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Ralph Nader: How Big Business Has Taken Control of the U.S. Government

June 6th, 2013 · No Comments

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http://www.democracynow.org/2013/6/4/american_fascism_ralph_nader_decries_ho
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How Big Business Has Taken Control of the U.S. Government


“So we’ve got a real problem here. It’s not too extreme to call our system
of government now “American fascism.” It’s the control of government by big
business, which Franklin Delano Roosevelt defined in 1938 as fascism. How
they control the government and turn the government to their
favor—subsidies, handouts, giveaways, deferred prosecutions,
non-prosecutions—and against the American people. The minimum wage is just
one. We could have full Medicare for all, which a majority of doctors and
the American people want, with free choice of doctor and hospital. We’re the
only Western country that doesn’t have it. Eight hundred Americans a week
die because they cannot afford diagnosis and treatment for their ailments.
That’s 800 Americans a week, 45,000 a year. Who says so? A study,
peer-reviewed, out of Harvard Medical School. So, we have the lowest minimum
wage in the Western world. We have the greatest amount of consumer debt. We
have the highest child poverty, the highest adult poverty, huge
underemployment, a crumbling public works—but huge multi-billionaires and
hugely profitable corporations.”

Ralph Nader

Democracy Now: June 04, 2013

AARON MATÉ: For the rest of the hour, we’re joined by Ralph Nader, consumer
advocate, corporate critic, attorney, author, activist and former
presidential candidate. For well over four decades, Ralph has helped us
drive safer cars, eat healthier food, breathe better air, drink cleaner
water and work in safer environments. His devotion to political reform and
citizens’ activism has fueled a number of critical policy victories and the
creation of generations of watchdogs and activists to carry them forward.

AMY GOODMAN: Ralph Nader came to prominence in the early ’60s, when he began
to take on powerful corporations and work with local activists on their
campaigns, putting himself on the map in 1965 with his book Unsafe at Any
Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile. In this interview
from that same year, Nader pointed out the safety flaws of General Motors’
Chevrolet Corvair.

RALPH NADER: What aggravates the problem is that the rear wheels of the
Corvair begin to tuck under. And as they tuck under—the angle of tuck under
is called “camber.” And as they tuck under, it can go from three or four
degrees camber to 11 degrees camber almost in an instant. And when that
happens, nobody can control the Corvair. Interestingly—

CBC INTERVIEWER: Well, then, surely they did the right thing. They found out
there was something was wrong with the car, and they fixed it.

RALPH NADER: Yes. The question is: Why did it take them four years to find
out? This is my point. Either it’s sheer callousness or indifference, or
they don’t bother to find out how their cars behave.

AARON MATÉ: Ralph Nader’s exposé led to the first of a number of federal
laws bearing his imprint: the 1966 National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety
Act. As he moved on to public and environmental health, Nader would help
spur landmark bills, including the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974, and the
creation of federal regulatory agencies, such as the Environment Protection
Agency. Meanwhile, Nader also helped found a number of nonprofit
organizations dedicated to the common good, including the Public Interest
Research Group, or PIRG, and Public Citizen.

AMY GOODMAN: In recent years, Ralph Nader’s name has become synonymous with
challenging the nation’s two-party political system. He ran for president in
1996 and 2000 as a candidate on the Green Party ticket, again in 2004 and
2008 as an independent.

Ralph Nader is just out with a new book called Told You So: The Big Book of
Weekly Columns. It’s an anthology of Nader’s weekly opinion pieces.
Throughout, Nader tackles the major political issues of our time while
offering practical solutions rooted in collective organizing.

Ralph Nader joins us for the first time in our studios, the greenest TV,
radio, Internet studios in the country.

Welcome, Ralph.

RALPH NADER: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. So, the title, Told You So?

RALPH NADER: Yes. I’ve been impressed by how all the warmongers and the
false predictors get promoted, and they get on op-ed pages, and they get
jobs after they have failed in the U.S. government. We know Robert Rubin and
Larry Summers and Wolfowitz and Cheney and all these people. And we don’t
recognize people who have predicted accurately, who have spotted problems
arising, as we should. And so I decided to say “Told you so,” as we told
Nixon about the rise of corporate crime. We warned about the Iraq War and
the consequences. We were sure that the consequences of repealing
Glass-Steagall were going to lead to huge speculation and serious problems
on Wall Street for trillions of dollars of workers’ money. And again and
again and again. And there’s something wrong with a society that
marginalizes, in so many ways, the people who were right, the people who
predicted right, who cautioned, who sent up the warning signals to the
American people; and the people who got us into Iraq and warmongering and
militarism and corporatism, they’re the ones who get applauded, those are
the ones who get $100,000 speeches, like Bush is getting, $150,000. So, I
decided to throw down the gauntlet and say, “Told you so.”

AARON MATÉ: Ralph, can you compare our capacity for taking on corporate
crime, one of your big issues, from when you first started out to today?
Have we developed any improved regulatory framework to tackle the crimes of
corporations?

RALPH NADER: No, the corporate criminals have overrun the government. The
Justice Department now has expanded Bush’s practice of deferred prosecution.
So, Attorney General Holder and President Obama now are basically saying to
corporate crooks, “You don’t have to admit. You don’t have to deny
culpability. We’ll defer prosecution. Just pay a fine that’s a fraction of
the cost of doing business.” So the drug companies may pay individually when
they’re caught, $500 million, a billion dollars, but they’ve gained numerous
billions of dollars. Nobody goes to jail. No corporate charters are pulled.
It’s basically above the law.

AARON MATÉ: Ralph, in the past few months, fast-food workers across the
country have walked off the job in a bid for a higher minimum wage. They’re
seeking $15 an hour and the right to unionize without harassment. The
one-day strikes have hit seven cities: Seattle, Milwaukee, Washington, D.C.,
Detroit, St. Louis, Chicago and New York City. This is organizer Jennifer
Epps-Addison of the group Citizens Action of Wisconsin.

JENNIFER EPPS-ADDISON: Fast food, in retail, it’s one of the fastest-growing
industries. It’s one of the most profitable, with $200 billion in profits.
And yet, these are the lowest-paid workers in our economy. They’re standing
up and saying, “Our families can’t survive on $7.25 an hour.”

AARON MATÉ: Ralph, this is a big issue of yours, seeking a higher minimum
wage. Your thoughts on this fast-food strike?

RALPH NADER: It’s a good start. And we’ve got to show the American people
it’s easier than they think to turn the country around in many ways. Let’s
start with the lowest bar of all. Thirty million workers in this country are
making less today than what workers made in 1968, inflation-adjusted. These
are the workers who clean up after us, grow our food, serve us in the
stores, take care of our ailing grandparents. Just let that thirty million
figure sink in. These are the workers that are most underemployed,
underinsured. They work in often the most dangerous situations. They don’t
have unions. And the question is: Is our society so inert, so surrendering
of any kind of civic sovereignty, that we cannot get a minimum wage equal to
1968? That’s supported, by the way, by 70 percent of the people, including
Rick Santorum, and until last year, Mitt Romney. That’s how basic it is. So,
we have a president saying in 2008, when he was campaigning, he wants $9.50
by 2011, and now he’s down to $9.00 by 2016. The Democrats are sitting on
inadequate bills in the House and Senate and not really pushing the
Republicans.

So, here’s what we’re trying to do. August is the big recess, where the
members of Congress go back home. So we want people to get 300 to 400
signatures on a summons by the people back home, summoning the
congresspeople and the senators to exclusive town meetings in each district.
And those of you who are watching or listening to this program and want to
show how to turn this around—it’s a great economic stimulus, by the way, to
give people who desperately need the necessities of life more money—if you
want to take 30 million people up to $10.50 an hour, which catches up barely
with 1968, even though the worker productivity has doubled, by the way,
since then, just go to timeforaraise.org .
Remember, if we cannot do this, it’s doubtful we can change anything in this
country. Timeforaraise.org . You’ll get a
“whereas … whereas … whereas …” very well done summons that you can go
around and get people to sign—it will be the easiest petition you’ll
probably ever get to sign—to the congressperson or the senator, saying, “In
August, and in a municipal building or wherever, we want you to show up, and
we’re going to let you know what we want you to do.” That’s why I called it
a summons instead of a petition.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go to President Obama in February in his State of the
Union address calling on Congress to raise the minimum wage to $9.00 an hour
from $7.25 and to automatically adjust it with inflation.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation
on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and
raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour. We should be able to get
that done. This single step would raise the incomes of millions of working
families. It could mean the difference between groceries or the food bank,
rent or eviction, scraping by or finally getting ahead. For businesses
across the country, it would mean customers with more money in their
pockets. And a whole lot of folks out there would probably need less help
from government. In fact, working folks shouldn’t have to wait year after
year for the minimum wage to go up, while CEO pay has never been higher. So
here’s an idea that Governor Romney and I actually agreed on last year:
Let’s tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, so that it finally becomes
a wage you can live on.

AMY GOODMAN: So that’s President Obama in February in his State of the Union
address.Isn’t that what you’re calling for?

RALPH NADER: Yeah, has there been a bigger con man in the White House than
Barack Obama? He hasn’t lifted a finger since he made those statements. And
when he made the statements in the 2008 campaign, he said nothing for four
years on raising the minimum wage. He made no pressure on Congress. He
hasn’t even unleashed people in his own White House on this issue.

AMY GOODMAN: What can he do?

RALPH NADER: What can he do? He can barnstorm it. That’s what the bully
pulpit is about. He can go up to Congress. He can get George Miller and
Senator Harkin, who have introduced weak minimum wage increase bills, to
have dynamic hearings where he puts a face on all these people who can’t
even make as much as the workers made in 1968. Look at the difference here.
There are a million Wal-Mart workers who are making less today than Wal-Mart
workers made in 1968, inflation-adjusted, while the boss of Wal-Mart is
making $11,000 an hour, you know, plus benefits. Two-thirds of all
low-income workers are hired by these big companies, like McDonald’s and
Burger King and Wal-Mart, and that the bosses are making anywhere from $10
million to $20 million a year.

Now, what does that do to the normative juices of the American people? I
mean, where’s the indignation here? I mean, why do they take it? They don’t
have to take it. They can hit the streets. They can march. They can turn
this around. How come they hit the streets in these Third World countries? I
mean, isn’t it important for their livelihood? They can’t even get the
necessities of life for their children. The cruelty is unbelievable here. We
are an advanced Third World country. We have great military equipment and
science and technology. Half of the people in this country are poor. They
can’t even pay their bills. They’re deep in debt. And so, people sitting
around are saying, “Oh, the powers that be, you know, we can’t do anything.”
What do you mean they can’t do anything? They can do everything. They’re the
sovereign. We don’t have “We the corporation” at the beginning of the
Constitution; we have “We the people.” So, timeforaraise.org
. Let’s get it done in August. Let’s move.
You’ll get a nice summons. You go around. You get your friends and
neighbors. Bring that member back home in a town hall or wherever for an
exclusive meeting on the minimum wage.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break, then come back to Ralph Nader. His new
book is called Told You So. Stay with us. [break]

AMY GOODMAN: Our guest is Ralph Nader. Let’s go to a comment of the Apple
CEO, Tim Cook, in response to a Senate report that accused his company of a
massive tax-dodging scheme that saved it tens of billions of dollars. The
report describes a massive web of affiliates spanning several continents
that were used to hide the company’s profits, even in countries where Apple
had no employees. Overall, Apple avoided paying U.S. taxes on $44 billion
over a three-year period. This is Apple CEO Tim Cook speaking before the
Senate hearing last month.

TIM COOK: Apple has become the largest corporate income taxpayer in America.
Last year, our U.S. federal cash effective tax rate was 30.5 percent, and we
paid nearly $6 billion in cash to the U.S. Treasury. That’s more than $16
million each day, and we expect to pay even more this year.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Apple CEO Tim Cook. Ralph Nader, your response?

RALPH NADER: It’s very simple. Apple has parked a huge percentage of its
profits in tax havens abroad. So they can say the ones that they haven’t
parked, in this country, pay a higher tax rate, basically. Apple is one of
many giant U.S. corporations who benefited from subsidies by the government,
research and development, grew to profit on the backs of American workers,
and is now operating overseas, very unpatriotically, like other U.S.
corporations, to be tax escapees. But they expect the government to give
them the latest developments in science and technology, which have
infiltrated themselves into Apple products. They expect all the public
services that taxpayers pay for in this country. But they want to go to the
Bahamas and Ireland and other tax havens and pile it up. In the meantime,
they’re not investing these huge profits—Cisco, Intel, Microsoft,
Apple—they’re not investing in this country. So you have this amazing
situation where you have a recession, you have very high unemployment, you
have high underemployment, and you’ve got huge capital reserves piling up,
not being taxed to be put back into building our public works and repairing
America and creating jobs. And you’ve got, you know, a rump Congress just
basically curtsying to all this.

So we’ve got a real problem here. It’s not too extreme to call our system of
government now “American fascism.” It’s the control of government by big
business, which Franklin Delano Roosevelt defined in 1938 as fascism. And
they control the government and turn the government to their
favor—subsidies, handouts, giveaways, deferred prosecutions,
non-prosecutions—and against the American people. And minimum wage is just
one. You have full Medicare for all, which a majority of doctors and the
American people want, with free choice of doctor and hospital. That’s the
only—we’re the only Western country that doesn’t have it. Eight hundred
Americans a week die because they cannot afford diagnosis and treatment for
their ailments. That’s 800 Americans a week, 45,000 a year. Who says so? A
study, peer-reviewed, out of Harvard Medical School. So, we have the lowest
minimum wage in the Western world. We have the greatest amount of consumer
debt. We have the highest child poverty, the highest adult poverty, huge
underemployment, a crumbling public works—but huge multi-billionaires and
hugely profitable corporations.

I say to the American people: What’s your breaking point? When are you going
to stop making excuses for yourself? When are you going to stop exaggerating
these powers when you know you have the power in this country if you
organize it? That’s why I want people to timeforaraise.org
, get the summons, fill out the names, and
get the congresspeople and the senators back in August.

AARON MATÉ: Ralph, what do you think the U.S. government should do—President
Obama, the Federal Reserve—to take on high unemployment?

RALPH NADER: Public works is obviously the best. I mean, we have trillions
of dollars, according the American Society of Civil Engineers. It’s not just
bridges and highways. It’s sewage and water systems. It’s public buildings.
It’s dams. It’s ports. It’s community clinics. It’s libraries. The country
is running down. And when I say big corporations are running the U.S.A. into
the ground, that’s part of the dismal picture. Now, that creates jobs that
are good-paying, they’re decentralized in every community, and you can’t
export them to China. So that’s what the government should do.

But, of course, if President Obama cannot defeat the worst, cruelest, most
vicious, ignorant Republican Party in history and take over the
Congress—instead, he loses it in 2010 in the House, and he loses it in 2012
in the House, and he’s going to lose it again in 2014, because he doesn’t
know how to take the Republican votes that are so cruel and vicious, that
have actually passed the House of Representatives and have been documented
by the House Democratic Caucus, and hurl it against them in the coming
election. So what’s he going to do the rest of his term, if he’s being run
by Boehner and Cantor and McConnell, the Republican minority?

AMY GOODMAN: Ralph Nader, you wrote an open
letter to
President Obama asking him to explain by what authority he’s empowered to
imprison prisoners indefinitely at Guantánamo Bay and kill people abroad
with drone warfare.

RALPH NADER: Yeah, it’s really quite clear. President Obama is a recidivist
violator, systematically, day after day, of Constitution, of our statutes
and of our international treaties. We still have torture. We still have
indefinite imprisonment. We still have war crimes all over part of Asia and
Africa, violating all kinds of laws. These wars have never been declared by
Congress. We have indefinite imprisonment. They use the word “detainee.”
Don’t you like that word, “detainee”? You know, you’re in Guantánamo for
nine years; you’re still a detainee instead of a prisoner. And the press
uses their language, too.

So, we sent him a letter, with Bruce Fein, who now has started a group
called the National Commission on the Misuse of Intelligence to Justify
War—lies, in other words, cover-ups. These are the people who should be on
trial, not Bradley Manning. The people who lied in official Washington—Bush
and Cheney and Wolfowitz—who lied and caused the death of thousands of
American soldiers and hundreds of thousands of American injuries, those are
the people who should be on trial. So, this letter goes right to the core.
Every time Obama tries to say he’s doing this and that, he should give the
constitutional, statutory or treaty authority. And the press has not been
holding his feet to the fire, or his representatives. They should always
ask, “By what authority are you doing this, Mr. President? And by what
evidence? By what authority, and by what evidence?”

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, in the last 10 seconds we have, Frank Lautenberg, the
longtime senator from New Jersey, just died. Your thoughts?

RALPH NADER: He has a marvelous record. You pointed out his record in
environment and consumer. It’s going to be a real loss to the Senate.

AMY GOODMAN: Ralph Nader, I want to thank you for being with us. His new
book, Told You So . He’ll be speaking at Barnes & Noble Wednesday night here
in New York at Union Square. And I’ll be interviewing you at the 92nd
Street Y Thursday night at 8:15. Hope to see people there.

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