WWPCD: What would Peter Camejo do?

Due to an unexpected and unwanted vacation, Bites last week missed the opportunity to say a proper farewell to Peter Camejo, three-time Green Party candidate for governor, veep running mate to Ralph Nader and all-around solid guy.

He was an MIT man, got a perfect score in math on his SAT. He was a Socialist Workers Party candidate for president in 1976, then a successful investment-fund manager—specializing in socially responsible investments. He was a champion of the Free Speech Movement in the 1960s, and was repeatedly denied a chance to debate alongside the big boys from the Democrat and Republican parties. (Not that he didn’t have some admirers in each of the “major” parties. Check out this week’s Essay on page 48 for a tribute from Republican apparatchik Sal Russo.)

Since Camejo’s death on September 13, there have been plenty of obits outlining the basics of his amazing life story. But even after his death, the mainstream press continues to give short shrift to the man’s ideas. We need to hear those ideas now more than ever.

“I’m presenting a very clear, simple program—four steps we can take that will raise $25 billion,” Camejo told SN&R back in 2006, about the need for fundamental reform to fix the state’s budget. He was running for governor for the third and last time. We printed the interview under the title “Camejo’s last stand,” (by Cosmo Garvin and Nick Miller; SN&R Cover Story Sidebar; October 12, 2006) but ran only a couple thousand words, owing to limited space.

It’s too bad, because it was a long discussion, rich with Camejo’s humor, passion and insight.

“We can solve the problem of education, promoting alternative energy, rebuilding the infrastructure, etc. It’s clear, unambiguous.”

How would Camejo have solved our budget dilemma back then? “Tax the people that make over $200,000 the same tax rate the poorest people pay: 11.2 percent. Tax corporations what they paid 20 years ago. Raise the minimum wage to what it was in 1968 [adjusted for inflation]. And collect the taxes that are illegally not being paid. It’s clear as day.”

Back in 2006, it was clear as day that California was ready for serious health-care reform. “The base of the Democratic Party is 100 percent for universal health care. I mean, it’s overwhelming. All of Europe has it. The Canadians have it. Why is it we can’t have it?”

For the same reasons, perhaps, that Camejo was routinely excluded from debates during his gubernatorial and presidential campaigns.

And perhaps for the same reasons that the two major parties have crafted a state budget that spares the rich and sticks it to the poor and the middle class. For the same reasons that the Dems and the GOP are getting ready to hand $700 billion over to Wall Street financiers—as a perverse reward for all they’ve done for the nation’s economy.

Camejo would be the first to point out several more socially responsible ways to invest that money. The Apollo project cost $100 billion in today’s dollars. We could launch multiple Apollo projects, rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, transition to alternative energy sources, sending everybody wants to go to college, and everybody who needs to go to the doctor.

Camejo got 5 percent, 3 percent and 2.5 percent of the vote in each of his gubernatorial campaigns. But he figured he would have gotten 15 to 20 percent of the vote if it weren’t for fears of the “spoiler effect” of voting for a third-party candidate. None of the obits Bites read in The Sacramento Bee, the San Francisco Chronicle or the Los Angeles Times mentioned Camejo’s fight for electoral reform, including a system of instant-runoff voting, that would eliminate the spoiler system and open up the process to new ideas. We could use some new ideas right now, Peter. That’s clear as day.