[sixties-l] Nader Statement

From: Ted Morgan (epm2@lehigh.edu)
Date: Fri Jun 23 2000 - 20:16:19 CUT

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    I'm passing Nader's original statement, declaring his candidacy, on the
    folks on the list. I know this is a busy list, but it's worth reading
    if you have the time... By the way, the Green's convention is on CSpan
    this weekend.


    Subject: Ralph Nader's statement of candidacy

    February 21, 2000
    Washington, D.C.

    Statement of Ralph Nader, Announcing His Candidacy for the Green Party's
    Nomination for President

    Today I wish to explain why, after working for years as a citizen
    advocate for consumers, workers, taxpayers and the environment, I am
    seeking the Green Party's nomination for President. A crisis of
    democracy in our country convinces me to take this action. Over the past
    twenty years, big business has increasingly dominated our political
    economy. This control by the corporate government over our political
    government is creating a widening "democracy gap." Active citizens are
    left shouting their concerns over a deep chasm between them and their
    government. This state of affairs is a world away from the legislative
    milestones in civil rights, the environment, and health and safety of
    workers and consumers seen in the sixties and seventies. At that time,
    informed and dedicated citizens powered their concerns through the
    channels of government to produce laws that bettered the lives of
    millions of Americans.

    Today we face grave and growing societal problems in health care,
    education, labor, energy and the environment. These are problems for
    which active citizens have solutions, yet their voices are not carrying
    across the democracy gap. Citizen groups and individual thinkers have
    generated a tremendous capital of ideas, information, and solutions to
    the point of surplus, while our government has been drawn away from us
    by a corporate government. Our political leadership has been hijacked.

    Citizen advocates have no other choice but to close the democracy gap by
    direct political means. Only effective national political leadership
    will restore the responsiveness of government to its citizenry. Truly
    progressive political movements do not just produce more good results;
    they enable a flowering of progressive citizen movements to effectively
    advance the quality of our neighborhoods and communities outside of

    I have a personal distaste for the trappings of modern politics, in
    which incumbents and candidates daily extol their own inflated virtues,
    paint complex issues with trivial brush strokes, and propose plans
    quickly generated by campaign consultants. But I can no longer stomach
    the systemic political decay that has weakened our democracy. I can no
    longer watch people dedicate themselves to improving their country while
    their government leaders turn their backs, or worse, actively block fair
    treatment for citizens. It is necessary to launch a sustained effort to
    wrest control of our democracy from the corporate government and restore
    it to the political government under the control of citizens.

    This campaign will challenge all Americans who are concerned with
    systemic imbalances of power and the undermining of our democracy,
    whether they consider themselves progressives, liberals, conservatives,
    or others. Presidential elections should be a time for deep discussions
    among the citizenry regarding the down-to-earth problems and injustices
    that are not addressed because of the gross power mismatch between the
    narrow vested interests and the public or common good.

    The unconstrained behavior of big business is subordinating our
    democracy to the control of a corporate plutocracy that knows few
    self-imposed limits to the spread of its power to all sectors of our
    society. Moving on all fronts to advance narrow profit motives at the
    expense of civic values, large corporate lobbies and their law firms
    have produced a commanding, multi-faceted and powerful juggernaut. They
    flood public elections with cash, and they use their media conglomerates
    to exclude, divert, or propagandize. They brandish their willingness to
    close factories here and open them abroad if workers do not bend to
    their demands. By their control in Congress, they keep the federal cops
    off the corporate crime, fraud, and abuse beats. They imperiously demand
    and get a wide array of privileges and immunities: tax escapes, enormous
    corporate welfare subsidies, federal giveaways, and bailouts. They
    weaken the common law of torts in order to avoid their responsibility
    for injurious wrongdoing to innocent children, women and men.

    Abuses of economic power are nothing new. Every major religion in the
    world has warned about societies allowing excessive influences of
    mercantile or commercial values. The profiteering motive is driven and
    single-minded. When unconstrained, it can override or erode community,
    health, safety, parental nurturing, due process, clean politics, and
    many other basic social values that hold together a society. Abraham
    Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Supreme Court Justices
    Louis Brandeis and William Douglas, among others, eloquently warned
    about what Thomas Jefferson called "the excesses of the monied
    interests" dominating people and their governments. The struggle
    between the forces of democracy and plutocracy has ebbed and flowed
    throughout our history. Each time the cycle of power has favored more
    democracy, our country has prospered ("a rising tide lifts all boats").
    Each time the cycle of corporate plutocracy has lengthened, injustices
    and shortcomings proliferate.

    In the sixties and seventies, for example, when the civil rights,
    consumer, environmental, and women's rights movements were in their
    ascendancy, there finally was a constructive responsiveness by
    government. Corporations, such as auto manufacturers, had to share more
    decision making with affected constituencies, both directly and through
    their public representatives and civil servants. Overall, our country
    has come out better, more tolerant, safer, and with greater
    opportunities. The earlier nineteenth century democratic struggles by
    abolitionists against slavery, by farmers against large oppressive
    railroads and banks, and later by new trade unionists against the brutal
    workplace conditions of the early industrial and mining era helped
    mightily to make America and its middle class what it is today. They
    demanded that economic power subside or be shared.

    Democracy works, and a stronger democracy works better for reputable,
    competitive markets, equal opportunity and higher standards of living
    and justice. Generally, it brings out the best performances from people
    and from businesses.
     A plutocracy -- rule by the rich and powerful -- on the other hand,
    obscures our historical quests for justice. Harnessing political power
    to corporate greed leaves us with a country that has far more problems
    than it deserves, while blocking ready solutions or improvements from
    being applied.

    It is truly remarkable that for almost every widespread need or
    injustice in our country, there are citizens, civic groups, small and
    medium-sized businesses and farms that have shown how to meet these
    needs or end these injustices. However, all the innovative solutions in
    the world will accomplish little if the injustices they address or the
    problems they solve have been shoved aside because plutocracy reigns and
    democracy wanes. For all optimistic Americans, when their issues are
    thus swept from the table, it becomes civic mobilization time.

    Consider the economy, which business commentators say could scarcely be
    better. If, instead of corporate yardsticks, we use human yardsticks to
    measure the performance of the economy and go beyond the quantitative
    indices of annual economic growth, structural deficiencies become
    readily evident. The complete dominion of traditional yardsticks for
    measuring economic prosperity masks not only these failures but also the
    inability of a weakened democracy to address how and why a majority of
    Americans are not benefitting from this prosperity in their daily lives.
    Despite record economic growth, corporate profits, and stock market
    highs year after year, a stunning array of deplorable conditions still
    prevails year after year. For example:
    . A majority of workers are making less now, inflation adjusted, than in
    . Over 20% of children were growing up in poverty during the past
    decade, by far the highest percentage among comparable western countries

    . The minimum wage is lower today, inflation-adjusted, than in 1979
    . American workers are working longer and longer hours -- on average a
    additional 163 hours per year, compared to 20 years ago -- with less
    time for family and community
    . Many full-time family farms cannot make a living in a market of giant
    buyer concentration and industrial agriculture
     . The public works (infrastructure) are crumbling, with decrepit
    schools and clinics, library closings, antiquated mass transit and more
    . Corporate welfare programs, paid for largely by middle-class taxpayers
    and amounting to hundreds of billions of dollars per year, continue to
    rise along with government giveaways of taxpayer assets such as public
    forests, minerals and new medicines
    . Affordable housing needs are at record levels while secondary mortgage
    market companies show record profits
     . The number of Americans without health insurance grows every year
    . There have been twenty-five straight years of growing foreign trade
    deficits ($270 billion in 1999)
    . Consumer debt is at an all time high, totaling over $ 6 trillion
    . Personal bankruptcies are at a record level
    . Personal savings are dropping to record lows and personal assets are
    so low that Bill Gates' net worth is equal to that of the net assets of
    the poorest 120 million Americans combined
    . The tiny federal budgets for the public's health and safety continue
    to be grossly inadequate
    . Motor vehicle fuel efficiency averages are actually declining and,
    overall, energy conservation efforts have slowed, while renewable energy
    takes a back seat to fossil fuel and atomic power subsidies
    . Wealth inequality is greater than at any time since WWII. The top one
    percent of the wealthiest people have more financial wealth than the
    bottom 90% of Americans combined, the worst inequality among large
    western nations
     . Despite annual declines in total business liability costs, business
    lobbyists drive for more privileges and immunities for their wrongdoing

    It is permissible to ask, in the light of these astonishing shortcomings
    during a period of touted prosperity, what the state of our country
    would be should a recession or depression occur? One import of these
    contrasts is clear: economic growth has been decoupled from economic
    progress for many Americans. In the early 1970s, our economy split into
    two tiers. Whereas once economic growth broadly benefitted the majority,
    now the economy has become one wherein "a rising tide lifts all yachts,"
    in the words of Jeff Gates, author of The Ownership Solution. Returns on
    capital outpaced returns on labor, and job insecurity increased for
    millions of seasoned workers. In the seventies, the top 300 CEOs paid
    themselves 40 times the entry-level wage in their companies. Now the
    average is over 400 times.

    This in an economy where impoverished assembly line workers suffering
    from carpal tunnel syndrome frantically process chickens which pass them
    in a continuous flow, where downsized white and blue collar employees
    are hired at lesser compensation, if they are lucky, where the focus of
    top business executives is no longer to provide a service that attracts
    customers, but rather to acquire customers through mergers and
    acquisitions. How long can the paper economy of speculation ignore its
    effects on the real economy of working families? Pluralistic democracy
    has enlarged markets and created the middle class. Yet the short-term
    monetized minds of the corporatists are
    bent on weakening, defeating, diluting, diminishing, circumventing,
    coopting, or corrupting all traditional countervailing forces that have
    saved American corporate capitalism from itself.

    Regulation of food, automobiles, banks and securities, for example,
    strengthened these markets along with protecting consumers and
    investors. Antitrust enforcement helped protect our country from
    monopoly capitalism and stimulated competition. Trade unions
    enfranchised workers and helped mightily to build the middle class for
    themselves, benefiting also non-union laborers. Producer and consumer
    cooperatives helped save the family farm, electrified rural areas, and
    offered another model of economic activity. Civil litigation -- the
    right to have your day in court -- helped deter producers of harmful
    products and brought them to some measure of justice. At the same time,
    the public learned about these hazards.
    Public investment -- from naval shipyards to Pentagon drug discoveries
    against infectious disease to public power authorities provided
    yardsticks to measure the unwillingness of big business to change and
    respond to needs. Even under a rigged system, shareholder pressures on
    management sometimes have shaken complacency, wrongdoing, and
    mismanagement. Direct consumer remedies, including class actions, have
    given pause to crooked businesses and have stopped much of this unfair
    competition against honest businesses. Big business lobbies opposed all
    of this progress strenuously, but they lost and America gained.
    Ultimately, so did a chastened but myopic business community.
     Now, these checkpoints face a relentless barrage from rampaging
    corporate titans assuming more control over elected officials, the
    workplace, the marketplace, technology, capital pools (including
    workers' pension trusts) and educational institutions. One clear sign of
    the reign of corporations over our government is that the key laws
    passed in the 60s and 70s that we use to curb corporate misbehavior
    would not even pass through Congressional committees today. Planning
    ahead, multinational corporations shaped the World Trade Organization's
    autocratic and secretive governing procedures so as to undermine
    non-trade health, safety, and other living standard laws and proposals
    in member countries.

    Up against the corporate government, voters find themselves asked to
    choose between look-a-like candidates from two partiies vying to see who
    takes th marching orders from their campaign paymasters and their future
    employers. The money of vested interests nullifies genuine voter choice
    and trust. Our elections have been put out for auction to the highest
    bidder. Public elections must be publicly financed and it can be done
    with well-promoted voluntary checkoffs and free TV and Radio time for
    ballot-qualified candidates.

    Workers are disenfranchised more than any time since the 1920s. Many
    unions stagger under stagnant leadership and discouraged rank and file.
    Furthermore, weak labor laws actually obstruct new trade union
    organization and leave the economy with the lowest percentage of workers
    unionized in more than 60 years. Giant multinationals are pitting
    countries against one another and escaping national jurisdictions more
    and more. Under these circumstances, workers are entitled to stronger
    labor organizing laws and rights for their own protection in order to
    deal with highly organized corporations.

    At a very low cost, government can help democratic solution building for
    a host of problems that citizens face, from consumer abuses, to
    environmental degradation. Government research and development generated
    whole new industries and company startups and created the Internet. At
    the least, our government can facilitate the voluntary banding together
    of interested citizens into democratic civic institutions. Such civic
    organizations can create more level playing fields in the banking,
    insurance, real estate, transportation, energy, health care, cable TV,
    educational, public services, and other sectors. Let's call this the
    flowering of a deep-rooted democratic society. A government that funnels
    your tax dollars to corporate welfare kings in the form of subsidies,
    bailouts, guarantees, and giveaways of valuable public assets can at
    least invest in promoting healthy democracy.

    Taxpayers have very little legal standing in the federal courts and
    little indirect voice in the assembling and disposition of taxpayer
    revenues. Closer scrutiny of these matters between elections is
    necessary. Facilities can be established to accomplish a closer
    oversight of taxpayer assets and how tax dollars (apart from social
    insurance) are allocated. This is an arena which is, at present, shaped
    heavily by corporations that, despite record profits, pay far less in
    taxes as a percent of the federal budget than in the 1950s and 60s.

    The "democracy gap" in our politics and elections spells a deep sense of
    powerlessness by people who drop out, do not vote or listlessly vote for
    the "least-worst" every four years and then wonder why after another
    cycle the "least-worst" gets worse. It is time to redress fundamentally
    these imbalances of power. We need a deep initiatory democracy in the
    embrace of its citizens, a usable brace of democratic tools that brings
    the best out of people, highlights the humane ideas and practical ways
    to raise and meet our expectations and resolve our society's
    deficiencies and injustices.
     A few illustrative questions can begin to raise our expectations and
    suggest what can be lost when the few and powerful hijack our democracy:

    Why can't the wealthiest nation in the world abolish the chronic poverty
    of millions of working and non-working Americans, including our
    Are we reversing the disinvestment in our distressed inner cities and
    rural areas and using creatively some of the huge capital pools in the
    economy to make these areas more livable, productive and safe?
    Are we able to end homelessness and wretched housing conditions with
    modern materials, designs, and financing mechanisms, without bank and
    insurance company redlining, to meet the affordable housing needs of
    millions of Americans?
    Are we getting the best out of known ways to spread renewable, efficient
    energy throughout the land to save consumers money and to head off
    global warming and other land-based environmental damage from fossil
    fuels and atomic energy?
    Are we getting the best out of the many bright and public-spirited civil
    servants who know how to improve governments but are rarely asked by
    their politically-appointed superiors or members of Congress?
    Are we able to provide wide access to justice for all aggrieved people
    so that we apply rigorously the admonition of Judge Learned Hand, "If we
    are to keep our democracy, there must be one commandment: Thou Shall Not
    Ration Justice"?
    Can we extend overseas the best examples of our country's democratic
    processes and achievements instead of annually using billions in tax
    dollars to subsidize corporate munitions exports, as Republican Senator
    Mark Hatfield always used to decry?
    Can we stop the giveaways of our vast commonwealth assets and become
    better stewards of the public lands, better investors of trillions of
    dollars in worker pension monies, and allow broader access to the public
    airwaves and other assets now owned by the people but controlled by
    Can we counter the coarse and brazen commercial culture, including
    television which daily highlights depravity and ignores the quiet civic
    heroisms in its communities, a commercialism that insidiously exploits
    childhood and plasters its logos everywhere?
    Can we plan ahead as a society so we know our priorities and where we
    wish to go? Or do we continue to let global corporations remain astride
    the planet, corporatizing everything, from genes to education to the
    Internet to public institutions, in short planning our futures in their
    image? If a robust civic culture does not shape the future, corporatism
    surely will.
    To address these and other compelling challenges, we must build a
    powerful, self-renewing civil society that focuses on ample justice so
    we do not have to desperately bestow limited charity. Such a culture
    strengthens existing civic associations and facilitates the creation of
    others to watch the complexities and technologies of a new century.
    Building the future also means providing the youngest of citizens with
    citizen skills that they can use to improve their communities. This is
    the foundation of our campaign, to focus on active citizenship, to
    create fresh political movements that will displace the control of the
    Democratic and Republican Parties, two apparently distinct political
    entities that feed at the same corporate trough. They are in fact simply
    the two heads of one political duopoly, the DemRep Party. This duopoly
    does everything it can to obstruct the beginnings of new parties
    including raising ballot access barriers, entrenching winner-take-all
    voting systems, and thwarting participation in debates at election
    As befits its name, the Green Party, whose nomination I seek, stands for
    the regeneration of American politics. The new populism which the Green
    Party represents, involves motivated, informed voters who comprehend
    that "freedom is participation in power," to quote the ancient Roman
    orator, Cicero. When citizen participation flourishes, as this campaign
    will encourage it to do, human values can tame runaway commercial
    imperatives. The myopia of the short-term bottom line so often debases
    our democratic processes and our public and private domains. Putting
    human values first helps to make business responsible and to put
    government on the right track.

    It is easy and true to say that this deep democracy campaign will be an
    uphill one. However, it is also true that widespread reform will not
    flourish without a fairer distribution of power for the key roles of
    voter, citizen, worker, taxpayer, and consumer. Comprehensive reform
    proposals from the corporate suites to the nation's streets, from the
    schools to the hospitals, from the preservation of small farm economies
    to the protection of privacies, from livable wages to sustainable
    environments, from more time for children to less time for
    commercialism, from waging peace and health to averting war and
    violence, from foreseeing and forestalling future troubles to journeying
    toward brighter horizons, will wither while power inequalities loom over

    Why are campaigns just for candidates? I would like the American people
    to hear from individuals such as Edgar Cahn (Time Dollars for
    neighborhoods), Nicholas Johnson (television and telecommunications),
    Paul Hawken, Amory and Hunter Lovins (energy and resource conservation),
    Dee Hock (on chaordic organizations), James MacGregor Burns and John
    Gardner (on leadership), Richard Grossman (on the American history of
    corporate charters and personhood), Jeff Gates (on capital sharing),
    Robert Monks (on corporate accountability), Ray Anderson (on his
    company's pollution and recycling conversions), Johnnetta Cole, Troy
    Duster and Yolanda Moses (on race relations), Richard Duran (minority
    education), Lois Gibbs (on community mobilization against toxics),
    Robert McIntyre (on tax justice), Hazel
    Henderson (on redefining economic development), Barry Commoner and David
    Brower (on fundamental environmental regeneration), Wendell Berry (on
    the quality of living), Tony Mazzocchi (on a new agenda for labor), and
    Law Professor Richard Parker (on a constitutional popular manifesto).
    These individuals are a small sampling of many who have so much to say,
    but seldom get through the evermore entertainment-focused media. (Note:
    mention of these persons does not imply their support for this

    Our political campaign will highlight active and productive citizens who
    practice democracy often in the most difficult of situations. I intend
    to do this in the District of Columbia whose citizens have no
    full-voting representation in Congress or other rights accorded to
    states. The scope of this campaign is also to engage as many volunteers
    as possible to help overcome ballot barriers and to get the vote out. In
    addition it is designed to leave a momentum after election day for the
    various causes that committed people have worked so hard to further. For
    the Greens know that political parties need also to work between
    elections to make elections meaningful. The focus on fundamentals of
    broader distribution of power is the touchstone of this campaign. As
    Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis declared for the ages, "We can have
    a democratic society or we can have great concentrated wealth in the
    hands of a few. We cannot have both."
    Thank you. Nader 2000, P.O. Box 18002, Washington, D.C. 20036 website:

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