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Nader: Citizens' Sense of Powerlessness Is Corporate America's Biggest Asset

Ralph Nader spoke tonight [in D.C.] about the sorry state of democracy in the United States, at a book-signing event at Olsson's Books and Records.
by Marc Borbely 7:18pm Tue Jan 8 '02
address: 536 13th St. NE, Washington DC 20002
phone: 202-544-2447  borbely@howitis.org

{This article can be found at the follwing link:

Ralph Nader spoke tonight about the sorry state of democracy in the United States, at a book-signing event at Olsson's Books and Records.

The United States is suffering from a lack of democracy, Ralph Nader said tonight, speaking at a book-signing event at Olsson's Books and Records in Washington, D.C. The few are dominating the many, he told the crowd of between 200 and 250, who were predominantly white and mostly in their 20s, 30s or 40s.

The country's rulers are powerful because they are united, and because those being ruled think (wrongly) that they're powerless, Nader said. "The biggest asset of corporate America is the feeling by tens of millions of people that they don't count."

He said there should be a constitutional amendment addressing the rights of corporations. Corporations, he said, are currently given all the rights and privileges of people, but many legal immunities that individuals don't have. He also said that beyond granting people rights, laws must ensure that people have the ability to exercise those rights. "We need facilities to allow people to easily band together as workers, consumers, taxpayers and so forth."

The lack of democracy means the powerful have been able to ignore the plight of the poor, Nader said. One in three workers in the country are not making a living wage of $10 per hour, he said. When T.V. economists and Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan spoke of a booming economy in the last few years, they were talking about wealth "without talking about distributional realities," Nader said. "Poverty is a no-no word."

Nader attacked the debate commission, which decides who gets to participate in the nationally televised debates. The commission, Nader said, is not a government entity but rather a private corporation sponsored by beer companies and run by Democrats and Republicans ("Anheuser-Bush-Gore," he called it). Its decisions served to greatly limited the number of people he was able to reach in his campaign, he said.

Nader said he was the only candidate in the 2000 presidential elections who campaigned in all 50 states. Nevertheless, he said, he was able to reach only 1 percent of the number of people he could have reached by being allowed to participate in one nationally televised debate.

One of his projects over the next two years, he said, will be to "finish off" the debate commission and "replace it with a people's debate commission." The crowd at Olsson's applauded.

It also means the nation may be making a mistake in its war on terrorism, endangering itself rather than averting future threats. Aiming to kill or capture terrorists in Afghanistan, the U.S. military is bombing and destroying a whole country, he said. "It's like burning down a haystack to find a needle." Efforts to make the United States impenetrable to terrorists are futile, he said. If more voices could have been heard or taken into account as the country was preparing for war, Nader said, the country might have taken a wiser path.

Nader made a pitch to the audience to participate in the ruling of their world. "Democracy is not a spectator sport," he said. To increase voter turnout, he said, there ballots should include a binding "no" option. Under his proposal, if enough people voted no, he said, the slate would be wiped clean and a new set of candidates would have to be found.

The former candidate said "it's too early to tell" whether he'll run again for president in 2004. He ended his comments by urging that the U.S. flag never be waved in protesters' faces. The flag, he said, was never meant to be used as a bandanna. He said the flag stands for a nation "with liberty and justice for all."