leaders.

In the 1980s in the United States, Ronald Reagan brought about most of these principles in what is generally referred to a "supply-side economics." This included, among other things, an expansion of military spending and the U.S. presence in Latin America and the Middle East, attacks on organized labor, deregulation of the banks and Wall Street, and (of course) tax cuts for the wealthy. This led to a brief surge in GDP for those at the top of the economy, but was ultimately devastating for the middle class and essentially all wage earners.  Over the course of the last 40 years, wealth has been systematically drained from the middle and the bottom and is now controlled by one or two percent of the population. This is not a good trend for individuals or our capitalist system. These policies have not changed significantly since then, even with 16 years of Democratic leadership in the White House. Working Americans need to stand together to reverse this trend and restore our economic prosperity as well as our "excess of democracy." How do we reverse these policies?

There is no easy solution to something that has been 40 years or more in the making. We first have to send lawmakers to Congress who are not bought and paid for by the special interests that want to maintain this system.  We also need a process to bring wealth back to the middle and working classes, so that people can live in dignity and the economy can begin moving again.  Modern economists, including Thomas Piketty, are currently researching issues related to the GLOBAL problem of income inequality. They suggest a global wealth tax as a means to save the original form of capitalism that has been replaced by corporate oligarchies and plutocracies.

This campaign supports a number of possible solutions, many of which are currently proposed by Democratic presidential candidates.  Raising the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour would help considerably. Business and industry needs to contribute their share by paying their workers a living wage.

We also need to close loopholes in our tax system that allows billion dollar corporations such as Amazon to pay zero in Federal Income taxes.

The wealthy also need to pay a higher marginal tax rate, as well as wealth taxes such as the one proposed by Elizabeth Warren, which would be a two percent levy on all individual wealth beginning at 50 million dollars.  

Bernie Sanders uses a Wall Street speculation tax to pay for cancellation of student debt and to make colleges and universities more affordable for working Americans. 

I support a combination of these programs to bolster working people and to get our stagnant economy moving again. If we don't take our country back from the corporations and special interests that control them, we will continue to move more and more toward tyranny.  

BRING A GREEN NEW DEAL TO TENNESSEE  

According to climate scientists, there is no more time for half-measures when it comes to protecting our environment.  Without major updates to our nation’s transportation, food production, manufacturing and energy infrastructure, we are headed towards a climate catastrophe.

 

The good news is that our strongest plan to respond to the climate crisis will also help the American economy recover from decades of failed neoliberal economic policy.  The Green New Deal’s community-oriented development approach provides us with the most comprehensive legislative framework for a “just transition” to a sustainable economy that will build community wealth through the investment and development of living local & regional economies here at home.

 

Districts like our own will benefit immensely from the 20 million new jobs created in sustainable energy, energy efficiency retrofitting, mass transit, regional, sustainable organic agriculture, clean manufacturing, infrastructure, and public services like senior care, childcare, youth programs, etc.  We will also benefit from investments in sustainable businesses and community enterprise, such as cooperatives and non-profits.  The GND provides grants and loans specifically to small, locally-based companies.  This allows communities to keep the wealth generated by local economic activity rather than profits being funneled to private absentee investors who have no stake in the success or well-being of the community.

The U.S. military is the biggest polluter on Earth.  U.S. military bases, both foreign and domestic, consistently rank among the most polluted places on the planet. If it were a country, the military’s fuel usage alone would make it the 47th largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world.  Through the use of depleted uranium, agent orange, open air burn pits, jet fuels, pesticides and more, the military has wreaked ecological havoc world-wide while also increasing cancer rates, birth defects and other health problems for native populations.

The GND will pave the way for us to cut the military budget in half because it prioritizes troops and other workers displaced from jobs in the fossil fuel industry by making sure they receive full income and benefits to help ease the transition. They will be guaranteed jobs in renewable energy, transportation and green infrastructure development. Considering the gaping holes left by our district’s current economic institutions when it comes to human need, a Green New Deal would not only be the best policy for the climate crisis, but also the best policy for our economic well-being.

Only a large-scale, coordinated, grassroots-fueled political agenda that takes on the source of the fossil-fuel industry’s power and rebuilds the nation’s economic infrastructure can set us on the path necessary to save our planet. When I arrive in Washington D.C., I will be seeking on day one to build the relationships we need to take on the for-profit military industrial complex and create a sustainable economy that provides abundance for American communities without exploiting communities abroad.

 

STAND WITH MARGINALIZED PEOPLE

The purpose of this campaign is twofold. One of the two major parts of the campaign agenda is to overturn the disastrous neoliberal policies that for more than forty years have drained wealth from the middle and working classes of this country, putting it into the hands of a small number of extremely wealthy individuals and multinational corporations. A great number of the policies stated in this platform are designed to address that need.

 

A second purpose of this campaign that may be less obvious in the proposed policies but is no less important is to stand with and support communities that have been demonized and specifically attacked by the demagoguery of the president and the less direct but equally repugnant actions of the Republican Party. 

 

The president began his campaign in 2015 with a xenophobic and racist attack on immigrants from Mexico and the Middle East that gave him a small, loyal following that became his political base. Congressional Republicans, while using less vitriolic language, did nothing to try to stop his ban on Muslim immigration and his administration’s shocking and inhumane treatment of detainees at the southern border. I stand with all those who are fleeing hopelessness and despair to make a better life for themselves and their families.

 

The president also made specific, despicable attacks on four Congresswomen of color for nothing more than having the courage to stand up for the working people of this country. Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts were encouraged by the president to return to fix their own countries, even though three of them were born in the United States and Rep. Omar is a naturalized citizen. Not a single Republican in the House of Representatives, including Phil Roe, voted to condemn the president’s racist attacks. This campaign stands with women as they continue to struggle with the misogyny and sexism of the Republican Party, as well as systemic issues that prevent them from gaining full equality with men in the public sphere. I especially support the herculean effort needed for women to gain control of their own bodies in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Missouri. I also stand with all people of color as they fight bigotry and systemic racism in the United States, especially in connection with our dysfunctional criminal justice system. 

 

The LGBTQ+ community has made great strides nationally in the past few decades. While there is still work to do at the federal level, major inequalities still exist in states with Republican majorities in their legislatures. States are still attacking marriage equality, as well as directly related issues such as adoption rights. While we must remain vigilant in attempting reform as citizens at the state level, we also need to pass the Equality Act, the Every Child Deserves a Family Act and other bills at the federal level to prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ+ people. This campaign supports the right of all individuals to love who they want and to be able to express that love without regard to their orientation.

 

The political Right has always used “divide and conquer” as their primary means to remain in power. After all, there will always be fewer of them than us. The current president and the our traditional elites have particularly excelled in this method for the last ten years or so. They have learned their lessons from history; it is time that working Americans show that we have learned ours. Whenever ordinary people have stood together in the past—despite their differences—they have always brought about systemic change. 

Our communities singly and collectively are facing an existential threat from the persistent neoliberal assault on our economic independence supplemented and augmented now by a neofascist attack on our democratic institutions. The only way to fight back is by expanding our democracy.  The only way to do that is to come together to support an aggressive agenda that will fundamentally change the power structure in this country. We can break the power of the elites by replacing their massive nanny state with one that is limited to serving the interests of ordinary people. It is not a difficult choice but it is one that all of us have to make together. 

 
 

IMMIGRATION REFORM

One of Donald Trump’s signature policies is the demonization of undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States. In the speech where he announced his candidacy in 2015, he characterized Mexican immigrants as rapists bringing drugs and crime into our country (with “some” possibly being good people).  He later called for the “wall” between the U.S. border with Mexico that became the rallying cry of many of his most ardent supporters.

 

The truth is that Mexican immigrants have been coming over in smaller numbers beginning in 2007 than any other time in recent past. The largest growth in immigrants seeking asylum and entering the country comes mostly from the Central American countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. The uptick in people from these counties seeking asylum in the United States is a direct result of U.S. and Western economic policies in the region. Multinational corporations profit from unfair trade agreements and by draining natural resources from these countries, leaving nothing but desperation for the great majority of the population. In order to facilitate these diplomatic relationships, the West supports right-wing dictators in these countries who profit from this economic relationship while violently punishing dissent among the population at large. Any leader who supports democratic reforms is branded a dictator, and is subject to military coups or removal from office by the local oligarchs with U.S. and Western support.

 

The most common complaint by native-born Americans concerning immigrations is that undocumented workers are a “drain” to our system—that they are takers when there is not enough to go around for those who are here legally. The truth is exactly the opposite. Undocumented immigrants provide a net positive gain for the overall economy. They provide cheap labor in job areas in which most citizens don’t participate. They are charged Social Security by their employers, with no chance of ever receiving benefits. Many also provide small businesses and services that are vital to the internal workings of our economic system.  City governments in many parts of the country would collapse if there was a mass deportation of undocumented workers.

 

Despite anecdotal horror stories put out by the current administration, undocumented workers commit fewer crimes than the population at large. We should not blame our current troubles on those among us with the least power and agency.

 

We need comprehensive immigration reform including: a clear path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, immediate legal standing for DACA participants, an overhaul of ICE to end its threat to civil rights and liberties, and expanded and more humane treatment for those seeking asylum—especially reform of deportation programs and cruel detention centers.

 

We also need to stop meddling in the affairs of sovereign nations in Central America. We need to allow independently-monitored democratic elections in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to give hope to the population. I also support economic grants to help these countries make use of and bolster their own industries and natural resources. They do not need foreign investment and other policies that created the problems in the first place. 

 

CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM 

I support comprehensive criminal justice reform. Bernie Sanders is the only presidential candidate who has addressed economic, social, cultural, and racial aspects of this long-neglected topic. We need to remove the profit incentive from the system by eliminating private prisons. We also need to end the cash bail system that is unfair to economically disadvantaged Americans who remain in jail for extended periods despite not having been convicted of a crime.

 

We also need police reform including community policing and the demilitarization of police forces.

Our current policies, including mass incarceration, disproportionally affect people of color. We need to insure that institutional racism is weeded out the criminal justice system completely. This includes high profile issues such as police shootings of unarmed African Americans as well as the lesser discussed issues of disparities arrest rates and sentencing time for people of color who commit nonviolent crimes, including simple possession of marijuana. I also support the complete legalization of marijuana by the federal government. State governments should also follow suit as many already have.

 

See https://feelthebern.org/bernie-sanders-on-criminal-justice/ for a comprehensive list and explanations of what I believe is the best route to take for these reforms.

MORE SOON!

 

THE BOTTOM LINE

The United States is at a crossroads today. We have the choice of either doing nothing as we have been or taking aggressive action against the problems that all of us know we face. We cannot fix our system by blaming our troubles on the least among us. All of us who want to see a stable, prosperous nation have to stand together. We cannot be divided by race, gender, sexual orientation, or what country we came from originally. If ordinary Americans continue to fight among ourselves as we are now doing, then the wealthy oligarchs and plutocrats have already won.  If our current trends are allowed to continue, it will soon be too late to reverse course. If you elect me as your representative, I will do everything in my power to work for an America that benefits everyone, not just those who already have all of the wealth and power.