Former Senator Shares Ideas For Empowered America At U. Penn

This story was written by Arielle Kane, Daily Pennsylvanian
Former senator and presidential hopeful Mike Gravel wants to empower you.

He also wants to get rid of the IRS, institute a "Fair Tax" program and change America's relationship with Iran.

And he wants you to buy his book, "Citizen Power: A Mandate for Change," in which he outlines how citizens, once empowered, will take back their rights.

Gravel, who recently made headlines this past March when he switched to the Libertarian party after 16 years as a Democratic elected official, spoke last night to a packed room in Houston Hall. The event was sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania Democrats, who were contacted by Gravel to set up the campaign stop the day before he left the Democratic party.

"Right now our country is being led by the elites," said the former Alaskan senator, "and they are taking care of themselves."

"Representative government is truly broken," and Gravel intends to fix it by giving the people governmental power.

On the economic front, Gravel acknowledged the economy is in a recession, but advocated a complete reconstruction of the way the government currently collects taxes. "I believe until we change our system of taxation, we won't be able to change any other issue," he said.

To that effect, he hopes to abolish the income tax, which he considers corrupted by wealthy lobbies, and to replace it with a universal retail tax. "We have mercantilism in this country, not capitalism."

Gravel further criticized the current system of how education is financed with property taxes. "Right now our education is in the toilet," and the property tax only ensures poor neighborhoods will perpetually receive a poor education, he added.

More controversial, however, were Gravel's views on foreign policy. He is against bombing Iran, a country he considers "our natural ally." Gravel believes if left alone, the nation would be a democracy within a year and a half.

Continuing his liberal stance, Gravel proudly told the audience "I consider myself the poster boy of the gay community, and I'm as straight as an arrow."

"What this country needs is more love," he added.

College sophomore and secretary for the Penn Libertarian Association Michelle Potter thought the event was a success. "Any time a relatively apathetic campus can fill up a room, I think it's a great thing," she said.

Thad Kirk, also a sophomore in the College and self-proclaimed "adamant Democrat" added, "He has a lot to say and the media doesn't give him a chance."

College senior Patrick Fitzmaurice was unhappy, however, with what he saw as an image inconsistency "It's clear he has Democrat leanings ... but throughout the speech he switched what he called himself."

Gravel maintains it is the principles, not the parties that really count, but whether he will make it onto the ballot remains to be seen.
© 2008 Daily Pennsylvanian via U-WIRE