I don’t have a degree in wrong-headed economics and I don’t have a master’s in business administration. Here are my credentials:
As a boy and very young man, I mowed grass for a dozen neighbors, became a hayfield farm hand, sold shoes in a shoe store, worked on a roof crew for the school board, dug ditch and drove truck to deliver water to active gas wells being drilled by the local gas company. I graduated from university debt free.
This was the beginning of my eclectic career of many titles: student, soldier and public information specialist, professor, reporter, editorial writer, newspaper editor-publisher, restaurateur, politician, state senator, lobbyist, healthcare association and organ procurement organization executive, business consultant, author, fighter for the rights of working men, women and children, and do-it-yourselfer.
I’ve worked inside and outside “the establishment” and for businesses large and small. The thread running through all of it has been advocacy.
As a college student I wrote a feature and editorial for the student newspaper about a logging railroad. The tracks, which reached the second highest point in the Mountain State, were being torn up and the mill torn down. I started a campaign to save what I called the Cass-Pocahontas-Bald Knob Scenic Railroad. Shortened to Cass Scenic Railroad, it is now one of the longest state parks in the nation (not in longevity but in dimension as the park follows the rails up the mountain). Shay engines still huff and puff and tourists feel and hear history.
I was a college dropout when I joined the Army and served in South Korea as an information specialist at command headquarters, First Cavalry Division, just south of the Demilitarized Zone. Part of my job was to escort visiting newsmen on leave from Vietnam into the DMZ to observe two PR projects, “Freedom Village” south of the centerline, and “Propaganda Village” on the north.
While there I won an award from the Freedom Foundation of Valley Forge for an essay recalling the time I spent while in college with two brothers — exchange students from Cuba — listening to shortwave radio during Castro’s revolution. It was the first time I ever heard Spanish spoken.
After military service I returned to university and received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism and political science.
As a young college professor I taught responsible journalism during an era when ethics in journalism was paramount. Interpretative reporting was based on fact, not sales, profit or attitude. Yellow journalism was considered the worst thing that ever happened in journalistic history.
My little weekly newspaper on an Appalachian mountaintop won 40 state and national awards, including a feature and editorial titled “This Dreary Place Called School.”
During that time Michele and I went to El Salvador, and with the help of U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd, adopted our daughter. As a toddler and naturalized citizen she helped me campaign for public office, passing out “vote for daddy cards.” Today we are a multi-cultural family and proud of it.
I co-founded a printing company called the Pioneer Press of West Virginia. Among our clients was the Pittston Coal Company for which we published a company newspaper. That took me on a helicopter ride under the New River Gorge Bridge under construction and deep into underground coal mines to interview miners at work. It was a first for my family. My father worked at the mines for 35 years, but never underground.
As a state senator, I served as chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee dealing with a plethora of issues including healthcare cost containment. I was also vice-chair of the Committee on Education and chair of the subcommittee on higher ed. I championed the rights of children incarcerated in “boys and girls schools” for equal access to public education. I originated and chaired a Standing Committee on Small Business.
During Bill Clinton’s administration, I served on a committee of the American Hospital Association advising Hillary on heathcare reform.
As a business consultant during the transition from the Information Age to the Knowledge Age, I helped knowledge managers in Fortune 500 companies promote the idea that employees were assets, not liabilities — the source of the companies’ intellectual assets. Corporations got the fact but missed the method. Instead of creating a friendly and rewarding environment for voluntary knowledge sharing, they developed a system for capturing it, storing it and exploiting it. Knowledge hoarding continued between business and labor.
I gave it up and changed my message from corporate knowledge management to personal knowledge management. My tenure as editor-in-chief of Inside Knowledge, a business magazine published in London, came to an end and I launched an online magazine for knowledge workers called Smart People.
Then Mother Jones came back. Not the magazine, but the historic champion for the rights of working men, women and children during the American Industrial Revolution. I became acquainted with Mother Jones while co-authoring a book with an AP feature writer to celebrate the country’s Bicentennial. I wasn’t assigned the Mother Jones chapter but I never got her out of my head.
I speak of Mother Jones in personal terms because she is in me.
I read everything I could find on her and then, many years later, decided there were too many holes in her story and so I filled them with fiction based on fact and called the book Hellraiser — Mother Jones: An Historical Novel.
Still, I thought her story was incomplete. She fought from the end of the Civil War to the beginning of the Great Depression, one of many of the historic stock market calamities caused by economic injustice. She died having won a few battles, but losing the war.
With the exception of a few periods including that of my youth, economic injustice continued to intensify as unrestrained capitalism exploited the people, the environment and our way of life. It was clear we needed a new and more effective Mother Jones.
Thus, MoJo was born. MoJo: Getting on the Right Side is also fiction based on fact but with a plan that changes the game and wins the war. Molly Jones (MoJo), with the help of the spirit of the historic Mother Jones and modern day Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor, unwittingly saves capitalism and, subsequently, democracy.
Meanwhile, I founded a Facebook group and now I’ve established COWORK Entrepreneurs, a socially responsible, self-managed, profit-sharing company.
I’ve launched NotMyEconomics to help ordinary people follow in the footsteps of MoJo, becoming everyday activists on the economic front for the sake of themselves, their families and friends, their community and their country. Many graduates will find places as assets in a COWORK Entrepreneurs franchise.
Michele Linn Ash has been my best friend and partner for 48 years. She met me when she was my journalism student (I don’t remember her as my student; there were so many). Later she took over as managing editor of my rural newspaper and I signed a permanent contract with her a year later . . . by marriage.
It was my best move ever!
She is an intelligent, jolly, energetic and enthusiastic “company of one,” a concept you will see as an alternative to employment in the Green Zone. She may have been the very first “virtual employee.” She worked for a paycheck for only a brief time, preferring to earn her living as an independent virtual employee under the flag of her own business, Associated Professional Services.
Michele is foremost a graphic designer who takes rough ideas and turns them into finished form. She studied and worked under one of the world’s foremost authorities on the history of typography and bridged the leap from metal type to offset printing. She understands layout and design from beginning to end.
Artistic and a stickler for detail, she won’t publish sloppy work, editing as she goes.
She has been my support and my anchor for many decades. Michele believes in my cause and has invested an enormous amount of work in this project. NotMyEconomics is as much hers as it is mine.
Now you know my credentials as a teacher of people-centered economics and I’m not done yet. Please enroll in my course on economic injustice and we will move forward together.