Friday, August 22, 2008


(Week 4 - Friday Aug. 22)

Some people have asked me – "What about Dennis Kucinich?" Has he not also addressed the monetary issue in the course of his campaigns? My answer it yes, but not in the deep, central and consistent manner that is required to plant it effectively in the American consciousness (overcoming, in the process, his marginalization in many people's minds as a politician of the "extreme left").

As someone who followed the political scene, I had taken notice of Kucinich's career from his days as boy-wonder candidate for the office of mayor of Cleveland. He was for a time a national curiosity. His slight stature, impish looks, outspoken views and tender age (elected to city council at age 23, to mayor at 31; youngest ever for a major American city) earned him the moniker "Dennis the Menace" from the media, who seemed determined to not take him seriously.

In the first year of Kucinich's term he ran afoul of the financial establishment by refusing to sell the Muny Light, the publicly-owned electric utility, to a private competitor (whose directorates and finances were thoroughly interlocked with the banks) as a precondition for the extension of credit to the city to roll over its previously abused finances. The result was that Cleveland's loans were called in, and the city entered into default.

Kucinich was, to all appearances, committing political suicide in the early stage of a most promising career, and he did in fact lose his bid for reelection in '79. Worse still, he became a pariah in his hometown, couldn't find a job, nearly lost his home, and commenced on an inward journey that took him into the deserts of New Mexico.

He emerged fundamentally changed, and eventually returned to the political fray in Ohio, where the wisdom of his principled action, and courageous nature of his sacrifice was starting to be appreciated; so much so that he adopted as his campaign symbol a light bulb. His vindication was complete when in 1998 the city council gave him an award "in recognition for his courage and foresight." He was elected to the state Senate in '94, and to the U.S. House of Representatives in '96. Since then he has become a leader on the national stage, and made runs for the Democratic nomination for President in 2004 and 2008, from which he has established a modest, but dedicated, base of political support across the nation.

By wildly serendipitous circumstance, Kucinich met and married Elizabeth Harper, the close aid of Steve Zarlenga, who just happens to be by some accounts (mine included) the preeminent monetary scientist and historian of our time. Now Kucinich, who had demonstrated his instincts and proved his metal by facing down the banking system, had formed a close relationship, through his wife, with the person who could perhaps teach him more about money that almost anyone else on the planet.

Kucinich learned much from Zarlenga, and became the keynote speaker at a monetary conference sponsored by his American Monetary Institute in Chicago in 2005 (a link to the video can be accessed on the AMI website).

This is a dream situation. All the pieces are there. In my estimation, however, the potential of the situation has not (yet anyway) been realized. I don't know all the reasons why. It seems to me that Kucinich has the character, knowledge and brilliance to effectively introduce the monetary question into the political scene in a profound way, but for some reason he has not as fully embraced and embodied the issue as he might. It remained a marginal and infrequently-mentioned topic even in his 2008 campaign, and it was not fully developed or adequately featured on his website.

I still have hope that Dennis Kucinich will one day emerge as one of the key voices that will reintroduce the issue of money to the American political discourse.

Richard Kotlarz

The complete set of columns from this series is posted at the following websites.