Consumer advocate and activist Ralph Nader says the Democratic party is incapable of defending the American people from the worst Republican party in history
SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries, coming to you from Baltimore.
Also, welcome to this edition of the Ralph Nader report.
What is in the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill that was passed on Thursday night in Congress that you should be gravely concerned about since you are the taxpayer footing the bill?
Now joining us from Washington, D.C., to discuss his concerns with the budget approved on Thursday night is Ralph Nader. Ralph is a renowned political activist, attorney, and consumer advocate. He ran as presidential candidate for the Green Party. And he also ran as an independent candidate.
Thank you for joining us, Ralph.
RALPH NADER, FOUNDER, CENTER FOR STUDY OF RESPONSIVE LAW: Thank you very much.
PERIES: So, Ralph, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a member of the Senate Banking Committee, has led the Democratic opposition to the proposed budget, objecting that it contains changes to the Dodd-Frank law that was passed in 2010, particularly the complex financial instruments known as derivatives. Where are you on this issue?
NADER: There’s a provision in this current omnibus appropriation bill to make it once again easier for Bank of America and Citigroup and others on Wall Street to speculate that these highly tiered, abstract bets on bets that we call derivatives. Elizabeth Warren has opposed it, but she’s being overcome by her own president, Obama, who is urging the Democrats in the House vigorously and successfully to support the house bill sponsored by the Republicans and pressing Democratic senators to go along before they adjourn this week. That’s the dissonance inside the Democratic Party.
PERIES: So, Ralph, it’s not likely that she’s going to be successful in terms of standing in the way of what the president and Congress and this Republican-led Congress wants.
NADER: No, she’s not going to be successful. She’s at least taking a stand and getting good publicity for it and arousing the ire of the public, which is always good for future struggles.
PERIES: Right. So, Ralph, what else is of concern to you?
NADER: Well, the budget is, again, very badly skewed against the necessities of the people here at home and in favor of militarism. Half of this $1.1 trillion budget goes to the military. The military foreign aid is enhanced. Israel’s $3.1 billion is untouched.
On the other hand, there is a severe cut once again in the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency, which is now 21 percent lower than it was in 2010, and the EPA has even more burdens to deal with, pollution of air, water, soil, food, and human beings. And there’s also an insane cut again in the IRS budget. The Republicans cut it at half a billion last year. They’re cutting it over $300 million this year. It’s now under $11 billion. And every time they cut it, the deficit increases because the IRS simply doesn’t have enough agents and investigators to deal with over $300 billion–b–billion dollars of evaded taxes. And so the Republicans always complain about deficits, and they’re vengeful toward the IRS, and therefore they’re cutting the IRS’s capability to make people who don’t–corporations, especially, who don’t pay their taxes pay their taxes so the deficit is lower, or other taxpaying people don’t have to pay more taxes.
If you judge this budget by conventional standards of human sanity, you would indict it as the collective display of twisted priorities and insane declarations by the U.S. Congress, plenty for killing and destroying and warring, not enough for rebuilding our public works, for dealing with the social safety net for children, to deprive the injured, the poor, and on top of it, exposing Americans to more of the silent violence that we too charitably call pollution.
That’s why I’ve said that the Democratic Party is incapable of defending the American people from the worst Republican Party in history. And the reason why it’s incapable is because it is dialing for the same corporate dollars for its campaigns that the Republicans are dialing. And you know what talks in Washington. [incompr.] money over people–not entirely, but enough to turn the Congress into a rogue branch of government, the worst Congress I have ever experienced since the 1960s.
We’ve got to do something about it back home in every congressional district. It’s easier than you think to turn the Congress around. With less than 1 percent of the people organized at every congressional district, that’s about 3 million people representing the demands of the majority of the people.
PERIES: What could the Democrats have done, I mean, with qq this Republican-led Congress and the power that they now have, which is unchallenged? What could the Democrats have done to bring about a better budget? It seems to me that they had to negotiate and give up a lot in order to make sure that the budget gets passed so that there isn’t a federal government shutdown?
NADER: Well, that’s what happens when the Democrats let the Republicans put them on the edge of the cliff of a government shutdown. One answer to your question is–why did the Democrats allow the Republicans to win the House of representatives in 2010, ’12, and ’14 when the Republicans have a declared agenda that they passed through the House of Representatives that is opposed from anywhere near 70, 80 percent of the American people? ‘Cause they’re not really campaigning for the people; they’re campaigning for their jobs, and they want more and more money from commercial interest to ensure their reelection.
PERIES: Right. And the executive decision that the president had made on immigration has become somewhat moot because, as promised, the Republicans have made the application of that almost impossible.
NADER: Yes. In fact, there are some rabid Republicans on the right who wanted to block the budget bill just the way Senator Warren wanted on the progressive side, just on the issue of immigration alone.
However, what we’re going to propose next year apropos the argument I made in my book Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State is to put before Republicans and Democrats areas of agreement which form an unstoppable majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate. For example, we want the Republican and Democrat to converge for opposing corporate welfare, bailout subsidies, handouts, giveaways of the taxpayer money, of the natural resources on our public land, of our public airways. There’s a big left-right coalition. The right calls it crony capitalism, and the left calls it corporate welfare.
We want to also get a left-right coalition in Congress to get that long-overdue restoration of the minimum wage which conservative and liberal workers all over the country have registered 80 percent approval for. We also want to get a left-right coalition challenging unconstitutional wars and destruction of our civil liberties under the notoriously named Patriot Act. And we also have already got a left-right coalition to oppose another round of corporate-managed trade agreements called the Trans-Pacific trade agreement, which Mr. Obama wants to put before the Congress next year. And our Global Trade Watch, in alliance with right-wing groups who see these trade agreements as devastating infringements on our local state and national sovereignty, we right now have the votes in the House to block President Obama.
So let’s go for a left-right coalition and get something done in this country while we continue to see the left-right battle it out on the other issues that the powers at be delight as they divide and rule the left and right and distract their attention from where they actually agree on many important redirections for our country.
PERIES: Ralph, thank you so much. And we look forward to your continued critique and the watchdog role you play in Washington to be a regular part of The Real News Network.
NADER: Thank you.
PERIES: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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