August 24th, 2010

A trend in the US – and maybe elsewhere?

Seems to me the anti-corporate Left/Right thing might be catching on. Of course there are many, important, wedge issues in the way – but it’s hard to argue that clipping the ears of the big corporate defense contractors (and food producers) and their paid sponsors in Congress and in The White House is probably one of the most critical issues we face.

WSJ 2010 August 19:

“Where Left and Right Converge;
Anticorporatist views are becoming more and more common.”

RALPH NADER

Earlier this year, Barney Frank and Ron Paul convened the Sustainable Defense Task Force, consisting of experts “spanning the ideological spectrum.” They recommended a 10-year, $1 trillion reduction in Pentagon spending that disturbed some in the military-industrial complex.

Other members of Congress were surprised by this improbable combination of lawmakers taking on such a taboo subject. But the spiral of bloated, wasteful military expenditures documented by newspapers has reached the point where opposites on the political-ideological spectrum were willing to make common cause.

A convergence of liberal-progressives with conservative-libertarians centering on the autocratic, corporate-dominated nature of our government may be growing. To be sure, there are obstacles to a synthesis of anticorporatist views becoming a political movement.

One is over-concern with labels and abstractions by both political factions. Yet once they take up the daily injustices—credit-card ripoffs, unsafe drugs and contaminated food—affecting people everywhere, common ground can be found. Another obstacle is that the concentrated power of big money and lobbies have so overtaken both political parties and controlled the parameters of political conversation that progressives and libertarians fail to recognize their similar, deep aversions to concentrated power of any kind. Finally, the anticorporatists in both camps are reluctant to collaborate in principled action because they have battled over issues for so long where they do not agree.

Yet this reluctance may be fading as abuses of corporate power, especially when supplemented by state power, become more plain to all. The multitrillion dollar bailout of an avariciously reckless Wall Street rammed through Washington, without any input from an angry public, epitomized shared outrage.

This perceived feeling of being excluded, disrespected and then taxed for the crimes and abuses of big business has been building for years. The loss of both sovereignty and jobs have produced a lasting resentment toward the antidemocratic North American Free Trade Agreement, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and unpatriotic U.S. corporations that hollow out communities as they shift industries to China and other repressive regimes.

I have received earfuls on these matters during my three nationwide presidential campaigns from both workers and taxpayers who call themselves conservatives or progressives. The Main Street versus Wall Street figures of speech bespeak a deep sense of loss of control over just about everything that matters to people’s lives. In their daily discourse they know that big government beats to the drums of big business or, to use the elegant words of conservative philosopher Russell Kirk, “a host of squalid oligarchs.”

Because corporatists falsely assume the mantle of conservatism, they keep agendas that the left and right would agree on—such as cracking down on corporate crime, fraud and abuse against consumers, taxpayers and investors—from being heard and talked about and acted upon. The issues that don’t get nearly the attention they deserve include opposition to the arbitrary erosion of privacy by the Patriot Act and to the daily collection and storage of personal consumer information in corporate databases; resistance to tax-funded sports stadiums, the Federal Reserve’s out-of-control powers, unconstitutional wars and monopolistic practices against small business, and to the swarm of corporate welfare subsidies, tax havens, handouts, giveaways and bailouts.

Corporate abuse is recognized by elements in our society that might surprise you. Some years ago, at a sizable gathering of evangelical Christians, I denounced the rampant direct marketing to children of junk food and violent programming, undermining parental authority and furthering childhood obesity and mental coarseness. As people of faith, as parents and citizens, the audience responded enthusiastically.

No matter how often corporatists call themselves conservatives, the two hail from very different moral, historical and intellectual antecedents.

The powerful nuclear power industry discovered this difference in 1983, when a tight coalition of conservative, environmental and taxpayer groups defeated the deficit-ridden Clinch River Breeder Reactor in Tennessee. More recently, in 2008, demands coming from both the left and right that Congress ban genetic discrimination by health insurers overcame the corporatist lobby.

In several polls, including ones by Businessweek and Gallup, a sizable majority of Americans say that corporations have too much control over their lives, that both major parties are failing and that America is going in the wrong direction.

Once this slowly awakening giant of American reform shucks off the corporatists who divide, distort and deny many common identities, a dynamic civic force for freedom, fairness and prosperity will define and advance its own political and electoral agendas.

—–

Mr. Nader is a consumer advocate and the author of “Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us” (Seven Stories Press, 2009).

December 1st, 2009

It’s time for a military draft

If President Obama, who I voted for because I thought he was progressive, sends 30,000 troops into Afghanistan it’s time to institute compulsory military service in the United States. Our military has depended on “Stop Loss,” the ultimate Catch-22, to keep volunteers in the military seemingly for ever. I think that doctors, lawyers and bankers should be forced to have their sons and daughters placed in harms way. The Stop Loss policies first embraced by President George Bush the lesser and currently embraced by Barack Obama guarantee that so many military volunteers have no way of knowing when they have fulfilled their contract with The State. For the most part the folks that are fighting the battles resulting from the lip service paid to National Security by a rarefied group of elites that love to wave
“our flag,” come from the poor sectors of our society. Interestingly most of those elites huffing and puffing the loudest have never had to carry arms in battle. It’s time to spread the risk among all – rich and poor alike.

November 18th, 2009

STRIKE at The University of California (UC)

Tomorrow, for the second time this semester, staff, faculty and students at the University of California campuses will go on strike for 3-days. The first strike, a one-day strike on September 24, which I attended, saw an estimated 5,000 workers, students and faculty jammed into UC Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza. That strike and demonstration was, by most accounts, the largest gathering at Sproul since the late 1960′s – early 1970′s. Other campuses through out California also had to deal with students, faculty and workers dismayed with the direction the Universities Board of Regents has chosen. BTW, this week, the UC Board of Regents will meet and vote on a proposed 32% tuition increase (averaged) and on further increases in tuition for students enrolled in “desirable” and potentially profitable professional fields (medicine, law and business for examples).

The concept behind public education in the United States used to be that it was for the public good. It would seem that the role of institutions of higher eduction now are to produce bean counters and “yes men” to service the needs of our corporate elites. I can’t wait to see how this weeks UC strike plays out in the corporate press – if the corporate reporters cover the strike and their editors allow publication, what details will they reveal? I think what they say will speak volumes about who thinks “they” are in charge. I think we are entering a new age of class warfare – it will be interesting to see how this clash between the elites and the people plays out (ie which group, the corporate elites, or the public is left gasping for their last breath?)

for a quick rundown see or listen to yesterdays edition of DEMOCRACY NOW

UPDATE (091118 00:18h): Other links of interest related to The Strike:

Coalition of University Employee (CUE)

UC Layoff FAQ (from UC “human resources”)

PR from a UC HR website – it must be true if it comes from HR :)

NO BUSINESS AS USUAL

The Daily Californian an independent, student-run newspaper

Update 091118: I was thinking about something my father used to talk about before I reached my teens, “a society shows what it values most by the wages it pays.” A WWII veteran from a family that just made it through the depression he used his GI Bill benefits to earn a PhD. When he declared his belief a union truck driver was, on average, making about $10,000 a year more than he was. After spending nearly a decade learning, studying and earning his PhD. he was teaching nursing students and future physicians about the structure of the human body and the intricacies of our bodies physiology and neural systems, he was also educating future scientists and interested students (citizens) about the subtle relationships that exist between fresh water fishes and their environment. The list of folks that make scads more money than the people we entrust with our intellectual and creative futures is an insult to logic – I’ll leave it to you to do the calculations.

LA Times (OpEd): “Is a $26,000 UC education still a deal?

San Francisco Chronicle: “Regents committee recommends UC fee hikes.”

Mercury News: “UC regents recommend 32 percent fee hike.”

Mercury News: “UC regents show support for Yudof; demonstrators arrested.”

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