Ralph Nader on Welfare & Poverty

Charity work is good; but politics addresses root causes

Nader speaks to college students about the great paradox of Generation X, the non-voting, self-absorbed, bottom-line crowd - which just happens to do more community service than any in the history of the country. They may be apolitical, but they are not apathetic. They go, almost automatically, to hospitals and soup kitchens, to ghetto classrooms, to the lonely and afraid in old people’s homes. Nader tells them, after praising their phenomenal good deeds: “You burn yourselves out doing charitable work. But if you get into politics and go to the cause of these problems, you will have a just society where you don’t need so much charitable work.“

Nader says they are right to rail against global sweatshops and rain forest abuse - two topics never raised by the big guys. Nader says Bush & Gore both avoid college campuses. ”They like elementary and high schools better - good photo ops and less danger of blind-siding questions and pickets.“

Source: Mary McGrory editorial, Boston Globe, p. A15 Oct 14, 2000

Attack corporate welfare kings, not poor welfare queens

While President Clinton and the Congress have gutted the welfare system for poor people, no such top-down agenda has emerged for corporate welfare recipients. The savage demagoguery directed against imaginary “welfare queens” has never been matched with parallel denunciations of gluttonous corporate welfare kings.

While the minimal government benefits still afforded the poor are provided only to the most impoverished, no such “means testing” is applied to corporate welfare beneficiaries. By and large the bigger the company, the more it extracts in government supports.

The new welfare law sets strict time limits for how long poor people can receive government supports, but no such time limitations attach to government handouts to big business.

The welfare law denies benefits even to legal immigrants; corporate welfare, by contrast, is far more non-discriminating-Uncle Sam subsidizes foreign corporations as well as domestic businesses., including millions to Canadian mining companies.

Source: Cutting Corporate Welfare, p. 23-25 Oct 9, 2000

Limit executive compensation to 30-to-1 over lowest pay

Limits on Executive Compensation in Government-Supported Corporations: Where the government is conferring substantial, voluntarily received benefits on corporations, it could reasonably limit the scope of beneficiaries to those who do not engage in particular sorts of socially undesirable behavior. One such behavior is excessive executive compensation, which heightens income and wealth inequalities, and tears at the nation’s social fabric. Government subsidies, including tax expenditures, could be denied to corporations whose executives receive more than a predetermined level of compensation, say those whose ratio of executive-to-lowest-paid-employee compensation is more than a certain amount, perhaps 30-to-1.
Source: Cutting Corporate Welfare, p.120 Oct 9, 2000

Domestic Marshall Plan to abolish poverty

He calls for a domestic “Marshall Plan to abolish poverty and the class/race system”; a public works project to rebuild America’s cities; a big affordable housing program, and an effort to expand mass transit. He would end the so-called war on drugs and instead focus on treatment and rehabilitation.
Source: Scot Lehigh, Boston Globe, page D1 Oct 8, 2000

Democracy can’t co-exist with gross income inequality

In 1941, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis made a prescient observation when he wrote: “We can have a democratic society or we can have the concentration of great wealth in the hands of the few. We cannot have both.” Today, that concentration of wealth and its political power has reached stunning intensities. In large companies, people who work in the same enterprise are now earning $1 for every $416 that the CEO takes away. In 1940, it was $1 for every $12. Today the financial wealth of the top 1% of households exceeds the combined wealth of the bottom 95% of American households. Earlier this year Bill Gates’ wealth was equal to the combined wealth of the poorest 120 million Americans. Whatever this enormous imbalance says about the Great software imitator from Redmond, Washington, it means that about tens of millions of Americans, who work year after year, decade after decade, are nearly broke. What democracy worth its salt would have led to this profound inequity?
Source: Nomination Acceptance Speech Jun 25, 2000

Retail malls siphon off business from central cities

On New Haven’s proposed $500 million Long Wharf mall: “This is welfare for the rich on the backs of the poor and middle class. The attention of the mayor should be how to create a more cohesive, self-sustaining, prosperous central city. You don’t do that by siphoning off retail dollars to a nearby massive mall. Big businesses are on a collision course with American democracy, and the American democracy is losing.”
Source: New Haven Register, page a3,a6 May 18, 2000

Homelessness is peaking despite good economy

[Instead of economic statistics, ] let’s look at the people indicators. We have homelessness. Affordable housing levels are at a peak in terms of not being met even though Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are reporting record profits. And then the facilities, the schools, the clinics, the public works that serve ordinary Americans aren’t being repaired. If you take people indicators, there’s quite a different economy.
Source: Interview on ‘Meet the Press’ May 7, 2000

Big business lobbying subordinates democracy

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 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.
Source: Green Party Announcement Speech Feb 21, 2000

Training & earned income credits are corporate subsidies

Q: Is the earned income credit -- which is now around $30 billion -- a subsidy for employers or employees that have this selfish disregard for the public interest?

A: Well it certainly took the steam off the drive for raising the minimum wage or at least adjusting it for inflation -- the earned income credit. Now it’s become very complex and embroiled in Congressional politics. But the job training programs were more a subsidy to corporations who really didn’t create many jobs with all these billions of taxpayer dollars it received over the last 25 years. Corporate Welfare is alive and well. The Corporate Welfare programs in the federal government are double the poverty welfare programs -- if you look at tax expenditures and all the direct subsidies and giveaways and bailouts and loan guarantees, etc. That should be a major agenda.

Source: National Public Radio, interview by Diane Rehm Apr 3, 1996

Ralph Nader on Consumer Rights

Help for ordinary people should replace corporate welfare

Ralph Nader railed against big business from the heart of corporate America yesterday. Nader criticized New York City for offering multimillion-dollar tax breaks and other incentives to persuade the New York Stock Exchange to stay in Manhattan. “Here is this bastion of global capitalism on welfare. It will take hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars in order to build them a new building. At the same time, hundreds of neighborhoods are suffering from inadequate funding of their vital needs.”
Source: Jayson Blair, NY Times Sep 1, 2000

Address corporate crimes piecemeal AND by revoking charters

Q: What are your views on Richard Grossman of the Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy? He criticizes the piecemeal, one-by-one approach of addressing corporate crimes and advocates revoking their charters to do business whenever they harm the common good.
A: I agree with both. I think you’ve got to do the retail law enforcement, which of course not only helps people immediately who are being harmed or cheated by these criminal violations or fraudulent behavior, but it informs people. Every time there’s a prosecution, every time there’s law enforcement, it informs people of the misdeeds of these corporations. On the other hand, you’ve got to go to the basic charter that state governments and in some respects the federal government provides to create these corporations and the conditioning of proper corporate behavior historically by these charters when they were given by legislatures in various states in the early part of the nineteenth century has been forgotten.
Source: Alternative Radio interview with David Barsamian Feb 23, 2000

Stop giving corporations the same rights as people

Q:Are you advocating reform, tinkering with the system, or would you support a fundamental overhaul?

A:When you have fundamental problems you’ve got to have fundamental overhauls. Right now corporations are treated as persons, just like flesh-and-blood individuals. A corporation, an artificial legal entity, [is treated] as a person having all the rights under our Constitution. It’s absurd. You can’t have equality under the law with General Motors and John and Jane Doe having the same rights, when General Motors has all kinds of privileges and immunities. They can shift costs differently. They can create their own parent, i.e., a holding company. They can sequester assets and limit liability by setting up a corporation. They can move abroad in order to bring government to its knees. Can you imagine a million workers getting together and saying to the US government, If you don’t give us a significant pay raise & reduce our taxes we’re going to move abroad? A corporation does that all the time.

Source: Alternative Radio, interview by David Barsamian Dec 9, 1995

Other candidates on Welfare & Poverty: Ralph Nader on other issues:
George W. Bush
Dick Cheney
Al Gore
Bill Clinton
Jesse Ventura
Ross Perot
Ralph Nader
Pat Buchanan
John McCain
Civil Rights
Foreign Policy
Free Trade
Govt. Reform
Gun Control
Health Care
School Choice
Social Security
Tax Reform
War & Peace