Told You So: The Big Book of Weekly Columnsby Ralph Nader
—The New York Times
The column is the most natural literary form for a citizen’s advocate, and Ralph Nader may be its most robust and forceful practitioner. The Big Book of Ralph Nader Columns/i>/b>/b>
“What sets Ralph Nader apart is that he has moved beyond social criticism to effective political action.”
—The New York Times
The column is the most natural literary form for a citizen’s advocate, and Ralph Nader may be its most robust and forceful practitioner. The Big Book of Ralph Nader Columns presents a panoramic portrait of the problems confronting our society and provides examples of the many actions an organized citizenry could and should take to create a more just and environmentally sustainable world. Drawing on decades of experience, Nader's columns document the consequences of concentrated corporate power; threats to our food, water and air; the corrosive effect of commercialism on our children; the dismantling of worker rights; and the attacks on our civil rights and civil liberties. Nader also offers concrete suggestions to spark citizen action and achieve social change.
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TOLD YOU SO
The Big Book of Weekly Columns
By RALPH NADER
SEVEN STORIES PRESSCopyright © 2013 Ralph Nader
All rights reserved.
Combatting corporate abuses requires constant vigilance. Corporations shape America's political process as much as they shape America's economy through PAC contributions and threats to move manufacturing and service jobs to low-wage countries.
Columns in this section catalog the rotten fruit of our diseased political process, including the gigantic growth in corporate welfare (a.k.a. crony capitalism) even as smaller, key social welfare programs are cut; the consolidation of monopoly power while antitrust laws are not enforced; and successive waves of corporate crime.
The Occupy movement's push to get the concerns of the "99 percent" into the political debate was an important milestone. Unfortunately, the agenda of the 99 percent won't be heard over the corporate pleas for more government bailouts and tax cuts, unless "We the People" rise up to tell Washington that we're tired of being shut out of the political process.
Large US corporations lack a patriotic commitment to our country. They receive public services, subsidies and protections in this country, yet they continue to ship jobs overseas, pressuring their suppliers to do likewise, and create tax havens on faraway islands to run away from their tax responsibilities to the United States.
The corporate crime wave that has been continuing for years and that caused the 2008 financial crisis has barely been addressed by lawmakers in Washington. Corporate crimes see little retribution because corporate bosses place the blame on lower-level employees. There is very little corporate accountability. These columns help to inform and encourage the everyday citizen/consumer to push to counter corporate abuses and corporate control of our political economy.
Let Them In! November 23, 2011
From New York City to Oakland, and several cities in between, the police, on orders from city officials, have smashed the Occupy encampments and evicted the protestors from public parks and spaces. More politicians, from Congress to the state and local level, want the Occupy people OUT!
Well, why don't they start letting them into the places where decisions are being made against their legitimate interests? Let them IN to:
1. Having jobs and affordable housing;
2. Their legislatures without having to pay to play;
3. The courts when they are wrongfully injured or have other grievances without being blocked by corporatist dogmas and judges;
4. Access to civil lawyers pro bono when they are in dire need, as suggested by Cincinnati attorney Paul Tobias;
5. The dispensing and regulatory agencies with their petitions (without having to face grinding delays and costs);
6. Universal healthcare so they can escape the present avariciousness called "pay or die";
7. Fair contracts, from student loans to mortgages, without fine print and gouging fees and robo-signing type shenanigans that trap them into contract peonage (see FairContracts.org)
8. Fair and clean elections with voluntary public financing and easier ballot access for third party candidates to give voters more choice beyond the two party dictatorship;
9. The media to express themselves on television, radio and in newspapers, so dominated by the plutocratic values of corporatism;
10. Public places to petition and circulate their materials in these large malls that are taxpayer subsidized but considered off limits because they are corporate owned;
11. The political process, with other citizens, with full rights to challenge in courts and by referenda the politicians and their corporate paymasters who unconstitutionally and illegally plunge our country into wars, invasions and occupations abroad;
12. A clean environment where they can breathe clean air, drink clean water and eat safe food by enforcing the existing laws with adequate budgets;
13. The facilities to band together as workers, consumers and taxpayers that exist for commercial companies and their investors;
There would be no need for encampments or street demonstrations if people were allowed IN to these arenas of power, communications and good livelihoods. You don't see corporate executives and managers protesting in the streets. Because they are already IN!
It has been said repeatedly that the Occupy Wall Street movement has no specific agenda. Look at their signs and banners. It is obvious; they want IN. They no longer want to be excluded, disrespected, unemployed, defrauded, impoverished, betrayed and in big and small ways OUT.
They want justice, opportunity and, as the ancient Roman lawyer Marcus Cicero advocated for, the freedom to participate in power.
Repression Expands Resistance November 16, 2011
From Oakland, California to New York City, the police, ordered by politicians, have smashed through Occupy encampments. Noted for their rigorous non-violence and orderly arrangements—tents with medical assistance, legal aid, libraries, media relations and sanitation controls —the Occupy protestors are being shoved out of their public places all over the country.
The Mayor of Oakland admitted to the BBC in an interview that mayors, police and other security officials have been in contact with each other regarding how to deal with the removal of the protestors, including an eighteen-mayor conference call she participated in recently.
The police power is always the first response to a mobilized citizen action that refuses to go away. Even a protest against corporate greed and governmental complicity shattering the economy and millions of livelihoods, which has widespread support by the American people, faces police intervention.
How else has the plutocracy of the corporatists and the oligarchy of the politicians who serve them responded? President Obama has remained aloof, as he did earlier this year with the giant Wisconsin labor protests. California Governor Jerry Brown has stayed out of the fray. The Congress is wallowing in its tone-deaf bubble, squabbling over how to reduce the crumbs for the masses while the obscenely-bonused corporate bosses feast on the tables of corporate welfare and privilege.
Chris Hedges, the Pulitzer-prize winning war correspondent, described what entrenched illegitimacy by the power brokers has to offer besides force:
"Our elites have exposed their hand. They have nothing to offer. They can destroy but they cannot build. They can repress but they cannot lead. They can steal but they cannot share. They have no ideas, no plans and no vision for the future."
Except, one may add, for the perpetuation of their autocratic, self-enriching, dominant rule at the expense of the "99 percent." Their outcry is for law and order—clear the tents from the public parks. These are the same corporatists who constantly receive from the corporate-dominated state all kinds of waivers from health and safety regulations, from government contract rules, from fair labor standards and from taxes. And they receive all kinds of loopholes to enhance their profits and executive pay packages. But there are no waivers for orderly encampments non-violently advancing justice for "we the people" by spotlighting the gross inequities and cruelties imposed on tens of millions of innocent Americans.
As the destruction of the Occupy encampments proceeds, this movement will disperse into many locations and become larger and stronger. From the neighborhoods, joining with long-valiant community groups, the Occupy protestors will return by day to these public squares for their ever-more innovative demonstrations.
One protestor told Democracy Now that their expulsion from over-night stays in Zuccotti Park will show "how intuitive and ingenious a movement we have." Already the protestors have shown their adaptive creativity. They responded to a ban on bullhorns or other amplifiers with the "human microphone," relaying words through waves of people.
Occupy Wall Street had a 5,000 book library loaning books to residents without access to a nearby city library branch. So taken was the architectural editor of the Washington Post's Phillip Kennicott with Occupy Washington at McPherson Square that he devoted two pages to an aerial view and report of its intricate organization calling it a "vibrant brand of urbanism." The same is true of the other Washington, DC Occupy site at Freedom Plaza. So far City Hall and the National Park Service have left them alone.
With the coming of winter and the Occupy sites overwhelmed with the hungry and homeless poor—some urged to go there by the police—it was time for stage two. By not being somewhere, the Occupy movement will now be everywhere—in the neighborhoods, on the campuses, in churches and union halls, and marching in the streets toward the edifices of the corporatists and their political lackeys.
Furthermore, this diffusion and magnification will spread into the established institutions themselves as first a few and then more whistleblowers, dissenters and other silent patriots do their part to subordinate the corporate structures and political controllers to the sovereignty of the people. After all our Constitution's preamble starts with "we the people," and ends without a single mention of corporations or political parties.
Becoming stronger from violent over-reaction by the police, it will become an "Occupy America" movement with demands for long-overdue revisions of priorities and equities relating to children, workers, consumers, taxpayers, retirees and restricted voters. The sheer volume of Americans coming into the streets with their non-violence will exhaust police resources and police resolve. Already, the city police and local district attorney in Albany, New York refused the governor's order to arrest and remove peaceful protestors. Why? Because said one police official "we don't have those resources and these people were not causing trouble," as quoted in the instant new paperback by Yes! Magazine, This Changes Everything.
At the University of California at Berkeley demonstration, Daniel Ellsberg said that the official enforcers' "instinct for repression is irrepressible." That is the dark view, predicted by Aldous Huxley's Brave New World Revisited—a copy of which was found, ironically, in the debris of the destroyed Zuccotti Park library by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now. But the instinct for freedom and justice is also irrepressible. Who are you betting on to prevail this time?
Corporate Tax Escapees and You July 7, 2011
The all-consuming Washington, DC wrangling over debts and deficits, spending and taxing is excluding a large reality of how these financial problems can sensibly and fairly be addressed. These blinders in Congress and the White House come from fact-starved ideologies—mostly from the Republicans—and fear-fed meekness—mostly from the Democrats. Both are furiously dialing for commercial campaign cash.
Take the gigantic world of corporate tax avoidance. Ronald Reagan signed the Tax Reform Act of 1986 that was designed to increase corporate tax revenues by over 30 percent. Today, President Obama wants to diminish or delete some tax loopholes (technically called tax expenditures) for large corporations, but let most of the revenues be cancelled out by lowering the corporate tax rates. How the world changes.
Obama's mild approach is unacceptable to the big business lobbies and their Republican mascots in Congress.
They want more tax breaks so they can keep trillions of more dollars over the next decade.
Lost in this whirl of vast greed and political calculation are options, which if pursued with a sense of fairness for the people of the country, would go a long way in providing revenues for public works jobs—repairing America—which in turn would generate more consumer demand by these workers.
The ultra-accurate Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ) publishes precise reports on the effective taxes paid by corporations that make an utter mockery of the 35 percent statutory tax rate for corporations (see CTJ.org).
On June 1, 2011, CTJ released a preview of its forthcoming study of Fortune 500 companies and "the taxes they paid—or failed to pay—over the 2008-2010 period." Judging by the preview, this report should silence those who say that the US taxes corporations more than other industrialized nations.
What do you think the following profitable corporations paid in actual total federal income taxes in that period: American Electric Power, Boeing, DuPont, Exxon Mobil, FedEx, General Electric, Honeywell, International, IBM, United Technologies, Verizon Communications, Wells Fargo, and Yahoo? Nothing!
CTJ reports that "from 2008 through 2010, these 12 companies reported $171 billion in pretax US profits. But as a group, their federal income taxes were negative: $2.5 billion."
CTJ documents that "not a single one of the companies paid anything close to the 35 percent statutory tax rate. In fact, the 'highest tax' company on our list, ExxonMobil, paid an effective three-year tax rate of only 14.2 percent ... and over the past two years, Exxon Mobil's net tax on its $9.9 billion in US pretax profits was a minuscule $39 million, an effective tax rate of 0.4 percent."
Next time you hear Republicans like Eric Cantor, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell repeat their statement that corporations are overtaxed and need a break, you can tell them that "had these twelve companies paid the full 35 percent corporate tax, their federal income taxes over the three years would have totaled $59.9 billion." CTJ director, Bob McIntyre noted that these twelve companies are "just the tip of an iceberg of widespread corporate tax avoidance."
Of course, most Americans suspect as much, even if they don't have the exact figures. A recent Gallup poll asked the public's opinion on where they stand on the tax cuts for the rich and the tax breaks for the corporations. By a 45 percent-margin, they opposed tax cuts for the rich and by a 55 percent margin, they opposed tax cuts for corporations.
So what are Barack Obama and the Democrats waiting for? They have the undeniable facts and overwhelming public sentiment behind them. Why do they let Cantor, Boehner and McConnell continue to mouth falsehoods without rebuttals of the truth?
It's obvious. The Democrats want big time money from the executives and Political Action Committees of the Fortune 500. The Democrats are willing to let the Republicans fuzz the debate and dare to try and make Medicare and Social Security benefits absorb the sacrifices. Indeed last week, the Washington Post headlined Obama signaling to the Republicans that Social Security "is on the table."
Even the meek reporters should no longer fail to challenge the Republican's daily mantras.
Should you have any doubts that the corporate state is in firm control of your government, try this test: If you paid a single dollar in federal income tax in any of the years 2008, 2009 and 2010, you paid more than the giant General Electric (GE) company. In that period GE made $7.722 billion in US profit, paid no taxes and received $4.737 billion from the IRS. As the New York Times reported on March 24, teams of GE tax lawyers and accountants are making sure they avoid taxes altogether, shifting the burden to you.
These big companies are laughing at us all the way to the taxpayer-bailed-out banks. They're even laughing at their own shareholder-owners. The non-financial companies are sitting on about $2 trillion. Inert dollars, producing nothing and earning minuscule interest are better deployed by enlarging the dividend payments to their shareholders. A mere 10 percent of that sum as dividend payments this year would pump $200 billion into an economy needing more consumer demand.
Reporters and columnists need to start addressing these topics at news conferences with members of Congress and White House staffers. The Washington press corps shouldn't behave like sheep!
Stripmining America—Unpatriotically April 22, 2011
It is time to apply the standard of patriotism to the US multinational corporations and demand that they pledge allegiance to the United States and "the Republic for which is stands ... with liberty and justice for all." This July 4, 2011 would be good day for Americans to demand such a corporate commitment.
Born and chartered in the USA, these corporations rose to their giant size on the backs of American workers and vast taxpayer-subsidized research and development handouts. When they got into trouble, whether through mismanagement or corruption, these companies rushed to Washington, DC for bailouts from American taxpayers. When some were challenged in foreign lands, the US Marines came to their rescue, as depicted decades ago by two-time Congressional Medal of Honor winner, Marine General Smedley Butler.
So what is their message to America and its workers now? It is not gratitude or loyalty. It is "we're outta here, with your jobs and industries" to dictatorial or oligarchic regimes abroad, such as China, that know how to keep their impoverished and abused workers under control.
Note that these company bosses have no compunction replacing US workers with serf-labor, but they never replace themselves with bi-lingual executives from China, India and elsewhere who are willing to work for one-tenth or less of the huge pay packages executives get from their rubber-stamp boards of directors in the US.
Excerpted from TOLD YOU SO by RALPH NADER. Copyright © 2013 Ralph Nader. Excerpted by permission of SEVEN STORIES PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
RALPH NADER is America’s leading consumer’s and citizen’s advocate, a lawyer and an author who has co-founded numerous public interest groups including Public Citizen, the Center for Auto Safety, Clean Water Action Project, the Disability Rights Center, the Pension Rights Center, Commercial Alert, the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), and the Center for Study of Responsive Law. For the past forty-five years Ralph Nader has challenged abuses by corporate and government officials and urged citizens to use their time, energy and democratic rights to demand greater institutional accountability. In 1965, Nader's landmark book Unsafe at Any Speed changed the face of the automobile industry. The Atlantic Magazine named Nader as one of the hundred most influential figures in American history, and Time and Life magazines honored him as one of the most influential Americans of the twentieth century. As a result of his efforts, cars are safer, food is healthier and our environment is less polluted and our democracy is more robust.
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"told you so" is very hard to put down. love the book has the best of ralph naders columes over the years were he speaks out on alot of the majot issues and shows what a frustrated voter can do to make a difference for a better goverment and a more worth while community sure looks like he is getting ready for another run for president he has made a big difference many candidates are all talk but mr nader has already put his talk into action. also recamended: unstoppable by ralph nader, the good fight by ralph nader,crahing the party by ralph nader.