RALPH NADER -- 03/24/96
Ralph Nader appeared on Meet The Press (a.k.a. "Meet The
Depressed") on March 24, 1996, and was interviewed by Tim
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One of the things I've read that you are most concerned and
upset, about President Clinton, is that he signed a bill to raise
the speed limit from 55 mph. Why?
Because his own Department of Transportation told him, months
earlier, that that would kill 6500 Americans, seriously injure
20,000 more Americans, every year, $20 billion of health care
costs, all kinds of wage loss, and higher auto insurance rates.
*And* *yet*, Secretary Pena and Dr. Martinez of the Auto Safety
Agency did not stand up. They actually supported their own
demolition of the most successful trauma prevention program in
American history, on the highways. (And I'm sorry that your
former employer, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who was very strong on
auto safety, didn't take a strong stand against that presidential
deal in the U.S. Senate.)
*Why* do you think President Clinton signed that bill?
I think first of all he wanted the highway construction part of
it. But that would've bounced right back to him from the
Congress, had he vetoed the bill. And I think second, he just is
indifferent to the consequences! But what happens when speeds go
up to 65 (and in reality, 75 miles per hour), with the Mexican
trucks coming in? With our big trucks not having adequate brakes?
He just was indifferent to it! I couldn't even get 5 minutes to
*convey* this to him! (And I don't usually ask to see him or meet
him!) But this was a real case of life and death in America. And
to actually *dismantle* a program that's been effective for 20
years, was a calamity.
I was reading the platform of the Green Party. And it is *very*
liberal, I would say. (Or "progressive" -- whatever term you want
to use.) Will you support, and run on, that platform?
I'm not running on that platform. And they know it. I'm running
on *my* platform, of building democracy. And some of my platform
and theirs overlaps: sustainable economic growth; labor rights;
consumer protection; civil rights; civil liberties. But I'm not a
Green Party member! But I think the Green Party has the greatest
opportunity, whether in Maine, Colorado, New Mexico, New York,
Pennsylvania, California, Alaska -- all over -- to be the
emerging "progressive" alternative; to push the other parties
into recognizing that the function (as Thomas Jefferson once put
it) of representative government is to "counteract the excesses
of the monied interests." And you know, when the wealth of 1
percent of the American people -- the top 1 percent -- is equal
to the 90 percent at the bottom; when there's *so* much wealth
and power in so few hands; the country gets in trouble! The
country gets in *serious* trouble, historically. We need a
correction movement here.
We have, you know, all these Cable TV channels. Why isn't there
one for Labor? Why isn't there one for citizen activity, so we
can learn from one another? Instead of this *morbid* plastering
of depravity and sickness and violations and criminal behavior
that you see only on TV?
So when the Green Party says they would not allow animals to be
used at racetracks or rodeos or circuses, that's not the kind of
issue you're gonna get involved with.
Precisely. I think politicians are expected to take a position on
everything under the sun, whether they know anything about it or
not. I'm taking two positions: on the areas of consumer, auto
safety, environment, that I've *worked* on and know something
about; and on building democracy -- that's gonna be made
extremely concrete, in terms of the facilities that make it easy
for people to band together, whether as consumers, workers, tax-
payers, shareholders, or voter-citizens.
When Green Party pushes the issue of same sex marriages, is that
an issue you're gonna care about?
That's not an issue I'm gonna *speak* about. That's... If that's
their issue, they're free to advocate it.
The key thing is, we're rising to a more Constitutional level of
re-building our democracy.
How about a balanced budget? Is Ralph Nader in favor of a
I'm very frugal. But I wouldn't balance it the way John Kasich
did. You notice *he* "wants to cut corporate welfare" -- but he
kept quiet about it earlier in the program! [laughs]
How would Ralph Nader balance the budget?
I would, first of all, bring the boys back from Europe and East
Asia and let these countries (in alliance, perhaps, with the
United States) defend themselves. That's a hundred billion
dollars right there, in direct and indirect backup expenses. I'd
eliminate over $150 billion of corporate welfare. I'd make the
government more assiduous in collecting its debts and its
royalties from *free* research and development in the drug area,
that they give away to the drug companies, (that the tax-payers
pay for), and the resources out of federal lands. And we'd have a
surplus! A surplus. That's just for beginners.
Trouble is that "cutting the budget" is aimed at poor people!
It's aimed at defenseless people! It's aimed at people who can't
fight back. It's not aimed at the fat cat corporate welfare --
"Aid to Dependent Corporations", so to speak -- who are *raking*
off the middle class tax dollars here in Washington in the tens
of billions of dollars! Subsidies, bail-outs, give-aways. The S&L
bailout was $500 billion dollars, in interest and principal, over
the next 20 years! Can you imagine what that would buy, in terms
of public works and job creation!?
Does Ralph Nader sound like Pat Buchanan on some issues?
Well on some issues, like NAFTA and GATT, Pat Buchanan sounds
like a global trade coalition of unions, elderly, church groups,
consumer groups, who thought that NAFTA and GATT were mainly
about governance -- not so much free trade. (There's a lot of
monopolization of the intellectual property in NAFTA and GATT.)
They're about the supremacy of trade over the health and safety
standards of our country, and giving our country only *one*
*vote* (along with Saint Kitts) in the World Trade Organization
-- with no veto -- and having secret tribunals and "harmonization
mandates" that will prevent us from being *first*, as we were
with air bags and other health and safety features. *Very*, very
autocratic systems of government in NAFTA and GATT. Particularly
Final question, Mr. Nader: So when it comes to consumers, you
don't see any difference between Bill Clinton and Bob Dole.
There is a difference, but it's not sufficient for a two-party
duopoly to offer America. The choices are far too narrow, and
they're moving into the laps of the major corporations more and
more. We've gotta have more competition and a broader democracy
agenda that enlists the energies of the American people -- not
just as bystanders, trotting themselves out to the election, but
as deeply involved, committed people, from the grass roots up to