KNOY: Our guest today is Marianne Williamson. She's a bestselling author and lecturer and now a Democratic presidential candidate. Williamson's campaign is based on the same themes that have brought her acclaim and financial success. For the past 30 years, she calls for a "moral and spiritual awakening" in this country and for a politics based on love, not fear. That ethic guides her positions on the issues. For example, Williamson says her economic policy would be 'capitalism with a conscience' and on national security she'd seek violence prevention establishing a U.S. Department of Peace Building. And Ms. Williamson, it's nice to meet you.
WILLIAMSON: Thank you so much. Thank you.
KNOY: Why do you think you would make a good president?
WILLIAMSON: I believe we need a president to navigate the times in which we live, from more holistic, integrative perspective. I think our politics is stuck in a modality that is very 20th century. It focuses on externals, it focuses on symptoms but not on cause, it waters the leaves of our democracy but it doesn't water the roots and the roots are inside us. Our political system doesn't register the most important forces that drive human behavior and that has to do with what's going on inside people. When you look at something like terrorism: that was hatred, externalised. When you look at something like what happened in Charlottesville, when you look even at something like what's happening down at the border, there is mean-spiritedness, racism, bigotry, externalised and a system that doesn't have any understanding of how those forces are activated doesn't understand how to ameliorate them, doesn't know how to navigate them, doesn't know how to deal with them. All it knows how to do is to treat the consequences of the craziness that emerges because they're there. We need a president who understands the larger array of factors not just external but also internal ones that drive human behavior. Economic despair, for instance, I think the populist uprising on both the left and the right in 2016 emerged from a level of economic despair. Now the Republicans were gobsmacked by Trump and the Democrats were gobsmacked by Bernie and both for the same reason: they didn't even factor in what people were going through. The anger that people were feeling, the despair and the chronic anxiety, economically that people were feeling. And so I believe that the political path going forward, I think even in terms of defeating the president, a better version of same old, same old doesn't interrupt the trajectory that got us here and I don't even think will defeat the president.
KNOY: Well, I've heard you talk about the 'same old, same old isn't going to solve the problems, isn't going to achieve that deep level of understanding' that you feel is necessary and that you seem to be saying 'well, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump tapped into.' But I do need to ask you the experience question Ms. Williamson, and I know you've been asked this a lot. Many Democrats would be the first to say that President Trump's lack of experience, lack of understanding how things work, how government and budgets and government agencies work has hurt the country. Why should they hand the keys over to you now with your similar lack of experience?
WILLIAMSON: I don't think that the issue is that the president didn't know, it's that the president doesn't care. There's a big difference. The president doesn't seem to have a visceral taste for democracy. You don't have to be an experienced politician to know that there are three branches of government. You don't have to be an experienced politician to know some of the mechanical workings of politics. Experience politicians, there there's some illusion there that I think we should all bust. Experienced politicians took us into Iraq experienced politicians took us into Vietnam, experienced politicians brought us to where we are. They brought us to where we are. So the idea that only those whose careers have been entrenched in the system that got us here are the only ones we should possibly consider qualified to lead us from here I think is preposterous actually. And I challenge that.
KNOY: You ran for Congress in California, I think it was 2014. You're aiming very high here, the highest office of the land some would say the most powerful position in the world. Why not gain some experience some understanding Ms Williamson. Running again for Congress, maybe running for the state Senate, maybe running for mayor or a member of the legislature?
WILLIAMSON: Let's be very clear here. I've had a lot of experience. There are other experiences, there are other kinds of qualifications. Anybody who thinks for instance that somebody who served two terms in Congress that that gives them the elevated consciousness and the depth of gravitas necessary to lead this country doesn't realize what Congressmen do all day. What do you think Congressman do? It's almost a joke to me. So they and it should be a joke to all of us. It is a meaningful experience to have been in Congress. It's a meaningful experience to have had political experience. But there are all kinds of meaningful experiences. I've had 30 years of experience in working very up close and personal with people seeking to navigate the consequences of all the damage that has been done by an irresponsible political system. So America should be looking, it would seem to me, for people whose experience has as much to do with navigating these times as with replicating old times. And that means transforming these times. I have worked with people in moving from trauma to transformation. And I know that that means that you have to do more than just change things on the outside. As we need political mechanic, a political mechanic right now we need a political visionary. FDR said that the greatest part the most important part of the presidency is moral leadership. You can have the best car mechanic in the world but that car mechanic doesn't necessarily know what road is the best one to take to San Antonio. And that's what I offer. I offer an understanding of the moral, spiritual, emotional and psychological issues that prevail within the life of a nation, just as they prevail within the life of an individual and that must be addressed if America is to do more than just defeat Donald Trump. The task is much bigger than that. We need to do more than just not go over the cliff. We need to get out of the vicinity of the cliff. We need to totally interrupt a trajectory that got us here. And those whose careers are based on maintaining that trajectory don't necessarily have even the vision and these by the way this is not personal. I mean really good people are running for president. I'm not running against anyone, I'm running with a lot of really good people. There's nothing personal to this. But this idea, it's the system which would have us believe that only their club, it's just a replication... You know the political establishment and a lot of the media establishment fulfil the same aristocratic archetype that's at work everywhere else in America. It's the idea of a small club who seemed to think they're entitled, who seemed to think they're the ones who know and they're the only ones worthy of our trust going forward. This is how we work economically and where has it gotten us? This is how we've worked in terms of national defense and where has it gotten us? This is how we work in terms of politics and where has it gotten us?
KNOY: Let's talk about your vision and as you said you want to present a broad vision for the country. Let's get into some of those policies, Ms. Williamson. Economic policy, as I mentioned, you said your approach to the economy would be "capitalism with a conscience" Give us some specific examples please of what that means.
WILLIAMSON: When I was growing up the social agreement in this country was that the corporation had a responsibility that was a moral responsibility and an ethical responsibility. It wasn't just fiduciary responsibility to stockholders. It was a moral and ethical responsibility to the workers, to the environment, to the community. You didn't just let somebody work for you for decades and then just like drop them and don't worry about whether or not they're going to be able to retire with dignity because hey and get a younger person to come in and work part time without benefits. When I was growing up there was an understanding in the ether that that would have been horrific behavior. Starting in the 80s, as we know, this entire society bought into because unfortunately our government became an advocate for this economic system which then hijacked our entire value system which is basically a product as we know of trickle down economics. The idea that all that a corporation should have to worry about is fiduciary responsibility to its stockholders without any sense of a moral or ethical responsibility to people or planet specific if you could very well what your plan would be. Well first thing I would do is repeal that horrific 2017 tax cut which is just a complete giveaway, as a complete example of what happens in an aristocratic system where government is doing more to advocate for the economic good of a small group of people at the expense of everybody else in the society and the planet on which we live. I would repeal that 2017 tax cut although I would put back in the middle class tax cuts I don't know why they weren't there already. These corporate subsidies are ridiculous. Why are we subsidizing the billions and billions of dollars? 26 billion dollars of the fossil fuel industry last year alone. Why are we subsidizing the fossil fuel industry? why are we subsidizing agribusiness? Why are we subsidizing big pharma?
KNOY: So getting rid of corporate subsidies. Get the tax cut but then put in the middle class tax cut. So on your platform, and again sticking with this economic theme, immediate cash relief with a universal basic income of a 1000 a month per American adult.
WILLIAMSON: [inaudible] No that's not right.
KNOY: That's not correct? So no universal basic income?
WILLIAMSON: No, I did not say that either. We have an economic tsunami approaching with automation. I think we're going to need a mix of universal basic income and a federal jobs guarantee. But I think once we have a Green New Deal-- what I want is an immediate infusion, a massive and immediate infusion of economic hope and opportunity into the hands of the American people. It's all of one piece. First an immediate Medicare for all type of system. This is how Democrats talk: "I think we should work towards that." That's a way of saying "I'm going to say what I think you need me to say to get elected. It it's like saying I'm going to have a commission. It's ridiculous the American people need to awaken to the game here. No, I mean an immediate universal health care, raise the minimum wage cancel or renegotiate all of those college loans and make college free and do these things quickly. FDR did them quickly. We can do them quickly. Now in addition to that when you have a Green New Deal type of situation, so you have massive infrastructure repair and with that massive job creation. So once you know what kinds of numbers you have for a massive job creation due to that, then you know how much we will need to augment that with universal basic income. That's why I'm not willing to say 'well a $1000' it might be $1000, it might be less than $1000 because once you mix that with federal job guarantee.
KNOY: So you're starting with some of these efforts that you think will produce job creatio: Green New Deal, Medicare for all, cancelling college loans and so forth and then you're saying after that maybe universal basic income, is that what you're saying?
WILLIAMSON: Well I can walk and chew gum at the same time and I think the U.S. government can do that. I think more important than our knowing what we're going to do on Monday versus what we're going to do on Thursday is recognizing that we need a massive change in attitude consciousness about where money comes from. I don't believe money comes from giving it to a small group of people who act like our economic overlords who are going to drop the crumbs from the table that aristocracy. I'm going to get back to economic democracy. And I I base everything on the basic philosophical foundations of this country. All men are created equal. And God gave all men inalienable rights to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I believe that there is inside every human being unlimited God-given potential. My 35 year career, my experience has shown me that within each and every person there is so much untapped and unmined gold particularly by the way in every kindergarten in America.
KNOY: And we should definitely talk about education...
WILLIAMSON: And it's more than education. It's the realization of the incredible potential within the brain particularly of the small child. I want to unleash the dreams of the American people uncap their dreams unleash the spirit. As Soon as you make it easier for people to get out of the stranglehold of economic despair and anxiety. "What will happen if I get sick?" "What will happen if my kids get sick?" "How am I going to pay for my kids to college?" Let people show up in life. That's where your money comes from. So I'm talking about that which will unleash our economic good. So you cannot separate that from economic policy because that's what our economic policy should be based on.
KNOY: Jenny sent us an email from Manchester. Jenny says "some of the best people I've ever met live in Los Angeles where I lived for 14 years. You have expressed that you feel drawn to and centered in L.A. Please explain Jenny says to northern New Englanders who associate the city exclusively with show biz why chose to live there for so long. Jenny thank you very much for the e-mail.
WILLIAMSON: I was born and raised in Houston, Texas. I have lived most of my adult life in Los Angeles and New York and Michigan. I raised my daughter in Michigan. I love Los Angeles. I love Michigan. I love Texas. I love New York. I'm not speaking to the New Englander or the Texan or the Southwest, I'm speaking to the American and all of us. When I lived in Texas for all those years I knew a lot of people in the oil industry because that's where they are. when I lived in Michigan. I know a whole lot of people in the automobile industry because that's where they are. When I lived in Los Angeles I knew a lot of people in the entertainment industry because that's where they are. Some of the most creative people in this country and even in this world live there. Let's not kid ourselves when it comes to political issues, there are movies that have had more bravery and more fierce truth telling and more honesty about many of the political issues in our in our lives than politicians have had. So this is part of the illusion of there are only superficial people in L.A., that's pretty silly.
KNOY: Well, thank you for that e-mail Jenny and getting back to some of your economic policies I just want to be clear and specific Ms Williamson. You talked for example about free college can you be more specific? Is it free all kinds of college for everyone? Or is it free public public universities and community college? And free for everyone? No income eligibility if I'm rich, I can still get free college?
WILLIAMSON: Well, that's a pretty interesting question and there's a lot to think about there. But I think that basically, yeah I think it should just be available for people. I think that this is the point: America is better off when people produce. America is better off when people are free to create. America is better off. There is an investment. This is how I feel about the young people of America and this is what the young people of America will feel when I'm president: I'm going to do everything possible. I want to look at every child the way I look at my daughter. I'm going to do everything possible to create the conditions for you to be everything that you can be. I want to remove all material shackles that would keep you from being able to actualize your potential energy. In return for that, I want you to go out there and be everything that you can be. I want you to be the best woman or the best man, the best mother, father, employer, employee, friend, child, creator citizen. This society is going to invest in you. This society is going to support you in thriving. Right now, our government almost acts punitively towards people. Government should be helping people thrive. That's why it's there.
KNOY: Ms. Williamson, you mentioned that you were a big supporter of Medicare for all. One of the big critiques is that this would be extremely expensive. How would you pay for it?
WILLIAMSON: First of all, once you repeal the 2017 tax cut, you get rid of many of these corporate subsidies, then you already begin to have more money. Medicare for all, there are many things we could do such as Bernie talks about when he talks about half a penny from every stock, every time somebody makes a stock purchase. There are certain ways that we could do that. However this is what we need to do in terms of changing our thinking. When you look at how much of the average person's budget goes into health care, then you look at how much money is then available to people because they do not have to pay for health care, that is that much more that they spend, that is that much more that they can spend on their own self actualisation. That then increases your consumer base, that would then create jobs and that then increases increases our tax revenue. So to me by having a Medicare for all type of system, we are actually ultimately putting more money into our economy and that then reduces the deficit.
KNOY: Because people are freed from their health care concerns that keep them from working, that what you're saying?
WILLIAMSON: And keeps them from spending.
KNOY: I just want to ask about the cost issue again. Would there be, in your perfect world, any sort of skin in the game from the consumer or could people just go to the doctor anytime, anywhere and incur no cost?
WILLIAMSON: Well ultimately, I would like that. I would like people to just go and not have to worry about it. What I think we should have is you keep the Obama exchanges and you augment that with the public option. And with that public option, yes there could be some small payment, at least at first. And then I think we'd all move there in time. And I also think that people should be able to keep Their private insurance if they want it if they like it or if they want to augment with that. But what I would like ultimately is for this simply not to be an aspect of anxiety for the American. It's not for the for the British person, it's not for other people in the world in almost every advanced society. But more than that I want to say, there were so many things about my policies which will enable us to live healthier lives. We have a health care system...Right now, even you and me, we're having this conversation about how we're going to pay for health care. This is an example of what's wrong with our political system in treating just the symptom. Our health care system is very good at helping people once they get sick and we're talking about how you're going to pay for that. It's not really a health care system, it's a sickness care system. We need to be thinking--- just like we are not just preparing for war, we need to wage peace--we need to think not just about sickness care, we need to think about all the things that we need to do to make the average American's life healthier.
KNOY: And some of that is included in Obamacare right? Preventative visits and an emphasis on wellness.
WILLIAMSON: But not enough, not at all. Because nothing challenges the corporate structure. Nothing that says "hey agribusiness..", nothing that says "hey fossil fuel companies..." Nothing that says "Hey, the toxins, the carcinogens, the various harmful things in our food and the poisons in our atmosphere and the poisons in our Earth. But even taking into account all the ways that the economic anxiety and other forms of anxiety that are promulgated by a corrupt political system creates so much stress and stress is part of what makes people so sick. Our diet our lifestyles are not aligned with our biology and our genes. So we need to have a holistic vision not just of how to treat sickness but how to help the average American be healthier.
KNOY: Well that gets into some of your other policies on food, on climate change and so forth.
WILLIAMSON: And that's why you can't see these things. Right now we just treat them as external symptoms and are not recognizing the deeper underlying causes. And when you go into the deeper underlying causes then you have to go even to a deeper layer of the fact that the even deeper cause of many of these problems are the spiritual malfunction, of the fact that our government our government does so much more to advocate for corporate profits, short term corporate profits than for the health and well-being of people.
KNOY: One more quick question very specifically on Medicare for all and then I do want to get to climate and education I know that's super important for you. Also immigration, Ms Williamson because you've had a lot to say on that and that's definitely in the news. In most developed countries that have a Medicare for all type system, universal health care, people do have some out-of-pocket costs. The concern is that if you don't have a little bit of skin in the game, there won't be enough money to pay for all the health care that people seek.
WILLIAMSON: And it might be. You know, I've heard so many different ways of approaching this. I have read ways of approaching this to say that that's necessary. I've seen ways of approaching that say that that is not necessary. The American people tend to forget where the richest country in the world. Now you know we had a 2017 tax cut and we didn't spend a whole lot of time on how you're going to pay for it. We invaded a country in a 2 trillion dollar war, a country that didn't didn't even have anything to do with 9/11 and had no al Qaeda and we didn't spend a lot of time on how are you going to pay for it. How are you going to pay for it. Thing as part of the is part of the propaganda. That is that really comes from a segment of society originally comes from a segment of society that just wants to make sure that a small group of people get most of them.
KNOY: Well so let's talk about some of those wars then and turn to national security. The president as you know of course is commander in chief of the armed forces. You've said 'If I'm elected president a far more sophisticated, redesigned partnership between the Defense Department and the State Department would put our need to wage peace on equal part with our need to prepare for any necessary war. Two questions out of that please. What does waging peace mean?
WILLIAMSON: Four main factors are involved in peace creation. They won't shock anyone. These are factors which when they are present statistically increase peace and decrease violence. Number one expanding economic opportunities for women. Number two expanding educational opportunities for children. Number three reducing violence against women and number four diminishing unnecessary human suffering wherever possible. We should see large groups of desperate people as a national security risk. Desperate people are more vulnerable to ideological capture by genuinely psychotic forces. This is true in a corner of an American city, in relation to gangs. It's true in relation to corners of the world where people have become more vulnerable to terrorist organizations. It was at the root of the emergence of Hitler. And it's even true in relation to vulnerability to the lies of an authoritarian demagogue here in the United States.
KNOY: So peace waging means what Ms Williamson?
WILLIAMSON: Peace waging means an active, proactive...just as I described those were very practical things we need to do that have to do with activities that prevent violence and actually increase the experience of people which is more peaceful in the world. Now we do the things that I just mentioned, we do them through the U.S. Institute of Peace. We do them through certain programs and they in the State Department and we do them here in the United States through certain programs. But when you compare the amount of resources that we put into genuine peace creation in our schools for instance in the United States: restorative justice, conflict resolution, wraparound services, anti bulling, even mindfulness in the schools. We know what actually creates greater peace and we have people who are technicians, practitioners are doing these things internationally, humanitarian work as well as domestically. But we resource them like a little piece of parsley on the plate versus the huge fillet steak that we give to military spending. Now this is not the military's fault. I'm not critiquing the U.S. military here. These are political decisions.
KNOY: Sure, the military is doing its job, that it's told to do.
WILLIAMSON: Yeah, Well not only that but a lot of the equipment that they get they didn't even ask for. The U.S. Air Force for instance has bought 100 airplanes called the B 21 Rayder the B 21 greater cost 550 million dollars each and each one carries both conventional and nuclear bombs. Now you drop five of those it's over for human civilization as we know it. You drop ten of those it's over for humanity on this planet for two hundred thousand years. That has nothing to do with our national security. That has to do with profits for defense contractors and the nuclear industry. And any thinking person knows it but no traditional politician will discuss it. That's why I'm running for president.
KNOY: So when you say waging peace, talking about you know economic development and so forth just two quickie questions on that if I could. One counter argument that comes up with that is why should we give money and resources to people who "hate us" in some of these areas of the world where it's sort of death to America. I wonder how you sort of break through that. Ms Williamson, in a sort of diplomatic and economic way. How do you "wage peace" with those countries in a sort of diplomatic and economic way?
WILLIAMSON: Well, first of all in terms--well, no country is a monolith. And I think we have two categories of a problem with what you just said: there are some people really hate us but we have an even bigger problem than the people who hate us. And that's the people who just don't like us anymore. They don't necessarily hate us but you know what they used to like us because we used to display moral leadership.
KNOY: Can you give us an example?
WILLIAMSON: I'll give you a lot of examples. I think that before 9/11...if we had spent the last decades before 9/11... When I was growing up, when all of us were growing up, we were taught to believe, because it actually to some extent was true, that the United States was a force of moral good in the world, that the United States really did lead with our democratic and humanitarian values. We acted around the world in ways that actually served America's vital interests. We thought they meant democracy. We didn't know they meant Exxon. We didn't know they meant huge multinational American and American corporate interests. Too many people in the world, even the Dalai Lama himself told me this, that the people of the world do not see the United States as a great champion of democracy around the world.
KNOY: That started happening around Vietnam though, right? I mean that's the era that I grew up in and I don't know if a lot of people held that view that that you hold Ms Williamson around the world because of Vietnam.
WILLIAMSON: Well that's that's kind of my point. That's exactly my point. But I'm 66 years old so I remember that transition. So when fewer people in the world started seeing the American flag decal around schools and roads and genuinely democratic institutions they no longer felt morally and spiritually and emotionally and psychologically compelled by by any attraction to the United States and in their desperation. I believe, not just I believe, the statistics show this: we're more vulnerable to the machinations of genuinely psychotic forces. So when America stands behind our values we always do better we do better economically we do better in terms of our national security, that we love one another. It's not just a prescription for some philosophical ultimate good. It is a prescription for a way of living in the world that leads to peace and leads to prosperity.
KNOY: So you said you again put "Waging Peace on equal part with our need to prepare for any necessary war" again using your words there. What kind of war. Ms Williamson would be "necessary"?
WILLIAMSON: I think World War II was a righteous war. I mean if I'd been FDR of course I would have joined in that. I think going into Afghanistan after 9/11 had had a validity to it.
KNOY: Oh really, that's interesting because that was a big debate. A lot of people, the peace groups in this state said "Don't start a whole war, go in sort of strategically and take out...".
WILLIAMSON: Well that's all I'm saying. That's exactly what I'm saying. And we use the word "war" Military action. That's right. I'm not a pacifist. I'm not saying that military action is never a valid or legitimate. And actually I would agree with what you just said.
KNOY: And here's an email from Grace who says "Who would you appoint to your cabinet and to key leadership positions such as Supreme Court Justice, Energy Treasury, national security, foreign relations, land management, natural resources. Why would you choose these individuals? What types of people would you bring in?
WILLIAMSON: There are a couple of people on my wish list. I have a great person on my wish list for Secretary of State but I don't want to say his name because he might not want to be associated with me. But let's just start there. Let's say Secretary of State. It's worth noting that the first secretary of state in this current administration was the ex CEO of Exxon. It wasn't a great humanitarian, a diplomat, ex CEO of Exxon that pretty much tells you everything. We have a State Department now that works more often as an advocate for American corporate interests. Our willingness to go along without war in Saudi Arabia, that genocidal war in Saudi Arabia for the sake of 100 billion dollars in an arms sale so that would not happen in a Williamson administration. You have the greatest humanitarian, greatest diplomat as your Secretary of State. In terms of EPA, immediately out with a chemical company executives, out with the oil company executives, apologists for the fossil fuel companies no longer working at the EPA. Instead you have a world class environmentalist heading the EPA and you have the EPA becomes a magnet for the most excellent scientists were environmental scientists sustainability expertsetc. In terms of our economic councils. We don't need a bunch of economists who are promulgating the system that we have now. We need more people on our economic councils who are transitioning to a time where there is a completely and radically different view of where money comes from and that is the unleashing of the of the American and particularly a concentration including a massive realignment of investment in the direction of children 10 years old and younger. I want child psychologists, I want people who understand early childhood, I want elementary school teachers who come in and be part of a conversation about how we increase the economy. No more Goldman Sachs people with all due respect. My economic councils will not be run by people who come from Wall Street.
KNOY: But no economists? Or economists combined with teachers?
WILLIAMSON: You know there's a whole new breed of economists. There are very enlightened economists, there are very englighted and political experts. I don't mean to say there are no great political experts in Washington. I'm not saying that. Because there are but still it is run, even economically and even unfortunately, under Democratic presidents in a way that serves to extend the system as it is. When people said in 2016, even by voting for Trump unfortunately, "we won't change because we know the system is rigged." They were correct in that. They got a con artist rather than a positive change agent. But the basic instinct that this is wrong, this is unfair or what's happening and we want to change, that was a valid sentiment two years ago. And I believe it is not only still a valid sentiment but it is still a valid and active desire.
KNOY: Well that gets us into something that you say is a key key part of your campaign as you call it the paramount issue and that's the influence of money on politics you just said the system is rigged and that's why people were so excited about Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders as you've said. How would you approach this issue of campaign finance Ms Williamson? Because as you know people have made attempts to fix the system before and they haven't really worked out. There's more money in the system than ever.
WILLIAMSON: One of the saddest things of course about the victory of Donald Trump in the last presidential election is that he was able to put conservatives on the Supreme Court and might even have more opportunity to do that not just conservatives by the way. I want to make this clear the high minded conservative is not the enemy of democracy, the authoritarian corporatist is the enemy of democracy. And there's a big difference there. So we will not be able to overturn Citizens United anytime soon. I think we all understand what we can know what our ultimate goal is which is a for me a constitutional amendment that would establish public funding for federal campaigns. In the meantime, there are various state efforts. New Hampshire Rebellion in New Hampshire and in other states, Maine. There are a lot of states coming up, as laboratories of reform, as Alexander Hamilton said, a lot of states are now coming up with their own efforts on their own projects with which to counter dark money.
KNOY: And one more question for you Ms. Williamson about campaign finance. There's a flip argument to the argument that you've made and others have made that there's too much money in the system and so forth. Some people say 'hey if you clamp down on donations only super wealthy people will be able to run for president like President Trump.' So what do you think Ms Williamson? Would certain voice be drowned out if money were limited?
WILLIAMSON: Money shouldn't be limited. Money should be removed from the system entirely.
KNOY: Removed from the system entirely?
WILLIAMSON: Yeah, that's what federal funding of public funding of federal campaigns should be. I mean I'm a candidate myself. This is absurd. You know I raised a million and a half dollars so far which is almost funny to me makes you laugh because in the world of normal people where I come from a million and a half dollars is a lot of money. But they talk about that like because everybody else has so many millions it's just this money game. I think that's terrible, that's terrible for democracy and the fact that I was able to raise a million and a half dollars which like I said to me is a lot of money.
KNOY: Sounds like a lot.
WILLIAMSON: It comes from the fact that I have a platform based on a 35 year career so people know my work. But how many geniuses out are out there? How many brilliant people whose voices should not only be heard but perhaps should be leading this country? They are college professors, they are whatever they are but they are in professions that do not necessarily produce a lot of money. That doesn't mean that those professions don't produce good, doesn't mean that those professions don't produce power. It doesn't mean that those professions don't produce creativity and they're left out completely. Where are they supposed to look for an audience. Well they're not in the system. They're not in the club. And then if they're not either businesspeople or someone like myself who has a career as a writer. Look what America is denying ourselves we are denying ourselves some of the best minds some of the best minds and the best thinkers in this country the people who should be who should be the most in the game at this time can't even think about something like running for president because we can't afford it because they can't. How would they. So how would they ever begin. That's how wrong this is and this is what we're doing to ourselves.
KNOY: So we have public financing of elections as I'm sure you know. But last cycle or two, at least, candidates have decided it's not enough money.
WILLIAMSON: No it's not enough to really fundamentally change the system. That's why we need a constitutional amendment.
KNOY: So here's my question. So even if you say nobody can take any money at all except for this public financing, you're still going to have groups that will spend money to say you know support Marianne Williamson because she you know favors such and such a position. You see I'm saying? You can't clamp down on the free speech of these groups that want to speak in favor of you or it.
WILLIAMSON: Yeah and nor should you. I mean the regulations would have to occur. But right now since Citizens United, corporations can spend an unlimited amount of money and there is no way that to me that as a free speech issue. That is a corporatist issue, that is an aristocratic issue. And it's the way the system protects itself.
KNOY: Well we've done whole hours on that topic, I'll set it aside for the moment. Ms Williamson, let's go back to our listeners lots of people want to jump in and David's calling from Michigan. Hi David. You must be listening online or on Facebook Live. Thanks for being with us.
CALLER: Marianne, I'm curious about your relationship that you see with Congress. It seems to me working a lot of ways that senators have more control than the president does. Would you describe how you would work with Congress?
WILLIAMSON: Well senators don't have more power but Congress is a coequal branch of government. So right now you have the House in the hands of the Democrats but you have the Senate now so the Republicans. It's not just the way the Constitution is laid out it's also the ethics of people. When Mitch McConnell said when Obama was president that their main goal was to make him a one term president. I Mean it was horrifying in terms of the ethics that should be should be present in politics. But also his overreach even constitutionally when he denied, contrary to what the constitution says, when he denied Obama the opportunity to put forth a Supreme Court nominee in Merrick Garland. So really David the issue is not the constitution, the constitution is fine on this. The Senate does not have more power. The power lies in people and people need to vote. Whether we're talking about the Russians or we're talking about Mitch McConnell, we're talking about money, we're talking about anything, there was only one real antidote to anti democratic forces. And that is the will of the people exhorted at the polls. If you want this country to change, it ultimately does not have to do with President, Congress, House or the Russians, it has to do with each and every one of us rising up making sure we become a wave of massive protests and massive expression of our will and our desires at the polls.
KNOY: Well, Ms Williamson said I think we've a lot of people watching on Facebook live because I got another call from out of state. This is Amy in Arizona. Hi Amy you're on the Exchange, welcome.
CALLER: Marianne, I wanted to ask you about transformation of politics, that seems to be pretty important point for you. Why start as a Democratic candidate? Why not run as third party, independent or even a Green candidate to really prove the power the system just isn't working politically for us?
WILLIAMSON: The Constitution does not mention political parties and George Washington warned us about them in his farewell address. When I ran for Congress a few years ago, I did run as an independent. I was aware that abolition came from the abolitionist party, women's suffrage came from the Women's Party, social Security came from the Socialist Party. So historically third party voices have been very important in America. However that was then and this is now. We have Donald Trump as president so I see all party issues right now as broken legs and broken arms. I see the Trump presidency as a bullet near the heart. This is not a moment to play around. I would not do anything to risk taking even ten votes away from the Democratic candidate in 2020. This is this is a moment when the primary goal has got to be, I believe, removing that man from office.
KNOY: And to that point Ms. Williamson, I think you're a supporter of Bernie Sanders last time around. Why not just go with him this time around?
WILLIAMSON: I love Bernie Sanders. I was a passionate supporter of Bernie and then pivoted to Hillary when the primaries were over. Bernie feels moved to run and obviously therefore he should. I feel moved to run as well. I'm talking about a massive realignment of investment in the direction of children 10 years old and younger, I'm talking about a U.S. Cabinet level Department of Peace. I'm talking about reparations for slavery. I'm talking about waging peace and a U.S. Department of Peace creation and peace building. It's not that I disagree on Bernie, very much. It's that I have a conversation that goes beyond where I feel he is taking us. I'm a big fan of Bernie. That doesn't mean that I should step aside and not express what I would do because he's expressing what he would do.
KNOY: Speaking of reparations, now tell me if I got this right. You proposed a hundred billion to African-Americans and reparations for slavery with 10 billion to be distributed annually over a decade for economic and education projects. Do I have that right Ms Williamson?
WILLIAMSON: No actually, I have landed at two to five hundred billion.
KNOY: OK so it's gone up since then. How would that be distributed? Are you giving cash to specific people? Descendants of slaves? Are you picking and choosing projects that are somehow deemed worthy?
WILLIAMSON: There should be a reparations council, a kind of board of trustees, made up of many of the great scholars that have been working on this issue for years. Sandy Darity at Duke University, Ta-Nehisi Coates. There are many black leaders in academia, in politics, in culture, etc who have done work on this and I believe there should be let's say 30 people on this council for instance. The money should be given specifically for the purposes and to be dispersed for the purposes of economic and educational renewal and the money to be disbursed over a period of about 20 years.
KNOY: So it wouldn't be your decision what's worthy and what isn't. It would be a council of people?
WILLIAMSON: Listen, I think when you when you're handing over that kind of money you certainly have a right to have a say. But no, if I owe you money, I don't go to tell you how to spend it. So the descendants of slaves in America and descendants of slaves should be making that decision.
KNOY: Well and I've heard you give the example of President Reagan in 1988 signing the Civil Liberties Act to compensate more than 100,000 people of Japanese descent who were incarcerated in those internment camps of World War II. I have to say when I read about that and when I read about your proposal, setting aside whether it's a good idea or not, I'm not going to go there, but what about Native Americans? They were almost wiped out by white settlers should they get reparations?
WILLIAMSON: Well the conversation about reparations around Native Americans is simply a different conversation. It starts with the fact that so many treaties were unfairly negotiated and even those that were semi-fairly negotiated, in so many ways the United States has not lived up. For instance, I think we should give back the Black Hills of South Dakota to the Sioux. We signed the treaty in 1863 or whatever it was in the 1860s and they should be given now. The poverty in Native American tribes, the lack of ability to prosecute criminal criminal transgressions and so forth is absolutely horrific. It's not an either or. When it comes to slavery and when it comes to the genocide of the Native American people but most of the reparative actions are in the form of legal action, that is taken on behalf of the tribes and with which I would certainly support.
KNOY: I want to ask you very briefly Ms Williamson. But immigration yesterday Attorney General William Barr ordered immigration judges to stop allowing some asylum seekers to post bail while they wait for months or years for their cases to be heard. This is a system that the president has criticized as catch and release. What would your approach be?
WILLIAMSON: Asylum is a right. Seeking asylum in America is a right. This is not something that historically we have denigrated. We have recognized that it is part of the moral authority and moral good of the United States as as inscribed by Emma Lazarus on the Statue of Liberty. The real crisis here is not what's happening at the border. The real crisis is what has happened in these people's lives.
KNOY: In Central America?
WILLIAMSON: Yes, to force them to seek asylum to begin with. And they should experience from the United States open arms. Are there are there are legitimate questions left versus right at times and in your complimentary ideas on how we deal with these people? Yes but there should be no argument on whether or not we do. Are there a tiny fraction of people, seeking to come in at the border and elsewhere who are not good people? Whether it has to do with MS13 or anything else? Absolutely. Just like there there is a fraction of people here already. And that's called law enforcement. But the idea of denigrating all people coming in at the border particularly people seeking asylum and saying that they're going to have to sit in American jails and waste away without the constitutional protections that we give to anyone else. Once you make it onto the ground of the United States of America whether you're a citizen or not there are certain constitutional protections that everyone here gets to have. Saying that people cannot post bail it is part of the ugly ugly face of this administration.
KNOY: When you check people out, and you've talked about the need for a criminal background check, for people seeking asylum, once somebody checks out, do you just let them go into the country and say you know 'see you back in six months' Hope you come back for that hearing'? How do you approach that? Because 103 people were apprehended at the southern border just in March alone. That's more than double the monthly average.
WILLIAMSON: We need more border agents. We need more technology. We need more judges. And that's where our money should be our money should be spent on the on the infrastructure that we need in order to be able to process all this in a humane way.
KNOY: Couple more questions for you Ms. Williamson. Here's an e-mail from Timothy in Warner who says "first of all Marianne, I have enjoyed your amazingly well written prayers, thoughts to God for years. "Illuminata" has been near my bed for years. ' Timothy says 'How can you get your voice to influence the conversation of the 20 other candidates who have greater political connections than you have? Timothy thank you so much for that e-mail.
WILLIAMSON: Well, first of all the only reason you're writing me right now is because I'm on New Hampshire Public Radio. So I am. There is and has been a bit of a lockout, there's no doubt about it, from certain corners of the mainstream media. But I think that's starting to change, I had my CNN town hall the other night. I will be on Alex Witt this weekend. I will be on Stephanie Ruhle next week. I was on Morning Joe the other day. But this is a grassroots campaign, there is definitely a media and political establishment who do not find my campaign convenient, they don't find my candidacy convenient to their purposes. So what I say to the person who asked that question and to anyone else who's interested: you're going to have to make it happen. I hope you'll go to Marianne2020 dot com. I hope you'll give at least a dollar donation to help me get to those 65,000 votes. I need 14000 more to be able to be on the DNC debate stage and I need donations in order to wage a campaign that is equal in its in its power to have an effect as other candidates. I think more people understand what's going on in this country, they see my candidacy as an example of how this system works: the aristocracy feels entitled and they're going to control the conversation. And who are they to say, to make themselves the gatekeeper, who are they to say who's a serious candidate? Who are they to say who's a long shot? That's not what the Constitution says. The Constitution says you have to be born here, 35 [years old] and lived here for 14 years. I think people are waking up. This is just an example of how this works. But I'm going to keep going and I hope the people will continue to support me and keeping going because that's not how America should work.
KNOY: Well Timothy I appreciate the question and I think he's right we're almost at 20 not quite but getting close in terms of Democratic presidential candidate.
WILLIAMSON: I'm not just out to influence their conversation. I mean what are they doing this for? They're not doing it to influence mine! These are the subtle ways that...no, no, no. I'm not just out to influence. I'm not out to just elevate the conversation, I want to elevate America.
KNOY: Well, and to his point though about this very crowded Democratic primary, how are you Ms Williamson going to stand out in these interviews and in these debates from the other Democratic candidates? Why should people choose you versus any of the others?
WILLIAMSON: Not saying why people should choose me, that's up to them. People should listen to the small still voice within themselves. But I'm having an authentic and fierce conversation that I don't believe others are having. I'm talking about the millions of American children living in chronic trauma whose despair is simply normalized by our political establishment because their lack of financial leverage. I'm talking about the deep corruption of our national security agenda. I'm talking about what's really going down with race relations in America. I'm sorry but I haven't heard that from anyone else.
KNOY: It's been really nice to talk to you thank you very much for being here I appreciate it.
WILLIAMSON: Thank you.
KNOY: That's Marianne Williamson again, best-selling author, well-known speaker. Her books include The Healing of America and her latest, A Politics of Love, a handbook for a new American Revolution. I want to remind everyone that we have another presidential candidate on Friday Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld. He's a Republican just announced his challenge against President Trump. You can email your questions for former Governor Weld at exchange at NHPR.org and you can always go to NHPR.org for all of our coverage to listen to past interviews, to find out what's coming up next. This is the exchange on NHPR.