Meet Bill Haas


Personal Background of the Journey

  1. 50 years ago this past December, in 1968, I was about to drop out of Harvard Law School at the beginning of my second year to get a handle on my depression which seemed to be distracting me from going to class or doing my work. Depression tends to start in adolescence, perhaps, and mine began my junior year at Yale or so. I consulted Yale mental health, but it wasn’t very severe and I chose to handle it on my own. They told me I could but it was easier with help. It got more severe the summer after my graduation, but I muddled through my first year at Harvard, and then at the beginning of my second year, all of a sudden I hadn’t gone to classes in 6 weeks.
  2. My Uncle Will, whom I’m named after, came up to see me, as my family was naturally concerned. I told him two things, in addition to that I was sure I’d be coming back. I didn’t mention my depression because I didn’t really have a name for it. I didn’t have many symptoms. Concentrating, maybe loneliness, though I did date as I remember. First I told him that I was going to have 10 children and 10 dogs. That didn’t exactly work out, though I have one son and two grandchildren, though I’ve never been married.  But I do have 24 companion animals, 20 cats and 4 dogs, in heaven, and one of each still here on earth. So that proclamation proved sort of prescient.
  3. The other thing I told him was that I was going to be president one day. I’ve never done drugs, and didn’t drink until I was 30, so I have no idea where that came from, though I was about to go into community organization as a Vista Volunteer, so I must have had some interest in urban issues, and I had heard their wasn’t much opportunity to date in Vietnam and Vista (now Americorps) was then a deferment. So I have no idea where that epiphany of sorts came from, and I didn’t even think of it again until 10-15 years later when I began to get more involved in politics.
  4. I was never much obsessed about it. I developed a real interest in public service, and I figured that the presidential thing would happen if it was meant to. And then this past December, Christmas Day, I put Forms 1 and 2 into the mail, and there you have it.
  5. I ran for Congress, MO 2nd this past year, Democratic primary (which I had won in 2008), and so in the fall of 2017 I had a vehicle wrap put on my car (I had had them before) which said “School Board member Bill Haas, Congress MO 2nd 2018, President 2020”, so this filing wasn’t exactly a whim. I was going to wait until I won a big lottery, as this sort of thing needs to be funded, but then I read about all the people who had filed and debates already coming up, so I said “what the hell, why wait?” and I did, or didn’t. So game on. No one’s ever got rich betting against me, but I obviously have a long way to go. The Greeks used to say that “the race is not always to the rich nor the wrestling struggle to the strong, but that’s the way to bet.” I get it, but hope to be the exception.

My so-called political career and why I want to be in public service:

  1. I care about the problems that exist, I think I have solutions to help solve them, and what’s in it for me is the satisfaction and challenge of doing an important job well. Remind me to tell you about my definition of the difference between a politician and public servant.
  2. After law school, my depression caught up with me again and I quit the law firm and rode around the country on a motorcycle trying to figure out what was missing from my life. I stopped in New Orleans, ran into a friend from law school who sent my Resume to then Mayor Moon Landrieu, who interviewed me after some weeks offered me a position in his housing department, but by then I had decided not to give up corporate law nor wished to leave Cleveland, but decided that since I wasn’t married there was emotional fulfillment missing from my life which could be fulfilled of sorts with politics, since corporate law was boring.
  3. I was working in Dennis Kucinich’s campaign when he won for mayor of Cleveland, where I’m originally from, and his law director, Jack Schulman, was a childhood friend and my moot court judge in law schools, so he appointed me an Assistant Law Director.  I worked for Dennis Kucinich from 1977-79 when he was mayor, and we still keep in little bit of touch. Mostly I keep in touch and he wishes me good luck. I’ve reached out to him and Elizabeth this campaign, but so far silence. Deafening. He knows how to reach me if I become a factor, and he knows how to run a presidential race, having run three of them.
  1. First office I ran for was Cleveland School Board in 1981, and I was 9th out of 13 with 4 elected. I also ran for Cleveland City Council in 1987.
  2. I moved to St. Louis in 1988 for a corporate law job, and ran for Mayor in 1993. I made the residency requirement by a few days, give or take. I won $250,000 in the lottery the month before I declared after planning it for 15 years. Coincidence? Who knows, but the check after taxes was $160,000, and I spent $125,000 on my mayor’s race. That’s why my guardian angels sent it to me, and I didn’t want to be cheap by $50 and lose it by 50 votes. I was originally in the Democratic primary but it was filled with big names, so I got out and took on the winner as an Independent. I got 15% of the vote.
  3. The first office I won was St. Louis School Board in 1997, 16 years after I first ran for office, Cleveland School Board. I won three more times, in 2001, and then 2010 and 2014 after taking 5 years off from 2005-2010. I lost this last fall for the first time, and am on the ballot for this spring’s election.
  4. I’ve lost for mayor 5 times, state representative 4, Alderperson 1 (against the current mayor), and congress 4 times in two different districts (you don’t have to live in the district to run for it), winning the primary in 2008 in a competitive 5 person race outspent $350,000 to my $15,000, and beat by $1M this past election last year, where I got 20% if the vote on $22,000. I was also third out of 8 in 2012 for state-wide Lieutenant Governor race with 12% state wide on $20,000 where the other top candidates had several hundreds of thousands, all current or past elected officials.
  5. I always said, I’d win the ones I’m meant to win. Wouldn’t it be ironic if this presidential race was it?

Why I keep running, and the advantage of going to Yale and Harvard

  1. At the first function for Congress last year, which was actually the summer of 2017, someone came up to me and asked why I didn’t quit running for stuff since I usually lost. I told him that if he was applying to be my campaign manager, I thought he was going about it the wrong way.
  2. When I got up to give my remarks, I told that story and then something else that I hadn’t really said before. I said that I believed I had some gifts for public service, and if I did, they were God’s gifts and mine to squander if I didn’t use them well. And that I didn’t think she (God gender neutral, but like Helen Reddy at the Grammy’s before your time, nice to give female gender equal attention) would give me these gifts if she didn’t expect me to find a place to use them. So it would be disrespectful to her and to myself to stop trying. As my signature on this email says, I know where I want to go, but I’ll go where god takes me.
  3. So going to elite schools is a mixed blessing. They look good on a Resume, but then you hold yourself to such high standards the rest of your life that half of us are bound not to meet our expectations for ourselves. There’s a book about a Yale graduate called Remembering Denny that I read a review of but didn’t read that seems to have made that point. He killed himself. He was also gay and dealing with that. My friend Tom Schweich, Missouri auditor, also Yale and Harvard Law, took his life in 2015, but that was more complicated.
  4. But for me and maybe others there’s another advantage. If you think you’re smarter than everyone else, I think you’ve missed the point. But as I say, I figure I may not be a lot dumber than everyone else, so if anyone can solve these tough problems, “Why not I?”, and you have a certain confidence to set your vision high and not take “no” for an answer. GBS’s and Robert Kennedy’s, “Some see things that are and ask, ‘Why’. Others dream things that never were and ask, ‘Why not?’”

Transformative Issues, the mannifesto.
I’m not objective, but I think some of my issues are prescient, transformative, trenchant?, salient, incisive, ingenious?, perspicacious?, and my vocabulary sometimes good, too. And I’m funny, but looks aren’t everything.

  • More than 20 years ago I had the idea of Universal Basic Income even though I didn’t have that name for it. I saw automation coming, as I had read, and Bill Gates was going to own everything, and what were the rest of us going to do? So we tax his income and redistribute it to those without jobs. That’s good for income inequality, too. And now more articles about automation and 40% of the workforce losing their job to automation within a couple decades.
  • I’ve also had the idea on my website, – – , for several elections, that for people displaced by automation or mergers or acquisitions, the company has to give them a fair severance until they become reemployed. 5% of their income of each year of service descending 5% a year. And if they won’t or don’t, then they can’t automate, merge or acquire, because costs seem to outweigh benefits. Do you see any other candidate proposing that?
  • Over 20 years ago during the snail darter and California loggers controversy, I said that god loves snail darters but he loves the loggers who would be put out of business by saving their habitat, too, and if we weren’t prepared to give fair compensation and retraining to the loggers who would be put out of business, then the snail darters shouldn’t let the door hit them in their cute tushies on the way out. Truth be told, I don’t even know what a snail darter is. I should google it now. Snail darter a fish, I thought as much, as it seems to have been in Tennessee not California.
  • So this leads to my views on trade: free trade and good trade deals good are good, but there are always winners and losers, so we should do no trade deals unless we are prepared to compensate the losers with severance and job training, that sort of thing. You see any of the other usual suspects talking about this.
  • I’d like a constitutional amendment cutting the number of congressional districts in half and requiring each district to elect a man and a women. I’m not sure what we’ll do with nonbinary genders. Something good, I’m sure.
  • Abortion is complicated. Let’s not go there. I’m pro-choice but when my Unitarian minister told me 30 years ago abortion was ok the day before the fetus was to be delivered, I knew it was a complicated issue. So somewhere around viability, quickening, detectable fetal heartbeat and detectable brain activity, I get uncomfortable except to save the life of life-threatening health of the mother. The Casey case changed Roe. It’s no longer the third trimester, which the court considered viability. I’m not even sure what the law is now, and when I Google it, either is Google. So the true common ground is safe effective and rare abortions, and affordable and accessible, and especially contraceptive and health information so there are virtually no unplanned pregnancies except rape or incest, as viability gets sooner and sooner. What are we going to do when we can remove a fetus at a month and keep it alive. And if anti-choicers wont work for that common ground, then they’re not against abortion, they’re against sex and need to be called out for the anti-sex sociopaths that they are, as the protagonist in my novel Pink Collar Blue, A Story of Love and Politics [two things they say I may know nothing about],, says. It doesn’t go well. On Amazon for half-price I think, or Kindle. Everyone else who’s running wrote a book. Me, too.
  • You’re welcome to view other issue on my website.
  • Child-care has been there since my congressional race when my son and daughter-in-law with two grandkids presciently told me to add it, and they’re right. A really big issue that will play well! Elizabeth wants governmental subsidies of some kind, I’m thinking tax-credits are better, as benefitting lower income more, but we’ll work out the details.
  • I’m surprised Kucinich didn’t introduce a bill to ban tax-credits for companies including sports teams looking to move and playing one jurisdiction against another, city or state. Companies win, taxpayers lose. Though I think someone has introduced such a bill recently.
  • Wayne Pacelli, another Yalie, came to St. Louis to promote his book in 2012 when I was running for Lt Governor, I think. I haven’t read it though I bought it, but he’s really wonderful. I had the idea in talking to him that how we ban animal abuse on factory farms is prohibit the exempting of farm animals from state animal cruelty statutes. It’s interstate commerce, it will pass constitutional muster (Archibald Cox for constitutional law, to drop a name, Watergate prosecutor think, Solicitor General under Kennedy? Didn’t understand a word he said. He was better for labor law.)
  • Immigration: invest in northern Mexico I learned from Krugman.
  • College loans: from the government repayable as a percent of income of your working 20 year life, and idea I had before Robert Reich proposed it in an NPR piece. And a librarian told me at one of my congressional town halls that her goal was to pay off her college loan before she retired. She was in her 50s or so and had gone back to school. All current loans forgiven after 20 years somehow.
  • Carbon tax the way to go on climate change I’m thinking, but tax-credits for utility bills so lower-income not hurt too much; businesses either. Climate change tough, but it should be on everyone’s top 3. Not sure about that Green thing. Devil’s in the details and there aren’t many. Many good ideas I’m sure. We’ll put Al Gore on that, Krugman on the economy, Tom Friedman for State?
  • Health-care we’ll get to single paper eventually, I was on that 15-20 years ago, but gradually, maybe starting reducing age for buy-in to 50/55 and a public option.
  • I may not have all the answers, but I think I know most of the questions, and am smart enough to get the answers.
  • My most important domestic issue is third-grade reading scores. This country is going nowhere fast ever unless our children can read, urban, rural, and everyone in between. I’ve been on the St. Louis School Board 4 terms over a period of 20 years. I’ve learned some stuff. As the New York Times a few years ago about Union City, New Jersey, related, there are three keys to early childhood reading success – smaller class sizes, regular testing and a second qualified adult in the classroom from pre-k (they usually have more than one) through third grade. The one they need money for is the third one. Like for St. Louis Schools, it’s $12M/year. The districts often don’t have the money, nor states, so that money will have to come from Washington. If we can’t educate our children, what can we do? And it won’t be pretty if Republicans try to stand in the way of our educating our children. I’ll go to their districts and read the riot act. We might have to phase this in over 10 years. 5 years better. That’s how we stop crime, achieve income equality, end the achievement gaps (which are more by class than race), and develop an educated workforce to keep, develop and attract jobs.
  • And I tried to settle the shutdown but no one was listening. Let me tell you about that without writing another book.

It was the Dems fault for not trying harder to make a deal. They damaged 800K people’s lives over political rhetoric, theatre, and posturing. Worst negotiators in history. He’s the president. Constitution says he gets to ask for what he wants in a bill before signing, even if we don’t agree.

We should have asked for an equivalent amount of money for border security our way in exchange for his money. We might have been able to get DACA too. He offered it. Now we don’t have it. Beds was a manageable issue; he gets more money for each bed we can reduce. It wouldn’t have had to be $5.7B which was over 5 years. It could have been two years’ worth. And even some progressives thought we could use more wall some places.  Dems had offered money for fencing before.

I contacted 25-50 media, a bunch of Senators and congresspeople, Jared, Mick, the president, through vm and message, looking for a story on my approach even tho I’m a Dem candidate throwing my party under the bus, to help my ideas get traction, but I was like Cassandra the prophetess, right but no one listening.

And rather than us winning by him caving, he did the right thing to stop the hemorrhaging of people’s lives. Even if that’s not why he did it. And better declare an emergency than more shutdown.

And I proposed to Scott Horseley of npr (the only npr person who actually answered their phone) the things in Warner’s bill from stopping this happening again: only whitehouse and congress don’t get paid (not original with me) and maintaining current levels of funding when funding bill doesn’t pass.

You want a candidate who will tell their party when they have no clothes. Very brave. Otherwise, who needs me. We were fiddling with ourselves while our Romans lives’ burned.

  • Let’s achieve peace in the middle-east in our lifetime, my presidency actually, or at least get started. Being Jewish by heritage and culture, though I’m more ecumenical in practice, I’m glad we have a homeland for what we suffered in WWII and through the millennia, by Palestinians living in camps with open sewers for 50 years cant possibly be god’s plan either. They’re chosen people, too. I guess other Arab countries were supposed to take them in but didn’t.So they need a homeland. Two-State solution. A shared Jerusalem or build a new one just like the old one. So without a long story, we can’t force a peace but we can drive one, and it’s in everyone’s interest to do so. So the two sticking points are recognizing Israel’s right to exist, and goodness I forgot the other one, a Palestinian homeland? But let’s let those issues go to the end and carve out what the other aspects of peace would look like. And a Marshall Plan for the Palestinians would be a good start and solve a host of ills, I believe. So I’d start by getting Israel to commit to removing the settlements within 10 years or to donating equivalent land, or I’d start taking half the money we now give to Israel every year and use it to fund our Marshall Plan. Gaza’s a mess. Those people deserve better. Let’s find a way. Middle-class people less inclined to go to war as they might dent their SUV.

When my friend, acquaintance really, killed himself in 2015 with a gun, with his wife in the next room, I asked myself what we could do about such needless deaths, even though I knew we already had suicide hotlines (the Health Director of St. Louis County, Dr. Kahn, told me they were mostly false positives, but better too many calls than not enough. So I decided we need Public Service Announcements 24×7 the rest of our life asking people to ask for help, and put it on my website. I soon decided that it should be for people thinking of homicide as well, though that’s more complicated for a variety of reasons, but I think psychiatrists will tell you one is anger turned inward of sorts, and the other anger turned outward, and homicide often involves suicide too; afterall, you’re life isn’t usually going to get better after that, you just need to exorcise that anger inside you that you don’t know how to deal with.

Then in early 2017, there were three terrible incidents in the St. Louis involving homicides, all domestic, one a wife killing her son, one a woman killing her family from postpartum psychosis, and I think the other a brother killing a brother. This is in addition to the Florida school shooting and actually before.

So my violence prevention psa’s and violence prevention hotline was moved up to near the top of my congressional issues, and is still there. The media time and  production costs should be mostly donated. The cost will be the staffing of the lines and the mental health services that will be needed. Dr. Kahn told me that money for mental health dried up in Washington 15 years ago. Well, we’re all looking for answers to the killings, all different kinds, so bringing back that money should get bipartisan support because it’s not gun control, which is also needed, of course, but more complicated politically and won’t get them all.

Either will this idea, but we’ll get a lot. It’d be wrong not to try.  I think we’ll get a bunch out of the box. Making it eventually hard-wired and social unacceptable to hurt yourself or another without first asking for help.

People are basically good, and no one wants to hurt themselves or another if they’re given options, and we need to give them the hope of that option. “We’re sorry you’re in pain. Others have been there too. It’s not your fault. We care about you. Whether you’re a veteran, or a youth having trouble at school, or involved in a domestic matter, or in pain from a breakup, or angry at a neighborhood, or other pain you don’t know what to do with, we care about you. Please come in from the cold and let us help. You have nothing to lose, and much to gain. Please. We care about you. Just give us a chance and make that call.” Like that.

And you know, it’s politically unpopular, I’m sure, but even that fired employee who took 5 lives and wounded police officers near Chicago, where is our compassion for the pain he must have been in? Like the Elephant Man said, he was a human being! We all are human beings! Of course what he did was wrong and he shouldn’t have had a gun, and he had a history of violence, but he was trying to keep his life together. What are we doing firing someone after 15 years anyhow! Where’s the severance?! Only for really good cause, a serious crime or civil matter, or you have to pay severance. And where is our safety net for such people?! Even if he just went home and killed himself! Where’s our compassion, humanity, shame? He shouldn’t be ashamed of the pain he felt and his life, we! should be ashamed of the life he led. He probably had issues since childhood. If we watched a video of someone’s life, we’d understand why they act so badly, and have compassion for the pain they must be in. Richard Cory, Simon and Garfunkle, seemed to have everything and then went home and put a bullet through his head. I want my president with tears in his eyes for the pain people are in, and angry that we don’t do better! I want to be that president. As Gloria Steinem said about Pat Schroeder when she withdrew from the presidential race, “Would you want a president who couldn’t cry?”

You don’t have to have sat with a gun in your lap in 1974 intending to kill yourself at 5:00, when the call came in at 3:00 that the law firm would take me back as they promised after my year traveling the country and a doctor’s ok that I had worked my issues out, through the grace of god and my brother Bobby, to be sensitive to the pain others must be in, but I’ll tell you, it doesn’t hurt any. It seems that god wasn’t through with me, and I’ve tried to spend the last 44+ years making the best of that, and trying to do his work.

And I think the same part of me that makes me so fragile at times is the same part of me that’s empathetic towards others. It’s the very best part of me, and it’s a difficult way to be, but if it’s a package, I’ll take it.

Everyone’s journey is different, but my experience is once bitten by that demon, it never quite leaves you, but here I am, 44 years later, having muddled through, no suicide attempts, no meds (exercise is my med, as studies show works as well often as meds and talk therapy), tho some of course need meds), and still following my dreams of love and public service.

How I May Win; the Difference Between Politician and Public Servant; and Martha Stewart (My classmate John Kerry – George W two years behind, that horse’s patoot Lieberman two years ahead – married Heinz fortune, though I’m sure it was love, too. As I’ve said on more than one occasion somewhere, “I need to marry a mustard fortune or something.”

  1. There’s a couple different ways I can get traction in this campaign.

-I could win a big lottery and I buy my tickets every day or so.

-Or I need a break, something that will make people take notice, contribute, get me invited to the “show” (the debates that start in June,  tho getting traction later might be enough and I expect to be on the ballot in all 50 states), a story or article or action that people take notice of. My attempts to settle the shutdown might have been it. Your story might do it if you tell people “you need to take a look at this boy, he might be almost as good as he thinks he is, plus he’s disarming, charming, funny, entertaining, and good copy.

-I’m trying to hold a town hall in Des Moines at the end of March. We’ll see how that goes.

-I’m trying to get a radio show to interview the other Democratic candidates that you may be writing about and that people may be doing podcasts with. The idea will be reality show debates with the 16 or so who emerge as having  something to offer. I hope to be one of them.

-If it’s there, I’ll find it.

-Twice I’ve put ads in papers looking for an independently wealthy wife to fund my political campaigns. Once in 1997 I think, the AP picked it up from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and it made the Missouri blurb in USA Today. The other time several years ago in the Yale Alumni Magazine where I said Kerry married the ketchup fortune, I needed a mustard fortune. The result? Nothing. Oh well, never up never in. That might not be on the record. The first one was half tongue in cheek to make the point, while I was running for mayor for the second time in 1997, I think, that you shouldn’t have to have money as did everyone else if you were the best one in the race, as I thought I was.

And of course I’d have to love her, but that’s a complicated dynamic. And of course I’d marry without money. I’ve proposed at least three times, and two of them said yes and I’m still not married. What the h?

I’ve had a crush on Martha Stewart since she went on Oprah to say she had an ad on Match. So did I. I must have written her 10 times (2015?) saying among other things, I think she’d look good as a senator’s wife (I was thinking of running against Blunt; I still have the US Senate bumper sticker on my car.) Went on Letterman and said she had 10,000 responses and was looking for someone local to New York. I’m sure her peeps read the responses. I was never blocked, so there was hope. I liked her on Letterman. Disarming, a little naïve, and sort of frisky. What’s not to love? Next time you’re talking to her, you’re welcome to ask her if she’s still available to meet someone nice. Better to go out with me before I win rather than after, so I know she’s with me for the right reasons.

-there’s another way I might win, or get the money to take a shot, but I cant tell you. If it happens, you might never know. Sorry.

  1. The difference between a politician and a public servant: If god came down and gave a choice between solving all the world’s problems and getting none of the credit, and half the world’s problems and getting all the credit, a politician would take the latter, and a public servant the former, tho they might feel bad that people didn’t know how cool they were. It would be only human, or “perfectly normal, perfectly natural”, as the comic genius from Loveline with Dr. Dru would say. I have no doubt in my mind I’d take the former. You never go wrong by doing the right thing. You always put the job you came to do before any personal agendas, and I will.
  2. A friend of mine asked me on facebook, it’s there, I think unless it was a dm, bill.haas.52 or billhaasforcongressmo2nd, if I was serious about this campaign, and I replied, “I didn’t go through two hospitalizations (’74 and ’84, each two weeks voluntarily) and a near suicide, and 40 years of thinking god forgot about me, just to lose this. Though I might, of course, but I’m in it to win it. And you know, there are a lot of people out there who I’m sure think that got forgot about them. So that’s what a good president will do, let people have the faith that god has not forgotten about them, and in a nutshell, I hope and intend to do that.

Thanks! BH