|Bill Roberts has spent more than 10 years as a political organizer for, among others, former presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche. He also worked in Germany and Australia on political movements calling for similar policies as LaRouche.|
Dr. Syed Taj and William Roberts will compete in the Tuesday, Aug. 7 primary election for the Democratic nomination for the 11th U.S. House District, which represents Waterford, West Bloomfield, White Lake, Commerce, Wolverine Lake, Walled Lake, Wixom, Milford, White Lake, and Highland in the lakes area. U.S. representatives serve two-year terms and are currently paid $174,000 annually.
The following are questions our staff recently posed to Roberts, and his responses to those questions.
BUDGET: As a member of Congress, you will help determine the federal government’s budget, which this year is quickly approaching a dubious milestone: The fourth consecutive year in which there are deficits of $1 trillion or more. In addition, the federal debt is nearing the $16 trillion mark. What spending priorities do you have, and where would you cut back the country’s ledgers to get the U.S. on a more sustainable fiscal path?
ROBERTS: Contrary to popular opinion, when the Congressional Budget Office looked at the things that were increasing the debt the most, it was largely things like the bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. No. 1, we should just scrap the bailout of the toxic debts, scrap the bailout of the “too big to fail” banks with the Glass-Steagle policy.
Right now, I think the amount of toxic obligations that have been dumped on the federal government are to the tune of $30 trillion. Now, in some portion, there is some amount of pure bailout that’s occurred with the TARP (Toxic Asset Relief Program), but this can be scrapped. This is the single-biggest expense that we don’t need to be making.
Certainly, harsh austerity, I don’t think is the way to get out of an economic collapse. That’s the case in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s California. At a certain point, austerity is going to collapse the revenue base further.
There are some other things I can say about how I think we need a system of public credit again in the way that Franklin Roosevelt organized this, but I don’t think something like (U.S. Rep.) Paul Ryan’s budget of things like slashing across the board and privatizing things like Social Security or Medicaid is the way to go at all.
ECONOMY: Slowly but surely, signs of economic life are emerging after years of a prolonged recession that devastated the nation’s economy. Yet we still face employment of over 8 percent nationally and 8.3 percent here in Michigan. What more needs to be done to bring the American back to the thriving economy it once enjoyed?
ROBERTS: I think the economy is a lot worse than what is usually presented when it’s discussed. The average household over the last 10 or 12 years has lost 40 percent of its wealth, its savings. Young people who become eligible to enter the workforce, 80 percent of people who become eligible to enter the workforce are simply not: They are either going to more community college or taking care of grand-parents. But Baby Boomers are not retiring and there is no work out there for young people.
I think construction workers have been out of work for more than two years. If you look at the jobs that have been “created,” so-called, those are mostly low-wage jobs, so the pay in to things like social security programs isn’t there.
So we have to create the basis for employment of very highly-skilled people — your manufacturing workforce, the skilled trades — and then also create work for young people, which may not be the most skilled at first because young people are largely not gaining productive skills such as the machinists. Some of these skilled trades are not being passed along that this area once was known for.
I think under a Civilian Conservation Core kind of program, young people can have work that is useful for the country and also gain skills maybe in night classes or something like that. But overall, if the question is generally on how we are going to create an economic boom again, I think we need to do three things.
We need to reinstate Glass-Steagle to end the hyper-inflationary effect of bailouts to the private investment sector, while at the same time protecting commercial banks. That will end the bailouts, it will protect legitimate assets within our commercial banking system, but it will also mean that there will be less assets within the system, and probably not enough to launch a genuine economic recovery.
So this is where I would say we need to take a page from the American system of political economy, historically, what Alexander Hamilton developed as an idea, the idea of a National Bank. I think we should bring back the idea of a national bank.
Shut down the (Federal Reserve). The Federal Reserve is bankrupt. But we could re-establish a national bank, and return to the Congress its constitutionally-mandated role of issuing long-term public credit. This can be put directly into some shorter-term, but longer-term projects to directly develop the physical economy of the territory of the country.
I would say the focus should be on things like water management systems, large-scale flood control, and water management systems both to deal with floods and also putting water into the dry areas of the country in the southwest.
That’s something that the slate I’m part of, the LaRouche national slate, has revived something called the North American Water and Power Alliance, which was originally being considered during the presidency of John F. Kennedy. This would provide the basis for about 4 million jobs and the building of very large-scale reservoirs and water-moving systems. But also, when you’re considering building something that large, of the type of project Franklin Roosevelt did with the Tennessee Valley Authority, except much larger.
One of the things that is going to create the demand for is large material and equipment requirements, which would require an expansion of the industrial base in the Rust Belt states. I think that type of long-term approach to saying, “What are the physical needs of the nation…” We’re not going to squeeze that out of the revenue base by either increasing the taxes or cutting from other things to build these things.
We’re going to back to having a credit system and then consider what the wealth generation is going to be from building that in terms of water and power, and issue the credit necessary to achieve that. That’s what we did under John Quincy Adams, the infrastructure-building program early in the nation’s history. (Abraham) Lincoln did something similar to this with the greenbacks. Franklin Roosevelt took this approach with the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. I think given the situation we are in, we need that type of uniquely American credit system approach which says the credit is going to be there for productive developments, not for bailouts. That’s the way I’ve thought of what we need to do to deal with the economy.
NATIONAL DEFENSE: It’s been over a decade since the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and over a year since Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden. Yet the country remains embroiled in a war in Afghanistan and other conflicts in the Middle East to a lesser extent. What, if anything, would you do differently in the realm of national defense and protecting the country from terrorists? What are the threats from abroad that concern you most, and why?
ROBERTS: One thing that I think has been a complete wrong approach has been the idea that we need to overthrow governments on the basis of a humanitarian intervention. This is something I think that kind of comes out of the mind of (former British prime minister) Tony Blair, who I understand is very close to President Obama at this point.
There is an international framework for how to deal with countries if we don’t like what their government is doing. But I don’t think, for example, that we should be messing around in Syria right now. Our own defense intelligence estimates say that Iran does not have a nuclear weaponization program. Many other nations’ intelligence estimates say that Iran does not have a nuclear weaponization program.
As the Russians have said and as our own top ranks of the military have said, this policy of violating the sovereignty of other nations — as we did in the case of Libya and as it appears we may be on the verge of doing in Syria — could lead to larger regional wars, and even nuclear wars, because we are getting into an area which is putting us into a kind of conflict with countries like Russia, who are thermonuclear powers.
Our military is very clear on the fact that we shouldn’t be doing this, but we have some people who are pushing the envelope on this thing, and it’s very dangerous. I would say that instead we should cooperate with countries like Russia on development. They’ve extended the hand of cooperation on building a connection across the Bering Strait, for the development of Siberia, for the development of the Arctic areas.
And they also proposed a strategic collaboration what they call “the strategic defense of Earth,” which I think is a very good idea. We should build up systems that would make nuclear weapons obsolete. And this is something Lyndon LaRouche proposed in the 1980s.
Now the Russians are taking this up and proposing we collaborate on this, but also extend it into developing our defense capability.
This may be more long-term, but if we are serious about defending the human race, we need to consider the fact that there is a lot of asteroids out there, some of which are very large, some of which have come very close to the Earth recently, which we should be tracking and figuring out how to defend the Earth from because we live in a solar system.
I think we’ve reached a point in which going to war in any serious way means bringing mankind to the brink of thermonuclear annihilation. There’s very little room for that anymore, and we should really be turning our defense questions to the issue of outer space more and more.
Afghanistan, it’s been a disaster. If we really wanted to cut off the funding and the support infrastructure for terrorism, we should annihilate the opium fields in Afghanistan because that’s the funding base for these groups, for al-Qaeda and so forth.
The problem is that largely we’ve had allies that have protected that source of funding, such as the British. The British have occupied this area of Afghanistan where they opium is being grown and have said that their policy is “Let it go.” If we were serious about cutting off funding, we would identify the British as bring one of the areas that has harbored the most terrorist groups.
If you look at London, London has been the center — and actually serves as the headquarters — for a number of top terrorist organizations that are on our State Department list as groups banned from organizing in the United States. (They are) headquartered and raise funds in London or London suburbs. That whole question of the problem that we are still dealing with with Britain, and the British Empire in particular, as an oligarchy, as being committed to geopolitical games that threaten us.
SCN: So you’re saying that the British are allowing the opium fields in Afghanistan to continue essentially producing money that funds al-Qaeda. When we talk about threats from abroad, is Britain in that? Would Britain be considered a threat from abroad based on that logic?
ROBERTS: If we are strict about this idea that we consider certain nations as harboring terrorists, who allow terrorist organizations to fund-raise in their country and recruit, we would have to identify Britain, Great Britain, the United Kingom… if we were strict about that assessment, we would have to consider Great Britain to be a state which harbors terrorist groups which are on our list of banned groups, yeah.
BIPARTISANSHIP: Rancor between the two major political parties is seemingly at an all-time high when there are serious issues for the country to tackle, leaving hopes dim that major things can be accomplished in a bipartisan, cooperative way. Explain how you would go about working with the other side of the aisle on critical issues facing our nation. Tell us one thing you would be willing to compromise on with the other side of the political aisle. What’s one issue on which your party’s platform should more closely resemble that of the other political party?
ROBERTS: As you know, I’m a Democrat, and I’m sort of an old-school Democrat, despite the fact that I’m young. But I’m someone who puts principle above party. That should be pretty obvious by the fact that I’ve called for the impeachment of President Barack Obama for repeated constitutional violations. I’ve come under attack.
The Democratic Party here has attacked me for that position, but I think it’s principled. I actually decided to run for Congress right after the last Congressional election because I saw a situation where some of the better Democrats who didn’t like Obama’s policies and didn’t really like the Affordable Care Act didn’t fight him on it. A lot of them were voted out and replaced with Tea Party people, so I said this is a total mess. If we don’t have people standing up for principle, and fighting within their own party for principle, this country is going to become more and more insane politically.
If there is a solution presented to this economic crisis, (a solution) which clearly can create many jobs, I think that’s what people will tend to actually unify around, and a lot of this other divisiveness that’s occurred — because I think there’s been a lack of any real economic solutions — can dissipate. In dire economic times, if there’s no solution presented, I think what tends to dominate are wedge issues which split people apart from one another. But I don’t think it’s a big problem if there’s a real bipartisan fight that’s waged to defend the American population. I think that can bring together a lot of the better people in either party around a common solution.
SCN: Can you expand a little bit upon what constitutional issues are the grievances that are the basis for an impeachment? Let’s say articles of impeachment come up in Congress and you’re sitting there with the other 434 members. Would you support that?
ROBERTS: I would bring up articles of impeachment against the president. I would note that there actually are resolutions in both the House and the Senate right now, which are not bills of impeachment, but they do lay out the grounds for impeachment of a president who violates the strict authority that’s been given to the Congress to authorize aggressive wars, as was the case in Libya.
There’s Walter Jones, a Republican from North Carolina in the U.S. House of Representatives, has put forward HCR 107, that makes that statement that says that a president who launches an aggressive war without coming to the Congress, that it is the sentiment of the Congress that that constitutes high crimes and misdemeanors and is an impeachable offense. There’s a similar type of resolution on the Senate side by Jim Webb, a Democrat from Virginia.
But I’d say in addition to that, there’s probably more things that this president should be impeached for than any other president I can think of. There’s been a vast expansion of the predator drone program which has been used to assassinate American citizens without any sort of due process.
This president signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act, which says that any American citizen can be picked up off the street and detained indefinetely by the U.S. military, essentially an act of the president. That’s a complete suspension of due process. That’s a violation of the Fifth Amendment.
So there’s many things which this president (did) that I think constitutes a real danger to the American people by his violation of these aspects of the Constitution that were clearly put in place to prevent the abuse of executive power.
On top of that, I don’t think there’s any reason why someone would put a law such as the National Defense Authorization Act in place, to have such sweeping powers given to the president, if they didn’t expect that their policies were going to lead to civil disobedience and chaos. I think Obama should be impeached immediately, and then the Democrats can run someone different in the Democratic Convention who’s qualified.
HEALTH CARE: The U.S. Supreme Court is currently mulling the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Regardless of what the high court decides, what measures would you put in place to insure that Americans get greater access to health care?
ROBERTS: I think the ObamaCare Act should be overthrown. It should be thrown out. My sense of how our health care system should be organized… I would support something along the lines of John Conyers’ single-payer health care policy, but I think at the same time, we should essentially ban HMOs. They are extremely inefficient, and the bureaucratic costs of them are deadly.
We’re going to need, also, a revival of the Hill-Burton Act. If you’re going to say that we are going to meet the needs of the population so that people can have health care who need it, and it’s going to be decent health care, then you also need the hospital beds, you need the health infrastructure, as well.
We had a law that mandated a certain number of hospital beds available per county, even up until the 1980s, and then when we got rid of that, the assumption became that health care is now kind of a limited resource. I think starting from the idea that health care should be a limited resource that needs to be rationed, either privately or publicly, is a horrible approach.
TOP ISSUES: What are the three most important issues to the 11th Congressional District at this time and how would you address them?
ROBERTS: I think the first thing is we have to regain our sovereignty as a nation. Right now, we are not operating completely as a sovereign nation that has control over our own economy. I would just again reference the bailouts of the “too big to fail” banks. Essentially the representatives of Wall Street and an international banking cartel came to the Congress and told them what they were going to do.
When you have a situation like that, that means that the government is not really completely sovereign. Again, the way to solve that is to reinstate Glass-Steagle, the 1933 banking act. It separates legitimate assets from gambling debts that have been accrued. The advantage of Glass-Steagle, as opposed to the Volker Rule of the Dodd-Frank bill, is that once we do that, then we are no longer obligated to try to protect a much larger swath of claimed financial assets.
As the original Glass-Steagle Act lays out, commercial banking will be protected and we can issue credit as a soveirgn nation again. It would also basically shut down the British Empire. It would bring to an end this international system of central banks that are printing money so fast right now that we are all going to be using our money as wallpaper, as they did in 1933 Germany. That would be my No. 1 concern.
No. 2 would be that we are going to need to cooperate internationally. We should be cooperating internationally along certain long-range infrastructure development and scientific programs with other nations, like Russia and China.
I guess tied up in both of those (issues) is the issue of jobs. A lot of people need work right now. Millions upon millions of people need work, and I think the only way that we are going to create the ability for that work is if there are bills of credit made available for industry and agriculture again. We’ve gone through a period of the myth of a financial services economy in which there is a diminishing amount of people who are actually working and producing anything. I think we need to really think about how we are going to re-employ people in industry and developing infrastructure again.
There is a strategic danger right now of getting into wars that we can avoid, and I think we need to develop a war avoidance policy with other nations.
WHY YOU? Why should voters choose you rather than your opponent?
ROBERTS: Because I have guts. I don’t do things simply because they are politically pragmatic. I think that the way that (John F.) Kennedy discusses in his book, “Profiles in Courage”… there is a certain role for people in high elected office who will perhaps compromise on certain issues, but won’t compromise on principle. He goes through how, in the history of the United States, literally the survival of this country depends on certain people who are willing to go against their own party, or even sometimes against their own constituents, if they really think that it’s a matter of absolute principle and commitment to defending the principle of the nation.
These people have been responsible for saving this nation, and I think you need some people like that, who will not just be a party hack or will not just do things politically pragmatic. There’s hardly anyone in Congress right now who thinks like that, and I do. That’s why I’m running for office.