Commercial Defrauding of Uncle Sam—Biggest Booming Business

By Ralph Nader

March 18, 2022

The biggest business in America is stealing and defrauding the federal government, Uncle Sam and you the taxpayers. In terms of sheer stolen dollars, the total amount is greater than the annual sales of Amazon and Walmart over the past two years.

Before getting to the real big stuff, start with how much was stolen or not delivered by the contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. Just in one program, John Spoko—Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR), estimated that $30 billion of the $100 billion repairs project was purloined. Despite his many damning reports on what was also wasted—like the $40 million natural gas-powered fueling station (there were no natural gas-powered cars in Afghanistan)—no one was indicted, no one was fired, no one missed a promotion. This is according to author Andrew Cockburn, who interviewed Spoko extensively for his new book The Spoils of War: Power, Profit and the American War Machine. In fact, Cockburn writes: “They were giving bonuses to people for stealing our money.”

Of the $360 billion in annual billing fraud by the health care industry, over $100 billion is fraud on Medicare and Medicaid.

Turning to the $6 trillion appropriated (without reversing the tax cuts by Trump on the super-rich) by both Trump and Biden since March 2020, government investigators and the media are seeing staggering thefts and frauds. Money was stolen outright by fake companies and fraudulent applications, or taken by profitable companies, law firms and others that these programs were never intended to benefit.

One estimate has the trillion dollar Paycheck Protection Program delivering only 25 percent to the people for whom it was intended. Even people like the notorious anti-taxer Grover Norquist, who is loaded with corporate donations, applied for and got a bundle of tax dollars.

From the beginning I called members of Congress to caution them to draft very tight language in the giant rescue and infrastructure programs in order to foresee and forestall the predictable giant heist. There were some provisions—expanding enforcement budgets and inserting certain general review obligations on government agencies. But it was massively too little and too late— and utterly inadequate for the volume of coming robberies.

Corporate lobbyists were already swarming over Capitol Hill to get their bailouts, grants, sweetheart contracts and other benefits. The airlines got about $50 billion in bailouts, for example, after they had bought back $45 billion of their own stock from passenger revenues.

The mass media was also largely inattentive, spending far more time on the friction between politicians in Congress than the burning of taxpayer dollars. The Inspectors General attached to each federal agency were timid, under-budgeted and had weak authority.  Moreover, several Inspectors General positions were vacant.

Professor Malcolm Sparrow at Harvard has shown how there are specific, proven ways to prevent thefts and frauds on government programs. Effective criminal law enforcement authority, adequate enforcement budgets and plenty of investigators and auditors with higher level political support are crucial.

Neither Congress nor the White House have met this challenge of titanic corruption which should become a major campaign subject in the coming elections. Apart from a few perfunctory hearings, Congress has not held the high profile intense hearings that grab public attention—in part because both Parties have culpability, though the GOP is worse.

Biden spoke briefly this month about this thievery in his State of the Union address and promised a chief prosecutor for pandemic fraud.  This is a little late. And where was the mention of adequate budget and authority? Professor Sparrow recommends that the enforcement budgets for commercial crimes have to be at least one percent of the estimated theft/fraud. The Biden oversight isn’t a tenth of that measure.

Finally, The Washington Post and The New York Times have started to investigate. The findings of their lengthy features are predictably staggering, especially regarding the Small Business Administration (SBA) which dispatched $343 billion in PPP loans over a 14 day period!

As recounted in the NY Times article by David Farenthold, a free for all robbery spree took hold.  The SBA made classic, foreseeable blunders. First, it subcontracted out, without due diligence, to so-called nonprofits, the job of distributing and monitoring the expenditures, giving them 15 percent of the overall disbursements to, for example, children feeding programs. The blunder not only is an inappropriate delegation of governmental powers, but it also creates a perverse incentive for the overseer to shovel out money to subcontractors.

Biden’s Department of Agriculture arrogantly turned down Farenthold’s request to interview officials there. This is another sign of unpreparedness, enabled by a Congress that astonishingly let the Department “waive rules that had been put in place after previous scandals to make sure states watched the watchdogs,” wrote Farenthold. (See “F.B.I. Sees ‘Massive Fraud’ in Groups’ Food Programs for Needy Children”.)

A longer expose appeared in The Washington Post by Tony Romm with the headline “’Immense Fraud’ Creates Immense Task for Washington As It Tries to Tighten Scrutiny of $6 Trillion in Emergency Coronavirus Spending”.

Romm’s examples are about sheer theft. A person pleaded guilty who somehow got $4 million and spend chunks of it buying a Porsche, a Mercedes and a BMW. A man was sentenced to prison for obtaining $800,000 for a business that did not exist. Fake or shell companies getting grants and unpayable loans illustrate that the guardrails were non-existent in thousands of cases.

So minimal are the prosecutorial initiatives that the commercial criminals are still  actively seeking  huge sums in grants, loans, direct payments and other forms of emergency assistance.

The SBA’s diligent Inspector General, Hannibal “Mike” Ware, has been producing report after report, incurring the hatred of Trump and his then-SBA Administrator, and still not convincing Congress that without more enforcement funds, the corporate crime wave will prosper unabated. Even so, Romm points to evidence that dozens of criminal fraud cases were preventable with some more diligence from the SBA. It isn’t reassuring that Romm reported that SBA officials turned down interview requests by the Post.

Recent efforts by a long-culpable Congress and a long-neglectful Presidency are not close to catching up with current robberies, not to mention any chance of retrieving stolen monies. Ever since I requested in 1971 that President Richard Nixon set up a commission on corporate crime, the federal government has remained obstinately indifferent to the sheer scale of ‘crime in the suites.” Consider the looted military contracting budget and the global level of corporate tax evasions up against the tepid responses from Washington. Too much discretion was delegated to the state and local governments without strict criteria. One New York Republican-controlled municipality is about to spend $12 million to renovate a baseball stadium.

Without a tradition of Congress requiring annual compliance reports from federal agencies, which would require securing regular data feedback flows, the government  will continue to be caught flat-footed.

Why should the three working days a week Congress, with no skin in the game, really care? If it isn’t the unorganized taxpayers paying for these massive thefts, the next generation of Americans will get the tab. Especially since the solons on Capitol Hill have refused to rescind the huge Trump tax escapes for the wealthy and giant corporations that have ballooned the federal deficit.

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Going for Tax Reform Big Time

By Ralph Nader
March 11, 2022

What if $10 billion were raised over ten years to transform Congress and make it do what it should be doing for the people (See, Think Big to Overcome Losing Big to Corporatism, 1/7/22)? In a more recent column, Facilitating Civic and Political Energies for the Common Good, 2/2/22, I outlined how $1 billion per year could be spent lobbying Congress for a people’s agenda.

First $100 million per year would be used to get through Congress long-overdue legislation such as full Medicare for All, a living wage, preventing corporate abuses, etc. The second $100 million would be devoted to create facilities making it easy for people to band together in their various organized roles (e.g., workers, consumers, patients, savers) so they could counter corporate bosses who unite their investors and many lobbying trade groups.

Now, I wish to suggest the third $100 million per year be used to make Congress change the disgracefully unfair, wasteful, and inefficient tax laws.

Start with Congress providing the Treasury Department with adequate funds to crack down on tax evasion – estimated to be between $600 billion and $1 trillion a year! Republicans in the Congress, since 2011, have strip-mined the IRS budget, especially in the area of enforcement against tax evasion by the Big Boys and the Big Global Corporations.

The GOP has cut the IRS budget by 20 percent below its 2010 level, inflation adjusted. Thousands of skilled IRS auditors, investigators, and accountants could not be retained. Audits of large companies plunged by 58 percent between 2010 and 2019. Congress was turned into a recidivist enabler of massive tax evasion – which if done by ordinary people would constitute a crime.

Last year, 55 large corporations made $40 billion in U.S. profits and paid NO federal income tax. Other companies paid less than 10 percent. To give you an idea of the size of yearly uncollected taxes, the lowest estimate is $600 billion, which is $168 billion less than the entire $768 billion military budget approved last year. The current IRS Commissioner, Charles P. Rettig, says the sum of uncollected taxes last year was a trillion dollars!

When super-rich individuals and corporations escape taxes, either middle-class taxpayers have to pay more or there are fewer government services or the federal deficit gets bigger. The last two results are the ones usually favored by Congress.

Turning to tax reform, there are lists and lists of proposals to get rid of grossly unfair tax loopholes, parking money in overseas tax havens, unjustifiable commercial tax deductions, arbitrary deferrals of income, rapid depreciation, shell corporations, and other complex travesties cooked up by corporate tax lawyers.

There is the notorious “carried interest” tax escape, condemned by Warren Buffett and just about every impartial tax expert. This is where private equity and hedge funds, in particular, get their no-risk net services for investors taxed at a much lower capital gains tax rate instead of higher ordinary income rates.

These legal tax escapes are called “tax avoidance” and are carved out by commercial interest lobbyists who wine, dine, and give campaign cash to many of the 535 members of Congress. Some of these “avoidances” have existed for years, while others are quietly pushed through at the end of many congressional sessions. If people only knew more specific examples of what profitable freeloaders are getting away with, their ire would spark indignation and civic action. Think tax deductions for extravagant entertainment or paying wrongfully injured people and so forth.

Spending $100 million a year could fund hundreds of skilled peoples’ lobbyists on Capitol Hill and back home in congressional districts. These advocates would make tax reform front-page news, push for revelatory public hearings and encourage disclosures by whistleblowers. They would also propose airtight specific legislation. These and other initiatives would make “tax reform” a top-ranked election issue.

For years, all kinds of fair tax proposals have been developed by law professors, and public interest groups, such as the Citizens for Tax Justice and its former director Robert McIntyre. But no legislative muscle has been applied to Congress to counter the relentless corporatist assault on fair and proper tax laws.

Some reformers are concluding that giant corporations are moving the tax code toward de facto tax exemption for themselves. David Cay Johnston, author of many articles and books on this subject, has concluded that corporations, using global tax escapes, can now decide what to pay, when to pay, and where to pay their dwindling taxes. He thinks unenforceable federal income taxes for corporations should be scrapped in favor of a much simpler, more collectible corporate tax system.

Western European nations rely heavily on “value-added taxes” a cascading form of sales tax starting with mining to manufacturing to wholesale and retail levels. Sales taxes are usually easier and quicker to collect.

Other tax reform advocates urge that we start first with taxing pollution, (“tax what we burn before taxing what we earn”) corporate crime, and financial transaction taxes on Wall Street trades and speculation.

Doubters of much success in Congress, take note. There are no more than a tiny handful of full-time advocates doing this work. Not a single full-time person, for example, is lobbying to end the “carried interest” tax escape. Similar voids exist for any one of hundreds of such unconscionable and indefensible schemes.

Why would you expect anything to happen with nobody on top of Congress? With $100 million a year, a corps of savvy experts, publicists and communicators could decisively take on Capitol Hill.

For now, Congress must pass the Biden administration’s restorative funding to the depleted IRS to make the Big Boys pay up.

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Biden Neglects to Make the Crucial Request to the Citizenry for His Program

By Ralph Nader
March 7, 2022

The President’s State of the Union speech before a joint session of Congress is the media event of the year for the occupant of the Oval Office. Joe Biden spoke for an hour, covered lots of predictable policy ground, and also praised, promised, and reassured “the people.”

But, as President Biden has done many times in public speeches and addresses, he failed to engage the people as his allies to confront his policy opponents in Congress.

All his priorities – social safety net protections, rebuilding community infrastructure or public works, more aggressive action against climate crises, and paying for these programs by repealing the Trump tax escapes for the large corporations and the super-rich, are being blocked by 50 GOP Senators and two Democratic Senators.

Biden’s reluctance to invite the people to phone, write or email these obstructionists in Congress reflects his personality of not criticizing the GOP opposition when addressing the public.

Here is what Mr. Biden could have said to mobilize the citizenry and stay with his amiable style:

My four major programs register large majority support among the American people. It is easy to understand why. People want their public services to work. They want the roads, bridges, public transit, their water and sewage plants, their public clinics, and broadband upgraded and maintained in good repair. People need their well-equipped heroic emergency responders to rescue them in times of danger. That’s what your taxes are supposed to be for public needs.

Furthermore, the American people want their government to have the facilities to protect them from climate violence and not just when the tornadoes, hurricanes, massive wildfires, floods or droughts, and other natural disasters hit us. Increasingly, the people are worried about more of these calamities worsening for their children and grandchildren.

You know what? It doesn’t matter whether they are conservatives or liberals, small businesses or large company owners, members of the chambers of commerce or unions. That’s why all the polls register loudly: “Do It, Now!”

We also know that the American people are compassionate. They know that misfortune, calamity, bad luck, or disabling depression could befall any of us. Half of the working families in our country are poor. They struggle to meet their daily needs and debt payments. Fifteen million children go to bed hungry in America! Our traumatized veterans return home and find themselves homeless, unemployed, uncared for and committing suicide, all in higher proportions than is the case with the civilian population.

Workplace hazards claim many workers’ health and safety. Toxics in the environment expose some people more than others. All these people who are our neighbors, friends, and relatives call for the compassion of those Americans fortunate enough not to be in distress. All religions historically instruct their adherents to take their charitable responsibilities seriously. We learned this as kids attending our places of worship.

Our proposed programs have, for decades, lent a helping hand to needy workers – daycare and family leave – and to needy unemployed such as wider access to Medicare, Medicaid, home healthcare, nutritious food programs, and energy assistance. In 2021, this Congress appropriated funds that gave over 60 million non-partisan children approximately $300 per month per child. Mothers and fathers called this supplemental help during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic a timely lifeline. It expired in January. Many in Congress have refused to temporarily renew this emergency help.

My fourth program, which would repeal the Trump tax escapes answers the question members of Congress always ask. How do we pay for these services and initiatives I have outlined (which by the way, economists tell us help promote economic growth and head off heavy expenses, as with safety, health, and health insurance improvements)? The super-rich and the giant corporations should step up their patriotism and finally pay their fair share as people like Warren Buffett and the Patriotic Millionaires’ organization have argued for years.

Just in the period of Covid-19, the very wealthy have increased their assets by a trillion dollars and INCREASED their wealth while a pandemic has claimed more than a million innocent American lives and destabilized the economy. These privileged and wealthy people and super-profitable corporations are benefitting from the lowest federal income taxes their class has paid since before World War II.

Congress itself has documented the huge tax escapes available to the super-rich. One stunning fact stands out: In 2021, 55 corporations that earned $40 billion paid zero in federal income taxes. They can get away with this because their lobbyists stay in touch with their members of Congress who make their privileges possible.

That’s not fair by any standard of fair play for the American people. I don’t know any American workers who can make record wages and pay no federal income tax.

My proposals would restore the taxes on the super-rich and giant corporations, including foreign corporations doing business in the U.S. to where it was before the Trump cuts. Even then they were paying in federal income taxes far less than companies and super-rich were paying in the prosperous nineteen sixties.

My fellow Americans, aren’t you getting tired of State of the Union speeches by presidents condemning gouging prescription drug prices and the ban on Medicare negotiating volume discounts with the big drug companies, as the VA and the Department of Defense do now, with nothing happening on Capitol Hill? Aren’t you tired, as I am, of a succession of presidents condemning fraud on the government by business crooks or promising to make America more self-sufficient in critical areas, and nothing happens in Congress?

The list goes on – for a higher minimum wage, enforcing the law against corporate crime, monopolies and daily rip-offs of consumers, and letting workers have an easier time forming trade unions.

Still, Congress – not all lawmakers of Congress by any means – does nothing and in some instances actually passes legislation making some of these abuses worse.

Enough already. You the people gave your sovereign power under our Constitution over to the 535 members of Congress. You must demand that your delegated power be used by Congress to lift up and serve the American people ‘indivisible for liberty and justice for all.’ You know their names, their phone numbers, and their emails. Let them hear from you! Or you can call the Congressional switchboard at 202-224-3121. Ask the legendary Capitol operators to take you to the offices of your senators and representatives. If just 30 million out of over 300 million Americans do this simple task, I guarantee that you’ll change enough minds to make these great advances against frustration, anxiety, dread and fear a daily reality.

In addition, the White House will place these programs in clear language with numbers on a new White House website Yes.org. When you contact your members of Congress, make sure you insist on a response to your message. If your members of Congress do not respond to your demands, send them again and again to their national and local offices and, if you wish, to the local media.

We only need a handful of legislators to change their minds or to be independent of mind, to get these long-overdue changes enacted. As was done throughout American history, when members of Congress decided to do the right things, despite special interest negativity, it was because they heard your voices, your reason, your personal pleas, your compassion, and your respect for what our Founders called “posterity.” Only you now can make members of Congress rise to their “better angels.”

Thank you and God Bless America.

Why didn’t Biden’s speechwriters save this solemn, mass-media-covered occasion from being another exercise in rhetorical futility?

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Everyone Loses in the Conflict Over Ukraine

By Ralph Nader
February 25, 2022

When two scorpions are in a bottle, they both lose. This is the preventable danger that is growing daily, with no end game in sight between the two nuclear superpowers, led by dictator Vladimir Putin and de facto sole decider, Joe Biden.

Putin’s first argument is, Washington invented the model of aggressive, illegal invasions, and destruction of distant countries that never threatened U.S. security. Millions have died, been injured, and sickened in defenseless countries attacked by U.S. armed forces. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney killed over a million innocent Iraqis and devastated the country in so many ways that scholars called it a “sociocide.”

Putin’s second argument is that Russia is being threatened on its sensitive western border, which had been invaded twice by Germany and caused the loss of 50 million Russian lives. Soon after the Soviet Union collapsed, the West’s military alliance against Russia began moving east. Under Bill Clinton, NATO (The North Atlantic Treaty Organization) signed up Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic in 1999 leading to major arms sales by the U.S. giant munitions corporations.

More recently, Putin sees U.S. soldiers in these countries, ever closer U.S. missile launchers, U.S.-led joint naval exercises in the Baltic Sea, and intimations that Ukraine and Georgia could soon join NATO. (Imagine if the Russians were to have such a military presence around the U.S. borders.)

Even often hawkish New York Times columnists – Thomas Friedman and Bret Stephens made this point this week about the brazen U.S. history of military hypocrisy while tearing into Putin. Stephens brought up the Monroe Doctrine over the entire Western Hemisphere, in raising repeatedly the question, “Who are We?”

The chess game between Russia and the West has become more deadly with Putin’s military moves followed by immediate Western sanctions against some Russian banks and oligarchs close to Putin. Travel bans and freezing the completion of the second major natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany are in place with promises of much more severe economic retaliation by Biden.

These sanctions can become a two-way street. Western Europe needs Russian oil and gas, Russian wheat, and essential Russian minerals such as lithium, cobalt, and nickel. Sanctions against Russia will soon boomerang in terms of higher oil and gas prices for Europeans and Americans, more inflation, worsening supply chains, and the dreaded “economic uncertainty” afflicting stock markets and consumer spending.

The corporate global economy gave us interdependence on other nations, instead of domestic self-reliance under the framework of corporate-managed free trade agreements.

So how many billions of dollars in costs and a weakened economy will Joe Biden tolerate as the price of anti-Putin sanctions that will blowback on the American people? How much suffering will he tolerate being inflicted on the long-suffering Russian people? What will be the impact on the civilian population of more severe sanctions? And who is he to talk as if he doesn’t have to be authorized by Congress to go further into this state of belligerence, short of sending soldiers, which he said he would not do?

Is Congress to be left as a cheerleader, washing its hands of its constitutional oversight and foreign policy duties? Also, watch Republicans and Democrats in Congress unify to whoop through more money for the bloated military budget, as pointed out by military analyst, Michael Klare. What energy will be left for Biden’s pending “Build Back Better” infrastructure, social safety net, and climate crisis legislation?

In recent weeks, the State Department said it recognizes Russia’s legitimate security concerns but not its expansionism. Well, what is wrong with a ceasefire followed by support for a treaty “guaranteeing neutrality for Ukraine, similar to the enforced neutrality for Austria since the Cold War’s early years,” as Nation publisher and Russia specialist Katrina vanden Heuvel urged. (See: Katrina vanden Heuvel’s Washington Post article and her recent Nation piece).

Putin, unable to get over the breakup of the Soviet Union, probably has imperial ambitions to dominate in Russia’s backyard. Biden has inherited and accepted the U.S. Empire’s ambitions in many other nation’s backyards. Events have polarized this conflict over Ukraine, which is not a security interest for the U.S., into two dominant egos – Putin and Biden – neither of whom want to appear weak or to back down.

This is a dangerous recipe for an out-of-control escalation, much as it was in the lead-up to World War I. Neither the people nor the parliaments mattered then, as seems to be the case today.

Putin isn’t likely to make a cost-benefit assessment of each day’s militarism. But Biden better do so. Otherwise, he will be managed by Putin’s daily moves, instead of insisting on serious negotiations. The Minsk II Peace Accords of February 2015 brokered by Germany, France, and the United Nations that Russia and Ukraine agreed to before falling apart due to disagreements over who should take the first steps, still makes for a useful framework.

It is too late to revisit the accords to stop the invasion. But it should be proposed to introduce a climate for waging peace. Already, New York Governor Kathy Hochul has spoken about an increase in cyberattacks and ransomware demands in her state in recent weeks. Has Biden put that rising certainty in his self-described decades-long foreign policy expertise? Watch out for what you can’t stop, Joe.

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California Advocates Counterattack Corporate Crime and Control

By Ralph Nader
February 18, 2022

Want to unite conservatives and liberals in the Red and Blue states? Just mention those unreadable computer-generated bills we all get online or in the mail. Overflowing with abbreviations and codes, they are inscrutable, especially health care bills.

If you call the vendors for an explanation, be prepared to wait and wait and wait for any human being to answer or call back, even after you’ve pushed all the required buttons to leave a voice mail message. The vendors are counting on you to surrender, mumbling that you’ve got better things to do with your time.

If you’re lucky enough to get a human and you disagree about the bill, you know that if you persist against their assurances of accuracy, your credit score can go down. Algorithms can be made to work so impersonally.

A few months ago, the syndicated consumer columnist for the Washington Post, Michelle Singletary, tried to correct errors in her credit bureau’s file. She called trying to get through a “hellish nightmare,” a “journey to automation hell.” Service by algorithm doesn’t differentiate between ordinary and prominent customers. Everyone gets the same shaft.

One of the worst companies in not getting back to customer inquiries or complaints is the Bank of America. Sources tell us the Bank has algorithms that measure how long they can keep customers waiting so as to have fewer workers needed to answer the calls.

The very design of computerized bills is a premeditated endeavor by the cheaters. The nation’s expert, applied mathematician Malcolm Sparrow – a Harvard professor – wrote an entire book on this subject titled “License to Steal” in which he conservatively estimated that the billing fraud in the health care industry is 10% of all expenses or about $360 billion this year alone!

The anonymous cheaters, hiding behind the corporate web of complexity, keep getting bolder. They bill you for things you never bought or wanted. The Wells Fargo Bank did this to millions of their customers over the years. The bank opened unwanted credit card accounts and billed for auto insurance, for example, imposing sales quotas on their employees. The media caught the bank, finally. Wells Fargo had to pay out money in fines and restitution. The company easily absorbed the payments as part of the cost of doing business. No executive was criminally prosecuted; a few resigned. The Board of Directors was not replaced. And Wells Fargo is flying high today, pretty much unscathed.

Many consumers don’t even look at their bills anymore. They just give up and let the sellers, such as the utilities, get direct electronic payments from their bank accounts.

On July 30, 2014, Senator Jay Rockefeller’s consumer subcommittee held hearings on “cramming.” Here customers are billed for things on their telephone bill they never ordered by firms that somehow got the phone companies to add their charges. The testimony described what has to be seen as criminal billing. Members of Congress turned their backs on the proposed legislation to end this scam while keeping their pockets open to campaign contributions from the wrongdoers.

Credit scores, credit ratings, and grossly one-sided fine print contracts are resulting in the financial and contractual incarceration of the American consumer. In many instances, the corporate lawyers who create these contractual handcuffs make sure that you’ve “consented” to your “jailing,” to your rip-offs, to your giving up your rights to go to court to challenge marketplace abuses. They point to some deeply buried sentence in these contracts that you have never even seen.

Maybe someday such deceit by these lawyers, who are deemed “officers of the court,” will be considered legal malpractice.

Well, someone cares! In a groundbreaking report accompanied by a comprehensive proposed model act for state legislatures to enact, California consumer advocates Harvey Rosenfield and Laura Antonini document the thousand and one “non-stop thefts of our money, safety, time and privacy.”

If you read through the waves of documented corporate rip-offs, billing frauds, and deceptive promotions, you’ll be nodding so much, from your own experience, that you may have to stop and rest your neck.

The authors don’t just expose the fraudsters, however. They have drafted legislation to stop the corporate crooks and to protect and empower you in the perilous marketplace of corporate crime, fraud, and abuse.

Read the report (four years in the making) for yourself by visiting the Represent Consumers website. You will see how the eroded civil justice system can be toughened across the board to represent you.

Those of you who wish to listen to Harvey and Laura talk about their battle for American consumers, turn to the Ralph Nader Radio Hour where their interview will be available as a podcast on Saturday, February 26, 2022.

You’ll want to take your righteous fury straight to your state legislator with the model statute in hand.

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Ezra Klein and His Vast Inner Space

By Ralph Nader
February 12, 2022

I read the New York Times in print, flipping pages and reading through all the various sections. Over the past year, a nearly life-size face appears in many full-page ads. This same ad appears in any section of the Times including the coveted pages of the Sunday New York Times Magazine. The same full-page ad has been printed at least 100 times.

The ad intensely promotes the Ezra Klein Show! – a New York Times Podcast featuring their newest star.

Mr. Klein, formerly from the Washington Post and Vox, holds forth with interviews that range far and wide but not as far and wide as reality would seem to demand from such a well-read, inquiring young mind of 37 years. This repetitive full-page ad, once you get beyond his portrait, the top of his black t-shirt, and the American flag, tells you what to expect, to wit:

“How do we address climate change if the political system fails to act? What are the effects of markets infiltrating our lives? What is the future of the Republican Party? How can our food system be more just? What do psychedelics teach us about consciousness? What does sci-fi understand about our present? How can conversations and ideas help us to better understand?…… Ezra Klein invites you into a conversation about something that matters.”

Do large advertisers on his Podcasts like Facebook and Fidelity Investments invite you to patronize them? Podcasts are a key component of the New York Times business model that is designed to reach the younger aliterate generation and others who have a short attention span. Mr. Klein, also an occasional columnist for the paper, declares that only the Times management makes the decisions about ads, and that he has nothing to do with the corporations wrapped around his content. Alas Mr. Klein has no say, he would insist, over how the Times promotes him. I wonder. He could at least vary the ad, which hasn’t changed an iota. For example, the ad could feature some eyebrow raising or enlightening excerpts and exchanges between him and his guests.

How about varying the graphics to avoid the humdrum reaction by readers seeing the same presentation over and over again? (Attempts to reach the head of the advertising and graphics departments at the Times by phone and by email were not successful.)

Even a corporate critic told me that listening to Ezra’s show “is a great education.” Yet direct words like “corporate crime,” “corporate welfare,” “corporate greed,” and “corporate control” over our political economy, culture, children, genetics, war machine, tax inequities, health care chaos, housing and food supply are rarely used in promotions or podcast questioning, despite their authentic pulling power. The preferred word is “markets,” not the power-hungry CEO or a named corporation plundering the innocents. Ezra did, however, have an entire show with Noam Chomsky, a globally recognized public intellectual, war and corporate critic, and mega-author. For years the Times news and editorial pages have reduced Chomsky to a virtual non-person.

As a deliberative progressive, Mr. Klein probably has a nuanced view of his full-page promotions that expands well beyond delights of ego. A full-page in the Times is valuable journalistic real estate. These pages could be filled with news and features on subjects neglected by the New York Times, including issues involving New York City.

For example, the 50-year performance of the New York student Public Interest Research Group’s accomplishments remains largely ignored, other than its Straphangers Campaign monitoring the City’s subways. NYPIRG is part of the most productive nationwide civic (student) movement in modern U.S. history (See USPIRG.org).

It has also been puzzling to see the Times use valuable pages endlessly promoting the same book by their ace White House reporter, Peter Baker, or their columnist Paul Krugman. Month after month, with diminishing returns, these ads produce very modest Amazon rankings and other sales. Large space is taken up which might cause loyal readers to say, “Enough, already, we want more print content from all those talented underutilized reporters.”

Graphics, seen by the Times as necessary in a visual age to attract readers, have been allowed to go way overboard. Graphic designers now reign supreme over what were the most valuable pages in American journalism such as the front pages of the Sunday Review and the Sunday Business Section. Often full-page graphics exude no message; and are little more than eye candy.

Readers of the print edition these days tend to be serious and more elderly. They can be forgiven for feeling robbed of the content that once graced these front pages, such as the brilliant investigative financial reporting by Gretchen Morgenson, whose reporting gave many CEOs indigestion at their Sunday morning breakfast. That was before she left when the editors decided to make the section “more business friendly.”

Returning to Ezra Klein, here is my entreaty. You’re a big star. Superstar athletes, such as Tom Brady, LeBron James and others weigh in on management decisions. This level of intervention by you is hardly a major stretch. Enough of these full-page, diminishing return promotions. Promote what you’ve mined from your podcast, and free some space for reporters hungry for space to cover the uncovered.

Imagine trading some ad space for a story on what the tiny financial transaction sales tax, collected and instantly rebated in the billions of dollars each year by New York State, is all about. The Times Albany reporters would like getting that assignment at last.

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Facilitating Civic and Political Energies for the Common Good*

By Ralph Nader
February 2, 2022

Some readers responded to one of my earlier columns urging the national progressive civic groups, with millions of members back home, to overcome the dominance of giant corporatism with a Ten-Year Plan budgeted at $1 billion a year (See, Think Big to Overcome Losing Big to Corporatism, January 7, 2022). Readers wanted to know more about the Plan and where the money would come from to implement this grand initiative.

New billionaires are proliferating in numbers reflecting the record stock market surges. Some are enlightened and worried enough to gather with citizen group leaders to review the Plan, the strategy, timetable, and required budget. Those who count themselves in, and want to back the Plan, would pledge to contribute the total pledges of $10 billion for the ten-year effort. After the funding is secured, (possibly augmented with internet crowdfunding), the Plan commences in several coterminous stages.

The First Stage is to get through Congress, vetoproof if necessary, the long overdue necessities for half of the U.S. population, which is poor, with collateral benefits for the entire country.

A Brain Trust will expertly draft legislation addressing the elements of ending endemic poverty. These include a living wage, Medicare for All insurance (already well drafted in H.R.1976 and supported by over 118 co-sponsors), affordable housing, adequate nutrition that abolishes hunger in America, personal and environmental health care with emphasis on prevention, necessary public services for families and communities, and a system of private retirement savings to supplement Social Security.

These conditions for good livelihoods, which were mostly secured years ago by some Western countries, lead to larger market demand, have consistent left/right support in Europe and in the U.S., and they make for strong economies. (See, Reframing the Politics of Polarization by Hazel Henderson, August 4, 2021).

The driving pressure to implement the Plan would come from civic offices staffed by two full-time people in each of the 435 Congressional Districts and for US Senators in all fifty states plus territories. Groups would be established with an expanding corps of citizen volunteers committing 500 hours and $500 annually forming a grassroots juggernaut. These citizen groups would focus intensely on their members of Congress, using precise petition-backed citizen summonses to their Senators and Representatives to appear at Town Meetings, which these organizers arrange with detailed and broadly supported agendas.

The yearly cost to establish these offices and recruit significant numbers of volunteers as the ever-deepening force is about $100 million a year. This sum would include inter-district coordinators and other facilities to organize the self-funded, expanding volunteer corps.

Passage of vital and overdue bills is less difficult than assumed by a society that is presently AWOL from the playing field of legislation. Such catch-up legislation can already count on the overt support of about thirty percent of Congress, with the latent support of at least a quarter of Congress once the organized rumble from the People is heard. (That was the case with Nixon Republicans in the 1960s and early 70s.)

Once the political tea leaves become clear, lawmakers become responsive. This is what happened in corporate President Richard Nixon’s first term, sometimes leading to great majorities behind environmental, consumer, and labor bills. Nixon even sent to Congress a basic minimum-income plan, a better health insurance proposal than Clinton offered as President, and congressional voting rights legislation for the District of Columbia. Congress did not pass these three reforms coming from a Republican White House. Nonetheless, Nixon felt he had to propose these bills.

The Second Stage, parallel to the first, is to create facilities that invite and enable an accelerated banding together of willing people in their various roles. People can have rights and remedies under the law, but without organized groups they are mostly not used, defended, or improved. Whether you are customers of insurance, utility and banking companies, or tenants, or consumers of food, energy, transportation, and healthcare or using government services, or have been wrongfully injured, membership in these “communities,” as organized advocacy groups is essential. Such groups would work to fundamentally change existing dysfunctional systems, extending to protections of children, services for students, and corporate control of the vast commons (public lands, public airwaves, etc.) that we the people already own.

Daily seeking their own interests, corporations are organized to the teeth by comparison to millions of citizens. This is why corporations control the major sectors of our government, our economy, and other societal institutions day by day. The large drug companies have 500 full-time lobbyists regularly working on Congress with large industry backup forces. The people are vastly outmatched. So what do we expect without a strong citizen team on the field?

Corporate power stems not from votes (corporations don’t vote, yet) nor so much from the campaign money. It comes as a byproduct of the almost wholly unorganized populace not utilizing its powerful exclusive sovereignty (“We the People”) under our Constitution. In our country’s history, it is remarkable what a small percentage of people (often under one percent) when organized and representing broad public concerns, have achieved against all odds. (See my book, Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think, 2016).

Much of the conceptual work on these legislated facilities has been developed and used to produce pilot projects vis-à-vis electric utility giants years ago by citizen organizations. (See, Banding Together: How Check Offs Will Revolutionize the Consumer Movement by Andrew Sharpless and Sarah Gallup, 1981).

To get these facilities set up and into action all around the country, with seed money for ten years, would annually cost about another $100 million. They would put the people and their expert champions at the table in more ways than one, with near immediate results. Right now, for example, according to consumer advocate, actuary, and former Federal Insurance Commissioner, Robert Hunter, about $30 billion is not being returned as state laws require, to motor vehicle owners by auto insurers that received a windfall when the pandemic reduced auto traffic and claims. Without state-by-state insurance consumer organizations, there will be few of these refunds.

Forthcoming columns will describe the uses for the remainder of the $800 million in the first of ten years.

*Richard Parker, Here, the People Rule: A Constitutional Populist Manifesto, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998.

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Morton Mintz Turns 100 – Investigative Nemesis of Corporate Criminals

By Ralph Nader
January 25, 2022

“Hi Mort,” began my calls to Morton Mintz who would invariably answer his phone promptly at the Washington Post. “I’ve got a story,” to which Mintz would respond warily: “Tell me about it.” And so it went for nearly twenty years with me and lots of other citizen advocates, whistleblowers, and congressional committee staff. More than any other reporter, Mintz broke open the walls surrounding the media’s non-coverage of serious consumer, environmental, and worker harms and rights.

The big advertisers and corporate lawyers, such as Lloyd Cutler, kept complaining to the Post publisher, Kay Graham, about his exposés and relentless stories that nourished congressional investigations, lawsuits, and prosecutions.

Mintz was not deterred, even from championing the Post’s union troubles with management. In 1978 the Post assigned him to cover the Supreme Court making him an ‘official source journalist’ which he intensely disliked. After two years he went back to reporting, but by then Reagan was President, the Democrats’ hold on Congress was weaker, and Washington was closing down on the citizenry in favor of the corporate supremacists.

Soon after Mintz joined the Post in 1962, from his job at the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, he broke the story about Thalidomide – a drug used as a sedative and to treat morning sickness that was given to pregnant mothers causing thousands of children, mostly in Europe, to be born without arms or legs or sometimes no limbs at all. Fortunately, an alert scientist Frances Oldham Kelsey at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) spared America by refusing to approve Thalidomide. Mintz also wrote numerous stories about inadequate FDA tests for the birth control pill. His various probes into the drug industry led to his first book published in 1965, The Therapeutic Nightmare.

I met Mintz during the GM-detective scandal in 1965. GM’s detectives were hired to “get dirt” on this young lawyer challenging the auto industry’s unsafe motor vehicles that put style and horsepower over saving lives with long-known safety devices. Together with Jim Ridgeway, then at the New Republic, Mintz broke the story of a GM gumshoe following me into a Senate office building. The private detective mistook Bryce Nelson, a Washington Post reporter, for me. The following excerpt from the An Unreasonable Man documentary captures this bit of history:

Bryce Nelson: I was walking to the old Senate office building, underground corridors that they used and one of the capitol policemen said to me, “You’d better get out of here; there are a couple of detectives following you.” And I said, “What you do mean?” “There are two guys following you.” He said, “Didn’t you write a book on auto safety?” I said, “No.”

Morton Mintz: It was February of ’66, a Saturday afternoon, when Ralph Nader told me he’d been followed the previous day. Well, you can’t write a story saying somebody says he’s being followed when there’s absolutely no evidence of it.

Bryce Nelson: I felt that I better tell somebody in case I wound up face down in the Potomac or Anacostia Rivers. I mean, something strange was going on, so I told my editor, the national editor of the Washington Post, Larry Stern.

Morton Mintz: And then Larry Stern, my boss, told me that another post reporter who has white skin and black hair had told him something very similar.

Bryce Nelson: Because we were so tall, thin, dark… dark hair.

Morton Mintz: I was, you know, astonished to have this confirmation.

A special attribute of Mintz is that he stayed with the story; he wasn’t interested in a major one-time feature. That steadfastness helped consumer advocates and congressional staffers, such as Michael Pertschuk, immensely in their step-by-step drive to regulate corporate outlaws.

What made him stay on the story was not just his professionalism and his regard for the readers, but his passion for justice for the underdogs. He epitomized the aphorism “information is the currency of democracy.”

Mintz’s corporate critics were many. They knew of his commitment and told his editors that his emotions made him biased. Whether exposing the tobacco companies, the asbestos industry, or the medical device and pharmaceutical business, the corporatists tried to trip him up. He was just too factual, too full of evidence, and too aware of not going beyond the boundary of accuracy to fall prey to the corporate drive to silence or discredit him.

No matter how tense or explosive the subject, Morton had the softest tone of voice. He had a logical, linear, disarming way of interrogating industry people and others who did not believe in the public’s need to know.

If he had a complaint, it was that he couldn’t get enough space in the paper for his fact-packed reporting. To augment his reporting, he joined with lawyer Jerry S. Cohen in writing America, Inc. and Power, Inc., to overwhelmingly and devastatingly detail the abusive power of big business over America.

He was keen on mentoring younger reporters about journalistic standards and independence. No one felt the brunt of commercial advertisers more than this inexhaustible reporter of what was going on in the dark recesses of corporate systems. In 1985, he wrote the deadly story of the criminal Robbins corporation in his book titled, At Any Cost: Corporate Greed, Women, and the Dalkon Shield.

The Post publishers and editors liked the journalistic prizes that Morton Mintz received, but they did not give him the cachet accorded to flashier journalists on the staff. Sometimes, the editors were downright irritated at how his exposés upset the business side of this large corporation registered on the New York Stock Exchange.

At a social gathering at Kay Graham’s home, to which I was invited, she amiably asked “How’s your Morton Mintz?” As if anyone could induce him to ever write a story that didn’t hold up, or that didn’t merit the high standards of newsworthiness the reading public deserved.

About the time he was leaving the Post in 1988, Mintz wanted to write a book about AARP and its entanglements with the health insurance and other industries. Touted as an organization of elderly consumers, AARP was also a seller of services. It contracted out its huge membership for “Medigap” coverage and auto insurance to giants such as United Health Insurance and auto insurers, from which it took a large share for its budget. Unfortunately, he couldn’t find a publisher. It is noteworthy that many years later no one picked up where he left off to write such a book.

In a 1996 Washington Monthly article, Mintz, who was troubled by reporters namby-pamby questions to political candidates, prepared a list of 27 serious questions whose answers would have probed the candidates’ positions or lack thereof on such topics as corporate influence, campaign contributions, and ethics, labor, military spending, and consumer policies. Needless to say, his ditto-headed colleagues largely ignored this veteran reporter’s attempt to give them more professional significance and make news.

Full of quiet energy (except on the tennis court) Mintz even managed to co-author books with his daughter, Margaret Quotations from President Ron, 1987, and with his beloved late wife, Anita President Ron’s Appointment Book, 1988.

I had lunch with Morton when he turned 95. I recall his utter astonishment at being informed that most email-driven Washington Post reporters do not return telephone calls to learn about scoops, leads, reactions, or corrections the way he used to.

Happy 100th birthday (January 26th), Morton. May your example reach the next generation and may they be energized by your impeccable career as a reporter.

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Lost Opportunities in Joe Biden News Conference

By Ralph Nader
January 21, 2022

President Joe Biden broke the record for the longest presidential press conference ever – going nearly two hours fielding question after question. He stood that long to prove his stamina and dispel bigoted charges of ageism.

How did he do by his own standards? First, his opening remarks naturally touted the bright spots in the economy and the administration’s efforts to control Covid-19 during his first year in office. However, he missed an important opportunity to connect with the public and focus the tunnel-vision media on the serious legislation he wants to advance.

For example, early on Biden proposed reversing some of the tax cuts for giant corporations and the super-wealthy that Trump rammed through Congress in 2017. Biden did not say why it is urgent for Congress to act on this matter or explain that these taxes are necessary not just for fairness, but to pay for the major proposals he has on Capitol Hill. Therefore, the media will not pay attention and assume he has given up.

Calling himself a “union guy” for decades, Biden inexplicably did not give a shout-out for a higher federal minimum wage, now frozen at $7.25 an hour. The House Democrats passed a bill increasing the minimum wage in stages to $15 but the bill is stuck in the Senate and threatened by an anti-worker GOP filibuster. He also could have brought national attention to the House-passed “Protect the Right to Organize (PRO) Act” that makes it less difficult to form unions. This legislation is also mired in the Senate. The President’s failure to mention these proposals signals to the press that these bills are off the table for this election year. Consequently, reporters don’t write about these important measures.

Biden portrayed his Republican enemies in the Senate with weak language, asking thrice whether there was anything the GOP was for. That criticism could have been far more penetrating had he enumerated ten proposals, passed in the House, that the corporate-indentured Republicans in both the House and Senate were against big time. Imagine the impact, for example, of noting the GOP blocking the renewal of $300 or $250 monthly checks to over 65 million children (both liberal and conservative families in need) in a mid-winter pandemic. Why not mention expanding Medicare for the elderly, or rebuilding America in every community—the latter desired by just about every local chamber of commerce, union, and small business? Such concise contrasts by Biden would have sent the cruel duo, Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy reeling.

Biden spoke of infrastructure, to be sure, but didn’t highlight the appeal to specific local interests and the overwhelming public support. He should have also warned big business to stop grabbing and corrupting the safety net assistance for deprived small business, under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). He could have referred to the Inspector General’s exposés at the Small Business Administration (SBA), which have gone almost unnoticed.

Biden marveled at the fact that not one Republican senator has dissented from draconian do-nothing Republican leaders. Unfortunately, the Democrats assured the Republican lock-step by not trying months ago to intensely spin-off some GOP Senators starting with the five not running for re-election and Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT). Romney says he hasn’t received one call from the White House.

Presidential remarks at press conferences needn’t devote more than two or three sentences to alert the country and the media to an administration’s priorities. Biden’s omissions were puzzling indeed by comparison to his own previous policy stands.

As a long-time corporate Democrat, it was not surprising that Biden did not mention law and order for the corporate crooks that have hugely ripped off government programs, as well as exploiting consumers and workers. But then he doesn’t exactly have the strong support from the Democratic Party or the Democratic National Committee (DNC) down to the state committees whose hands are out 24/7 for corporate campaign contributions.

Equally disappointing were the reporters’ questions narrowly ranging over a small number of issues – voting rights, the votes in Congress, his declining poll numbers, and Ukraine. The White House Press Corps, as the legendary pioneer Helen Thomas would politely point out, censors itself when it isn’t fearful of its bosses or being sycophantic. There were no questions on what Biden wants, but omitted. There were no questions on the corporate domination of just about every sector of our government and its political economy. And there were no questions about the bloated, unauditable, draining military budget to which was added $24 billion more than Biden and the Pentagon requested.

Consumers are hurt by gouging prices, deceptive practices, and blocked remedies. Many workers have widespread occupational hazards, low pay, and few benefits, yet they are taking more opportunities in a period of temporary labor shortages to form unions among some big-box chains and retailers (Starbucks, Amazon). The White House Press Corps repeatedly fails to ask questions that ordinary people would want answered about their conditions.

When Biden signals his acceptance of only pieces of his proposals being passed, he pre-signals defeat and weakens his negotiating leverage in advance. Presidents who appear weak diminish per se their influence with Congress.

Perhaps the media’s worst performance last Wednesday was their war-inciting, history-forgetting questions about Ukraine – goading a properly cautious Biden. After all, dictator Putin knows how deep Russian memories are of losing about 50 million people from western frontier invasions in World War I and World War II. They know that any Russian leader would oppose NATO, a military alliance against the Soviet Union – bringing weapons and membership to adjacent Ukraine. Nonetheless, the reporters chose war-inciting, not peace-inciting (diplomacy), questions, other than asking about what happened to his campaign promise to end the war in Yemen.

Biden, his advisers, and the Press Corps need to review their performances to avoid future ditto heading. We need to make them care enough to engage in such introspections.

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Eight New Year’s Resolutions for NPR to Consider Now

By Ralph Nader
January 14, 2022

The reasons Congress created NPR (National Public Radio) under the Nixon Administration was to fill the yawning gaps of commercial radio in local, national, and international news coverage and to give voice to the people, without ads. It was to be publicly funded by taxpayers. Almost 51 years later, NPR is now funded heavily by national corporations, with its local affiliates soliciting local business advertisements.

Resolution One: Apart from excellent features around the country and the world, NPR should give voice to what civic groups are doing to improve our country locally and nationally. NPR is heavy on entertainment and entertainers and needs to fill some of that airtime with news of the bedrock civic community in America. The imbalance is serious from the national to the local.

Resolution Two: NPR features many reports and interviews on Race, but needs far more focus on Class. Class exploitation by the rich and powerful corporate supremacists feeds into racial discrimination. The euphemism used is “inequality,” but corporate-bred crime, fraud, and abuse affects all people indiscriminately, which often disproportionately harms minorities. A result of the gross imbalance of time devoted to race and not to class is that indiscriminate injustice is mostly ignored.

Over sixty million very poor whites in our country, if they even bothered to listen to NPR, might ask: “What About Us?”

Focusing on racial plights, without going to its sources in commercial greed, redlining, exploited tenants, lower pay and poverty, substandard health care, rampant overcharging of the poor (recall the book, The Poor Pay More: Consumer Practices of Low-Income Families by David Caplovitz), greater difficulty getting loans, and discrimination against upward mobility to corporate executive ranks, are some examples of systemic commercialism fueling systemic racism.

NPR’s collateral benefit from this inattention is that business advertisers large and small love NPR and its affiliates. This is especially the case for corporations with bad records. NPR should reject ads from disreputable or criminal corporations.

Resolution Three: Stop mimicking commercial radio. NPR’s three-minute news segments on the hour often don’t even match the quality of CBS Radio’s choice of topics. For example, why is tennis star Novak Djokovic’s visa problems in Australia at the top of NPR news day after day? As for commercials, NPR stretches the envelope, airing, with its affiliates, as many as 30 ads per hour! Imagine the audience irritation. How many times do we have to hear each hour “NPR is supported by this station…”? NPR gives abundant repetitive ad time to the same few advertisers—Progressive Insurance, C3.AI, etc., that one wonders whether they are assured of exclusivity vis-à-vis competitors. Moreover, NPR starts the evening program Marketplace with ads, which the commercial networks do not do.

Your listeners want you to decongest your ads and some may want to know why you have given up on reversing the relative decline of congressional appropriations. You give ample time to loud right-wingers and right-wing causes. Why aren’t you gaining bipartisan support for more congressional funding?

Resolution Four: Compress the weather forecasts. Back in 1970-1971, Congress knew that commercial radio stations gave plenty of time to weather, traffic, sports, and music. That is still true. So why does WAMC in Albany, an NPR local affiliate, have such lengthy forecasts, some starting with the west coast, with ludicrous repetition for adjacent areas? WAMC is above average in covering local and state governments and candidates for public office with full-time staff.

Resolution Five: NPR should re-evaluate its music policy. NPR takes its weekends seriously, so much so that they take off right at 6:00 pm on Saturday and Sunday evenings. “Let them hear music,” for the rest of the time, as if the world stops then. Also, musical intervals are often too long, inappropriate for their context, and foolishly interjected. NPR’s evening program Marketplace, anchored by jumping-jack Kai Ryssdal, illustrates these observations. Even while he is rapidly giving the stock market numbers, there is background music loud enough to be considered foreground.

Resolution Six: Reconsider the uniform formulaics shackling your reporters. They respond to the anchor’s inquiry with a zigzag between their sound bites and corroborating sound bites from consulting firms, think tanks, and academic commentators. This model has a tedious staccato ring to it, especially since the reporters often, by way of their introduction, repeat what the interviewees are going to say.

Resolution Seven: Correct or explain your major faux pas. NPR staff need tutorials on the constitutional authority of Congress. NPR needs to explain to its listeners why, with all that staff in Washington D.C., it took about 90 minutes (or until about 3:30 pm) to start telling its affiliates about the Jan. 6 violent assault on Congress. Commercial CNN and other commercial media started reporting no later than 2:00 pm that fateful day. “And that’s not the only time NPR has messed up,” said one reporter for WAMC (that annually pays NPR a million dollars for NPR programming).

Resolution Eight: Give your Public Editor, Kelly McBride, a regular public time slot to discuss her insights, presently communicated mostly internally, and to address serious feedback from your listeners about NPR’s broadcasting flaws. (Local affiliates invite political opinions, personal development, and ‘how to’ questions on related shows).

Ms. McBride could share the program with NPR’s CEO—a position more remote from the NPR public every decade. Hear ye John Lansing! Among other benefits, you’ll get good suggestions for important, little-told news stories. (See reportersalert.org)

Congress should hold long needed public hearings in both the Senate and the House of Representatives to ascertain whether the original missions accorded public radio and public broadcasting are being pursued both qualitatively and quantitatively, and whether these networks and their affiliates have steadily strayed from those missions, due in part to the absence of mechanisms for public evaluations and congressional oversight.

There is so much to learn about NPR and PBS about their relations with American Public Media, the BBC, and other connections, to make them better and raise the expectations of their listening audience.

It’s hard not to be complacent when you have so little competition from the commercial stations that for decades have debased our publicly owned airwaves, free of charge.

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