Ralph Nader on Government Reform

Bush & Gore are same corporate party; would impeach Clinton

Nader says he doesn’t care whether Bush or Gore wins. The two, he rails, are “part of one big corporate party,” with no real differences. Indeed, Nader argues that former President George Bush was better than Bill Clinton is on issues like occupational safety. Nader also says that is he had been in the Senate, he would have voted to impeach Clinton: “He disgraced the office.”

What Nader wants is to build a permanent progressive force. “This is a new political movement,” he says.

Source: Matthew Cooper, Time magazine, p. 79 Nov 6, 2000

Don’t waste your vote: Gore & Bush only marginally differ

Nader is wrapping up a national tour with the theme “Don’t Waste Your Vote.” Gore and Bush, he said, “are both so marginal on the great issue of the distribution of power and wealth, and the corruption of cash register politics, that whatever real differences they are willing to fight for pale in comparison to the major subjects they are exactly on the same page on.”
Source: Thomas Edsall, Washington Post, p. A1 Oct 23, 2000

Supreme Court nominees should have a sense of justice

Q: If you were president, how would you determine your nominees for the Supreme Court?

A: Well, a certain level of intellectual power, a sense of justice, as demonstrated by the record of the potential nominee. How has the person used his or her time as an attorney in advancing justice in society? And a sense of judicial impartiality.

My litmus paper test is: Does the judge allow a fair hearing for all sides to the litigation? That’s the key because impartiality means you keep an open mind.

Source: CNN: “Burden of Proof” Aug 9, 2000

Nader in debates will draw out the “priceless truth”

“Grilled tenderloin for fund-raiser: $1,000 a plate.”
“Campaign ads filled with half-truths: $10 million.”
“Promises to special interest groups: Over $10 billion.”
“Finding out the truth: Priceless.”
“There are some things money can’t buy. Without Ralph Nader in the presidential debates, the truth will come in last. Find out how you can help. Go to Vote Ralph Nader for president.”
Source: TV ad, “Priceless Truth” Aug 9, 2000

Justices need sense of justice & sense of history

Q: What are your criteria for Supreme Court Justice appointments?
Source: National Press Club interview (aired on NPR) Jul 23, 2000

Allow voting for “None of the Above”

[I think people] are overwhelmingly supportive of a binding none-of-the-above law. So if you don’t like who’s on the ballot, you can go down and vote for None of the Above in your voting precinct. If None of the Above wins more votes than any of the other candidates, it cancels that particular election, sends the candidates packing and orders, within thirty or forty-five days, a new election and new candidates.
Source: Alternative Radio interview with David Barsamian Feb 23, 2000

Empower citizens via accurate information from govt

Democracy must empower and enable citizens to obtain timely and accurate information from their government, enable citizens to band together in civic associations in pursuit of a just society, and communicate their judgments through modern technology.
Source: The Concord Principles, An Agenda for a New Democracy, # 1 Feb 21, 2000

Reinvent democracy via new tools for citizen empowerment

Reinventing democracy requires that we create new tools of empowerment: new mechanisms of civic communication, political organization, government assistance, and legal rights that can advance the distinct interests of citizens, taxpayers, consumers, workers and shareholders. These structural and procedural reforms will help to foster a new “fifth estate” of individual Americans, capable of acting independently from entrenched institutional-that is, chiefly corporate and governmental-power.
Source:, “Citizen Action” Feb 21, 2000

Concentrated party power weakens democracy

In a January 17 column, Nader accused the major parties of purposely keeping small political parties off the ballot. In a subsequent column, he took on the media for failing to ask tough questions of candidates. “Every 4 years, a half-dozen campaigns issues are drably questioned and drearily answered,” he wrote. “Too much power in the hands of the few has weakened our democracy. People need stronger civic tools to band together, learn together and act together to make the Big Boys behave,” he wrote.
Source: Feb 17, 2000

Focus on anti-trust enforcement to help small business

Q: How would you run the Department of Justice differently?

A: I’d emphasize the word justice. Special influences distort the mission of the department. Its priorities are not in the area of corporate crime, fraud and abuse. I would emphasize anti-trust enforcement. Pro-competitive policies are essential for small business innovators and entrepreneurs to have a fair shake at becoming significant factors of production in our country.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday Interview, p. 3/Z1 Oct 13, 1996

100% publicly funded campaigns, by $100 tax checkoff

Q: President Nader does what?

A: A major strengthening of our democracy. Getting private money out of public campaigns, by well-promoted, voluntary checkoff on the 1040 tax return, up to 100 dollars per person.

Q: No contributions?

A: If you go and use that as a candidate, you can’t take private money.

Q: You have to go to the Supreme Court to do that.

A: Yes, you have to change the Constitution.

Source: Interview on “Larry King Live” Oct 6, 1996

Government delivers more service than people realize

Q: Was it you that told me that if the federal government shut down for a year it would be the most popular institution in the country?

A: Yes, because people would realize how much flows in terms of economic activity, technological research, health care research, health care delivery, management of the parks and the forests, construction. They would realize just how much they were getting from the government. Not to mention a lot of these new technologies, like telecommunications, satellites, all came out of the Defense Department and the space program in terms of the basic research, development and engineering stages. When the government isn’t perceived as delivering, the demand is to cut back and strip government of its capability to deliver, instead of rising up and making government deliver.

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

Ralph Nader on Campaign Finance Reform

Green Party does not take PAC, soft, or corporate cash

We’re trying to do it right by not taking PAC money, not taking corporate cash money, not taking dirty soft money, just individual money, and that kind of response to our Web site,, is convincing us that people want-no matter who they are-Perot voters, McCain voters, Bradley voters-they want dirty money out of campaigns, and we’re moving toward full public funding of public elections.
Source: Nader-Buchanan debate on ‘Meet the Press’ Oct 1, 2000

No private money in public campaigns

Q: Who should be allowed in the debates?

A: If you get over 5% of the vote, and you get funds for the next four years, you should be qualified to get on the debate. So we believe in a 5% threshold.

Q: Even if it was a hate-mongering organization?

A: Yes of course. I don’t think that kind of organization would ever get 5% or higher.

Q: Why does it help you?

A: It doesn’t. It pushes the whole movement toward public financing for public campaigns. We want no private money in public campaigns.

Source: CNN: “Burden of Proof” Aug 9, 2000

Spending campaign money is not free speech

Q: What about money as free speech? Would you be keen to challenge the Supreme Court decision Buckley v. Veleo, which defined money as free speech?
A: Yes. It allows public financing if you don’t take private financing. It permits soft money which can be constitutionally prohibited by legislation, which is what John McCain wants to do. It allows independent expenditures and billionaires funding their own campaigns, and that has to either be subject to a reversal by the Supreme Court of Buckley v. Veleo or a constitutional amendment. However, legislation can say that if someone raises $20 million of his or her money and spends it on TV, that the TV can be required to give equal time to less affluent candidates. There are ways to dull the effects of Buckley v. Veleo, and I think we’re going to see more Supreme Court decisions chipping away at it.
Source: Alternative Radio interview with David Barsamian Feb 23, 2000

Public campaign finance; 12-year term limits

Citizens should have measures to ensure that their voting powers are not diluted, over-run, or nullified. Such measures include easier voter registration, state-level binding initiatives and referendums , public financing of campaigns, and term limits not to exceed 12 years.
Source: The Concord Principles, An Agenda for a New Democracy, # 4 Feb 21, 2000

Public election financing, with free TV & radio time

Up against the corporate government, voters find themselves asked to choose between look-a-like candidates from two parties vying to see who takes the marching orders from their campaign paymasters. 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.
Source: Green Party Announcement Speech Feb 21, 2000

Ralph Nader on Corporate Welfare

Scrutinize even “good” corporate welfare which helps public

If a program involves the government giving more to private companies than it gets back, then it should be considered corporate welfare. This definition suggests analytic inquiries other than whether a program is “good” or “bad.” It allows for the possibility of “good” corporate welfare-programs that confer subsidies on business but are merited because of overall public gain. There ARE cases of “good” corporate welfare, but these too should be subjected to proper procedural and substantive checks.
Source: Cutting Corporate Welfare, p. 31 Oct 9, 2000

Corporate welfare is a function of political corruption

Corporate welfare-the enormous and myriad subsidies, bailouts, giveaways, tax loopholes, debt revocations, loan guarantees, and other benefits conferred by government on business-is a function of political corruption. Corporate welfare programs siphon funds from appropriate public investments, subsidize companies ripping minerals from federal lands, enable pharmaceutical companies to gouge consumers, perpetuate anti-competitive oligopolistic markets, injure national security, & weaken our democracy.
Source: Cutting Corporate Welfare, p. 13 Oct 9, 2000

S&L bailout helped bankers & hurt consumers

Perhaps the largest corporate welfare expenditure of all time-ultimately set to cost taxpayers $500 billion in principal and interest-the savings and loan bailout is in a large part a story of political corruption, the handiwork of the industry’s legion of lobbyists and political payoffs to campaign contributors. The well-connected S&L industry successfully lobbied Congress for a deregulatory bill in the early 1980s, which the industry from historic constraints and paved the way for the speculative and corrupt failures that came soon after.

When Congress finally did address the problem, it put the bailout burden on the backs of taxpayers, rather than on the financial industry.

Congress even refused in the bailout legislation to include measures to empower consumers to band together into financial consumer associations-a modest quid pro quo that would have imposed zero financial cost and would have enabled consumers to act on their own to prevent future S&L-style crises and bailouts.

Source: Cutting Corporate Welfare, p. 15-16 Oct 9, 2000

Rules needed for examining & challenging corporate welfare

Source: Cutting Corporate Welfare, p. 29-30 Oct 9, 2000

Disallow benefits to companies except for public purposes

A series of inquisitive screens can be applied to corporate welfare programs, regardless of their merit:
  • Does the program serve some broad public purpose that suggests it has merits beyond the benefits it confers on particular companies? If not, the program should be cancelled.
  • If it does serve some public interest, can the government achieve the same ends by retaining an interest in an asset being given away of doing a service in-house?
  • Does the program involve functions that should be properly left to the market?
  • Is there any reason the government should not charge for services provided?Are there non-monetary reciprocal obligations that should be demanded? These might include reasonable pricing of government-subsidized goods and services provided to consumers.
  • Is the program subject to judicial challenge? What are the avenues for citizen challenge?
  • Is there an institutional means of periodic review? Are criteria delineated by which the program should be evaluated?
    Source: Cutting Corporate Welfare, p. 31-32 Oct 9, 2000

    Stadiums & other local tax abatements ignore small business

    Large corporations routinely pit states and cities against each other in bidding contests that are structurally biased in favor of Big Business. The price of their doing business, they communicate explicitly and implicitly, is massive subsidization by local and state authorities-through tax abatements, government financing of building projects, improper use of eminent domain, or other supports. This is corporate welfare in its rawest form.

    Among the most outrageous types of bidding for business involves sports stadiums. Now gambling casinos are looking for similar subsidies.

    Many tax breaks and abatements are directed to specific companies. They properly raise the public ire as citizens demand to know why the rich and powerful have taxes forgiven while local small businesses are required to pay their fair share without special dispensation. This should sharpen the cutting edge of a nascent movement to end corporate welfare as we know it.

    Source: Cutting Corporate Welfare, p. 35-36 Oct 9, 2000

    Federal regulation of state & local abatements & subsidies

      Some corrective policy initiatives to oppose local and state giveaways:
    1. States and localities should adopt a policy of annual disclosure of all corporate welfare recipients.
    2. Where state and local governments decide that taxpayer support for a business is necessary, they should include binding commitments that recipients deliver on job creation and other promises.
    3. Congress should encourage states to refuse to enter a race to the bottom against each other in terms of special tax breaks and related benefits.
    4. The federal government should levy a surtax on companies receiving state and local tax breaks, treating the tax breaks as income upon which federal tax should be paid.
    5. Finally, there must be court tests of the claim that the provision of tax subsidies and similar incentives distort economic decision-making concerning the location of business activity and therefore constitutes an unconstitutional infringement of Congress’ power to regulate interstate commerce.
    Source: Cutting Corporate Welfare, p. 44-45 Oct 9, 2000

    Bailouts: require payback; practice prevention by regulation

      The bailout, a premier form of corporate welfare, is yet another market distortion against the interests of small and medium-sized businesses. Bailouts are different from other corporate welfare categories in that they are ad hoc and unplanned. Some lessons from recent bailout experience:
    1. Congress should prioritize the issue of payback in full, after the company is nursed back to health.
    2. Monetary payback is not enough. Because the government is doing more than making a market-justified loan, it has the right to make demands designed to prevent the need for future bailouts.
    3. The S&L crisis was triggered in large part by industry deregulation. This should be an important cautionary note: that underregulation paves the way for bailouts, especially in the financial sector.
    4. Strong anti-trust policy and enforcement is a vital prophylactic against the emergence of too-big-to-fail institutions which are sure to benefit from a government bailout in the face of potential collapse.
    Source: Cutting Corporate Welfare, p. 69-71 Oct 9, 2000

    Legislation to eliminate all corporate welfare

    Source: Cutting Corporate Welfare, p.116-117 Oct 9, 2000

    $1000 bounty for suing for abuse of corporate welfare

    Citizen Standing to Sue to Challenge Corporate Welfare Abuses: Citizens could be empowered to mount judicial challenges to runaway agencies that reach beyond their statutory powers. Taxpayers could be given standing to file such suits, by awarding a $1,000 “bounty” (plus reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs) for those who successfully challenge improper agency action. Consideration should be given to creating an incentive for such suits by awarding successful plaintiffs a percentage of the money saved through such suits, perhaps according to a sliding scale of declining percentage returns for higher savings with a cap set at certain amounts. Just as qui tam suits under the False Claims Act have helped curtail oil company underpayment of royalties owed the federal government, so such a measure would create a structural counterbalance to corporate influence over federal agencies.
    Source: Cutting Corporate Welfare, p.118 Oct 9, 2000

    Big business influence hurts democracy

    Over the past twenty years we have seen the unfortunate resurgence of big business influence, generating its unique brand of wreckage, propaganda and ultimatums on American labor, consumers, taxpayers and most generically, American voters. Big business has been colliding with American democracy and democracy has been losing.
    Source: Nomination Acceptance Speech Jun 25, 2000

    Corporate sponsorship turns debates into beer commercials

    Complaining that corporate sponsorship is turning presidential debates into beer commercials, Ralph Nader and others filed a suit today against the Federal Election Commission over how the debates are financed. The suit, which the plaintiffs say could affect this fall’s presidential debates, says that corporate financing of the debates amounts to an illegal corporate campaign contribution. It asks the court to strike down the Federal Election Commission regulations that allow corporations - like Anheuser-Busch, the maker of Budweiser and a sponsor of this fall’s debates -- to contribute millions of dollars to the staging of the debates. “It’s turning our presidential debates into a beer commercial,” Nader said in a telephone interview. “And these companies are really sponsoring an exclusive to our campaign commercial for Bush and Gore.”
    Source: Carey Goldberg, NY Times, p. A20 Jun 20, 2000

    Corporate government has hijacked political leadership

    Over the past 20 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 is a world away from the legislative milestones seen in the 60s and 70s. 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 and solutions, while our government has been drawn away from us by a corporate government. Our political leadership has been hijacked.

    Source: Green Party Announcement Speech Feb 21, 2000

    States & the public should oppose corporate tax breaks

    What are the possible remedies for the megabillion-dollar corporate welfare epidemic? State governments should agree among themselves not to engage in races to the bottom [via tax breaks]. And the national government should work to abolish such subsidies entirely. The public should initiate a constitutional challenge to tax inducements designed to lure companies across state lines. [Some scholars] argue that such actions violate the interstate commerce clause. It’s a sound argument
    Source: “In the Public Interest” newspaper column Apr 14, 1999

    Role of government is to counteract power of corporations

    I like Thomas Jefferson’s definition of government: Do together what we can’t do by ourselves. And that the function of representative government is to counteract what he called “the excesses of the monied interests”-that today is the corporate interests. There’s other things-not only the defense of the country but public health, public safety, research and development-that only government can generate, and we’d better take control of it and have it represent people instead of corporations.
    Source: National Public Radio, interview by Diane Rehm Apr 3, 1996

    Coined the term “corporate welfare”

    Q: The term “corporate welfare” has been around since 1956, when Ralph Nader first brought it up. What do you mean by corporate welfare?

    A: Corporate welfare comes in two forms and many variations. One is the active form. That includes agribusiness subsidies, military contractor subsidies, loan guarantees, bailouts of S&Ls. There are giveaways of minerals on federal lands, there are giveaways of computer databases. Then there’s the passive corporate welfare, which are the tax breaks, the loopholes. There are dozens of those, they make up about half the tax code. One example is that foreign corporations don’t pay many taxes at all. And then there are the rates themselves -- if you’re an individual you pay a higher rate than a corporation.

    Source: Utne Community, interview by Monika Bauerlein Jul 2, 1995

    Other candidates on Government Reform: 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