Ralph Nader on the Candidates,
Corporate Power and His Own Plans for 2008
Democracy Now, July 9, 2007
The race for the 2008 election
is on, and all we hear about is the race for the money. Presidential
hopefuls are vying with each other to raise tens of millions of
dollars for what is projected to be the most expensive election
in history. But hardly anyone is talking about where this money
comes from or where it ends up. Fewer still have asked persistent
questions about corporate America's grip over not just the elections,
but most policy decisions out of Washington, DC.
Today, we spend the hour with
a man who has spent the last four decades doing all of this and
more. I'm talking about consumer advocate, corporate critic, and
three-time (will it be more?) presidential candidate Ralph Nader.
We spoke with him in June at the end of a conference called "Taming
the Giant Corporation."
0. Ralph Nader, consumer advocate, corporate
critic and three-time presidential candidate.
AMY GOODMAN: The race for the 2008 election
is on, and all we hear about is the race for the money. Presidential
hopefuls are vying with each other to raise tens of millions of
dollars for what's projected to be the most expensive election
in history. But hardly anyone is talking about where that money
comes from or where it ends up. Fewer still have asked persistent
questions about corporate America's grip over not just the elections,
but most policy decisions out of Washington, D.C.
Today, we spend the hour with a man who's
spent more than four decades doing all of this and more. I'm talking
about the consumer advocate, corporate critic and three-time --
will it be more? -- presidential candidate Ralph Nader. I interviewed
him in June at the end of a conference called "Taming the
Giant Corporation." I began by asking Ralph Nader, why hold
a three-day conference on corporate power, rather than on war?
0. RALPH NADER: Well, first of all, the
corporations are very involved in the war machine. Remember President
Eisenhower's statement about the military-industrial complex.
He might have called it today the industrial-military complex,
because the industrial part is now a supreme influence on the
US military budget, which now is half of the entire federal government's
operating budget, and as well as effecting foreign policy. Even
Mr. Koppel has written that oil is very much involved in the invasion
of Iraq. In fact, he went to say it's mostly about oil in an op-ed
in the New York Times -- Ted Koppel. So the domination,
the corporate sovereignty over our political economy is very much
related to our foreign, military and economic policy, including
GATT and NAFTA, which are architectures of corporate supremacy
over civil values and the rights of workers, environment and consumers.
0. AMY GOODMAN: Can you recap from this conference of three days
-- people coming at corporations, dealing with them in many different
ways -- what you think are the biggest problems and the most effective
strategies for dealing with them?
0. RALPH NADER: Well, the biggest problem is that the avenues
to challenge corporate power, to restrain it, to break it up in
its present concentrated form, to take it away from the political
arena, because corporations are artificial entities. They're not
real human beings. They don't vote. They don't die in Iraq. They
don't have children. They are entities that are dominating our
politics, our electoral systems, our universities, increasingly,
dominate almost everything, even moving into areas that were once
prohibited by custom in our country, like commercializing childhood.
0. And so, this conference really challenges the corporations
at every interface that affects people -- taxpayers, consumers,
workers, communities, children, healthcare, living wage, the varieties
of opportunities that people should have that are being denied.
We are in the advanced stages of being a corporate state, where
-- as Franklin Delano Roosevelt warned Congress in 1938 that when
government is controlled by private economic power, he called
that fascism. And he would consider today's control by private
economic power -- namely, giant corporations astride the world
-- as an even more advanced form of what he called fascism: control
of government by corporate interests.
0. AMY GOODMAN: Would you call it fascism?
0. RALPH NADER: Yeah. The clinical definition is what he was saying.
It was obviously colored in a different context in World War II,
but the clinical definition of "fascism" is when private
concentrated economic power takes government away from the people,
turns government into a guarantor, a subsidizer, a covering of
corporate power. And corporations now have their executives in
high government positions. They have 35,000 full-time lobbies
here, like the drug companies getting all kinds of subsidies from
Congress. And they have 10,000 political action committees.
0. Now, if you look at the civic side, there's very little of
that, although as this conference showed, they've achieved an
enormous amount, given their small numbers. I think, basically,
if you could quantify corporate power and civic power in Washington,
D.C., civic power is probably 1% of corporate power. And, yeah,
look what it has achieved. And I think the hope coming out of
this conference is not only that we have a lot of solutions that
we don't apply in our country, because concentration of power
in the hands of the few allows the few to decide for the many,
but we have a large amount of unused democratic power, unused
civic power, that can be unleashed, organized, to take back our
government, if people stopped believing that they were powerless,
which they are inbred in ever since we entered elementary school.
You know the old phrase, "You can't fight City Hall."
0. But if we want a society where people have the opportunity
to fulfill life's possibilities, doesn't that tell you what the
priorities are, which is focusing on subordinating the corporate
entity to the sovereignty of the American people, as implied in
the Constitution, so that they are our servants, not our masters,
so that they have to compete against other models of economic
development, like cooperatives, like replacing the HMO insurance
companies with full Medicare, like decentralized solar replacing
more and more of Exxon and Peabody Coal and the nuclear industry,
like a redefinition of efficiency in productivity as if people
mattered, not as if corporations dominate? They actually define
our economic terms, and if we defined "efficiency" as
if people mattered, we would have a massive energy efficiency
program, which would, of course, reduce the sales of Exxon and
Peabody Coal and Commonwealth Edison and all the rest, because
we would be using less electricity and less gasoline, because
we would democratize technology.
0. Instead, we have what Andrew Kimbrell called, at the conference,
these giant corporations are dictatorships. And they have enormous
power without anywhere near the commensurate responsibility. They
are highly autocratic dictatorships that prevent constitutional
rights from being with workers when they go to the workplace.
They lose their constitutional rights when they enter that corporate
0. And because of all this, it is interesting that our political
leaders don't like to discuss it. I mean, every politician in
this town knows who runs this town. They know who runs the Defense
Department, the Department of Interior, Department of Agriculture,
Food and Drug Administration. And there are only a tiny handful
of politicians who will raise the banner of subordinating corporate
power to the sovereignty of the American people. The debates are
sterile. The debates are exercises in parallel news conferences
repeating ad infinitum the same words and phrases of evasion.
They will not confront the corporate crime wave. They will not
confront the destruction of our democracy. They will not confront
the usurpation of our electoral processes, even though they can
go back to Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt,
Franklin Delano Roosevelt and others, who have condemned corporate
power as a perilous threat to even a modest democratic society.
0. AMY GOODMAN: So if corporations are dictatorships, you have
a choice of regulating a dictatorship or getting rid of it.
0. RALPH NADER: Well, you've got to do all these things. For example,
you have to strengthen the traditional tools that have curbed
corporate crime, fraud, violence, outrages, bigotry. And these
are regulation, adequate opportunity for litigation. These are
anti-trust, which has been caricatured, but it is a powerful tool
if it's adequately applied. You have to give the owners, the mutual
fund people, the pension shareholders, more power. They are the
owners of the corporation, but they have no power. Just imagine
the violation of capitalist principles. These guys at the top,
who are paying themselves $10,000-$12,000 an hour in compensation,
the CEOs, basically have repudiated the cardinal principle of
capitalism, which is if you own property, you should control it.
And now they have said to their owners, "Get lost! Don't
dare tell us what we're going to pay ourselves. After all, we're
only your hired hands." And so, that's a very important front
0. We have to ask ourselves, why not more cooperatives. With the
internet, you can develop cooperative purchasing and develop specifications
for the kind of cars or the kind of insurance policies people
should be able to buy. We need stronger trade unions. We need
trade unions unlike SEIU. We need trade unions like the California
Nurses Association, who see themselves as a powerful countervailing
0. AMY GOODMAN: Explain that difference.
0. RALPH NADER: SEIU is the inheritor of the tradition of company
0. AMY GOODMAN: The Service Employees International Union.
0. RALPH NADER: Yeah, the Service Employees, Andrew Stern. I mean,
basically he spends more -- sometimes you think he spends more
time with corporate executives than he does with workers. He's
constantly trying to collaborate with corporate executives in
ways that weaken the morale, undermine the rights and horizons
of workers. And most prominently, the way he signs these full-page
ads with the US Chamber of Commerce and all the other corporate
lobbies, saying Americans should have universal healthcare. Yeah,
more universal healthcare gouging, more universal healthcare exploitation,
not full Medicare for all.
AMY GOODMAN: Coming up, Ralph Nader will talk about the presidential
candidates, Democrat and Republican, one by one, and talk about
his own plans for 2008.
AMY GOODMAN: We return to my interview
with Ralph Nader. I asked him about labor unions today, how they
can regain their momentum and power at one of their lowest points
0. RALPH NADER: One is they've got to
mount an assault on the WTO and NAFTA. WTO and NAFTA are basically
an albatross around the neck of workers, of consumers and of clean
environments, to begin with. They are an end run around our courts
and regulatory agencies. We couldn't have gotten airbags under
WTO, because that would have been considered a unilateral move
under this global trade agreement and a non-tariff trade barrier.
It would have been considered too high a standard imposed on importing
cars, even though it's the same standard on domestically produced
cars. What WTO does, it prevents us from being first in the world.
It pulls down our standards so our workers have to compete with
brutalized child labor in third world countries. It makes this
impossible to prohibit the importation of products from child
labor -- that's a violation of the WTO -- even though you can't
buy a product here in the US made from child labor in the US.
It is the greatest loss of sovereignty -- local, state and national
-- in American history. And it's an autocratic system with secret
courts and secret equivalency procedures. I mean, it's just a
total contradiction in subversion of our democratic society. So
that's the first thing that has to be done, to invoke the six-month
notice of withdraw and renegotiate pull-up trade agreements, where
we pull up the rest of the world and our standards, instead of
pull-down trade agreements that subordinate health and safety
to trade agreements. That's the first time that's ever been done.
Trade usually stuck to trade, trade agreements. Now, they've become
very imperialist, and they subordinate health and safety, consumer,
environmental, and worker rights.
0. The second that has to be done is something no Democratic politician
will ever utter, except maybe for Dennis Kucinich. Not one Democratic
politician will say, "We should repeal the notorious anti-worker
Taft-Hartley law of 1947."
0. AMY GOODMAN: Explain what it is.
0. RALPH NADER: Which basically obstructs the organization of
unions, which transfers control of union pension funds to management.
With all these trillions of dollars, imagine the power that workers
could have. They would own a third of the New York Stock Exchange.
They would be able to put real muscle in investor ownership. And
it prevents workers from helping one another, called secondary
boycotts, among many other notorious provisions.
0. AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about these secret trade deals
that are being made behind closed doors between the Democrats
and the White House, that reports say are being the language being
drafted by the White House. Rick MacArthur, publisher of Harper's,
said on Democracy Now! that "[Congressman] Rangel,
[House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi are saying, ', we're gearing up
for the 2008 election. We've got to raise a lot of money.' They're
closer to the Clinton wing of the party, which is the pro-so-called-free-trade
wing of the party, the pro-NAFTA, pro-permanent-normal-trade-relations-with-China
part of the party. And this is a way of saying to the corporate
community  -- Wall Street, Wal-Mart --  we're open for business,
we want to raise money from you." In order to compete for
campaign money, the logic goes, the Democrats have to cater to
big corporate donors.
0. RALPH NADER: The corporate Democrats in action again. Why should
we all be surprised? When you ask Democrats in Congress, "How
are you doing against the Republicans in the coming election?"
the first answer is about money. It's not about justice. It's
not about agenda. It's not about mobilizing people. It's about
dialing for corporate dollars. These two parties have sold the
US government and the American people to the highest bidders.
And that's why we have a corporate sovereign political economy,
and that's why workers are daily in peril of losing their economic
security and their pensions and retirement or their jobs or their
health and safety in the workplace.
0. You know, we have to pay attention, Amy, to something very
important, and that is the language. We are in the process of
seeing the corporatization of our highways, the corporatization
of our water systems, and still people on our side use the word
"privatization." They use the word "white-collar
crime," instead of using the word "corporate crime."
They use the word "private sector" instead of "corporate
sector." We have to stop using the words of the opponents,
because they control the language. Democrats should use the words
"corporate welfare" more often. They should talk about
cracking down on corporate crime, fraud and abuse, that are ripping
off Medicare and Medicaid and the US taxpayer across the board.
But you can say that ad infinitum, but they're not going
to do it as long as they view their electoral processes in terms
of dollar signs.
0. AMY GOODMAN: Ralph, let's talk about "NABbing" the
elections. That's National Association of Broadcasters. The money
you mentioned that these candidates are raising, tens of millions
of dollars, will be well over a billion dollars in 2008. What
would you see as a different way for the media to play a role
here? How do you see the media being challenged? Explain how the
process works right now.
0. RALPH NADER: Right now, the media focuses on the horse race:
who's raising the most money. The candidates who raise the most
money get the most attention. They get the most specific polls.
And the ones who aren't raising the money, even though their record
is far superior and their rhetoric is far superior, like Dennis
Kucinich and Mike Gravel, they don't get hardly any attention.
So the networks and the mass media have bought into the wealth
election. That's one.
0. The second is, they have made possible a private form of corporate
government, known as the Commission on Presidential Debates. So
this commission was created in 1987, as you know, to get rid of
the League of Women Voters, which sponsored presidential debates,
and they went around and they got money from Philip Morris and
Ford and AT&T and Coors beer, and they now control the main
gateway to tens of millions of Americans. No matter how many states
you run in as a third party or independent candidate, if you don't
get on those debates, you don't reach tens of millions of people.
0. And who is the gatekeeper? The Democrat and Republican parties,
who even kept Ross Perot off in 1996, after he got 19 million
votes in 1992. I called him up, and I said, "Ross, how does
it feel for a billionaire to be excluded?" And he says, "Absolutely
right." He said, "I couldn't even buy thirty minutes
of airtime." They refused him to buy thirty minutes of airtime
so he could do his charts on, you know, on the deficit.
0. And, yeah, these TV stations are using our property. We own
the public airwaves. We're the landlords. They're just tenants.
And they use our property free. They don't pay as much as you
pay for your auto license. And they decide who is on and who isn't
on TV or on the national debates. So if you don't break that connection
between the Debate Commission and ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, CNN, you
can't break the power of this corporation called the Debate Commission
and have more diverse debates with more voices and choices, which,
by the way, the American people want. In the year 2000, at least
three national polls had a majority of the people wanting me and
Buchanan on the national debates, and I don't think that's just
because people wanted to stay awake.
0. AMY GOODMAN: On the issue of corporate power, let's go through
the leading Democratic candidates and where they stand. Hillary
0. RALPH NADER: Hillary Rodham Clinton is a corporatist. She's
on the Senate Armed Services Committee, didn't lift a finger against
major corrupt, unnecessary weapons system contracting or even
weapons system. Hey, there are people all over the Defense Department
who think we should scrap the F-22, the Raptor, which is now over
$250 billion program. The plane has gone from about $40 million
to almost $200 million. You could put two or three of them in
this room. And she's never taken on any of the corruption, the
fraud, even though she complains that there's not enough money
for children's programs. Well, she's on the Senate Armed Services
Committee. She's signaling that she is going to play ball with
the military-industrial complex.
0. She has never taken a stand on corporate subsidies, handouts,
giveaways, bailouts. You know, stadiums in New York subsidized
by taxpayers, while so much in New York City is crumbling for
lack of repair.
0. And finally, she doesn't even do what Spitzer did. Her fellow
Democrat gave her cover by prosecuting Wall Street crooks, rode
all the way to the governorship in a landslide election based
on his prosecuting corporate crooks. People like prosecuting corporate
crooks. And she won't even sponsor tough corporate crime legislation
and tougher penalties, law and order for corporate crooks, in
the US Congress.
0. So, to be kind to her, one can summarize as saying, she is
severely lacking in political fortitude. She knows she's the frontrunner,
and therefore she's going around the country pandering to powerful
interest groups and flattering the people. Now, maybe they'll
get tired of it after a while. Maybe they'll say enough is enough.
Do we want eight more years of the Clintons? And, you know, you
get a "twofer."
0. AMY GOODMAN: What does that mean, "eight more years of
the Clintons"? How would you summarize the Clinton-Gore years?
0. RALPH NADER: The Clinton-Gore years were -- they further allowed
and even encouraged, with this reinventing governments movement,
the further consolidation of corporate power, agency by agency,
department by department. Eight years went by, and there wasn't
a single chemical control standard issued by OSHA initiated by
the Clinton administration. 58,000 American workers died from
worker-related disease. You'd think they'd at least issue one.
And there's a big backlog of them. There's been a lot of scientific
work done. They didn't do it. They didn't issue one fuel efficiency
standard. Where was Gore? Gore knew about this. He called the
internal combustion engine, in his first book that came out in
1992, a major threat to the planet. But when he was vice president,
he was either muzzled or went along with Clinton, who right from
the beginning signaled to the auto companies: you've got a four-year
pass; in fact, we're going to spend a billion dollars subsidizing
a joint program, which was a complete waste of money, to develop
some sort of improved engine efficiency -- a partnership between
the White House and the three auto companies. So the Clinton-Gore
years were the final evidence that the Democratic Party is now
a wholly owned subsidiary of giant corporations, with a few luminous
exceptions, like George Miller, Dennis Kucinich, some of the older
Democrats, Ed Markey. But even Ed Markey has lost some of his
vigor in the telecommunications area.
0. Washington, D.C. is corporate occupied territory. The Democrat
and Republican candidates are fighting against one another to
see who's going to go into the White House and start taking orders
from their corporate paymasters. When are we going to understand
that either the people are going to control our government or
we're going to cede control increasingly to global corporations
that have no allegiance to America, no allegiance to communities,
other than to control them or abandon them as they see fit to
communist China, with the industries, or elsewhere?
0. AMY GOODMAN: You mentioned Al Gore. He's seen as the major
voice now on the environment. I don't know if it's exactly on
taking on the corporations, but he was in power for eight years.
So what is your assessment of a Gore candidate for president?
0. RALPH NADER: Gore has been environmentally reborn. He is experiencing
a important redemption. He is doing something very important.
He is now basically a full-time citizen alerting the world to
the peril of global warming and getting some pretty muscular forces
behind them, behind his efforts. Maybe he'll be restrained in
terms of what needs to be done, in terms of the democratization
of technology and the expansion of solar energy. I stood in line
waiting for, you know, the book signing, when he came here in
Washington. There were 300 people at a bookstore, and I just stood
in line and finally got up to his desk, and he was very cordial.
Anybody who thinks that the Greens cost Gore the election should
ask Gore. He not only won the election, he knows how it was stolen
from him. He knows he made some very serious failures himself,
including not winning his own state of Tennessee, which would
have put him in the White House. But he was very cordial, and
I said to him, "Al," -- because I've known him since
years ago -- I said, "Al, how does it feel to be liberated?"
He said, "Very good." And that's really the description
of his present state. It's quite the testimony. When he had real
power, he couldn't deploy it.
0. AMY GOODMAN: If he were to become president, what makes you
think he would remain reborn?
0. RALPH NADER: He wouldn't. See, the only politicians who are
liberated once they're elected are those who come out of mass
movements, so that they know who they're accountable for. And
we have an electoral system where everybody tosses their hat in
the ring and then goes around trying to raise money and expects
people to be spectators on their campaign voyages through their
cities and states instead of participants. I mean, that's what
they do. They don't campaign with the people, with the citizen
groups, with these struggles at the local level against pig farms
or blowing off mountaintops for the coal industry or South Central
LA and the poverty, and so on. They parade in front of the people.
And that's no way to win elected office and expect to represent
0. AMY GOODMAN: Barack Obama.
0. RALPH NADER: Great capacity. He knows the score. He knows who
has power in the country. He was a community organizer in Chicago
after a sterling record at the Harvard Law School. He could have
gone and cashed in. But, as he said in his book, how can you keep
raising that kind of money from those kind of interests and not
have it affect you? And he's now in a race with Hillary to raise
300 million bucks. He's trying to do a lot of it on the internet
in small amounts, but he's going to one economic sector interest
after another raising money. And so, the question is whether he's
going to mobilize the people or he's going to parade in front
of the people. And if he does that, he's not going to be a distinguished
winner if he wins.
0. I was very upset the other day when I heard him say publicly
that he wanted to expand and modernize the military. I mean, really,
the military needs more Trident submarines, huh? It needs more
aircraft carriers. It's already half of the budget, the operating
budget of the US government. And there's no major enemy left.
The Soviet Union is gone, unless you thing Moldova is a threat,
and communist China is converting into -- from criminal communism
to criminal capitalism. They want our jobs and industry. They're
not going to send missiles over here. So, of course, other perils
are being wildly exaggerated and provoked into further expansion:
the so-called war on terrorism and a criminal war in Iraq, which
even Bush's CIA chief and General Casey and others have said are
provoking the insurgency, enlarging it and attracting more people
to be trained in sabotage and terrorism from other countries.
So that's a real powerful antiterrorist policy. You pursue a policy
against terrorists with state terrorism. You pursue a policy against
terrorists and expand the number of terrorists. I mean, this should
be a concept that could be easily enveloped by the limited mind
of George W. Bush.
AMY GOODMAN: Former presidential candidate Ralph Nader. When we
come back from break, he talks about John Edwards and talks about
some of the Republican candidates as well, as well as his own
plan for 2008. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: We return to my interview
with Ralph Nader about the presidential candidates for 2008 and
their relation to corporate power. I asked him for his assessment
of John Edwards.
0. RALPH NADER: Edwards making a good
point on poverty. That was a no-no with Democratic [inaudible].
You look at Clinton's speeches. It's all middle class. He never
would say "poverty." He'd never talk about 50 million
Americans in real poverty and tens of millions of more Americans
in a state called -- a category called "near poverty."
And, but, you know he's got to become much more populist in a
much more specific way. He should become the solar energy candidate.
He should become the free communications candidate. He should
become the affordable housing. More specific, not just, you know,
the two Americas. And above all, he should become the law enforcement
candidate against the corporate outlaws, the corporate exploiters.
And he knows how to do that, but, you know, he has to raise money,
0. AMY GOODMAN: Rudolph Giuliani.
0. RALPH NADER: And I might add, he's not good on foreign policy
-- Edwards is not good on foreign policy. Rudy Giuliani? Rudy
Giuliani is the one-note candidate. No one has ever made more
political capital out of what might be called "9/11 showupmanship."
I mean, what did he really do? He showed up, which is -- quicker
than Bush did, right? He did nothing for the massive contamination
of the lungs of the firefighters. In fact, he opposed their full
compensation rights. Or the police or the volunteers? He just
turned his back on these people. There have been very good books
written deflating the fraud of Rudy Giuliani. He's also an authoritarian
candidate. Don't bet your civil liberties on Giuliani. He thinks
the PATRIOT Act is weak. So there's a real authoritarian language.
If you look at the language that he's conveying around the country,
0. AMY GOODMAN: John McCain?
0. RALPH NADER: John McCain? He's good on auto safety. He tries
to do something on campaign finance reform, although he plays
the game and has to raise it from the K Street lobbyists. He's
terrible on the war. I don't know what got into this mind of his.
I mean, he had great authority to be as good as Senator Chuck
Hagel on it and to say it was the wrong war. He could have opposed
it. But he stuck, and that's why he's going to have trouble even
getting the nomination. And if he gets it, he's not going to get
elected. The American people will not elect a Republican in 2008,
but they will definitely not elect a Republican who is for continuing
the war in Iraq. 70% of the American people now want out of Iraq.
That means a very sizeable chunk of conservative voters want out
of Iraq. And all the Republican candidates of any significance
who are running want to continue that war. They want victory.
0. AMY GOODMAN: The unannounceds: Fred Thompson, Mayor Bloomberg.
0. RALPH NADER: Bloomberg is the wildcard. He could easily turn
it into a three-way race if he runs as an Independent. There's
talk of a Bloomberg-Senator Hagel ticket, and that could not just
be another Perot rerun, it could really be a winning ticket. You
know, Bloomberg is a surprise to most people. He's got a Republican
label. He's a former registered Democrat. I don't think he's good
on corporate welfare. But he's got a way where he could really
appeal to people who call themselves Republicans, Independents,
Democrats. He is big business, so he's not afraid to talk turkey
to them if he wants to. Nobody can say he didn't meet a payroll.
But we're still waiting to see whether the inside Bloomberg office
talk about running is actually going to materialize.
0. AMY GOODMAN: The Independent unannounced: Ralph Nader.
0. RALPH NADER: Too early to say. It's too early to say. If I
was going to run -- and I have not decided at all -- the biggest
problem is getting on the ballot. The Democrats filed twenty-one
phony suits against us. We won most of them, but it was very draining.
In Pennsylvania, they got a Democratic judge, using a Republican
law firm, Reed Smith, to assess me and Peter Camejo $81,000 in
transcription costs and handwriting expert fees for defending
our right to be on the ballot, which they got us off through all
kinds of shenanigans. First people in American legal history who
had to pay court costs for defending their right to be on the
ballot. So ballot access obstructions is the political bigotry
of American politics. It's very hard to get liberals who love
civil rights and civil liberties and who are Democrats to be at
all excited about the systemic obstruction of fifty state laws
at one level or another that can be used by either Democrat or
Republicans against third-party candidates.
0. And historically, Amy, that's where all the great ideas came
from. In the nineteenth century it was the anti-slavery party,
the women's suffrage party, the farmer party, all the things we
read about briefly in our history books that pushed these social
justice movements before one or both of the two parties picked
up on them. So they're -- you know what I like to say? What would
happen to nature if it prohibited seeds from sprouting? What would
happen if big business could totally extinguish small business?
That's what the big two-party elected dictatorship is doing to
a whole array of local, state and national candidates who would
like to give the American people more voices and choices.
0. AMY GOODMAN: How do you think mass movements should organize
themselves and hold politicians accountable, make them more accountable
to citizen, civilian, non-citizen movements than corporations?
0. RALPH NADER: Well, let's start with the easy things, like half
of democracy is showing up. So why don't workers who have lost
their jobs or their pensions to industries that have gone to communist
China with US Department of Commerce subsidy and encouragement,
why don't they mass and rally? I mean, who's keeping them from
rallying and massing? American Idol? Is that what's doing
it? I mean, let's stop making excuses for ourselves. Let's take
the farmers, the dwindling number of farmers. They have great
important causes that mesh with environmental causes at times,
and the whole issue of genetic engineering and the dispossession
of the small family farm by the big suppliers corporations and
the big buying corporations. Why don't they come to Washington,
the way they did twenty years ago with their tractors? Show up!
0. Why, for example, can't a coalition of existing groups -- the
Urban Coalition, the NAACP, the trade unions, the consumer, the
environmental groups, the neighborhood groups -- in each city
sponsor auditorium sessions for the major candidates or whatever
candidates they want to invite that are going through New York
or Boston or Houston or Denver or Los Angeles or St. Louis or
Miami? They couldn't turn them down. And they could say, "We
want you to be here at the auditorium to respond to our agenda.
We're the ones who are going to say no. We're the ones who are
going to say yes."
0. AMY GOODMAN: I want to end with healthcare, I think one of
the critical issues of the day that is so rarely explained. If
there was a healthcare system in this country that you designed,
what would it look like?
0. RALPH NADER: Well, it would look like full Medicare for everybody,
whereby the government is the payer. The government now pays over
50% of the healthcare bill. Huge amount of waste in fraud inflicted
by these corporations on Medicare and Medicaid, for example, drug
companies getting all kinds of corporate subsidies. So the government
is already over 50% -- federal, state and local government. So
it's full government -- it's called a single payer, which means
it can almost eliminate $200 billion of computerized billing fraud
and abuse, which has been documented by the General Accounting
Office and by the leading expert on this, who should be on your
program, Malcolm Sparrow, a lecturer at Harvard University. And
when I said, "$200 billion, Mr. Sparrow? Every year?"
he said, "That's the lowest estimate." That's just computerized
billing fraud and abuse in the healthcare industry.
0. It would dramatically reduce administrative expenses. A doctor
was at the hearing today -- no, yesterday, I guess -- and she
said that the per capita administrative expense in this country
in healthcare is almost $1,900. In Canada, it's under $500. So
it's more efficient. It's less corporate crime. It covers everybody.
It saves lives. 18,000 people die in this country, according to
the Institute of Medicine, because they can't afford healthcare.
That's six 9/11s every year. And the outcomes are better. In Western
countries, the outcomes in terms of infant mortality, in terms
of life expectancy, in terms of lower levels of anxiety -- they
don't have to worry about losing their life savings for a tragic
illness -- are all better than the United States system.
0. AMY GOODMAN: And what do you think it would take to achieve
0. RALPH NADER: It would take about a million people spending
800 million hours over a period of two years in key congressional
districts. You've got about 25% of the Congress already for it.
And once the Washington politicos hear the rumble of the people,
you will see a change that will surprise even the cynics among
us. They've got to hear the rumble of the people and about 2,000
organized people in each congressional district, connecting with
a popular sentiment that's all for this. And they can give you
chapter and verse in their own family, in terms of tragedies due
to the healthcare system -- denial, malpractice, corruption, insensitivity,
deferral. It can happen.
0. AMY GOODMAN: Does George W. Bush matter anymore?
0. RALPH NADER: Yeah, he matters, because he's a national security
menace. He's a destroyer of our Constitution, a violator of our
statutes, a revoker of our regulations. He's a war monger. He's
a war criminal, clinically a war criminal. And he's still in charge.
And I said some time ago, he's a giant corporation in the White
House masquerading as a human being, although I sometimes wonder
about the word "human." I don't think it's possible
to see a more obsessively compulsive person with so much contempt
for the traditions of our country, including conservative traditions,
which is why so many libertarians and conservatives like Pat Buchanan
have opposed him again and again.
0. What's important is to basically get back to self-determination.
Do we really believe in self-government? Do we really believe
in accountable government? And do we really believe that the supremacy
of the people has to be reinstalled over the supremacy of what
Jefferson called the moneyed interests and which today are the
giant corporations? And I think that in addition to the various
tools of accountability that we've discussed here at this conference,
such as regulation; litigation; investor power; public delivery
systems, when the corporations aren't interested, like the Tennessee
Valley Authority; stronger labor unions; organized consumers;
cooperatives; here's what we really need in a broad sense: we
need to exercise the ownership that we already have of the great
public assets of the United States of America, from the public
airwaves to the public lands, to the government's research and
development, to trillions of dollars of labor pension funds, all
of which are owned by the people and controlled by corporations.
And so, that's no big deal, theoretically, is it? To revert control
back to the owners? That's a basic conservative principle.
0. The second thing we have to do is increasingly displace the
operations of corporations with better operations: more efficient
energy, more renewable energy, more credit unions that are accountable
to their small investors, more Medicare replacing the HMOs. All
over the country, we see examples of displacement of corporation,
and that is really a very powerful and exciting movement, if it
obtains a magnitude of significance.
0. And then, the third, we have to structurally, constitutionally
-- every way -- subordinate this robot called the corporate entity,
not its employees or its people. The robot has to be subordinated
to the supremacy of human rights of real individuals. And that
shouldn't be a hard sell, either, if we start talking about these
things more often, if we don't leave it up to Democracy Now!
to talk about it, if we don't leave it up to an occasional TV,
you know? An occasional TV, a very occasional TV.
0. We have to increase our expectation levels. It all starts with
increasing our expectation levels of what kind of society we want
and what kind of world we want to bequeath to our descendants.
If we're not motivated enough by the past great reformers and
civic patriots of our past, the fighters against slavery, women's
rights and all the rest of the social justice movement, if that
isn't enough to motivate us, then just look around this country
and see the tragedies, the dispossession, the injustice, the exclusions,
the disrespect, the gouging, the rip-offs, the using of taxpayer
dollars against those small taxpayers themselves, the lack of
health and safety, the hundreds of thousands of lives lost every
year in occupational disease and medical malpractice and air and
water pollution and denial of healthcare and so on -- who weeps
for those people?
0. And we have to stop making excuses for ourselves. That's the
key. We have to multiply our own civic energies with our neighbors,
our relatives, our coworkers, our friends. When that happens,
when word of mouth takes over as the prime communications system
in this country, nothing can stop it. We have to replace big talk
with small talk. And we have to make it apparent to millions of
people that striving for justice is one of life's greatest gratifications.
In fact, outside of the family, it is the greatest gratification.
Without justice, there's no such thing as liberty and freedom,
there's no such thing as fulfilling life's possibilities. And
I want to thank the people who came to this conference and lent
us their energies and energized themselves and hope they'll go
throughout the country and do the same thing. Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Former presidential candidate Ralph Nader, speaking
at a three-day conference on "Taming the Giant Corporation."
I spoke to him in Washington, D.C. in June.