Marianne Williamson puts corporate agriculture in the same doghouse as oil companies, drug manufacturers and Wall Street investment firms.
With outsized influence over lawmakers because of campaign contributions, these groups rake in billions of dollars a year in government subsidies that could be spent fixing social problems, such as poverty, child abuse and climate change, Williamson, an author, motivational speaker and Democratic presidential candidate, told The Gazette in a phone interview earlier this week.
“I’m all for helping farmers, but too much of what we call ‘helping farmers’ just helps big-farm conglomerates,” she said.
Williamson, who visits Cedar Rapids on Sunday and Monday, might get pushback on this characterization — especially because the latest round of federal farm bailouts comes as farmers are struggling with trade losses and widespread flooding.
However, 389 recipients nationwide received $1 million or more in farm subsidies in fiscal 2017, with Iowa getting nearly 9 percent, or $1.1 billion, in all farm subsidies that year, according to an August report from Openthebooks.org, an Illinois-based nonprofit that documents government spending.
Who SHE is?
Williamson, a 66-year-old Houston native who now lives in Des Moines, has written 14 books, including four that were No. 1 on the New York Times Best Seller list and is a friend and advisor to Oprah Winfrey. In her writings, talks and campaign events, Williamson talks about love as an instinctive emotion with the power to improve society.
“She’s a fascinating candidate for a lot of reasons,” said Karen Kredowski, director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics at Iowa State University, who saw Williamson speak in Ames in April.
“President Donald Trump has tapped into this almost genetic emotion of fear,” Kredowski said. “What she (Williamson) wants to do is counter that by tapping into that same primal emotion of love.”
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Williamson announced May 9 she had reached the threshold of 65,000 unique donors from at least 20 states to qualify for the June 26-27 Democratic candidate debate. She did this, in part, by asking people who attended early campaign events to give $1, Kredowski said.
“It hearkens to the fact she may not be in it to win it but to shape the debate,” she said.
Williamson started her career lecturing about spirituality in Los Angeles in the 1980s, just as the AIDS crisis gripped the country.
“Gay men, particularly, began attending my lectures in large numbers and in a very real way gave me my career,” she said.
Williamson founded Project Angel Food, a mobile food program for people with serious illness, which has since delivered more than 11 million meals, she said.
Plans if elected
Williamson’s voice rises in volume and intensity as describes how the neediest Americans are being ignored because they don’t have money or political power.
“We have elementary school children who are on suicide watch,” she said. “There are millions who go to school hungry every day. The response of the political establishment has been to normalize their despair.”
If she becomes president, Williamson would create a U.S. department focused on children and youth and would invest in teachers, social workers and other education experts.
Williamson also seeks to restore power to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration to more closely regulate industries and enforce rules for clean food, air and water.
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If elected, she would reenter the U.S. in the Paris Climate Accords, push for further reductions in carbon emissions and advocate for carbon sequestration.
“I do support a Green New Deal,” she said. “We can make a massive effort in this country that would be very job-creating. This is the question of our time, certainly for Democrats.”
Williamson unsuccessfully ran for Congress in California in 2014, saying she learned from that race to pick her advisors carefully and to listen more to her own instincts.
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