On December 4th, 2017 #WeThePeople interviewed Bryan Witt. He is running in the 27th Congressional District of California, against Judy Chu – who looks and sounds like a Progressive Democrat - until you take a closer look. Bryan wants to bring real progress to his district.
He has had a cool job working for Amtrak these past 10 years. He loves it, challenging and stressful though it can be sometimes. It is also rewarding though. He traveled a lot over the years, on the Southwest Chief to Chicago, the Coast Starlight to Seattle, the Sunset Limited to New Orleans … He tells us that there are an amazing group of union employees who for the past 40 years have endured all sorts of attacks and difficult conditions (having their funding cut … trying to eliminate them) imposed on Amtrak by Congress, and they’ve survived in spite of it all.
We need passenger rail service he tells us. I’m a huge advocate of local public transportation and of our national rail network. After 911, Amtrak was the only game in town and we were able to move people around our nation when all the airlines were grounded. So, not only do we provide for the day to day transportation needs for our people, but also an incredible and very important national security purpose for our nation. John says that trains are essential in CA, but they are fossil fuel reliant. How do we modernize the railways? Bryan talks about something he says that older viewers would know, that is that at one time CA had one of the most advanced public transportation systems if not in the US, in the World. The Pacific Electric Railway ran all over Southern CA (Originally it was a way to get people out into the suburbs to buy residential real estate there). He explains that there wasn’t a coherent transportation strategy addressing the growth of the automobile (industry) and of population back then (a century ago) … but now we’re getting back on track, he says. What we need is a connected network of light rail, bike lanes and ways to get people out of automobiles and onto public transportation. John Mica who was recently voted out of office - Thank God he says, was on the Transportation Infrastructure Committee…and was an enemy of Amtrak. He very unfairly called our National Transportation Network (Long-Distance Trains) a Soviet-style system. Bryan continues, our union employees do a very good job with the limited resources that they have to get our passengers out and to their destinations on time. The National Association of Rail Passengers estimates that if we were to get rid of all our long-distance trains, we’d cut off about 140 million Americans from transportation. We live he says in a sort of non-reality on both coasts, in truth our country is still largely rural. The Northeast corridor for Amtrak is very popular. Kansas has virtually no public transportation aside from Amtrak. He says that he has had other jobs that paid better, but here he feels as though he is performing a very good public service. John has taken the train to Seattle, it was fun and great not having to drive, he says. You’re selling me on trains … How about what the Europeans are doing though … they have trains running on hydrogen, water, solar … Is that possible here? Jerry Brown is really set on continuing to frack and easing us into calamity he adds. Bryan responds that he thinks that they should explore whatever new technologies exist out there for running their locomotives. The latter sit, down in our yards running on idle. There are some reasons for that being the case, but it probably takes a lot of diesel fuel to restart those engines, so there is diesel fuel being poured into the atmosphere. I’m all in favor of looking at alternatives. We know that the environmental damage from fossil fuels is huge and that we are at a tipping point. Bryan attended lectures where he heard that it may not be possible to address climate change fast enough for it to make a difference, but mitigating the damage being done is very important. Amtrak, the national airlines … we in particular need to find a way to transition away from fossil fuels.
As a member of Congress, Bryan states, I’d like to introduce legislation for a moonshot or Manhattan Project for energy. I’d like to decommission all or most of our nuclear powered facilities, coal powered facilities … let’s say within 10 years - as a politician I’m throwing a number out there … one can argue about the date later, he adds. John tells him that he is right on par with scientists and engineers. I love that John says, because we need bold action now. Incremental climate adjustment and we die. Congress is fighting wars for profit right now, Bryan continues, rather than dealing with the actual, real, most pressing issue facing humanity now, and that is global warming. Global oligarchy is the 2nd most pressing issue John adds.
Bryan had once volunteered as a reserve police officer with the city of South Pasadena, and later enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. The 4 years (1985-1989) he spent with the latter, at the end of the Cold War, taught him a great deal about keeping a cool head when tensions are high. He speaks of danger when empires are winding down. China is ascending – it has the biggest population, so this was probably bound to happen. Bryan’s only problem with that is that it is a police state. He wants to help the United States to skillfully and wisely wind down their empire. The US has over 800 military bases spread out over 80 countries across the planet. That to him doesn’t sound like National Defense but Empire. It’s okay to have a good robust National Defense, but our budget isn’t only 600 billion dollars, when you take the whole National Security State, Department of Energy, our Nuclear program, the Department of Homeland Security, all the Intelligence Agencies and the Military into account … it’s somewhere around 1.2 trillion dollars - which is unsustainable and needs to stop. The primary reason for this is not that we face all these existential threats around the world; although there are some that we need to recognize; but it is more about making money for Raytheon and Lockheed Martin and others in the Defense Industry. Well said and agreed, says John. Bryan continues, people are no longer volunteering for the military in the numbers that they need, so they have lowered the standards for entry … which tells Bryan that they are desperate. It’s supposedly an all-volunteer force right now, but really it’s an all-recruited force. They are offering increased benefits to get people to join. 70% of new recruits are married, which is a very big burden on our budget (taking care of all the dependents). It used to be that most recruits were single. “We need to have a jobs program for people that isn’t based on blowing things up and killing people.” Bryan says. Yes John continues, we’ve used the guise of spreading democracy when really we’re a global arms dealer and warmonger. Bryan adds, “I would like to see us have our biggest export be a good example!”
Bryan also ran for City Council in Pasadena after being inspired by Bernie Sanders, and witnessed some shenanigans involving party insiders, wealthy donors, elected officials … (Candidates entering the race at the last minute to prevent Progressives from winning was one detail he mentioned.) We need a new wave of candidates with integrity and courage to move our country forward he says. He learned a lot while running and spoke to so many people. He had some good ideas too they thought. For example, people lament the fact that they have very high housing costs in CA, so, why not offer he said, a third option (to home ownership and renting), make an ordinance and work with the State, by bringing cooperative housing into the mix … it might stabilize housing prices here in the city. Bernie was the first candidate I really felt I could get behind in 20 years Bryan goes on to say. He had been listening to the latter for years on the Thom Hartmann show - where he has learned an awful lot of civics and United States history. I don’t always agree with the way Thom approaches callers on the radio, but that’s a matter of style. I admire a lot of what he has written and I think he is a national treasure, Bryan tells us.
WARNING: NEXT PARAGRAPH CONTAINS SHOCKING DETAIL.
They discuss China, and John and Bryan speak of the changing perceptions of the US and China and human rights abuses in the Donald Trump era. Bryan tells us in a very animated manner about re-education camps (slave-labor camps) where newly-arrested non-consenting prisoners of conscience such as practitioners of Falun Gong and members of other religious and minority groups are sent. The Chinese Communist Party runs a brutal police state, and is also complicit in the murder of their fellow citizens so that they can steal their organs … this is genocide! Bryan considers that the United States should seriously consider ceasing all commercial activity with these gangsters. Credible sources, he says, estimate that somewhere between 60 and 100 000 people have been murdered for their organs – some of them while they were still living, to maintain the freshness of that organ. This is truly sickening and on par with the worst atrocities of the Nazis and Joseph Stalin. We need sanctions, to have some of those involved placed on an Interpol watch list, to get to the bottom of all this and to ship them off to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. Judy Chu didn’t co-sponsor the bill from Congress regarding this matter (180 other Representatives did). Her family immigrated he believes from mainland China. If I were to find out something similar regarding Holland (the country of his ancestors) I’d be screaming about it, he says! Bryan mentions that although the Wall came down, we still only have an Armistice with North Korea and the other big communist party is still running things in China and responsible for 60 million deaths. But we’re buddies now and we trade with them says John sarcastically, which is why the other Members of Congress didn’t co-sponsor the bill no doubt. He adds that sanctions on China are problematic, because all of our “stuff” is made there.
Bryan would like to put forth a plan to entice the manufacturers back to the US, even if half the workforce is robots, fine, but bring them back he says. Nations fight sometimes, if we have another conflict on a par with WW2, we’ll be in big trouble. Progressive friends, we rightfully criticize corporations for shrinking the middle class, influencing our elections … but many of our friends, neighbors and family members are invested in the stock market (41ks and other areas). This is the dilemma that we have. We need to evaluate all the stakeholders and not to do anything reckless. Act with wisdom and with the smartest people in the room. From Amtrak I’ve learned that I may not know the answer to everything, but I’m surrounded by institutional memory. I know who to call… Team effort, like with scientists John says. By the way Bryan tells us, at Caltech and JPL, there are lots of Bernie Sanders supporters.
Bryan’s district is sort of evenly divided between NPP, Democrats and Republicans. He quotes Bernie at the People’s Summit “The leadership of the Democratic Party has betrayed the Working Class in almost every imaginable way.” Progressives need to explain that they’re not Communists coming to take everything from everyone, but rather to represent everyone. Democrats only represent the top 10% ... but the 90% deserve representation too. Corporations are acting legally right now. We need to change the legislation. John says that in order to regulate the corporations we need to put people in power that are not for sale…like you. I like free enterprise, to make money, freedom … Bryan continues, but 800 times the salary of the rank and file, that’s too much!! John thinks Bryan gives the corporations too much credit. Corporations in a capitalist society, he says, where there is very little democracy left and it is driven by profit, can do what they want. They take advantage of what is there. If we shifted this so the benefit was towards the citizens …
Bryan wants to be clear. Free enterprise to him is someone starting small and eventually opening a café or a business that benefits the community - and building that business up over time. Capitalism seems to have morphed into greedy lawyers and accountants who get together, collude with each other, find a marginal product and then travel around saturating one community after another, sometimes traveling the world in the process. For example he says, Starbucks - where you stand in line for 35 minutes to pay $7 for a cup of coffee. That’s not sustainable. It doesn’t benefit our communities. Estate tax isn’t only to generate revenue, it performs a societal function. We want to make sure we don’t have dynasties or monarchies. Someone said that people forget, that for a thousand years Europe was locked in the vice grip of the monarchy, the aristocracy and the church. We’ve kind of come full circle haven’t we? Yes says John. We’ve allowed these monarchs (without silly clothes) to take power because you, I and all of us had fallen asleep at the wheel of our democracy. Bryan nods. We have to convince the 1% that it is in all of our interest to have a very robust middle class, otherwise we may find ourselves facing something other than a political revolution, and none of us want that. They agree that it will probably take years to achieve that goal.
Bryan stayed within the Democratic Party, but he says his goal is to disrupt, demoralize and dismantle the corrupt leadership that we have in there right now. John nods. Chris Hedges thinks an electoral strategy isn’t as important as getting out in the streets. I think both are. We need the people prepared to run for office, and also millions on the streets reminding those in power that they can shut things down from time to time and that they aren’t going away. You’re rocking it with the audience Laura and John tell Bryan.
Do you believe in the Deep State? Yes, Bryan says. I think there are people out there, in and out of government (the administrators of our intelligence agencies, those who get appointed to Secretary of State …) who sometimes hold up progress. Even President Reagan got shut down on some things. Bryan says that rather than going to Wall Street, if young people went into the intelligence agencies, eventually we’d turn that around. What about groups such as BNC etc. talking to young people on campuses about that?
I have he says, a sort of semi-conservative world view. I am very optimistic about the strength of our institutions, the state of our union … which are actually still quite robust. (12/04/2017) What isn’t strong is that we’ve allowed people within these institutions to subvert them, Debbie Wasserman Schultz for example. There is too much emphasis on the National Security State still, but we do need some kind of intelligence apparatus. There are very dangerous actors in the world to keep an eye on, but we also need people with the highest ethical standards to occupy those agencies. Thanks, says John, for what you just said, because it’s hard not to see the government as one giant corrupt ball. There are good people working for it. We should engage and talk with people rather than blow them up through drone attacks, Bryan says. He wants a peaceful revolution.
The conversation moves on to healthcare and Judy Chu in CA. I think John says, that our government with the tax bill and what they are doing with healthcare are taking away my rights, my privileges, my ability to have healthcare. They’re trying to kill me. That’s how it feels. Where do you stand Bryan? Bryan feels that healthcare is a right. Judy Chu votes progressive, but takes money from those who undermine our democracy. Why doesn’t she support Single-Payer Healthcare? The majority of our people want it. The Congress won’t deliver it, so if we need to chase every last one of them out, so be it! It’s a human right. Leave ACA in place, but if we are going to repeal it then replace it with Single-Payer Healthcare. We could have passed it here, but for Anthony Rendon!
He talks about real estate and says that he doesn’t believe that residential real estate should be an investment. Strong regulation is needed to stabilize real estate prices. Some of the demand he suggests, might be artificial. John warns that housing was crazy before cannabis was legalized in Oregon, and it’s worse now. Do you see a recession in the housing market coming, John asks? I think we will have one Bryan says. Google the 2 Santa Claus theory (Thom Hartmann). You might find some suggestion as to why the Republicans are putting forth such an insane tax plan. They’ve done it before. He explains further anyway. The Republicans run up the deficit spending, knowing that they are going to lose the next election (which is at least encouraging for 2018 and 2020!). They know that by doing this they are going to crash the economy and put the Democrats in a position where they’ll never be able to implement the social programs that we all want. I almost think it is somewhat treasonous to intentionally craft legislation that you know is going to crash the economy … I want to do not what’s best for my party, but for the constituents of the 27th District, our country and the planet, Bryan insists.
So, I’m for free college tuition, Medicare for all, ending these wars for profit, a strict and very robust regulation with Wall Street and especially with our banking industry. Dennis Kucinich, one of my heroes, put forth a bill in 2011. Bryan tells us about the National Emergency Employment Development (NEED) Act. In some ways, they wanted to abolish the Federal Reserve with that Act, and incorporate an agency like it within the Department of the Treasury, to be overseen by Congress. This is entirely consistent with our Constitution, Article 1, Section 8. We should not have to pay interest on our money. The US can print our own currency, backed up by the full faith and credit of our country, with the difference that the banks will not get cut in on the action. To quote Henry Ford “If the American people truly understood our banking and monetary system, there would be a revolution before the morning.”
Bryan ends with the following comment. I think the trend in the country is an aggressive progressive one and I hope that people will trust me with this very important work.
Bryan Witt has a wonderful manner. He comes across as wise, calm, interesting and concerned primarily about the welfare of the people and trying to do his part to help improve the world and our common future. He plays guitar, has a friendly smile and a sense of humor. The links are in the video description. Best of luck on November 6th, 2018 Bryan!