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August 25, 2013

Ralph Nader's "Told You So"

Scott Stockdale

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In his recent book "Told You So", consumer advocate and former US presidential candidate Ralph Nader said the last ten years of intensely corporatist, militaristic and excessive commercialism is not - as right-wing commentators like to drone on about - making America a stronger power in the world.

In a recent CBC radio interview, Mr. Nader said that actually the exact opposite is closer to the truth. The above-mentioned policies have actually weakened, not strengthened, the United States.

“It was also a time when Wall Street collapsed on the economy and unemployed eight million workers, shredded trillions of dollars of workers' pensions and mutual funds and then got bailed out and became even more concentrated: a few big banks such as Citi Group and Bank of America, too big to fail and more power in Washington.”

He added that in the 1930's, during the great depression, when the big companies messed up they lost power. They were regulated.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt took after them. Now they gain power in direct proportion to how badly they messed up.

“For the last 10 years the people who told us the wrong things, got us into Iraq, sucked up a lot of public infrastructure money for more weapons systems, when there's no more Soviet Union, and deregulated Wall Street and shipped our industries and jobs overseas with NAFTA and WTO; and they are all wrong, and what's their reward: positions in government, high-paying positions in corporations, $100,000 speeches, million dollar book advances, and they're wrong.”

He said he wrote the book – a collection of his columns – because he wants people to be less discouraged about the future of their country and more motivated to do something about it, and “It's easier than you think.”

“If you look back at the history of Canada and the US, the great things we've inherited, they were started and pursued by very few people who really stood up; but they represented broader public support, however passive - public sentiment as Abraham Lincoln called it - and they made it happen. So what's our excuse? We've got the internet. They did it without electricity.”

Citing the example of citizens mobilizing against the Keystone pipeline on both sides of the Canada – US border, Mr. Nader said citizens' organizations are already affecting government policy; and he believes corporatism can be subordinated to the sovereignty of the people.

He advises citizen's organizations to focus on the Congress because that's where the money comes from and that's where the power is.

“They gotta get votes, so to them if you push them as citizens back home in their ridings or districts, then they start valuing the votes more than the money - the special interest money - and when they start valuing the votes more, in comes the agenda for the people.”

Citing increasing marches by farmers, consumer groups and local business people in the United States, as examples of citizen mobilization, Mr. Nader said these groups need a coordinated agenda and, they can look to Canada for examples of this.

“Here in Canada, there are labour groups, environmental groups, consumer groups, with over a million members, who are about to present a coordinated agenda on the future of Canada.”

However, he also said Canada faces a lot of the same problems as the US, such as a growing income and wealth gap and child poverty.

“I read reports on Canadian Policy Alternatives in Ottawa and they're considered progressive or left but they're accurate.  They're much more accurate than the Fraser Institute and they're painting a picture of the US pulling Canada down by its influence and by the resurgence of corporate power, from the days of Trudeau and Lester Pearson. 

It's basically the Canadian consensus of a social safety net up against the Washington consensus of corporate globalization, which is militarism, corporatism and excessive commercialization with children.”

Despite the trend toward the right-wing market drive agenda – which, of course doesn't apply when big banks need handouts – Mr. Nadr said if citizens can reach enough people, they can make the US a wonderful society and, play it throughout the world, so their country becomes a humanitarian superpower, that spends a fraction of the money it now spends on weapon systems, on waging peace., both at home and abroad.

“You can't not be affected by the by millions of kids dying of starvation or dying from preventable diseases or contaminated water.”

Moreover, as Mr. Nader noted, these problems are not just in Third World Countries.  They are prevalent in the US:  the richest country in the world.

“The horrible poverty in our country, it's not just in the Ozak and Appalachian Mountains. It's in the cities, in the suburbs. Half of the people in this country, in the US, are poor. The more you know about how the power structure manipulates – the combination of greed and power – which is at the bottom of most of it, the more motivated you've got to get.”

Indeed, Mr. Nadr said he'd like his legacy to be the development of citizen skills in American schools, right from the third or fourth grade, so children understand their communities, what's necessary for them to put forward, and stop being controlled by entertainment and little gadgets in their hands.

“It's only the heroic whistleblowers, who stop self-censoring themselves, who keep that shining light of private and public integrity alive in this country; and they're reviled constantly. We want to turn them into heroes.”

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On July 7, 2024 in Toronto, Canada, Dimitri Lascaris delivered a speech on the right to resist oppression.

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