90-year-old Granny D (Doris Haddock) does a lot of harping on behalf of
democracy and in defense of small communities and local-regional
socio-cultural-economic self-defense. Here are some remarks she delivered
at the Cumberland, MD Rotary Club a couple of weeks ago. For more, check
her web site: www.grannyd.com.
On Monday, February 28, at about 12:30 PM, Granny D supporters will rally
along the tow path in Georgetown. On Tuesday, February 29, at 9:30 AM she
will start from Arlington, VA and walk to the Capitol.
I'll be walking and harping along with her, with my little harp! If you
are a harper, or a sustaggie, in the DC area, why not come on along?
(from her web site:)
Remarks of Doris Haddock to the Cumberland, MD Rotary Club, January 25,
The response was extremely enthusiastic.
Campaign Finance Reform, the Internet and Town Economies
In my walk, I have seen countless main streets in hundreds of towns, and it
is heartbreaking to see the boarded-up windows and empty sidewalks. It has
been the only sad thing I have seen, not counting quite a few armadillos
and foxes and other animals that did not make it across the road as they
had planned. It is sad that the economic life of our towns can be listed
among the roadkills. You have done so much with your beautiful downtown,
and there is such a sense of vitality in Cumberland, that I can talk about
the issue here without it being a criticism. It is not your problem here,
except that we are all Americans and we must all care about the vitality of
Main Street America, for it has historically provided the strong soil for
the flourishing of our democracy.
There is an advertisement currently running on television showing a man
coming to work in the morning on a New York subway and sitting down in a
small cubicle and making his first telephone call of the day to a client.
He is a stockbroker. The announcer says, "if your stockbroker is so smart,
why does he still have to work for a living?"
Well, that may seem like a good question, but it really is not. Working for
a living is a fine idea, even for a stockbroker. It is perfectly fine to
make a living serving the needs of others. It is perfectly fine to manage
investments so that they grow carefully over the years. It is not essential
that everyone buy penny stocks and become billionaires overnight. A
stockbroker does not have to be incredibly wealthy to be incredibly worth
his or her salt. That is obvious.
So what is really behind this ad, which of course was for an Internet stock
trading service, or should I say, a casino. The Internet is only the latest
tool that allows big, distant companies to put middle class business people
and professionals entirely out of business--to their own detriment and the
detriment of their clients, who need their wisdom and caution.
Here we see an attack on the very legitimacy of a stockbroker. Who is safe
from such an attack? Surely not insurance agents, realtors, travel agents
(poor dears), retail store owners, pharmacists, bookkeepers --anyone. We
are all competing with automated systems and with 25-cent an hour labor on
the other side of the world. Which members of our middle class can survive?
And how can our democratic society survive without a strong and stable
middle class? As that television ad shows, the demonization and undermining
of our local professionals and our town economies is very much underway and
very well-financed. Besides purchasing television ads, it is buying our
Now, you're starting to get it. You have been wondering, "What does all
this have to do with the issue she walks for, campaign finance reform?"
Look no further than the pledges the presidential candidates are now making
to keep the Internet free of sales taxes--a policy that will make it
increasingly difficult for Main Street merchants to compete. Then look at
who is funding these candidates, and you will see the names of the
billionaire companies doing business on the Internet.
The computer-based financial management program, Quicken, which controls
some 85% of the market for that sort of thing, is now selling every kind of
insurance on the Internet, as a part of its software. They will soon be
selling home mortgages and they are already selling investment products and
banking services. If you walk down Main Street in three years, will any of
your neighbors be selling insurance or mortgages? Will there be any banks
behind the ATM machines? Not if the megacorporations can destroy all our
middle class jobs and turn them into telephone clerk positions. Maybe there
is a natural evolution involved here, but it is important for you to know
that the new law that enables these companies to pull the rug out from
under all the state insurance and banking regulations went through Congress
last year on a fast track greased by millions of hard and soft campaign
dollars. If you are in the insurance, banking or mortgage business, ask
your Senators and Representatives how they voted on the big financial
services bill last year, and you will know if they can be bought or not.
You will know if they represent your interests, of if they have sold you
down the river. If they say that the bill is a good one and a necessary
one, tell them that they might have some credibility if they had not taken
the money from the bill's business sponsors.
The biggest problem with the current campaign finance system is that we
dare not trust our elected leaders. We don't know if they are making
decisions for the right reasons, or for corrupt reasons. We have our
suspicions, and suspicions are deadly to a democracy.
In a corrupt environment where public policy is for sale through the
campaign finance system, towns and small businesses and family farms and
people themselves cannot successfully compete for representation. If that
is the case, then a coup has taken place. We continue to finance the
government with our taxes, but it no longer serves our interests or answers
to our concerns. This is a change of government and a treachery to those
who have sacrificed their lives and limbs for our freedoms.
Those causing this change of government --senators and representatives,
lobbyists, corporations, unions and the very wealthy-- are consciously and
aggressively putting us out of the picture. They are conspiring daily to
steal our government from us. I don't know if I would call it treason, but
it is the purposeful destruction of our idea of government by and for the
people, and so what is the word for that?
Don't go away from this meeting thinking that I was speaking against the
Internet. I do not mean to suggest that the Internet is a bad thing, or
that the nature of commerce should not evolve, I do mean to suggest,
however, that our elected leaders should be looking to our interests, not
those of the highest bidders. But that is in fact what has happened, and
the power center of our democracy has moved from the Capitol building, to
the lobbyists along K Street and Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington. I am
suggesting that, in this time or rapid change to our economic system, we
need our representatives to represent our interests.
Hanging in the balance is the nature of our town economies. What does it
matter to a community to have its own businesses owned by its own
townspeople or by faraway, multinational corporations?
It is, of course, the difference between a community of free men and women,
and a colony --which is rapidly becoming the condition of many American
Our corrupted elected leaders have done everything possible to promote the
destruction of family businesses and everything possible to promote the
advance of all-consuming mega-corporations that sweep away all competition.
The first president to really see the problem of the small business and the
small farm, pitted against over-large corporations was that wonderful
Republican, Teddy Roosevelt. He broke up the trusts while he was in power.
The minute he left power, no leader took his place to defend the human
scale of our communities, and to defend the health and breadth of the
middle class. This battle has been untended for most of the last century.
So we have watched the decline of the family farm, the decline of family
businesses, the deterioration of central cities, and a growing income gap
that leads rather directly to family stress and family and community
It may seem that I have picked on the Internet a little bit, so let me say
something to cheer up the Internet people in the room before I close. There
is a dark and light side to every new thing. Yes, it will challenge us to
find new ways to be free communities where people own and operate their own
businesses. But it also, of course, allows anyone, including the parent or
elder at home and the smallest of small businesses, to provide services or
products to a worldwide market.
Another bright side of this new invention is its potential to provide a new
medium for political campaigning: one that can potentially be free of
charge to candidates, or nearly so. There are several websites that have
set themselves up as impartial sources of information about candidates.
I think this kind of website, especially if they become easier and more
interesting to use, and if they will push themselves out there by
advertising themselves in other media so that voters will come shop for
candidates, can revolutionize politics in America and take the money nearly
out of campaign advertising. If done well, with no costs to candidates, and
with serious foundation and sponsor support for its development and its
promotion to voters, the Internet can provide an end run around the high
cost of political campaigns. I challenge foundations to do this in a more
aggressive, use-friendly and entertaining way. There is no greater
opportunity right now to take special interest money out of
campaigns--money that we all pay back in the form of $150 billion dollars a
year in the tax loopholes and sweetheart rules and laws passed for fat cat
The Internet is only one case. There are many new things we can do to move
into a better future--but we must be in the driver's seat. The interests of
ordinary people must be represented, which is not our situation today. If
you will go down that hill to Washington without $100,000 in your pocket
and try to get your representatives to listen openly to you and to decide
to help you on the basis of what is right, why, you are dreaming. I
remember a time when you could do that without a penny in your pocket, and
they were interested to listen and take action. I witnessed it many times
and I long for an honorable Washington D.C. again before I leave this life.
I may have to live a long time.
Thank you very much, and I do hope you will push your representatives in
Congress to ban the use of special interest corporate and union money in
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