April 24, 2002


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Taking on corporate government in an age of surrender

Goals for a better America and stronger democratic tools.

By Ralph Nader

AT CIVIC RALLIES we are holding around the country, the talk is of the need for change, for the pursuit of greater justice as a precondition for the pursuit of greater happiness. Filling large arenas such as the Rose Garden in Portland, Ore., or the Sundome in Tampa, Fla., these gatherings, together with tables presided over by hundreds of local and state social justice groups, are conveying that more citizen time is needed, that if millions of Americans could devote a small amount of time, major changes long overdue would occur to bring about fairness, productivity, respect for the environment, and a community cultural revival of more sustainable self-reliance, in regard to energy, food, and shelter.

There is nothing out of reach or utopian about these objectives. They are well within the resources, intelligence, and values of our society. I summarized these first-stage goals for a better America and stronger democratic tools in my new book, Crashing the Party: Taking on the Corporate Government in an Age of Surrender, to wit:

1. Enact legislation that mandates publicly financed public elections and broad reforms of the electoral process by facilitating the ease of banding together as consumers, workers, and taxpayers. Strengthen citizen participation in our political economy.

2. Enact living-wage laws, strengthen worker health and safety laws, and repeal Taft-Hartley and other obstructions to collective bargaining and worker rights.

3. Issue environmental protection standards to systematically reduce damaging environmental toxins and to promote sustainable technologies like solar energy and organic farming.

4. Provide full Medicare coverage for everyone and revamp our national programs for prevention of disease and trauma.

5. Launch a national mission to abolish poverty, as some other Western democracies have done, based on proposals made long ago by conservatives, liberals, and progressives.

6. Design and implement a national security policy to counter violence and the silent mass violence of global diseases, environmental devastation, and extreme poverty. Reduce waste and corporate domination of defense budgets – a wasteful defense is a weak defense. Vigorously wage peace and advance nonviolence by education and by foreseeing and forestalling global perils.

7. Renegotiate NAFTA and GATT to be democratic and to be "pull-up," not "pull-down" trade agreements that subordinate labor, consumer, and environmental standards to commercial trade matters.

8. End criminal justice system discrimination, reject the failed war on drugs in favor of rehabilitation and community development, and replace for-profit corporate prisons with superior public institutions.

9. Defend and strengthen the civil justice system, apply criminal laws against corporate crime, and fully prosecute consumer fraud and abuses. Expand consumer, worker, and children's health, safety, and economic rights.

10. Strengthen investor-shareholder rights, remedies, and authority over managers, officers, and boards of directors so that those who own the companies also control them. End the massive corporate welfare schemes that distort and misallocate public budgets. Reintroduce the historic function of corporate chartering as an instrument of ensuring corporate accountability and the sovereignty of the people.

The sorry political record of the last several years, marked by one capitulation to corporate demands after another, reminds us of how pressing is the work to strengthen our American democracy.

For more information on how you can become involved in this civic effervescence, visit our Web pages: www.democracyrising.org and www.citizenworks.org.
Ralph Nader is the author of Crashing the Party: Taking on the Corporate Government in an Age of Surrender (A Thomas Dunne Book for St. Martin's Press).