Tim Canova was interviewed by #WeThePeople on November 29th, 2017. He is running in the 23rd Congressional District of Florida. At the time of this interview Tim was running as a Democrat (in the primaries), however he decided (for very good reason) that he would be better off running as an Independent, and made that change accordingly. He is up against Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D), Joe Kaufman (R) and Don Endriss (another Independent).
Tim is (as his ad says) a professor of Law and Public Finance. In 2015 he found himself in south Florida working with the Citizens’ Trade Campaign which was lobbying the entire Florida Congressional Delegation against the TPP. Earlier in 2010, he started to work with a number of congressional staffers on the legislation that would become the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act. I saw Bernie Sanders putting it all on the line and calling for others to step up – he says, so I thought if he could, then I could - in my little corner of the world.
Tim starts to talk about The Sabal Trail pipeline that is being built. They want to frack – he says, before explaining why Florida is the last State in the country that should be fracking. There will be problems with clean water if they pollute the fragile aquifer that Florida is dependent on. Rising sea levels threaten homes and businesses. We could end up with an internal refugee crisis in this country. We have to have - he says, a progressive movement that changes the political system. The challenge right now is for those of us who want a more ethical politics - politics with integrity, politics where politicians are not bought and paid for by monied interests. We have to keep waking folks up. We have to organize around the issues and stay engaged politically if we are going to bring about positive change in this country. They talk about the last few days rain and Hurricane Irma earlier in the year (2017). Tim had been in a mandatory evacuation zone. They talk of the effects of climate change and describe the sheer size and force of Irma. There is a new “normal” with rising sea levels and warmer oceans which are creating hotter, bigger storms. Right now in the U.S. there are a lot of different kinds of environmental and ecological hazards to be dealt with. Out west there are enormous fires which are now burning down about 4 million acres per year in our country – Tim says. We don’t have winter much anymore – John adds, it’s year-round fire season and Florida is getting (the worst of the effects of climate change). What do the constituents in your district think of climate change Tim? They are so far ahead of the politicians on this and many issues – Tim replies. Last year there were a couple of big State-wide referendums and very powerful interests threw tens of millions of dollars into campaigns against these referendums, but the referendums still passed by a super majority of votes. A solar power initiative passed, medical marijuana also … You don’t have to be a climate scientist to know in your gut that things are changing. So people are waking up to the problem, but there are big vested corporate interests standing in the way of a lot of solutions and not just on climate issues. And the only way forward – John says, is to get rid of the politicians who are bowing to the corporate money. Tim agrees.
He talks about his amazing run in 2016 against the head of the DNC (Debbie Wasserman Schultz) and all the candidates running against corporate candidates this time around. Based on what I’m reading things are going well for you – John says. Tim has a progressive movement behind him and there is exciting information about the democratic platform in Florida – he tells us. However Tim is wary of assuming anything at this stage of the race. About a month ago (11/29/2017) the Florida Democratic Party passed the most progressive plank of resolutions in the party’s history. They voted against fracking; against the Sabal Trail Pipeline – which will be pumping at capacity a billion cubic feet of fracked gas a day through sinkhole country; for the restoration of voting rights – to overturn the felony disenfranchisement that affects over a million Floridians; for Healthcare for All in principle and for campaign finance reform. All of this passed overwhelmingly, and yet the party is still controlled in many ways by the vendors, consultants and lobbyists that don’t want to let go. “Politicians don’t see the light until they feel the heat” Tim says, so we have to start beating them in these primaries. After the 2016 election, he never really stopped working. They formed a group called Progress for All – that allowed them to continue to raise small donations and have an office with several field staff. They became citizen lobbyists and they lobbied very heavily on the issues. They fought a lot of fights and people in Florida noticed.
John says he is excited about this election. He thinks the progressive movement is building an army and is ready for 2018. Tim agrees and points to Florida. He does believe that the center of gravity in the Democratic Party has moved in a progressive direction. (Imagine) if we could send an army of Progressive Democrats critical of concentrated corporate power as allies to help Bernie Sanders and other Progressives in the House and Senate!
Laura has had a few questions related to hurricane relief in chat. In Florida, they are still waiting for federal aid - Tim tells us. He speaks of price gouging (over clearing debris from the sides of the roads). He had thought it might be a good time for a Civilian Conservation Corps and for organizing volunteers. The CCC was one of the first of FDR’s New Deal programs to be passed – he tells us. It immediately put almost ¼ of a million young men to work in the National Forests, National Parks … clearing underbrush, cutting fire lines, putting out small fires before they became bigger ones and I think that something like 80% of the pay they were receiving had to be sent home to their families - who were often in cities 1000 or 2000 miles away. So it was really an income support program, a jobs program and a training program. Overall around 3 million Americans passed through the CCC. Tim thinks it would be great in our day to tie the (2 or 3 years in the) CCC to tuition free education and a living stipend for example. That’s the deal my dad got for serving in WW2. That whole “Greatest Generation” got the benefits of the GI Bill after WW2. And I would love to see a Sea Conservation Corps (internal waterways in the U.S. and also the ocean). He wonders when all the plastic (in the oceans) will adversely affect sea-life and then human life … because it is part of the food chain. Great answer - says John. A corporate dominated Congress is not interested in this idea, but they spend an average of 30 hours a week in call centers - dialing wealthy people for dollars.
Tim mentions at this point the painfully slow clean-up and reconstruction jobs going on in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. We have a large number of Puerto Rican residents who live in my district. Puerto Rico’s population figures started experiencing a very sharp drop about 3 years ago - related to the financial crisis (and well before hurricane Maria). He speaks of vulture funds and interest on debt. It needs debt forgiveness for several years now. Tim had talked to one of Bernie Sanders’ Senate staffers about using the Federal Reserve to try to reorganize Puerto Rican debt. He refers back to the 1930s and 1940s and how the Federal Reserve and the Reconstruction Finance Corporation did an awful lot to help State and local governments and localities work out their debt problems and avoid austerity, build infrastructure and even support school teachers’ salaries. Bernie just introduced a major bill with a lot of Senate backing, a sort of Marshall Plan for Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin islands and much of the Caribbean – Tim reminds us. I’m all for that – he says.
John speaks about how the U.S. government is functioning completely against the interests of its citizens right now. Tim believes it is worse at present, but that the government has been doing this for a while. Democrats need an alternative agenda. It is not enough to talk about Russian conspiracies and investigations of HRC and rehashing 2016. Tim thinks the unemployment rate is so low because people are afraid to leave their crappy jobs because they’ll be really screwed if they do. It masks a very sick jobs market along with declining and stagnant incomes. He knows lots of people have given up on the Democratic Party being the vehicle for progressive change, but he is still trying to believe (11/29/2017) that it’s possible to push the party in a very progressive New Deal direction. John says this is a topic which is often discussed on the show, and he thinks that the Bernie Sanders’ lesson was if you want a good Democratic Party then make it. The party itself is just a structure with resources. Kick out the people that suck and bring in the ones that don’t. Tim agrees and says that whether people want to work within or outside of the Democratic Party, it will take a vast movement of people being and staying awake and waking other folks up. It requires an informed active citizenry. They discuss whether things would have been better under HRC (John doesn’t think so) ... either way Tim says, there were going to be major problems. Donald Trump scares people by his talk and actions. The Democrats on immigration issues would have been clearly better – he says, but when you look back over the last 8 years you see a lot of things that occurred under a Democratic administration that are troubling … fracking; regime change in Libya and Ukraine … Tim thinks though that a lot of people in the party are ready to turn the page from the Clintons and other party leaders and start looking for fresh faces and ideas for the party. The old ways haven’t worked. We have a very weak Democratic party at this point. John sees Donald Trump as a catalyst for change … Tim agrees that both Democratic and Republican Parties are in crisis mode.
Robert in YouTube chat has a question. With the release of the Paradise papers and the Panama papers, could we make laws to prevent companies sending their money offshore, instead of paying their taxes for using our infrastructure? Tim replies that he thinks that is necessary. He has been writing about this since the 1990s. He talks of what is happening right now and goes on to say that if the U.S. puts even a fraction of the diplomatic energy - that was put into trade agreements, into closing down these types of offshore tax havens and working with other trading partners to do the same, the U.S. will be doing what is required. You have a globalization that serves the interests of financial capital, Wall Street and the CEOs - but no one else’s. Tim tells us that from 1940 to 1980 (the Golden years of the middle class in the U.S. and capitalism) the bottom 90% of households got about 70% of the income gains. Since the financial crisis the bottom 90% of households have gotten 0% of the income gains, and the top 1% of households has gotten 90% of the income gains! This is not sustainable in any way, economically or politically. This looks so much more like an oligarchy, a plutocracy - and not a democracy. This political crisis that we are in, I think is an existential crisis for our species - Tim says. They agree that it’s global. Tim talks about all the young people in the U.S. graduating without good job prospects, having to take part-time jobs without benefits and overseas lots of young men (in similar situations) are fodder for mercenary armies. We need jobs’ programs to help these underemployed human beings around the world, to give them hope and meaning and to do something productive. Leave the world a better place for the next generation. That would be the decent thing to do - says John, pleased with the conversation and telling Tim he’s learning a lot - but then Tim is a law professor. This is great – he says. Tim laughs.
Froz in YouTube chat refers to Dickinson Texas and hurricane relief victims who had to sign non anti-Israeli agreements to get their funding. She says that there are apparently 23 States that require that type of thing when signing contracts with the government. Is Florida one of them? I had not heard of that - says Tim. My district is an interesting district because it has had the highest number of Holocaust survivors of any district in the country. His family is hybrid, as his step-dad is Jewish. He has volunteered on a kibbutz in Israel for several months of his life and has been back to that kibbutz several times. So it’s not surprising – he says, that I believe in a Jewish state called Israel and sometimes my supporters chafe at hearing that. I don’t think it is inconsistent to support Israel and to also support a Palestinian State. I’ve been for a two-State solution for my whole life. I still see that as the answer, but I think it has got to be as part of a regional peace that addresses the conflict that continues to go on between Saudi Arabia, Iran and their proxies in the region. I am not aware of the legislation or the contractual requirements you mention. I am aware of legislation that would criminalize the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. Personally, I am not for boycotting Israel. I think it would be counter-productive. That might not please folks out there, but I’m not for criminalizing the BDS movement either. That’s a fair and honest answer - John says. For his part, John is for a human beings solution. To him - no offense he says, Israel is just a good weapons customer which is why we seem to be protecting them. They buy a lot of our weapons and use a lot of them to murder people and then say “Wait we are Israel!” and I think “Come on guys!” Laura comments that the U.S does give them a lot of money. We need regional and even global arms control agreements – Tim replies, not just for weapons of mass destruction but for conventional arms too. The global arms industry is now so powerful, and is making a fortune arming every side of every war – it seems. He talks of trying to get the major arms producing countries in the world (of which there are about a dozen) to sit down and come up with plans to convert their arms industries to civilian use. Perhaps – he suggests, we could have another big space program that would help buy off the weapons industry to get them on board to still make big profits but at least not by killing people on Earth. Tim refers to “we” having forgotten our common humanity, and no longer seeing the damage that we are doing (by remote control), and of how Israelis and Palestinians all deserve certain basic rights and freedoms, and have a right to live in peace together. John says - by “we” you mean the 1%. The general world population knows this. The kibbutz I worked on was a Peace Now kibbutz, a left-wing pro-peace one (then) – Tim says. I hope as someone who supports the Israeli State and a Palestinian one, that I can play a constructive role in the future. I do have my critics, but there is one thing that they often ignore – he says … that I have opposed every regime-change war going back years now. I have come out in support of Tulsi Gabbard’s bill to stop arming terrorists. One of the things that Donald Trump did do was pull the CIA out of a covert war in Syria. I think that should be applauded. They agree on that and that there is not much to applaud in this administration.
John shows two slides. The first just as an example of decades of lack of education.
Slide: A question from Elon Musk about why there is no Flat Mars Society … There is so much wrong there – John says.
Slide: Extracts from comments by Tim on healthcare and education (and in particular on mold and mildew in the schools in south Florida).
This ties also to climate change because it is not going to get any better. Hundreds have come down sick, some seriously. It is shameful and makes one wonder - Tim says, if we have an educational policy that is designed to make the public schools fail and that the whole point of it is to privatize them and have charter schools. These are problems that can be solved with money. The Presidential Kennedy vs Nixon debate in 1960 – he says, shows Kennedy wanted not just bricks and mortar and school construction, but that local school teachers’ salaries be subsidized by the Federal government too. Nixon agreed on the construction part … look where we are now. There is (still) no subsidizing of school teachers’ salaries, but now the federal government is trying to dictate curriculums that are terrible, that just forced a very uncreative teaching model on students to prepare them for some standardized exam. To prepare them for war – John says, and Tim replies - yes, perhaps! Teachers are so low-paid all over the country. Here in Broward County we have a low retention rate of public school teachers. They are paid so little. Their teaching schedules are so demanding. They are understaffed. It’s a prescription for failure. And the government just took away a teacher’s ability to write off (the costs) when they buy supplies for the children – John says. So ridiculously greedy!
What infuriates Tim is that the Defense Authorization Act that 127 Democrats - including Debbie Wasserman Schultz, voted for recently (11/29/2017) was a 700 billion dollar authorization. It was a hundred billion dollars more than the Trump Administration even asked for! That 100 billion dollars would have paid for tuition-free higher education and Medicare for All – he says!
Will you address and attack the Military Industrial Complex, and cut it down to size – John asks? It needs to be dealt with – replies Tim, but by the same token there have been a number of accidents in the Pacific Fleet. They don’t even have enough spare parts in the jets that are landing on carriers!! Where is the money going to? It’s going to big weapons systems that are very redundant but are very expensive. And you have to wonder if our foreign policy is being dictated by the business model. If the arms manufacturers are making a fortune selling drones, well how nice if we continue to fire drones in 7 countries. It means that there is going to be a constant demand for these drones. Congress, instead of 30 hours of call-time a week should be conducting hearings on how effective the drone warfare is. Is it creating more enemies than it is actually killing? It would seem to be so. John adds that we appear to be killing loads of civilians with them and Tim speaks of allies on the ground calling in with coordinates of where a drone strike should be directed, and later it turns out to have been a wedding or a funeral and the U.S. have been caught up in some tribal civil war. How can you win a war that way – he asks?
Do you think – John says, that we are as close as the media wants to make us believe, to a nuclear war with North Korea, or is this all bluffing? Tim thinks it is a real problem. Here he shares his knowledge of foreign policy (and history). 90% of North Korea’s exports and imports are to and from China. Free trade within the EU might make some sense, but when it is between a wealthy country and a very struggling poor country like Mexico, all it does is open up opportunities for corporate exploitation on both sides of the border. China shouldn’t have been allowed into the World Trade Organization, before there was at the very least some reform in North Korea. John adds that during the 2000 election, Al Gore spoke out one day against letting China into the WTO. Within about 24 hours he backtracked. Having China in the WTO was always part of the agenda of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – Tim says. It was a way to allow big corporations to outsource labor to countries … and China was bottom of the barrel – very low labor costs. It helps them bust American unions. They don’t have to comply with environmental regulations. It has helped create a stronger middle class there, but there are still lots of folks living in poverty. Tim talks about all sorts of possible scenarios regarding nuclear weapons and North Korea. He says that China has its own agenda which is probably the demilitarization of the Korean peninsula - which might threaten a lot of U.S. interests in South Korea. It is a complicated diplomatic dance. I would not give up on diplomacy at this point though. The military options are bad and worse. John smiles as he says that the one saving grace here is that the North Korean leader seems to be less irrational then the U.S. one – something he never thought he’d get to say.
John is delighted with all we have learned from Tim today and Tim appears to have enjoyed the conversation too. They speak of reclaiming democracy from the corporate establishment. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is not so popular now - given all the scandals around her, but she still pulls a lot of strings in the state of Florida and Tim is relying on grassroots support to beat her. Tim’s outro is Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: I Won’t Back Down.
That was an extremely intelligent conversation with a very well-versed, passionate candidate. The links are in the video description – to donate and volunteer. Good luck on November 6th, 2018 Tim Canova!