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Can Right and Left Rally Against Walmart?

337112_protest against Wal-Mart

By Ralph Nader | November 28, 2013

One of the most profitable corporations in America is having a holiday food drive. Sounds good — it’s the least Corporate America can do for those struggling to make ends meet while big companies rake in record profits and give so little back. But wait… there’s a catch. The food drive is for the company’s own underpaid, poverty-stricken workers. You really can’t make this stuff up.

Last week, it was reported that a Walmart store in Canton, Ohio is asking for food donations for its own employees. Photos of the food donation bins circulated online showing signs that read: “Please donate food items here so associates in need can enjoy Thanksgiving dinner.” (That’s if they even have a chance to — Walmart stores are open on Thanksgiving and are beginning their “Black Friday” deals at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day to get a jump on the holiday shopping madness.)

Walmart is America’s largest employer with a workforce consisting of 1.3 million “associates.” The company made nearly $17 billion in profit last year. So why can’t Walmart afford to pay its own store workers enough for them to enjoy a holiday meal with their families? The answer is Walmart doesn’t really care about its workers.

If the Walmart food donation drive doesn’t get you properly steamed, then consider that Walmart CEO, Mike Duke, makes approximately $11,000 an hour — he took home about $20.7 million last year, plus ample benefits. Still not mad? It has also recently been reported that Duke has a retirement package worth more than $113 million! That is 6,200 times larger than the average 401k savings of a non-executive level Walmart employee! (Check out this recent report which charts other massive CEO pensions in relation to those of average workers)

One final fact to really get your dander up — The Walton family, heirs to the Walmart fortune, have accumulated more financial wealth than the entire bottom 40 percent of the population of the United States or 313 million Americans. That’s six Waltons worth a combined $102.7 billion!

No matter what one’s political leanings may be, the problem of massive income inequality and insatiable corporate greed is worsening year-by-year as CEO salaries rise, overall corporate profits soar and worker salaries stagnate. Liberal or conservative–all Americans should be outraged by this trend.

I recently wrote to conservative anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist to bring both sides of the political spectrum together on this troubling issue. In the past, Mr. Norquist and I have backed popular, reasonable policies, such as putting the full text of government contracts online, rolling back corporate welfare and opposing the civil liberties restrictive Patriot Act. As someone who claims to care about taxpayer protection, the issue of poverty-level wages and their major effect on taxpayers should be an important issue for Mr. Norquist.

Here’s why — low wages at the 10 largest fast food chains cost taxpayers $3.8 billion per year. Fifty-two percent of families of fast food workers have to rely on government assistance. McDonald’s’ “McResource” help line goes so far as to advise workers who cannot make ends meet from their poverty-level wages to sign up for government food stamps and home heating assistance. Is it fair that taxpayers have to shell out $1.2 billion a year to subsidize McDonald’s paying its workers while the fast food giant rakes in $5.5 billion in profit?

Walmart is even worse — according to a study from the Democratic staff of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce study, a single Walmart Supercenter store in Wisconsin can cost taxpayers upwards of $1.75 million in public assistance programs. If taxpayers have to cover over $1 million for just one 300-employee superstore, consider how much Walmart is costing taxpayers each year at their 4,135 stores in the United States. According to the 2012 “Walmart Associate Benefits Book”, which is distributed to employees, the company also advises its workers about getting on public assistance. Is this a fair or reasonable burden on taxpayers as Walmart reports $17 billion in profits?

Over the past five years, Walmart has had enough excess funds to buy back billions in its own stock. Walmart reportedly spent $7.6 billion last year buying back its shares. These funds are enough to raise the salaries of the lowest paid workers by $5.83 an hour. Catherine Ruetschlin, policy analyst at Demos, stated in a recent release: “These share repurchases benefit an increasingly narrow group of people, including the six Walton family heirs. But buybacks do not improve the fundamentals of the firm. If the funds were used to raise the pay of Walmart’s 825,000 low paid workers, it would not harm the retailer’s competitive ability and would add no cost to the consumer.”

(See the recent report from Demos titled: “A Higher Wage is Possible”)

The quickest way to lessen reliance on food stamp, EITC and Medicaid outlays is to raise the federal minimum wage. Raising the wage has the backing of 80 percent of Americans, 69 percent of Republicans, and even writers from The National Review and The American Conservative magazines. So why isn’t there more rage from the other end of the political spectrum? Even Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney supported raising the minimum wage to keep up with inflation — at least until Mitt Romney flip-flopped on the issue during the 2012 election.

The support of Grover Norquist and the Congressional followers of his no-tax pledge would be a significant boost for 30 million struggling workers who make less today than workers made in 1968, inflation adjusted. With a doubling in both worker productivity and the cost of living, there is no excuse for such a decline in their livelihoods.

Mr. Norquist, join this fight to protect taxpayers. Underpaid workers (who are also taxpayers) and their families need your support.

November 27, 2013 Posted by | Economics, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Corporatizing National Security: What It Means

By Ralph Nader | June 20, 2013

Privacy is a sacred word to many Americans, as demonstrated by the recent uproar over the brazen invasion of it by the Patriot Act-enabled National Security Agency (NSA). The information about dragnet data-collecting of telephone and internet records leaked by Edward Snowden has opened the door to another pressing conversation—one about privatization, or corporatization of this governmental function.

In addition to potentially having access to the private electronic correspondence of American citizens, what does it mean that Mr. Snowden—a low-level contractor—had access to critical national security information not available to the general public? Author James Bamford, an expert on intelligence agencies, recently wrote: “The Snowden case demonstrates the potential risks involved when the nation turns its spying and eavesdropping over to companies with lax security and inadequate personnel policies. The risks increase exponentially when those same people must make critical decisions involving choices that may lead to war, cyber or otherwise.”

This is a stark example of the blurring of the line between corporate and governmental functions. Booz Allen Hamilton, the company that employed Mr. Snowden, earned over $5 billion in revenues in the last fiscal year, according to The Washington Post. The Carlyle Group, the majority owner of Booz Allen Hamilton, has made nearly $2 billion on its $910 million investment in “government consulting.” It is clear that “national security” is big business.

Given the value and importance of privacy to American ideals, it is disturbing how the terms “privatization” and “private sector” are deceptively used. Many Americans have been led to believe that corporations can and will do a better job handling certain vital tasks than the government can. Such is the ideology of privatization. But in practice, there is very little evidence to prove this notion. Instead, the term “privatization” has become a clever euphemism to draw attention away from a harsh truth. Public functions are being handed over to corporations in sweetheart deals while publicly owned assets such as minerals on public lands and research development breakthroughs are being given away at bargain basement prices.

These functions and assets—which belong to or are the responsibility of the taxpayers—are being used to make an increasingly small pool of top corporate executives very wealthy. And taxpayers are left footing the cleanup bill when corporate greed does not align with the public need.

With this in mind, let us not mince words. “Privatization” is a soft term. Let us call the practice what it really is—corporatization.

There’s big money to be made in moving government-owned functions and assets into corporate hands. Public highways, prisons, drinking water systems, school management, trash collection, libraries, the military and now even national security matters are all being outsourced to corporations. But what happens when such vital government functions are performed for big profit rather than the public good?

Look to the many reports of waste, fraud, and abuse that arose out of the over-use of corporate contractors in Iraq. At one point, there were more contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan than U.S. soldiers. Look to the private prisons, which make their money by incarcerating as many people as they can for as long as they can. Look to privatized water systems, the majority of which deliver poorer service at higher costs than public utility alternatives. Visit privatizationwatch.org for many more examples of the perils, pitfalls and excesses of rampant, unaccountable corporatization.

In short, corporatizing public functions does not work well for the public, consumers and taxpayers who are paying through the nose.

Some right-wing critics might view government providing essential public services as “socialism,” but as it now stands, we live in a nation increasingly comprised of corporate socialism. There is great value in having public assets and functions that are already owned by the people, to be performed for the public benefit, and not at high profit margins and prices for big corporations. By allowing corporate entities to assume control of such functions, it makes profiteering the central determinant in what, how, and why vital services are rendered.

Just look at the price of medicines given to drug companies by taxpayer-funded government agencies that discovered them.

(Autographed copies of my new book Told You So: The Big Book of Weekly Columns are available from Politics and Prose, an independent book store in Washington D.C.)

June 21, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Economics | , , , , | Leave a comment

How Big Corporations are Unpatriotic

By Ralph Nader | March 28, 2013

Many giant profitable U.S. corporations are increasingly abandoning America while draining it at the same time.

General Electric, for example, has paid no federal income taxes for a decade while becoming a net job exporter and fighting its hard-pressed workers who want collective bargaining through unions like the United Electrical Workers Union (UE). GE’s boss, Jeffrey Immelt, makes about $12,400 an hour on an 8-hour day, plus benefits and perks, presiding over this global corporate empire.

Telling by their behavior, these big companies think patriotism toward the country where they were created and prospered is for chumps. Their antennae point to places where taxes are very low, labor is wage slavery, independent unions are non-existent, governments have their hands out, and equal justice under the rule of law does not exist. China, for example, has fit that description for over 25 years.

Other than profiteering from selling Washington very expensive weapons of mass destruction, many multinational firms have little sense of true national security.

Did you know that about 80 percent of the ingredients in medicines Americans take now come from China and India where visits by FDA inspectors are infrequent and inadequate?

The lucrative U.S. drug industry – coddled with tax credits, free transfer of almost-ready-to-market drugs developed with U.S. taxpayer dollars via the National Institutes of Health – charges Americans the highest prices for drugs in the world and still wants more profits. Drug companies no longer produce many necessary medicines like penicillin in the U.S., preferring to pay slave wages abroad to import drugs back into the U.S.

Absence of patriotism has exposed our country to dependency on foreign suppliers for crucial medicines, and these foreign suppliers may not be so friendly in the future.

Giant U.S. companies are strip-mining America in numerous ways, starting with the corporate tax base. By shifting more of their profits abroad to “tax-haven” countries (like the Cayman Islands) through transfer pricing and other gimmicks, and by lobbying many other tax escapes through Congress, they can report record profits in the U.S. with diminishing tax payments. Yet they are benefiting from the public services, special privileges, and protection by our armed forces because they are U.S. corporations.

On March 27, 2013, the Washington Post reported that compared to forty years ago, big companies that “routinely cited U.S. federal tax expenses that were 25 to 50 percent of their worldwide profits,” are now reporting less than half that share. For instance, Proctor and Gamble was paying 40 percent of its total profits in taxes in 1969; today it pays 15 percent in federal taxes. Other corporations pay less or no federal income taxes.

Welcome to globalization. It induces dependency on instabilities in tiny Greece and Cyprus that shock stock investments by large domestic pension and mutual funds here in the U.S. Plus huge annual U.S. trade deficits, which signals the exporting of millions of jobs.

The corporate law firms for these big corporations were the architects of global trade agreements that make it easy and profitable to ship jobs and industries to fascist and communist regimes abroad while hollowing out U.S. communities and throwing their loyal American workers overboard. It’s not enough that large corporations are paying millions of American workers less than workers were paid in 1968, adjusted for inflation.

Corporate bosses can’t say they’re just keeping up with the competition; they muscled through the trade system that pulls down on our country’s relatively higher labor, consumer and environmental standards.

Corporate executives, when confronted with charges that show little respect for the country, its workers and its taxpayers who made possible their profits and subsidized their mismanagement, claim they must maximize their profits for their shareholders and their worker pension obligations.

Their shareholders? Is that why they’re stashing $1.7 trillion overseas in tax havens instead of paying dividends to their rightful shareholder-owners, which would stimulate our economy? Shareholders? Are those the people who have been stripped of their rights as owners and prohibited from even keeping a lid on staggeringly sky-high executive salaries ranging from $5,000 to $20,000 an hour or more, plus perks?

Why these corporate bosses can’t even abide one democratically-run shareholders’ meeting a year without gaveling down their owners and cutting time short. To get away from as many of their shareholder-owners as possible, AT&T is holding its annual meeting on April 26 in remote Cheyenne, Wyoming!

Pension obligations for their workers? The award-winning reporter for the Wall Street Journal Ellen E. Shultz demonstrates otherwise. In her gripping book Retirement Heist: How Companies Plunder and Profit from the Nest Eggs of American Workers, she shows how by “exploiting loopholes, ambiguous regulations and new accounting rules,” companies deceptively tricked employees and turned their pension plans into piggy banks, tax shelters and profit centers.

Recently, I wrote to the CEOs of the 20 largest U.S. corporations, asking if they would stand up at their annual shareholders’ meetings and on behalf of their U.S. chartered corporation (not on behalf of their boards of directors), and pledge allegiance to the flag ending with those glorious words “with liberty and justice for all.” Nineteen of the CEOs have not yet replied. One, Chevron, declined the pledge request but said their patriotism was demonstrated creating jobs and sparking economic activity in the U.S.

But when corporate lobbyists try to destroy our right of trial by jury for wrongful injuries – misnamed tort reform – when they destroy our freedom of contract – through all that brazenly one-sided fine print – when they corrupt our constitutional elections with money and unaccountable power, when they commercialize our education and patent our genes, and outsource jobs to other countries, the question of arrogantly rejected patriotism better be front-and-center for discussion by the American people.

March 29, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

Obama Has Been Speechless on Minimum Wage

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford | September 4, 2012

The impoverishment of politics in the Age of Obama has been nothing short of amazing. This president has so suppressed every vestigial remnant of progressivism in the political discourse, that the most fundamental bread and butter issues have become taboo. I’m talking about raising the federal minimum wage, which has been stuck at $7.25 an hour since 2007, the year before the bottom fell out of the economy.

A new study shows that the Great Recession was most destructive of decent-paying jobs, the middle tier where working people earned between about $14 and $21 an hour. That’s where sixty percent of job losses occurred between 2008 and 2010, and most of those jobs have not come back. Instead, the greatest increase in jobs has come in the low-wage sector, with a median pay from $7.69 – just above the federal minimum – to $13.83 an hour. The lowest wage sector now accounts for almost 60 percent of job growth, with traditionally bad-paying jobs in food preparation and retail sales leading the way.

High unemployment, on top of the disappearance of living wage jobs. You would think that in an election year, the party that is most identified with working people and folks that need to find work would be screaming at the top of their lungs: Raise the minimum wage! But, you will hear little or nothing of that from the Democratic convention festivities in Charlotte.

It’s not that the delegates are unaware of the crying need for a higher minimum wage. The Democratic platform – for what its worth – declares that “we will raise the minimum wage, and index it to inflation.” However, it doesn’t say how much, or when. And that’s in deference to the party’s standard bearer, who has not said anything meaningful about the minimum wage since he was campaigning for president in 2008. Back then, Obama promised to work to raise the minimum to $9.50 by 2011. Then he got elected, and we heard nothing more about it.

When the president is mum on an issue, then the party faithful put themselves on mute. There are bills in the House and the Senate to raise the minimum wage – the best one is sponsored by Chicago Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., calling for an immediate $10 an hour minimum, tied to inflation. But, there’s no chance of these bills going anywhere without the cooperation of Democratic leadership. Ralph Nader and others have beseeched party leaders to break the silence, but they don’t dare raise the issue for fear of embarrassing their President.

Apologists for Obama will claim that pushing for a $10 minimum wage indexed to inflation – or any significant raise – would hurt his chances for re-election. But the poll numbers show differently, with huge public support for an increase, including among lots of Republicans. Even Mitt Romney says he supports linking the minimum wage to inflation – just not right now. Obama has effectively been saying “no, not now” to underpaid workers for almost four years. So, why in the hell is labor getting ready to spend tens of millions of dollars to re-elect him, instead of building a movement that will force politicians to do the right thing?

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

September 5, 2012 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Economics | , , , | Leave a comment

On Second Thought, It Is All Nader’s Fault

By Arthur Sibler | Power of Narrative | July 06, 2012

One of the more pathetically transparent and easily refuted lies told by committed Democratic tribalists is that the outcome of the 2000 election was all Ralph Nader’s fault. The more idiotic Democratic partisans will proclaim that, if only that rotten Ralph hadn’t selfishly and stupidly siphoned votes from the messianic Albert of Gore, Saint Al would have ascended to the White House on gossamer wings, the U.S. never would have gone to war in Iraq, American dependence on oil would have been swept away by the windmills of our minds, we would have rediscovered and recommitted ourselves to “true” American values (which have nothing to do with anything the U.S. has actually done, mind you, but are to be found in the record of the fantasy United States brewed in the shallower pools of the stagnant minds of these professional delusionists), the world would have been born anew — and every single one of us would have our own adorable puppy dog along with a fucking rainbow.

Except…not.

I’ve made the arguments set forth in the linked article many times myself over the years, too many times over too many years. I’m not going to make them any longer.

For all I know, Nader himself may well believe he’s the reason Gore lost. Why do I say that? Because Nader believes several massive boatloads of unmitigated shit.

I am not going to be the only person who must spend half an hour cleaning vomit from his keyboard. So please accompany me on this brief tour of the tortured byways of what passes for Nader’s mind. He begins thusly:

If the Democrats in Congress were all drinking water from the same faucet, there might be a clue to their chronic fear of the craven and cruel corporatist Republicans who dominate them.

But they don’t, so we have to ask why their fear, defeatism, and cowering behavior continues in the face of the outrageous GOP actions as the November election approaches.

Keep in mind that the purpose of Nader’s column is to “save” the Democrats from what he perceives as self-immolation. One might wonder why he believes such a desultory group of gutless, fear-ridden maggots can be “saved” at all. The only reason that he offers is that they still call themselves “Democrats.” How marvelously subtle and unexpected.

Nader’s next paragraph might erroneously lead you to believe that he intends to get to the real problem:

The explanations go back some years. The Democrats have long receded from the Harry Truman days of “give ‘em hell, Harry”. But their political castration occurred in the late seventies when the Democrats were persuaded by one of their own, Congressman Tony Coelho (D-Calif.), to start aggressively bidding for corporate campaign cash.

Ah, so perhaps the Democrats began to pursue an agenda that was notably friendly to corporate interests? But Nader immediately abandons this line of inquiry, to return to the reliable theme of irredeemably loathsome Republicans who “torture” Democrats. No wonder the poor Democrats are dominated by fear and weakness: they’re “tortured daily”!

And then we read a paragraph that reduced me to open-mouthed astonishment. Nader intends the following as an indictment of “the unpopular agendas pitched by these Wall Street puppets” — by which he means “Republican leaders.” This is the paragraph:

One would think that politicians who side with big corporations would be politically vulnerable for endangering both America and the American people. These corrupt politicians promote corporate tax loopholes and side with insurance and drug companies on costly health care proposals. They defend the corporate polluters on their unsafe workplaces, dirty air, water and contaminated food, push for more deficit spending in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, neglect Main Street based public works-repair-America-jobs programs, support high-interest student loans, cover for oil industry greed at the pump, and are hell-bent on taking the federal cops off the corporate crime beats.

There is one slight problem with this analysis: it perfectly describes the Democrats’ program. The abominable — and now constitutional! — health “care” bill was championed not by Boehner or Cantor, but by Barack Obama. The wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and on and on are prosecuted by the Obama administration. The same is true of every item in Nader’s list.

Moreover, the program of systematic assassination by secret decree is not the invention of George W. Bush, but of Barack Obama. As I have noted many times before, this program represents the assertion of absolute power. Absolute power has been claimed and is fervently supported by Democrats. For any semi-decent human being, this should kill the Democratic Party until such time as it renounces the murder program fully and repeatedly, and then acts over a period of years to demonstrate that its renunciation is genuine.

I consider it impossible that Nader just happens to miss these points. I am forced to conclude that either he is now willing to lie across the board, including on every matter of the gravest significance, or he has become the victim of his chosen self-delusions to a degree that renders his brain non-functional in any meaningful sense. See my recent post on self-made stupidity and blindness for more on the latter point.

The column is remarkably and childishly confused. Strewn among the formulaic denunciations of “extremist” Republicans is this admission: “Unfortunately, on military and foreign policy there isn’t much of a difference [between the parties]. So the bright line will have to be on domestic issues.”

But a few paragraphs later, Nader writes:

There are plenty of bright-line issues for the Democrats. Get tough on Wall Street and corporate crime, protect pensions, end the wars, tax the corporate and wealthy tax-escapees, launch community-based public works programs, provide full Medicare for all, expand health and safety programs, to name a few.

Given his own admission, why in the world does Nader include “end the wars” on this list? But it is equally delusional to believe the Democrats will adopt any of the programs he identifies. To the contrary: the Democrats have provided voluminous evidence demonstrating that they feverishly oppose all such programs.

In brief, and as I have also said many times before, the Democrats act as they do because they are pursuing the programs and goals they want to pursue. The evidence is all around us, in the mangled, bleeding bodies of countless victims abroad, and in the increasingly desperate lives of more and more Americans at home. All a person has to do is open his eyes and look at it.

This is precisely what Nader and all those who have similar beliefs refuse to do. Once again, from five goddamn years ago:

[The explanation] is very simple, and it goes to the progressives’ central articles of religious faith: The Democrats aren’t really like this, not in their heart of hearts. The Democrats don’t actually favor a repressive, authoritarian state. The Democrats are good, and they want liberty and peace for everyone, everywhere, for eternity, hallelujah and amen.

People who continue to believe this have evicted themselves from serious political debate, and they have willingly made themselves slaves to their enthusiastically embraced self-delusions. They confess a comprehensive ignorance of history, a stunning inability to understand the political developments of the last century, and a desire to place the story they have chosen, primarily because it flatters their own false sense of vanity and self-worth, above every relevant fact.

So you know what I think, Ralph? Not only do I now think it’s your fault that Gore lost the 2000 election, I think that every terrible thing that has happened in the last half century is your fault!

I also know that it’s your fault I can’t lose 20 pounds. You bastard.

From now on, when idiot Democrats blame you for what are manifestly their own failures, you can defend yourself if you choose to. Good luck with that. You’ll need it.

July 8, 2012 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Civil Liberties, Economics, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

New Postal Service Plan a Bait and Switch, Equivalent of Closing 5,567 Post Offices

New “POSt Plan” Is Not Good News for Rural Post Offices or Their Customers

Ralph Nader | May 11, 2012

Consumer watchdog, Ralph Nader, today said, “The Postmaster General’s Post Office Structure Plan (“POSt Plan”) is a bait and switch tactic, and is not good news for rural Post Offices.”

The Postmaster General claims that his new strategy, released on Wednesday, is designed to benefit rural Americans and keep open the 3,652 postal facilities it was considering for closure. Though it is unclear how many of these offices are included in the “POSt Plan”, it seems that many of them have been incorporated in the new plan as well. The new direction that the Postmaster General proposed is to cut hours at nearly 13,000 Post Offices and offer early retirement incentives for more than 21,000 non-executive postmasters.

“As more details about the plan emerge, the picture grows increasingly dire for rural customers of the U.S. Postal Service,” Nader observed. “I expressed deep concern about the preliminary details of the Postmaster General’s plan on Wednesday. Unfortunately, those fears were confirmed as we have analyzed the details of the Postmaster General’s new strategy.”

After examining 260 pages of the U.S. Postal Service’s proposal for Post Office hour reductions nationwide, we found that the new strategy eliminates 42,699 hours per day from retail window hours of nearly 13,000 Post Offices.

“This proposal is calling for a gargantuan cut in retail window hours nationwide – 42,699 total hours each day. To put this in perspective, 42,699 hours equates to nearly 5 years,” Nader explained.

The current average retail window hours of the nearly 13,000 Post Offices proposed for reduced hours are 7.67 hours per day. “The enormous cut in hours that the U.S. Postal Service has proposed is the equivalent of closing 5,567 of these Post Offices. The Postmaster General started with a list of 3,652 offices being considered for closure. Now we see that by reducing window hours he has proposed the equivalent of closing 2,000 more offices than he started with,” Nader continued.

Nader concluded by saying, “This is, plain and simple, a bait and switch. As I said on Wednesday, by further restricting Post Office hours the Postmaster General makes the corporate “alternatives” to the U.S. Postal Service more likely and sets the stage for future Post Office closings when the revenues and workload of reduced-hours offices inevitably suffer. The Postmaster General has effectively taken a list of 3,652 offices that were on the chopping block and added nearly 10,000 more offices to that list.”

May 11, 2012 Posted by | Deception, Economics | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ralph Nader Calls for the Postmaster General to Resign

The Nader Page | April 26, 2012

Consumer Advocate Ralph Nader today called for Postmaster General Donahoe’s resignation. Several consumer non-profits joined him in this letter, including Public Citizen, Consumer Action, the Gray Panthers, and Essential Information. The Postmaster General Donahoe is “actively presiding over the demise of one of our country’s greatest founding institutions,” said Nader.

In December 2011, Congressman DeFazio called for the Obama administration to fire Postmaster General Donahoe. From the House floor he said, “This guy, this so-called postmaster general, should be fired because of a lack of any imagination or initiative…He’s proposing the death knell for the great United States Postal Service.”

In his letter, Nader drew attention to the fact that, if the U.S. Postal Service was not required by Congress to prepay retiree health benefits of the next 75 years by 2012, nearly 80 percent of the USPS’s deficit would be eliminated. Nader stated that this is “an imposition unheard of in either the corporate world or by any other government agency.” He continued by pointing out that the federal government even owes the U.S. Postal Service $80 billion in overpayments that the USPS has made to two retirement funds, the Civil Service Retirement System and the Federal Employees Retirement System.

Yet, Nader notes, the Postmaster General remains virtually silent on these issues. Instead, he says, the Postmaster General makes “the case for shutting rural post offices, slashing 150,000 postal employees’ jobs, ending Saturday delivery, and extending delivery dates as if they do not produce a spiral of decline and loss of customers who will not come back.”

“In a phrase, you are not up to the job!” Nader concludes.

A full copy of the letter can be found here.

For More Information Contact:
Ralph Nader or Jeff Musto
202-387-8034

April 28, 2012 Posted by | Deception | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Recognizing Heroes

By Ralph Nader | The Nader Page | April 26, 2012

The media regularly cover awards for their reporters, editors and producers. They regularly cover award ceremonies for movie stars, athletes, and business leaders. But they regularly ignore the far more important awards for people who ethically blow the whistle on corruption and suppression in both business and government, risking their careers and more to tell the truth to the American people.

Sure, the Pulitzers, the Academy Awards, the Heisman Trophy and the many business awards may seem exciting. But protecting the health, safety and economic well-being of the American people is important and serious. It is hard to conclude that recalling millions of defective automobiles and dangerous pharmaceuticals, exposing serious contamination of drinking water, lies about the BushObama wars and the huge subprime mortgage crimes should be outside the realm of news coverage.

But this news or features blackout consistently prevails, at least in Washington, D.C., even when the annual Ridenhour prizes are given to heroic figures before packed audiences of notables at the National Press Club. Named after the late Ron Ridenhour, a Vietnam War veteran who wrote to Congress about the horrific massacre at the village of My Lai, this year’s recognitions went to truth-tellers from Countrywide Financial, Bank of America, the Pentagon, the FBI, and the Marine Corps.

Each of them delivered concise, eloquent remarks that would qualify for any “Style Page” feature that requires drama, courage, human interest, resolve and proposed reforms. C-SPAN, replete with astonishingly repetitive right-wing events, was not there. Some members of the fourth estate – reporters, columnists, editorial writers or profilers – were in attendance, but no major news outlets covered this splendid event.

The Ridenhour awardees did not indulge in sentiment and self-pity. They spoke cogently about widespread dereliction or institutional crimes, and they spoke of specific ways a democratic society can foresee and forestall further recurrences. These people know what they are talking about. They are not like the glib pundits, politicians and commentators who get abundant airtime or print column inches for their insipid, ignorant, repetitive or self-serving pontifications.

When Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis spoke about his assignment for the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force which resulted in a meticulous and well-documented report from the battlefields, contrary to the official “success” claims of the generals, he provided fresh material and a sensitive mind ready to elaborate on any questions by the press.

When Ali Soufan (former FBI interrogator) spoke about the uses of torture that backfire, fail to get useful information, risk the safety of soldiers, violate the laws and stain the reputation of the U.S., he can back it up with book-length details. Soufan’s New York Times op-ed was an eye-opener but the present situation is still festering and exhibiting prevarication. Extensive reporting is still needed on this subject.

Eileen Foster, hired in 2005 by Countrywide to become the executive vice president in charge of their fraud risk management division, proved that there was a “cult” of commission-hungry loan officers who created fraudulent financial papers that expanded toxic mortgages, helping to lead to the great Wall Street-U.S. economy crash of 2008. She showed the various law enforcement paths the Justice Department failed to take against any Wall Street executive, despite ample grounds for prosecution.

And when career Marine Corps Master Sgt. Jerry Ensminger suspected that his nine-year-old daughter’s death might have an environmental cause at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, he came upon a “cover-up by the Marine Corps of one of the largest drinking water contaminations in U.S. history.” The Marine Corps learned of the carcinogenic chemicals in the groundwater at the base in 1980 and refused to officially notify the residents for another 28 years, an admission finally provoked by Sgt. Ensminger’s indefatigable campaign that went national (see the documentary “Semper Fi: Always Faithful”).

Now compare these heroic stands of the human spirit with the regular, rancid portrayals in the media of misbehaving actors, actresses, and professional athletes. There isn’t even a semblance of balance between informing the moral and voyeuristic instincts of their readers and viewers.

Lt. Colonel Davis, still on active duty, urged the audience to go forth and expand the range of their common concerns represented by these awards to ever larger circles of Americans. He declared that “telling the truth and doing your duty are synonymous.”

(For the fully streamed event, visit Ridenhour)

2012 Ridenhour Prize Winners

  • The Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling – Eileen Foster, Stood up Against Corruption at Countrywide
  • The Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling – Lt. Col. Daniel Davis, Exposed Pentagon Deceptions About the Afghan War
  • The Ridenhour Documentary Film Prize – Semper Fi, One Marine’s Quest for the Truth
  • The Ridenhour Book Prize – Ali Soufan, Former FBI Special Agent and Author of The Black Banners
  • The Ridenhour Courage Prize – Rep. John Lewis, Civil Rights Icon and Fierce Advocate for Equality and Justice

April 27, 2012 Posted by | Corruption, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

Minimum Wage: Catching up with 1968

By Ralph Nader | February 29, 2012

How inert can the Democratic Party be? Do they really want to defeat the Congressional Republicans in the fall by doing the right thing?

A winning issue is to raise the federal minimum wage, stuck at $7.25 since 2007. If it was adjusted for inflation since 1968, not to mention other erosions of wage levels, the federal minimum would be around $10.

Here are some arguments for raising the minimum wage this year to catch up with 1968 when worker productivity was half of what it is today.

1. Pure fairness for millions of hard-pressed American workers and their families. Over 70 percent of Americans in national polls support a minimum wage that keeps up with inflation.

2. Already eighteen states have enacted higher minimum wages led by Washington state to $9.04 an hour. With the support of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, the New York State legislature is considering a bill to raise the state’s minimum wage. The legislature should pass the long-blocked farm workers wage bill at the same time.

3. Since at least 1968, businesses and their executives have been raising prices and their salaries (note: Walmart’s CEO making over $11,000 an hour!) while they have been getting a profitable windfall from their struggling workers, whose federal minimum is $2.75 lower in purchasing power than it was 44 years ago.

4. The tens of billions of dollars that a $10 minimum will provide to consumers’ buying power will create more sales and more jobs. Aren’t economists all saying the most important way out of the recession and the investment stall is to increase consumer spending?

5. Most independent studies collected by the Economic Policy Institute show no decrease in employment following a minimum wage increase. Most studies show job numbers overall go up. The landmark study rebutting claims of lost jobs was conducted by Professors David Card and Alan Krueger in 1994. Professor Krueger is now chairman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers.

6. Many organizations with millions of members are on the record favoring an inflation-adjusted increase in the federal minimum wage. They include the AFL-CIO and member unions, the NAACP and La Raza, and hundreds of non-profit social service and religious organizations. They need to move from being on the record to being on the ramparts.

7. With many Republicans supporting a higher minimum wage and with Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum on their side, a push in Congress will split the iron unity of the Republicans under Senator Mitch McConnell and Speaker John Boehner and gain some Republican lawmakers for passage. This issue may also encourage some Republican voters to vote for Democrats this fall. A Republican worker in McDonalds or Walmart or a cleaning company still wants a living wage.

8. President Barack Obama declared in 2008 that he wanted a $9.50 federal minimum by year 2011. If lip-service is the first step toward action, he is on board too. There is no better time to enact a higher minimum wage than during an election year. Against millions of dollars in opposition ads in Florida in 2004, over 70 percent of the voters in a statewide referendum went for a minimum wage promoted by a penniless coalition of citizen groups.

9. The Occupy movement can supply the continuing civic jolts around the local offices of 535 members of Congress, a slim majority of whom are not opposed to raising the minimum wage but who need that high profile pressure back home. Winning this issue will give the Occupy activists many new recruits, and much more power for getting something done in an otherwise do-nothing or obstructionist corporate indentured Congress. About 80 percent of the workers affected by a minimum wage increase are over 20 years of age.

Remember there is no need to offset a higher minimum wage with lower taxes on small business. Since Obama took office there have already been 17 tax cuts for small business and no increase in the federal minimum wage.

At the University of Virginia, twelve students have begun a hunger strike to protest the low wages and other injustices inflicted on contract service-sector employees. Students at other universities are likely to follow with their Living Wage Campaigns in this American Spring. They are fed up with millions of dollars for top administrators’ salaries or amenities such as fancy practice facilities for athletes, while the blue collar workers can’t pay for the necessities of life.

Raising the federal wage to 1968 levels, inflation adjusted, is a winning issue. It just needs a few million Americans to rouse themselves for a few months as they do for their favorite sports team and connect with all those large concurring organizations and their powerful legislators, like Senate majority leader Harry Reid, a big supporter, to start the rumble that will make it a reality.

If you are interested in more information on the efforts to raise the minimum wage, send an email to info@nader.org.

February 29, 2012 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Economics | , | Leave a comment

   

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