This Washington

PubliCola Q&A With Dennis Kucinich

By Josh Feit July 20, 2011

After seeing Rep. Dennis Kucinich speak at a lefty conference—held at the Comedy Underground in Pioneer Square earlier this month—I was struck how his rap on the Federal Reserve seemed a little right wing-left wing in that turn-of-the-(20th)-Centruy reactionary populist way that recoiled at paper money. It was a little Tea Party-esque—with the Fed as the modern-day bogeyman.[pullquote]"I haven't made any decisions about where I might run. But I'm certainly considering other options given the fact that my district is being eliminated."[/pullquote]

It seemed, in fact, that his position—haul the Federal Reserve in under the auspices of the Treasury so the Fed can't flood the economy with fake money and put the government into a cycle of debt—aligned him with the Tea Party's obstinate position against raising the debt limit. Or with Rep. Ron "Gold Standard" Paul, who wants to abolish the Fed.

Kucinich's office granted me 10 minutes on the phone with the Congressman this morning to ask him about that. (Kucinich, by the way, voted with many fellow Democrats on May 31 to allow President Obama to raise the debt limit. That motion lost in the Republican house 318-97.)

I also got to ask him about his future plans, and I tried to test his knowledge of local issues that are tied to federal policy as best I could in a 10-minute call.

PubliCola: When I heard you speak in Seattle, you said you wanted to put the Fed under the Treasury Department because the Fed shouldn't be borrowing money, and the Treasury should be "coining" it. So, in that context, are you against raising the debt limit?

Rep. Kucinich: No, not at all. We have to do that to avoid default.

What we really need to be talking about here is a long-term approach with new economic policies. The private sector's not creating jobs. The public sector employment is falling. The tax cuts didn't work to create jobs. The Fed has famously created money out of nothing and passed it along to banks who profit at the Fed and gain interest on it without giving money to small businesses. We clearly need to break out of this economic lethargy we're in, and in order to do that we have to ask some fundamental questions like, where does our money come from?

Ninety-seven percent of our money supply is created by the banks, and they create the money to lend to us. You have to ask a question here. How do we get out of this situation where every dollar is only made available by going in debt to the banks, and you get the money you need to pay off the debt requires taking out new debt? It's clearly impossible to get out of debt under that situation.

I'm advocating that we take a new approach that would involve putting the Federal Reserve under Treasury. So the money power would no longer be an agency outside the federal government—that is quasi-governmental, but whose power exceeds that of the federal government. Imagine if the government did the same thing the Fed's doing, and that is through this quantitative easing, just invested money so we build America's infrastructure to create millions of jobs. [Quantitative easing is when the Fed stimulates the economy by creating money electronically to purchase assets from banks.]

We're really held captive by a system which is a debt-based economic system, and so I'm raising questions about the approach we're taking.

[Basically, Kucinich doesn't like the idea of the Fed pretending it has $100 to lend by loaning the same $10 to ten different banks (the multiplier approach of stimulating the economy), but going into debt along the way. The multiplier effect assumes you have a stable economy, but it's risky when the economy tanks.—Eds.]

PubliCola: Are you thinking of running anywhere else? If you're districted out of Ohio, is Washington State No. 1 on your list or are there other places you're considering?

[pullquote]Wherever I've spoken, whether it's at labor rallies or Democratic Party events or community events, the response has always been very good. Very positive.[/pullquote]

Rep. Kucinich: First things first. Every report I've heard indicates that my district will be abolished in the Ohio re-mapping. I didn't make this choice. This choice is being made by downstate Republicans in Ohio, and it looks like I've been made a target of the redistricting. I've won eight straight elections to Congress. They haven't been able to beat me at the polls, so they're trying to beat me with redistricting. I want to continue to serve in Congress. But if because of the redistricting I don't have anywhere to run, what are the options outside of Ohio? I am considering options outside Ohio.

Because I've been in the Seattle area many times and the Puget Sound area many times, there's been a suggestion maybe I'd run out there. Well, I haven't made any decisions about where I might run. But I'm certainly considering other options, given the fact that my district is being eliminated.

PubliCola: Are you visiting or looking at other places specifically?

Rep. Kucinich: I'm not at the point where I'm about to declare where I might run. It's premature. I really have to wait until there's a map that's produced in Ohio that backs up what I've been saying all along that my district is gone. Once that happens then I have to make some decisions based on the map.

PubliCola: What do you make of the reception you get here? The Democratic Party chair hasn't been warm. The Seattle Times has said they think you're a carpetbagger. And the PI has basically reported on your UFO sightings.

Rep. Kucinich: The reception I've gotten from groups of people has always been good.

PubliCola: But from the Democratic Party?

Rep. Kucinich: I get a good reception from groups of people. And I keep getting more invitations. The invitations keep coming in. I go out there beause I get invited to go out. That should tell you something. And the invitations just keep coming in.

PubliCola: And is there a new invitation out there right now? Specifically?

Rep. Kucinich: I get invitations on a regular basis. So I have to evaluate it based on a congressional schedule. I'm always grateful for the response that I've recieved when I come out there. Wherever I've spoken, whether it's at labor rallies or Democratic Party events or community events, the response has always been very good. Very positive. That's something I'm grateful for. As far as what anybody else says, you know, I don't have any comment on any of that, but I expect I will be out there again.

PubliCola: One of the biggest issues in Snohomish County, potentially your district, is Paine Field in Everett. Do you have a take on commercializing that airport?

Rep. Kucinich: I'm not going to get into a discussion on local issues which may imply that I'm a candidate. I'm going to wait on commenting on that or any other issue with respect to the Northwest that would in any way imply that I'm a candidate.

PubliCola: I know you're a very outspoken, fierce critic of NAFTA. International trade is a huge driver of the economy here. Would you moderate your position on NAFTA at all?

Rep. Kucinich: You're way ahead of me. You're already implying or concluding that I'm a candidate. I'm not there yet. And I don't want to say anything that would imply that I'm there. And if I ever do get to that point, I'm very happy to talk about it in detail.

PubliCola: Thanks.

Rep. Kucinich: Thanks. Let's keep in touch. Bye now.
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