Ralph Nader, independent candidate for President in 2008, came to the Drexel movie theater just outisde downtown Columbus, Ohio on September 8, 2008 to make his case for the presidency. Nader’s primary complaint: corporate control of the American economy and its corrosive effect upon politics. His political platform: to reinvest in public works and infrastructure and to bring a full array of social benefits and protections to the American citizen. Nader’s strategic demand: to be allowed to participate in the fall 2008 presidential debates and make his case.
The following is my videorecording of Nader’s remarks. A transcript follows below.
Thank you very much. Today’s news about the government bailing out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is just the latest installment in the excessive greed and concentrated power of giant corporations that are destabilizing our economy, discharging hundreds of thousands of workers, and then running to Washington to be bailed out by the American taxpayer. I think there needs to be a taxpayer revolt in this country that’s very organized and that says to giant corporations, “If you believe you’re capitalists, then you succeed and fail on your own two feet, and don’t engage in mismanagement, corruption, or excessive speculation where you run to Washington and we, the taxpayers, have to bail you out.”
This is not capitalism. This is corporate socialism. The bailouts by Washington of the Wall Street crooks some weeks ago, the contemporary bailout of the two largest financial corporations in America, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the forthcoming bailout in the next few days of the totally mismanaged auto companies in Michigan illustrate that there is a massive transfer of risk from these mismanaged and casino-type corporations onto the backs of taxpayers today, and our children and grandchildren as taxpayers tomorrow.
The presidential campaign of Nader-Gonzalez is going to make this an upfront issue. The two major candidates are going along like toadies issuing one-paragraph press releases rubberstamping one federal bailout after another of these giant mismanaged corporations whose CEOs, when they do finally depart, depart on a floating ocean of tens of millions of dollars of personal compensation. This is a disrespect and a disregard and a ravaging of hard-pressed American taxpayers who should not have to bail out corporate giants.
Our campaign also wants to bring the social benefits up to the level of Western Europe has had for 40-55 years, namely: full medical care for everybody, free choice of doctor and hospital and private delivery of health care. Second, a living wage restoring the wages of minimum wage workers to the level, adjusted for inflation, of what it was in 1968. That would make it $10/hour today. Instead, the recent increase in the federal minimum wage in July took it to a measly $6.55 an hour.
Third, a major crackdown to either prevent or prosecute corporate crime, fraud and abuse. The mass media has reported again and again the corporate crime wave, the ripoff of consumers, the stealing from investors, the depletion of pension funds, from Enron to Wall Street. Yet nothing is done about it in Washington other than the two parties dialing for the same corporate dollars from the same corporate crooks. We want a law and order campaign against these corporate capitalists where they are expected to obey common rules of decency and not exploit their workers and the consumers and then be bailed out by the taxpayers when their greed becomes too extreme.
We want a six month negotiated withdrawal of all U.S. military and corporate forces from Iraq with UN-sponsored elections and interim continued humanitarian aid for the Iraqis whose countries we have so significantly destroyed.
We also want the U.S. government to reverse course and instead of supporting the militaristic approach to dominating, brutalizing, occupying and colonizing the Palestinian people in their remaining territories, instead the U.S. government should support the Israeli and Palestinian peace movements which, years ago, worked out a two state solution between themselves. You can’t settle that conflict if the U.S. government, U.S. taxpayers, are supporting unquestionably the hard liners in the Israeli government. We have to support a majority of the Israeli people and the Palestinian people who in polls have shown they are willing to settle this conflict for a two-state solution, namely a return to the 1967 borders.
We also support a massive solar energy conversion in this country and massive energy efficiency standards upgrades for motor vehicles, appliances, heating, lighting and other energy systems. In this way, we will accelerate the replacement of fossil fuels and nuclear power, help save the environment locally and globally, encourage more small businesses to work in the solar energy area, and establish energy independence, which will reduce the likelihood of future geopolitical conflicts.
And finally — you can get more detail on our agenda on votenader.org — but finally, finally, we want to open up the presidential debates. What are we doing in this country rationing debates? We don’t ration weather forecasts. We don’t ration entertainment. We don’t ration sports. The Debate Commission is nothing more than a private corporation created and controlled 21 years ago by the Republican and Democratic parties to get rid of the League of Women Voters sponsorship, which they thought was too independent.
What we need are companies like Google and Yahoo and a coalition of veteran, labor, neighborhood, consumer and environmental groups to sponsor their own debates. Sponsor them in ways that represent millions of people’s interest in diverse voices on that debate stage, and sponsor them in a way that the two major party candidates, John McCain and Barack Obama, cannot say no. And if they do on national television their two chairs will be on the stage with their names on it, empty.
I say this because it’s very very easy to do this. In any of the major swing states, like Ohio or Michigan or Pennsylvania, everybody knows that John McCain and Barack Obama are going to come to these states at least three to five times between now and November 4th. They’re going to come to Columbus, they’re going to come to Cleveland, they’re going to come to Cincinnati. If a whole coalition of groups — start with trade unions, neighborhood groups, the Urban League, environmental groups, children’s welfare groups, education groups and veterans groups — all got together on a letterhead and basically said, “We invite you to a major auditorium in our metropolitan area, and we’re going to present you with our agenda, and we want you to react and respond to our agenda,” in that way the people begin taking control of the dynamics of presidential campaigns instead of being left with what they are left with now, to be mere spectators. Thank you.