By Ralph Nader
Told you so.
Some might deem it celebratory to utter this phrase, as if one is boasting about their own clever foresight. But when it comes to serious matters — matters that affect millions of people, their jobs, their health, and their livelihoods, there is no satisfaction in being right about predicting bad conditions. It’s much better to predict good news. But as it now stands in our country, many problems that emerged years ago have developed into sheer catastrophes, despite the many warnings of forward-thinking experts, scholars and observers.
Disturbingly, those of us who saw the warning signs and called attention to the storm clouds on the horizon are routinely ignored or even chastised, while the blatant war mongers, the misleaders, the defrauders and the corporate apologists are given ample TV/radio time and space on op-ed pages to promote their wrongheaded views. What kind of nation prosecutes whistleblowers for telling the truth, while the perpetrators of blatant, criminal actions by governments and corporations continue to walk free and enjoy the fruits of their shameful actions?
My latest book, Told You So: The Big Book of Weekly Columns is a collection of ten years of weekly writings on a large range of issues. Many of the problems discussed in the book are ones that long have plagued our nation and have been routinely ignored or overlooked.
Here are four “Told You So’s” noted in the book.
1.) Many are shocked by the recent reports of the National Security Agency (NSA) secretly collecting records of millions of phone calls, emails, internet searches, and more, all without any clear oversight and accountability. Many mainstream media outlets are now questioning the scope of this monumental level of government snooping. But while this news of Big Brother-esque overreach might be surprising to some, consider those of us who predicted it back when the Patriot Act was signed into law in the post-9/11 fervor. Benjamin Franklin once wrote: “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
On January 9, 2009, I wrote then President-Elect Obama and asked him to: “[M]ake a clean break from the Bush regime’s law of rule to our declared commitment to the rule of law…This can be significantly accomplished by executive orders, agency or departmental directives, whistleblower protections, enforcement actions and explicit legislative proposals.”
Instead of heeding this advice, President Obama has continued — and even expanded — the worst practices of the Bush Administration. Drone strikes have routinely terrorized people in foreign lands and created new enemies to the United States, and countless billions of dollars have been spent on new ways to snoop on ordinary Americans private lives by tracking their phone calls and emails. In 2008, I wrote: “Barack Obama taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago. Let’s have it operate out of the Obama White House!”
The same advice applies today.
2.) The actions of Wall Street brought us the financial collapse, the global recession, and the emergence of “Too Big to Fail” and “Too Big to Jail.” Much of this is due to the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999. Repealing Glass-Steagall freed Wall Street from its regulatory restraints. Breaking down the wall between investment banks and commercial banking placed our country on the path to unfettered casino capitalism, gambling away other peoples’ money such as pension plans and mutual funds. Soon after the repeal of Glass-Steagall, I approached then-Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers during a chance encounter on a flight to Boston. “Do you think the big banks have too much power?” I asked him.
“Not yet,” was his reply.
3.) Last week, Southern California Edison announced that it will be permanently shutting down its long troubled San Onofre nuclear plant. Back in 1982, I wrote to demand the closure of this facility.
San Onofre is one of several U.S. plants, such as Indian Point in New York and Diablo Canyon in California, that rest near an earthquake fault — just like the infamous Fukushima plant in Japan.
Over 40 years ago, the Atomic Energy Commission estimated that a full nuclear meltdown could contaminate an area “the size of Pennsylvania” and cause massive casualties. Despite this enormous risk, the nuclear industry has claimed a return to nuclear power will be beneficial to the economy and the environment. What of the radioactive waste? What of the enormous security risks? Allowing such reactors to continue to exist is jeopardizing public health and safety.
It is time to eliminate the threats of these catastrophic accidents waiting to happen.
4. The Iraq War was an invasion driven by falsehoods from a criminal presidency violating our Constitution, federal statutes, and international treaties. None of the perpetrators of that invasion have been punished for the wanton death and destruction they caused. The war took the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and injured and sickened many more. The Congressional Budget Office now estimates that the Iraq War cost the U.S. taxpayers approximately $1.9 trillion dollars.
In February 2003, after opposing the pending illegal invasion of Iraq, I wrote: “the Bush Administration has been less than forthcoming in providing the public estimates of the actual costs of a war, both in terms of troops and money. The American Academy of Arts and Sciences estimates that over 10 years, war and the reconstruction of Iraq could cost as much as $2 trillion — almost the equivalent of the entire annual federal budget.”
Two trillion dollars later and many Americans would be hard pressed to say what was truly accomplished in that conflict other than the continuing sociocide of Iraq and its people.
There is no glory in “Told You So’s.” But it is time to stop celebrating the criminally negligent, the suppressors of truth and the profit-driven wrongdoers. Let us turn to those who have proven themselves as early warners, and as such, cease traveling down the road to decay and decline. Look to prophetic people such as Jim Hightower, Bill Moyers, William Greider, Barbara Ehrenreich, Ramsey Clark, James Hansen, Lois Gibbs, Bob Monks, Adolph Reed, Nomi Prins and many others.