Ralph Nader's Announcement Speech
Source Dave Anderson
Date 00/02/22/00:56

February 21, 2000 Washington, D.C.

Statement of Ralph Nader, Announcing His Candidacy for
the Green Party's Nomination for President

Today I wish to explain why, after working for years as
a citizen advocate for consumers, workers, taxpayers and
the environment, I am seeking the Green Party's
nomination for President. A crisis of democracy in our
country convinces me to take this action. Over the past
twenty years, big business has increasingly dominated our
political economy. This control by the corporate
government over our political government is creating a
widening "democracy gap." Active citizens are left
shouting their concerns over a deep chasm between them
and their government. This state of affairs is a world
away from the legislative milestones in civil rights, the
environment, and health and safety of workers and
consumers seen in the sixties and seventies. At that
time, informed and dedicated citizens powered their
concerns through the channels of government to produce
laws that bettered the lives of millions of Americans.

Today we face grave and growing societal problems in
health care, education, labor, energy and the
environment. These are problems for which active citizens
have solutions, yet their voices are not carrying across
the democracy gap. Citizen groups and individual thinkers
have generated a tremendous capital of ideas,
information, and solutions to the point of surplus, while
our government has been drawn away from us by a corporate
government. Our political leadership has been hijacked.

Citizen advocates have no other choice but to close the
democracy gap by direct political means. Only effective
national political leadership will restore the
responsiveness of government to its citizenry. Truly
progressive political movements do not just produce more
good results; they enable a flowering of progressive
citizen movements to effectively advance the quality of
our neighborhoods and communities outside of politics.

I have a personal distaste for the trappings of modern
politics, in which incumbents and candidates daily extol
their own inflated virtues, paint complex issues with
trivial brush strokes, and propose plans quickly
generated by campaign consultants. But I can no longer
stomach the systemic political decay that has weakened
our democracy. I can no longer watch people dedicate
themselves to improving their country while their
government leaders turn their backs, or worse, actively
block fair treatment for citizens. It is necessary to
launch a sustained effort to wrest control of our
democracy from the corporate government and restore it to
the political government under the control of citizens.

This campaign will challenge all Americans who are
concerned with systemic imbalances of power and the
undermining of our democracy, whether they consider
themselves progressives, liberals, conservatives, or
others. Presidential elections should be a time for deep
discussions among the citizenry regarding the
down-to-earth problems and injustices that are not
addressed because of the gross power mismatch between the
narrow vested interests and the public or common good.

The unconstrained behavior of big business is
subordinating our democracy to the control of a corporate
plutocracy that knows few self-imposed limits to the
spread of its power to all sectors of our society. Moving
on all fronts to advance narrow profit motives at the
expense of civic values, large corporate lobbies and
their law firms have produced a commanding, multi-faceted
and powerful juggernaut. They flood public elections with
cash, and they use their media conglomerates to exclude,
divert, or propagandize. They brandish their willingness
to close factories here and open them abroad if workers
do not bend to their demands. By their control in
Congress, they keep the federal cops off the corporate
crime, fraud, and abuse beats. They imperiously demand
and get a wide array of privileges and immunities: tax
escapes, enormous corporate welfare subsidies, federal
giveaways, and bailouts. They weaken the common law of
torts in order to avoid their responsibility for
injurious wrongdoing to innocent children, women and men.

Abuses of economic power are nothing new. Every major
religion in the world has warned about societies allowing
excessive influences of mercantile or commercial values.
The profiteering motive is driven and single-minded. When
unconstrained, it can override or erode community,
health, safety, parental nurturing, due process, clean
politics, and many other basic social values that hold
together a society. Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt,
Franklin Roosevelt, Supreme Court Justices Louis Brandeis
and William Douglas, among others, eloquently warned
about what Thomas Jefferson called "the excesses of the
monied interests" dominating people and their
governments. The struggle between the forces of democracy
and plutocracy has ebbed and flowed throughout our
history. Each time the cycle of power has favored more
democracy, our country has prospered ("a rising tide
lifts all boats"). Each time the cycle of corporate
plutocracy has lengthened, injustices and shortcomings

In the sixties and seventies, for example, when the civil
rights, consumer, environmental, and women's rights
movements were in their ascendancy, there finally was a
constructive responsiveness by government. Corporations,
such as auto manufacturers, had to share more decision
making with affected constituencies, both directly and
through their public representatives and civil servants.
Overall, our country has come out better, more tolerant,
safer, and with greater opportunities. The earlier
nineteenth century democratic struggles by abolitionists
against slavery, by farmers against large oppressive
railroads and banks, and later by new trade unionists
against the brutal workplace conditions of the early
industrial and mining era helped mightily to make America
and its middle class what it is today. They demanded that
economic power subside or be shared.

Democracy works, and a stronger democracy works better
for reputable, competitive markets, equal opportunity and
higher standards of living and justice. Generally, it
brings out the best performances from people and from

A plutocracy -- rule by the rich and powerful -- on the
other hand, obscures our historical quests for justice.
Harnessing political power to corporate greed leaves us
with a country that has far more problems than it
deserves, while blocking ready solutions or improvements
from being applied.

It is truly remarkable that for almost every widespread
need or injustice in our country, there are citizens,
civic groups, small and medium-sized businesses and farms
that have shown how to meet these needs or end these
injustices. However, all the innovative solutions in the
world will accomplish little if the injustices they
address or the problems they solve have been shoved aside
because plutocracy reigns and democracy wanes. For all
optimistic Americans, when their issues are thus swept
from the table, it becomes civic mobilization time.

Consider the economy, which business commentators say
could scarcely be better. If, instead of corporate
yardsticks, we use human yardsticks to measure the
performance of the economy and go beyond the quantitative
indices of annual economic growth, structural
deficiencies become readily evident. The complete
dominion of traditional yardsticks for measuring economic
prosperity masks not only these failures but also the
inability of a weakened democracy to address how and why
a majority of Americans are not benefitting from this
prosperity in their daily lives. Despite record economic
growth, corporate profits, and stock market highs year
after year, a stunning array of deplorable conditions
still prevails year after year. For example:

. A majority of workers are making less now, inflation
adjusted, than in 1979

. Over 20% of children were growing up in poverty during
the past decade, by far the highest percentage among
comparable western countries

. The minimum wage is lower today, inflation-adjusted,
than in 1979

. American workers are working longer and longer hours
-- on average a additional 163 hours per year, compared
to 20 years ago -- with less time for family and

. Many full-time family farms cannot make a living in a
market of giant buyer concentration and industrial

. The public works (infrastructure) are crumbling, with
decrepit schools and clinics, library closings,
antiquated mass transit and more

. Corporate welfare programs, paid for largely by
middle-class taxpayers and amounting to hundreds of
billions of dollars per year, continue to rise along with
government giveaways of taxpayer assets such as public
forests, minerals and new medicines

. Affordable housing needs are at record levels while
secondary mortgage market companies show record profits

. The number of Americans without health insurance grows
every year

. There have been twenty-five straight years of growing
foreign trade deficits ($270 billion in 1999)

. Consumer debt is at an all time high, totaling over $
6 trillion

. Personal bankruptcies are at a record level

. Personal savings are dropping to record lows and
personal assets are so low that Bill Gates' net worth is
equal to that of the net assets of the poorest 120
million Americans combined

. The tiny federal budgets for the public's health and
safety continue to be grossly inadequate

. Motor vehicle fuel efficiency averages are actually
declining and, overall, energy conservation efforts have
slowed, while renewable energy takes a back seat to
fossil fuel and atomic power subsidies

. Wealth inequality is greater than at any time since
WWII. The top one percent of the wealthiest people have
more financial wealth than the bottom 90% of Americans
combined, the worst inequality among large western

. Despite annual declines in total business liability
costs, business lobbyists drive for more privileges and
immunities for their wrongdoing

It is permissible to ask, in the light of these
astonishing shortcomings during a period of touted
prosperity, what the state of our country would be should
a recession or depression occur? One import of these
contrasts is clear: economic growth has been decoupled
from economic progress for many Americans. In the early
1970s, our economy split into two tiers. Whereas once
economic growth broadly benefitted the majority, now the
economy has become one wherein "a rising tide lifts all
yachts," in the words of Jeff Gates, author of The
Ownership Solution. Returns on capital outpaced returns
on labor, and job insecurity increased for millions of
seasoned workers. In the seventies, the top 300 CEOs paid
themselves 40 times the entry-level wage in their
companies. Now the average is over 400 times.

This in an economy where impoverished assembly line
workers suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome frantically
process chickens which pass them in a continuous flow,
where downsized white and blue collar employees are hired
at lesser compensation, if they are lucky, where the
focus of top business executives is no longer to provide
a service that attracts customers, but rather to acquire
customers through mergers and acquisitions. How long can
the paper economy of speculation ignore its effects on
the real economy of working families? Pluralistic
democracy has enlarged markets and created the middle
class. Yet the short-term monetized minds of the
corporatists are bent on weakening, defeating, diluting,
diminishing, circumventing, coopting, or corrupting all
traditional countervailing forces that have saved
American corporate capitalism from itself.

Regulation of food, automobiles, banks and securities,
for example, strengthened these markets along with
protecting consumers and investors. Antitrust enforcement
helped protect our country from monopoly capitalism and
stimulated competition. Trade unions enfranchised workers
and helped mightily to build the middle class for
themselves, benefiting also non-union laborers. Producer
and consumer cooperatives helped save the family farm,
electrified rural areas, and offered another model of
economic activity. Civil litigation -- the right to have
your day in court -- helped deter producers of harmful
products and brought them to some measure of justice. At
the same time, the public learned about these hazards.

Public investment -- from naval shipyards to Pentagon
drug discoveries against infectious disease to public
power authorities -- provided yardsticks to measure the
unwillingness of big business to change and respond to
needs. Even under a rigged system, shareholder pressures
on management sometimes have shaken complacency,
wrongdoing, and mismanagement. Direct consumer remedies,
including class actions, have given pause to crooked
businesses and have stopped much of this unfair
competition against honest businesses. Big business
lobbies opposed all of this progress strenuously, but
they lost and America gained. Ultimately, so did a
chastened but myopic business community.

Now, these checkpoints face a relentless barrage from
rampaging corporate titans assuming more control over
elected officials, the workplace, the marketplace,
technology, capital pools (including workers' pension
trusts) and educational institutions. One clear sign of
the reign of corporations over our government is that the
key laws passed in the 60s and 70s that we use to curb
corporate misbehavior would not even pass through
Congressional committees today. Planning ahead,
multinational corporations shaped the World Trade
Organization's autocratic and secretive governing
procedures so as to undermine non-trade health, safety,
and other living standard laws and proposals in member

Up against the corporate government, voters find
themselves asked to choose between look-a-like candidates
from two partiies vying to see who takes th marching
orders from their campaign paymasters and their future
employers. The money of vested interests nullifies
genuine voter choice and trust. Our elections have been
put out for auction to the highest bidder. Public
elections must be publicly financed and it can be done
with well-promoted voluntary checkoffs and free TV and
Radio time for ballot-qualified candidates.

Workers are disenfranchised more than any time since the
1920s. Many unions stagger under stagnant leadership and
discouraged rank and file. Furthermore, weak labor laws
actually obstruct new trade union organization and leave
the economy with the lowest percentage of workers
unionized in more than 60 years. Giant multinationals are
pitting countries against one another and escaping
national jurisdictions more and more. Under these
circumstances, workers are entitled to stronger labor
organizing laws and rights for their own protection in
order to deal with highly organized corporations.

At a very low cost, government can help democratic
solution building for a host of problems that citizens
face, from consumer abuses, to environmental degradation.
Government research and development generated whole new
industries and company startups and created the Internet.
At the least, our government can facilitate the voluntary
banding together of interested citizens into democratic
civic institutions. Such civic organizations can create
more level playing fields in the banking, insurance, real
estate, transportation, energy, health care, cable TV,
educational, public services, and other sectors. Let's
call this the flowering of a deep-rooted democratic
society. A government that funnels your tax dollars to
corporate welfare kings in the form of subsidies,
bailouts, guarantees, and giveaways of valuable public
assets can at least invest in promoting healthy

Taxpayers have very little legal standing in the federal
courts and little indirect voice in the assembling and
disposition of taxpayer revenues. Closer scrutiny of
these matters between elections is necessary. Facilities
can be established to accomplish a closer oversight of
taxpayer assets and how tax dollars (apart from social
insurance) are allocated. This is an arena which is, at
present, shaped heavily by corporations that, despite
record profits, pay far less in taxes as a percent of the
federal budget than in the 1950s and 60s.

The "democracy gap" in our politics and elections spells
a deep sense of powerlessness by people who drop out, do
not vote or listlessly vote for the "least-worst" every
four years and then wonder why after another cycle the
"least-worst" gets worse. It is time to redress
fundamentally these imbalances of power. We need a deep
initiatory democracy in the embrace of its citizens, a
usable brace of democratic tools that brings the best out
of people, highlights the humane ideas and practical ways
to raise and meet our expectations and resolve our
society's deficiencies and injustices.

A few illustrative questions can begin to raise our
expectations and suggest what can be lost when the few
and powerful hijack our democracy:

Why can't the wealthiest nation in the world abolish the
chronic poverty of millions of working and non-working
Americans, including our children?

Are we reversing the disinvestment in our distressed
inner cities and rural areas and using creatively some of
the huge capital pools in the economy to make these areas
more livable, productive and safe?

Are we able to end homelessness and wretched housing
conditions with modern materials, designs, and financing
mechanisms, without bank and insurance company redlining,
to meet the affordable housing needs of millions of

Are we getting the best out of known ways to spread
renewable, efficient energy throughout the land to save
consumers money and to head off global warming and other
land-based environmental damage from fossil fuels and
atomic energy?

Are we getting the best out of the many bright and
public-spirited civil servants who know how to improve
governments but are rarely asked by their
politically-appointed superiors or members of Congress?

Are we able to provide wide access to justice for all
aggrieved people so that we apply rigorously the
admonition of Judge Learned Hand, "If we are to keep our
democracy, there must be one commandment: Thou Shall Not
Ration Justice"?

Can we extend overseas the best examples of our country's
democratic processes and achievements instead of annually
using billions in tax dollars to subsidize corporate
munitions exports, as Republican Senator Mark Hatfield
always used to decry?

Can we stop the giveaways of our vast commonwealth assets
and become better stewards of the public lands, better
investors of trillions of dollars in worker pension
monies, and allow broader access to the public airwaves
and other assets now owned by the people but controlled
by corporations?

Can we counter the coarse and brazen commercial culture,
including television which daily highlights depravity and
ignores the quiet civic heroisms in its communities, a
commercialism that insidiously exploits childhood and
plasters its logos everywhere?

Can we plan ahead as a society so we know our priorities
and where we wish to go? Or do we continue to let global
corporations remain astride the planet, corporatizing
everything, from genes to education to the Internet to
public institutions, in short planning our futures in
their image? If a robust civic culture does not shape the
future, corporatism surely will.

To address these and other compelling challenges, we must
build a powerful, self-renewing civil society that
focuses on ample justice so we do not have to desperately
bestow limited charity. Such a culture strengthens
existing civic associations and facilitates the creation
of others to watch the complexities and technologies of
a new century. Building the future also means providing
the youngest of citizens with citizen skills that they
can use to improve their communities. This is the
foundation of our campaign, to focus on active
citizenship, to create fresh political movements that
will displace the control of the Democratic and
Republican Parties, two apparently distinct political
entities that feed at the same corporate trough. They are
in fact simply the two heads of one political duopoly,
the DemRep Party. This duopoly does everything it can to
obstruct the beginnings of new parties including raising
ballot access barriers, entrenching winner-take-all
voting systems, and thwarting participation in debates at
election times.

As befits its name, the Green Party, whose nomination I
seek, stands for the regeneration of American politics.
The new populism which the Green Party represents,
involves motivated, informed voters who comprehend that
"freedom is participation in power," to quote the ancient
Roman orator, Cicero. When citizen participation
flourishes, as this campaign will encourage it to do,
human values can tame runaway commercial imperatives. The
myopia of the short-term bottom line so often debases our
democratic processes and our public and private domains.
Putting human values first helps to make business
responsible and to put government on the right track.

It is easy and true to say that this deep democracy
campaign will be an uphill one. However, it is also true
that widespread reform will not flourish without a fairer
distribution of power for the key roles of voter,
citizen, worker, taxpayer, and consumer. Comprehensive
reform proposals from the corporate suites to the
nation's streets, from the schools to the hospitals, from
the preservation of small farm economies to the
protection of privacies, from livable wages to
sustainable environments, from more time for children to
less time for commercialism, from waging peace and health
to averting war and violence, from foreseeing and
forestalling future troubles to journeying toward
brighter horizons, will wither while power inequalities
loom over us.

Why are campaigns just for candidates? I would like the
American people to hear from individuals such as Edgar
Cahn (Time Dollars for neighborhoods), Nicholas Johnson
(television and telecommunications), Paul Hawken, Amory
and Hunter Lovins (energy and resource conservation), Dee
Hock (on chaordic organizations), James MacGregor Burns
and John Gardner (on leadership), Richard Grossman (on
the American history of corporate charters and
personhood), Jeff Gates (on capital sharing), Robert
Monks (on corporate accountability), Ray Anderson (on his
company's pollution and recycling conversions), Johnnetta
Cole, Troy Duster and Yolanda Moses (on race relations),
Richard Duran (minority education), Lois Gibbs (on
community mobilization against toxics), Robert McIntyre
(on tax justice), Hazel Henderson (on redefining economic
development), Barry Commoner and David Brower (on
fundamental environmental regeneration), Wendell Berry
(on the quality of living), Tony Mazzocchi (on a new
agenda for labor), and Law Professor Richard Parker (on
a constitutional popular manifesto). These individuals
are a small sampling of many who have so much to say, but
seldom get through the evermore entertainment-focused
media. (Note: mention of these persons does not imply
their support for this campaign.)

Our political campaign will highlight active and
productive citizens who practice democracy often in the
most difficult of situations. I intend to do this in the
District of Columbia whose citizens have no full-voting
representation in Congress or other rights accorded to
states. The scope of this campaign is also to engage as
many volunteers as possible to help overcome ballot
barriers and to get the vote out. In addition it is
designed to leave a momentum after election day for the
various causes that committed people have worked so hard
to further. For the Greens know that political parties
need also to work between elections to make elections
meaningful. The focus on fundamentals of broader
distribution of power is the touchstone of this campaign.
As Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis declared for the
ages, "We can have a democratic society or we can have
great concentrated wealth in the hands of a few. We
cannot have both."

Thank you.

Nader 2000, P.O. Box 18002, Washington, D.C. 20036


[View the list]

InternetBoard v1.0
Copyright (c) 1998, Joongpil Cho