S. David Freeman: Seven Decades of Participating in Power for All of Us

By Ralph Nader
May 28, 2020

If the planet Earth were animate, it would have shuddered at the news that S. David Freeman passed away this month. Freeman was that important to Earth’s future.  In his 94th year, he inspired all he met with his burning passion, relentless energy, and keen intellect.

Freeman, an engineer and a lawyer, knew where decisions were being made or ignored regarding our energy future. He mocked the foolish embrace of fossil fuels and warned all who would listen about the deadly impact of coal, oil, and natural gas consumption on our   environment. This humble son of an immigrant umbrella repair man made the most of his formidable talents over seven decades and helped steer mankind toward renewables and energy efficiency. Freeman worked to prevent the perilous use of fossil and nuclear fuels.

Freeman was one of the first environmentalists to warn us of the dangers posed by fossil fuels and he was one of the first to offer practical remedies.  He started his career in the 1950s as an engineer with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) before holding a series of positions with the Federal Power Commission (FPC) and the Johnson White House. In 1974 Freeman    authored the Ford Foundation’s groundbreaking report “A Time to Choose: America’s Energy Future.”  He was an adviser to President Jimmy Carter, who appointed him chairman of the giant TVA in 1978.

At the TVA, Freeman managed with a no-nonsense, down-to-earth, results-focused approach to reform. Using what he learned at TVA, Freeman became known for turning around hidebound giant utilities that were unable to process evidence contrary to their wasteful ways and environmental destructiveness. The tenacious Tennessean had no patience for self-serving talk that avoided obvious solutions. Freeman was a serious advocate who used humor, wit, and charm to make his case in the court of public opinion and the corridors of power. “Mother Nature doesn’t care what we say, Mother Nature only cares about what we do,” he would remind bloviators!

Freeman shut down or suspended construction of half a dozen nuclear reactors at the TVA, scoring them as dangerous, uneconomical, and unnecessary. He liked “free” sources of energy, such as solar and wind, instead of lethal coal, gas, oil, and uranium that had to be ripped perilously from the bowels of the Earth. As for vast opportunities afforded by energy efficient sources, he paraphrased Benjamin Franklin, saying a megawatt of energy that isn’t wasted is a megawatt you don’t have to produce.

In between his clearheaded impact on conferences around the world, advising presidents, governors, members of Congress and parliaments, and many cogent writings, Freeman ran three other giant utilities (other than TVA, Freeman ran utilities in California, Texas, and New York). At Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), he implemented a public vote against the troubled Rancho Seco Nuclear Generating Station, replacing its energy with conservation and renewables.

In the decades I knew David, he always made the changes he implemented look easy because he so deftly and honestly used evidence, facts, and economics— sometimes to rectify his previous positions. He used his knowledge to serve the public that was too often shoved aside by bureaucratic and corporate vested interests.

Freeman had that unparalleled combination of managerial experience, scholarly knowledge, and programmatic urgency in confronting the climate crisis. We would invite him for brown bag lunches with younger leaders working on energy transition. He would “out urgent” them, mocking dilatory cap and trade ideas while demanding  mandatory reduction in fossil fuels and ending nuclear power, and replacing them with job producing energy conservation, retrofitting homes and buildings as solar and wind ramp up. Freeman said, “We need to pass a law that says that every utility in this country must reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 5% of 2020 emissions every year, starting now, and until we get down to zero.”

You may be wondering why you haven’t seen Freeman on television or read about his urgent proposals, as a doer, covering the crisis of climate and regular air water soil safeguards from ruinous extractive fuels.

Certainly, the mass media has devoted many hours and pages to these subjects, interviewing far lesser and often conflicted people on NPR, PBS, commercial networks, and major newspapers. I made many calls to energy and environmental reporters about David’s availability, but to no avail.

Was it ageism? Which is rampant. Was it his free-thinking challenges to named influential corporations? Was it that he was seen as no longer an adviser to powerful officials? At age 93 he was flying to California negotiating the closure of the last nuke plant there with Pacific Gas Electric. He co-authored a book All-Electric America: A Climate Solution and the Hopeful Future with Leah Y. Parks in 2018 and his human interest memoir The Green Cowboy: An Energetic Life in 2016. Recently he was meeting with the pro-“Green New Deal” members of Congress.

But the media wasn’t calling. Until, that is, David’s “energetic” life came to an end and the obituary pages gave him his due in the Washington Postthe New York Times, and other outlets. Unlike like celebrity entertainers and athletes, however, he didn’t make page one. But his prescient legacy is an enduring example of how we can save our green planet and brighten our future. Biographers may wish to wrap their minds around this functional, enlightened life of such immense productivity.

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Trump: Letting Big Corporations Get Away with Whatever They Want

By Ralph Nader
May 15, 2020

Throughout his presidency, Donald Trump has allowed large corporations to run rampant, exploit people, and get away with it. Trump considers himself above the law, boldly claiming, “I have an Article 2, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president.” For more information about Trump’s misdeeds, please see the Articles of Impeachment proposed by me and constitutional law experts Bruce Fein and Louis Fisher in the December 18, 2019 Congressional Record, page H 12197.

In 2017, Trump betrayed his own voters by giving the corporate rich a nearly two trillion dollar tax cut instead of fulfilling his promise to invest in repairing infrastructure and expanding well-paid job opportunities.

These tax cuts for the rich and big corporations, which benefited the Trump family, ran up the deficit for our children and were largely used to give executives bonuses and let CEOs waste money on stock buybacks. In short, the corporate bosses lied to the Congress, saying they wanted these tax cuts to invest and create jobs, but actually used them to enrich themselves.

After his Trumpian giveaway, Trump crushed health and safety law enforcement, unleashing more disease-producing corporate polluters and corporate thieves. The result: harm to workers, consumers, and defenseless communities.

The New York Times reported 98 lifesaving regulations were revoked, suspended, or simply replaced with weaker versions. What remains on the books is not enforced.

Similar wreckage of corporate law-and-order has exacerbated the crisis of working people. Trump has worked to further punish student borrowers; diminish workplace and auto safety; and remove safeguards against banking, credit, and payday loan rackets.

Trump, during his failed business career and bankruptcies, saw the law as a nuisance and breaking and escaping justice as a competitive advantage.

While raising huge sums for his reelection campaign from business lobbyists, Trump keeps giving them no-law government, more loopholes for tax escapes ($170 billion more buried in the $2.2 trillion relief/bailout legislation), more corporatist judges to shut you down in the courtroom, and more of your taxes for their endless corporate welfare greed.

Big companies such as banks, insurance companies, real estate behemoths, and Silicon Valley giants have so many tax escapes and cuts that they’re moving toward tax-exempt status.

Howard Stern, a longtime friend of Trump who promoted Trump’s notoriety early on, has recently called on Trump to resign. Stern said that, in reality, Donald Trump was “disgusted” by his own voters. Why won’t more Trump voters realize that Trump has nothing but contempt for them? Trump will betray his followers at every turn.

During the COVID-19 virus pandemic – which Trump dismissed and scoffed for eight critical weeks, leaving the country defenseless – Trump has allowed a corporate crime epidemic. He has no qualms about aiding and abetting a corporate crime wave epidemic.

Trump, with Congressional Republicans, wants more legislation giving big companies immunity from lawsuits by victims for their negligently harmful products and services. Another rigging of the system.

Trump’s agencies actually announced that they’re putting their law enforcers on the shelf. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) astonishingly told foreign importers of food and medicine that inspections overseas are suspended. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) signaled similar retreats, as have other enforcement agencies. Why would the Trumpsters signal green lights for corporate crooks? Especially since corporate scams and other corporate crimes – some crude, others sophisticated – are exploding as trillions pour out of Washington.

A year ago, Public Citizen reported a steep decline in corporate prosecutions and fines under Trump. Now, compared to the size of the previous corporate crime wave, they’ve fallen off a cliff. You can ignore the stern warnings by Attorney General William Barr. He is a phony. He has neither allocated nor asked Congress for a budget that will provide the Department of Justice the capacity to crackdown.

In fact, Trump has fired inspectors general and not filled vacant inspectors general positions. Trump’s boasts bear repeating: Congress can’t watchdog him because “[he has] an Article 2, where [he has] the right to do whatever [he wants] as president.”

With vicious madness, Trump pushes for federal deregulation of nursing homes where residents are dying from COVID-19. He pursues court cases in attempts to end Obamacare, the result of which would be throwing 20 million Americans off of their insurance during a lethal pandemic. He is cravenly freeing corporate emitters of life-destroying mercury and coal ash in our air, condemned pesticides and toxins in drinking water, and whatever else is on the deadly wish list given to him by his corporate paymasters.

Trumps actions that dismantled protections for all Americans families have been expertly documented. Yet, few critics are calling for his resignation or removal from office, despite the clear and present danger he poses to the American people and the Republic.

Trump is doing whatever he wants. He is getting away with abandoning the rule of law and the dismantling of crucial government institutions as he embraces American-style fascism and nepotism.

Perhaps people will learn how to effectively fight back against Trump, a delusional, flailing, ego-obsessed, foul-mouthed, self-enriching bully. The people must stand up to this corrupt politician who lies every hour and turns our government over to Wall Street.  He sacrifices the people on Main Street to enrich fat cats and oligarchs.

One person, Eugene Jarecki, offers a rebuttal to Trump. In a Washington Post op-ed, Jarecki’s sources found that “had the guidelines been implemented earlier, a crucial period in the exponential spread of the virus would have been mitigated and American lives saved.” According to conservative estimates from epidemiologists, “had the Trump administration simply implemented mitigation guidelines by March 9, approximately 60 percent of American COVID-19 deaths could have been avoided.” On his website, TrumpDeathClock.com, Jarecki “displays both the number of people who have died in the country from COVID-19 and an estimate of that portion whose lives would have been saved had the president and his administration acted just one week earlier.” Jarecki has also erected a 54-foot high Trump death clock in New York City’s historic Times Square.

See the numbers yourself on TrumpDeathClock.com. Email [email protected] to see how Eugene Jarecki’s team can help you set up such an accountability clock in your community.

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We Honor What We Value – Entertainers Over Saviors

By Ralph Nader
May 6, 2020

“We honor what we value,” goes the old saying. In our hedonistic culture we value most those who can put a ball in a hole. We ignore those who save lives through civic action.

The sports champions – golf, basketball, football, and baseball – receive riches and accolades from the masses. They are inducted into “Halls of Fame” and are the subjects of biographies, and documentary and feature films. As for the mass life-savers –few even know their names, much less their dramatic victories against overwhelming odds.

I was reminded of this contrast by a major New York Times Sports feature on Tiger Woods and his comeback win in the 2019 Masters Tournament, which was watched breathlessly by millions of golf fans around the world. Praises poured in on social media and many articles, features, and editorials covered every nuance of this golf match.

Barack Obama tweeted, “To come back and win the Masters after all the highs and lows is a testament to excellence, grit, and determination.”

What about the excellence, grit and determination of economist James Love? In the midst of the horrendous HIV epidemic, Love brilliantly organized, argued, wrote, and traveled the world before he found Dr. Yusuf Hamied and Cipla, an Indian company that took down Big Pharma’s $10,000 price for HIV drugs per African patient per year to $300 per patient. Neither Love nor his allies William Haddad and Robert Weissman were the subjects of features in major media outlets.

Others in the unsung circle of self-motivated stalwarts are David Zwick, Clarence Ditlow, Dr. Sidney Wolfe, and Joan Claybrook. Zwick helped write the Clean Water Act of 1972 and then started Clean Water Action which canvassed tens of millions of homes, distributing materials sparking local citizen action and nationally lobbying against water pollution for over four decades.

Engineer and lawyer Clarence Ditlow ran the Center for Auto Safety in Washington, DC and over forty years caused the recall of millions of defective cars. He also got the states to enact “lemon laws” to give voice to new car owners getting justice when their new car turned out to be “lemons.” Over roughly the same time span Joan Claybrook repeatedly blocked the auto-giants’ constant efforts to weaken or stop federal safety regulation that protected motorists.

As for Dr. Wolfe, with his small team, he  produced three major books: Worst Pills Best Pills, Pills That Don’t Work: A Consumers’ and Doctors’ Guide to Over 600 Prescription Drugs That Lack Evidence of Effectiveness, and Over the Counter Pills That Don’t Work  reaching millions of consumers through  mass audience outlets such as the Phil Donahue Show. Dr. Wolfe also persistently pushed the FDA and drug companies to remove hundreds of ineffective and/or dangerous drugs from the market, thus preventing health-threatening side-effects and saving consumers billions of dollars. That’s just a few of the successes of Dr. Wolfe’s Public Citizen Health Research Group.

In 1971 three scientists spun off from our organization to start the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). Still turning its pistons nearly 50 years later, its long-time leader Dr. Michael Jacobson went after the junk food/drink industry and the deadly amount of high salt, high fat, and high sugar content in processed foods with scientific rigor and persistence. CSPI publishes the very popular health newsletter Nutrition Action and uses litigation and regulatory interventions to educate the public. CSPI arguably changed the nutritional habits of millions of people and exposed the slick and deceptive ads and crude direct marketing to children by the fast food chains and the cereal manufacturers. These companies are heavily responsible for the childhood obesity epidemic and its ongoing malignant health consequences.

Then there are Karen Ferguson and Karen Friedman running the Pension Rights Center in Washington, DC. They provide members of Congress and labor unions with technical advice on pension policy, inform the press, and help thousands of pensioners who are being ripped off by employers. Only trillions of dollars are at stake.

For these and many other long-term fighters for justice up against cruel or reckless corporations and their political toadies, there are few accolades, almost no recognition, and no citizen Hall of Fame. (See breakingthroughpower.org)

It is time for foundations or the enlightened super rich to start an annual “Citizen Academy Awards” to correct this imbalance of recognition and offer the mass media some inspiring content. This big-time dramatic event would elevate our priorities as a society and showcase motivating role models for our youngsters. Perhaps Barack Obama could be the first MC for this authentic reality event.

To put the spectator mania for professional sports in perspective, we can listen to the words of the great all-round Hall of Fame superstar, the late Al Kaline of the Detroit Tigers. At his peak in the nineteen sixties, he told New York Times reporter Ira Berkow:

‘Sometimes I wonder what I’m doing, if I’ve wasted my time all these years,’ he told me, his eyes thoughtful. ‘And sometimes I think I have. I would like to have more to contribute to society. I don’t know, maybe a doctor. Something where you really play an important part in people’s lives.’

Al Kaline was one humble, great athlete, compared, with some luminous exceptions, to the “me, me, me” narcissism of too many sports stars today.  Sports superstars could easily direct more support and attention to those little recognized citizen advocates who protect the serious necessities of life on shoe-string budgets.

Moreover, in these critical times the selfless dedication of the nurses, doctors, grocery store clerks, postal workers activists, sanitation laborers, and other truly essential workers should spark long-overdue recognition of these valiant heroes and their critical contributions to our lives beyond the stage or stadium. ESPN has just broadcast a ten-part series about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bills’ triumphant years of putting balls in holes for championships. Someday a network may produce a ten-part series on how citizen leaders historically built the justice safeguards that benefit us all. We should make it happen as owners of our public airwaves.

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Stopping Trump’s Demonic Reversals of the Long-term Benefits of the First Earth Day April 22, 1970

By Ralph Nader
April 22, 2020

Earth Day, April 22, 1970 was the most consequential demonstration of civic energy in modern American history. Engaging nearly 20 million Americans participating in about 13,000 local events, this first Earth Day changed corporate and government policies through popular demands for clean air, water, soil and food.

Senator Gaylord Nelson launched Earth Day, having tired of Congressional inaction and the power of the corporate pollution lobby. Earth Day quickly became a grassroots educational and action-driven week of activities that aroused the country.

Even reactionary President Nixon quickly planted a tree on the White House South lawn in recognition of the public support for environmentalism after he saw the huge turnouts at rallies and marches.

Imagine the environmental threats fifty years ago. Cities were choking with motor vehicle and factory pollution. Los Angeles was smog-land. Air pollution caused respiratory disease and stung your eyes. The Cuyahoga river near Cleveland, slick with oil, would catch on fire. Birmingham, Alabama’s steel mills turned the air into a brownish haze.

I spoke at several large rallies on the first Earth Day and during “Earth Week” alongside environmental leaders, including the great David Brower and dynamic Professor Barry Commoner. The energy at the gatherings made indentured politicians nervous. Eleven thousand schools, colleges, and universities hosted events focusing on local deadly poison hotspots and challenging state capitols and the Congress.

Mass media coverage was spectacular. All the TV networks, the covers of Time and Newsweek (a big deal then) and the popular daytime TV talk shows (Phil Donahue, Merv Griffin and Mike Douglas) – national and local media provided saturation coverage coast to coast.

There was a huge rally on the Mall in Washington, DC, which was very visible to a wary Nixon in the White House and lawmakers in Congress. Hearing the rumble of the people supported by scientists and health specialists, Nixon and members of Congress knew they had to enact environmental protections.

Within three years Congress produced sweeping, unsurpassed, landmark laws such as the Clean Air Act, Clear Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act. New laws also created the EPA, OSHA, and the White House Council on Environmental Quality. New environmental groups (Greenpeace, Public Citizen, Friends of the Earth, NRDC, and EDF) joined the earlier organizations such as the Sierra Club to strengthen the civic bedrock for environmental advocacy and watchdogging.

Out of Earth Day came many of the young authors, filmmakers, and leaders of the next half century of environmental action. They included Denis Hayes, lead coordinator of Earth Day 1970, David Zwick of Clean Water Action, Professor Paul Erlich, Selma Rubin, and Dr. Brent Blackwelder. Later the environmental justice movement stressed that poor communities are exposed to the most lethal dumping grounds and deadly emissions.

Although, constantly obstructed by corporate polluters, the air and water did become cleaner. There is far less lead in most, not all human bodies (note Flint, Michigan), and far less asbestos in your lungs. Both substances are banned from most consumer product uses.

Adam Rome, a University of Buffalo environmental historian, documented what happened on and after the first Earth Day in his book The Genius of Earth Day. He said the intensity of local organizers is largely missing from climate and environmental activism today.

Anybody doubting this observation should take note of how dangerous Donald and a supine Congress are failing to protect our environment. Trump is viciously unraveling the established protections to flood your families with more mercury, soot, coal ash, cancerous pesticides, dirtier drinking water and toxic workplaces. What Trump calls “deregulation” is increasing death, disease, and property damage in America by taking the federal cops off the corporate poison beat.

Dumb, disgraceful Donald still sneers at the oncoming climate catastrophe, calling it a hoax. His arrogant ignorance is scuttling federal programs and scientific research on climate, destroying restrictions on greenhouse gases produced by the fossil fuel giants, and inviting them to further exploit federal wilderness lands and offshore areas. Despite the massive oil flooding of the Gulf by B.P Oil company 10 years ago, disgraceful Trump is loosening restrictions on drillers imposed after the Deep Water Horizon disaster. The consequences for the fishing and tourist industry once again could be devastating.

The omnicidal Republican’s controlling the Senate support Trump’s reckless agenda regardless of the environmental harm done to their own families. The Democrats, controlling the House complain about gridlock. Unfortunately, with few exceptions, they are not racing to again impeach Trump, or demand his resignation, if only to rid the nation of his chaotic scapegoating, and the ego-maniacal, self-contradicting, colossal mismanagement regarding the corona-virus crisis. It is time to stop the further preventable loss of life caused by Trump’s fibbing, flailing and daily failures to process reliable information and lead.

Trump’s resignation should be the grassroots focus of today’s Earth Day and become everyday’s popular demand for the sake of American lives and health.

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Cowardly Congress Chooses to be AWOL: Shouldn’t Our Elected Representatives be on the Job Providing Essential Services?

By Ralph Nader
April 17, 2020

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic a careening, confused President is fibbing, flailing, breaking laws, and mishandling money. As the domino effect of this crisis mounts, the public is asking: “Where is the Congress?” Our Senators and Representatives have been home since March 20 and won’t be back until May 4th, not on the job inside the Capitol. Shameful!

Worse, some lawmakers want a remote Congress so they can remain AWOL and pretend to deal with the many crises remotely.

Why? Fear of the pandemic? Escaping rollcall responsibility? No matter that Congress can follow all the CDC guidelines and more for personal protection. To facilitate social distance, much of the staff can work remotely. Legislators with medical conditions can excuse themselves.

No matter that millions of essential workers – some a few blocks from Congress, bravely go to work to perform their critical duties. Healthcare, transit, grocery, police, maintenance and sanitation workers, many executive branch civil servants and others are faithfully on the job.

Congress should be working harder than ever – 6 days a week, not its usual 2 1/2 days. Congress should be monitoring the spending of trillions of dollars it approved for recovery, and passing improved rescue legislation that puts the people first. Congress should also be anticipating and preventing the ugly greed of commercial lobbyists who will cravenly push for more giveaways for their fat-cat big-business clients. The devil is in the details and in the fine print of new and upcoming bills. Scams, gouging, waste, and corruption are exploding already in a corporate crimewave while the President pulls the federal cops off their beats.

Thirteen million people will lose their health insurance between March and July of this year. Over 25% unemployment is bringing untold fear, dread, and deprivations to millions of families. Where are the indispensable 535 lawmakers? Back at home ignoring their duties.

Small businesses and family farms, lacking the reserves and political privileges of big business, are suddenly experiencing a deadly freefall in sales with slow arrivals of temporary federal assistance. Many will face ruin and bankruptcy. Lifetimes of work smashed.

Trump has encouraged the EPA to stop enforcing violations of prohibited pollution laws. Trump’s FDA announced that it was suspending inspections of foreign plant exporters of food and drugs to the U.S. The President is even threatening the existence of our post offices.

Where is the Congress? It’s halls and committee rooms are empty!

With knowing criminal intent, the Trumpsters are running the life and health saving Federal agencies into the ground. Under Trump’s puppet Andrew Wheeler, the EPA has become the environmental pollution agency. OSHA has been turned upside down. Trump is even weakening nursing home safety regulations in our pandemic. Scientists and other civil servants are being muzzled or pushed out.

Where is Congress? It is looking for how it can push button constitutional duties from perches back home. Can Congress truly believe that it can run our national legislature from home? There is no substitute for members of Congress convening in real time in the nation’s capital. Article 1, Section 7 of the Constitution requires a quorum to conduct Congressional lawmaking. The full Senate voted in person in March to pass the $2.2 trillion relief/bailout package.

Now, Congress agrees another large assistance law is needed. It has to be preceded by hard work, the best ideas, public hearings, tight drafting, and intense deliberation over long days.

So far Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is on the job, is resisting remote voting. Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell said he agrees, but he led the flight out of Congress back to Kentucky a month ago.

Many of these pampered politicians, comfortable at home in their safe gerrymandered districts, drawing their regular salaries and benefits while watching or reading the stories of courageous workers risking their lives daily for pittances, will go down in history as cowards. Historians will not treat them kindly.

Meanwhile these so-called guardians of our crucial constitutional separation of powers are having a mock video hearing to try to show Congress can go online. This is indefensible when we have a Constitution-breaking monarchical president who says: “I have an Article 2 where I have the right to do whatever I want as president.”

Sovereign people – give your Senators and Representatives, who have fled Washington and are back home, a galvanizing piece of your mind. Just pick up the phone and dial your member or the Congressional switchboard (202-224-3141) and make your needs known. Remind them that if they don’t get back to work, you’ll remember in November.

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The Week We Should Not Forget for Our Own Sake

By Ralph Nader
April 10, 2020

Much happened this week and we can’t afford to ignore any of it. The events of the last seven days provide significant opportunities for civic action.

1. Bernie Sanders suspended his peoples’ presidential campaign while staying on upcoming primary ballots to acquire more delegates to take to the Democratic convention. He concedes the nomination to Delaware corporatist Joe Biden. But he is determined to use his leverage to get Biden to adopt many important and practical reforms and redirections that would benefit the people instead of greedy big business CEOs. The unsteady Biden needs Sanders voters more than ever in several swing states.

2. The seriously unstable, ill-informed Trump is consumed by his destructive, all-consuming ego. This is no time to have a mindless madman at the helm of our careening ship of state. Each day, Trump spreads lies and misleading information and regularly and repeatedly contradicts himself as well as his honest government scientists and doctors. His delusional fantasies about the COVID-19 pandemic and his boastful role, combined with medical quackery, has led some media to stop broadcasting live his deceptive news briefing to protect the public. He nastily lashes back at criticism, blames, scapegoats and he flatters his easily manipulated sycophants. His delusions of grandeur know no bounds—on a scale of one to ten, he shamelessly rates his efforts to address the deadly pandemic a “Ten.”

When will influential Americans— in and outside of Congress—call for his resignation for the sake of the country? For far less erratic behavior, Senate Republicans, led by Barry Goldwater, visited President Nixon in 1974 and told him his time was up. Even stubborn Nixon quit, as do failing prime ministers in other countries.

3. The so-called Republican Party, which has long suppressed voters in minority, low income districts, is seizing on the coronavirus crisis to block more voters they don’t like from the polls. Republicans insisted on holding Tuesday’s chaotic and health-threatening Wisconsin primary.

Get this: only 5 of 183 voting precincts in Milwaukee were open. The regularly fascistic, gerrymandered Republican legislature refused to heed the Governor’s request for postponement, and shopped for Republican judges to support this criminogenic sham enterprise. Get ready for more tyranny in Republican controlled states, like Florida, Ohio, and Arizona in November.

Republicans falsely claim that mail-in voting opens the door to widespread voter fraud. Voting fraud is as rare as whooping cranes. Trump lies about mail-in voting fraud because he knows the higher the voter turnout, the more likely it is he and the Republicans could lose (See: A Short History of Presidential Election Crises: And How to Prevent the Next One by Alan Hirsch, Chair of the Justice and Law Studies program at Williams College).

4. Trump and the Federal Reserve’s multi-trillion dollar bailout of recklessly indebted corporations, from Wall Street to Houston, invites waste, commercial crimes, and price gouging. This bailout also opens the door to all sorts of scams harmful to consumers, workers, and the poor. Trump is busy firing his watchdogs and defiantly blocking Congressional efforts to shine bright lights on these massive hand-outs.

The big question is whether smug, profiteering corporate capitalism will come out of the pandemic with an even more control of local, state and federal governments. Will stock buybacks and other reckless practices continue unabated? Will Wall Street be able to avoid accountability for its crimes and misdeeds which triggered the 2008-2009 great recession? Will the taxpayers again be forced to bailout the business fat-cats at the expense of the American people on Main Street?

Less accountability, unrelenting crony capitalism, and weakened labor and consumer rights are on the horizon. It looks as if the voices of the people may again be ignored. Dear citizens, you must politically mobilize to ensure that the 535 members of Congress use their awesome constitutional powers for the public good.

Bernie Sanders is right to call for a people’s political revolution to roll back the silent corporate coups d’état. Corporatism has taken over public budgets, destabilized the tax system, and undermined the checks and balances that came out of the American Revolution against monarchical despotism. Corporate control left us totally unprepared and defenseless against pandemics that our public health officials, scientists, and yours truly warned about for years.

The problem is that too many voters have lost confidence in themselves as the sovereign authority in our constitution (“We the People”) and did not listen to Bernie Sanders, an honest and dedicated elected U.S. Senator, who has been so truthful and right for forty years.

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Letter to Chairman Jerome H. Powell of the Federal Reserve

Jerome H. Powell
Chairman
Board of Governors
of the Federal Reserve
20th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20551

Dear Chairman Powell:

I want you to know the dismay of many consumer advocates at your extreme zero-interest rate policy. Interest rates were already low in the home mortgage area and not likely to change significantly in that industry. On the other hand, you have stripped hundreds of billions of dollars of interest rate income from over 150 million savers in our country. Much of that income would have created more consumer demand in our economy. Interest rates on trillions of dollars in money-market’s and saver’s accounts and banks etc. are heading toward near zero because of the Fed’s actions.

I think, you and other Federal Reserve Board governors need to explain publicly to the American people, why you do not take into account the income needs of these savers in your monetary balancing decisions. You also need to explain that millions of borrowers do not receive much protection from your low-interest rate policies when it comes to unpaid credit card balances, payday loan and rent-to-own rackets, and the federal government charging undergraduate student loan borrowers 4.53% for the 2019-2020 school year. These and other very high interest rates are not regulated to any reasonable degree either at the state or federal level.

I hope you’ve read William Greider’s book Secrets of the Temple: How the Federal Reserve Runs the Country. The Fed needs to be far less secretive and far less autocratic. The widespread impression that you have buckled under unprecedented pressure and haranguing from Donald Trump is fortified by my conversations with retired former Fed and Treasury officials. They are horrified that you have not resisted this crude political bludgeoning. This ongoing mockery of the Fed’s alleged independence will not escape the historians.
I look forward to your considered response.

Sincerely,
Ralph Nader

P.O. Box 19312
Washington, DC 20005

Tel: 202-387-8030
Email: [email protected]

CC: Interested members of Congress, leading media reporters, and consumer advocates.

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Trump’s 7 Pro-Contagion Reversals Increase the Coronavirus Toll

By Ralph Nader
April 3, 2020

Trump ridiculed, then minimized, then delayed the federal government’s response to the coronavirus for weeks. Then finally he wrapped his boastful, confused ego around reality. But Trump is actively pushing programs that will endanger more Americans.

Here’s a brief look at Trump’s pro-contagion activities that leave Americans defenseless in the face of the virus, implemented by his crazed and cruel appointees.

  1. Trump is pushing hard to weaken safety regulations for nursing homes. Weakening these regulations leaves elderly residents vulnerable to infectious diseases, meaning more people will get sick and die.
  2. Trump is fanatically trying to end Obamacare in court cases. Twenty million people, at least, will lose health insurance. He has no replacement. As a Yale University study just demonstrated, 65,000 to over 100,000 Americans die every year because they do not have health insurance (see the Yale study here). Trump apparently is okay with many more people losing their lives to further entrench his cruel, corporatist ideology. Many more people will stay sick because they are uninsured and therefore cannot afford diagnosis and treatment.
  3. Trump is lying about his concern for American workers. Why is OSHA weakening workplace safety protections that keep workers safer? The answer: Trump is a crazed and cruel corporatist.
  4. Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) henchmen are racing to weaken, revoke, or not enforce environmental safeguards for the air you breathe, the water you drink, and the food you eat. Certain scientifically condemned pesticides, for example, are in your food, but Trump and his EPA lackeys don’t care. These cruel minions are also taking advantage of the coronavirus crisis by signaling to polluters they can open up emission pipes and that the EPA will look the other way. Trump’s EPA is taking actions that mean more people will get sick and more people will die.
  5. Last month, Food and Drug Agency (FDA) announced that it is suspending inspections of foreign manufacturers importing food, drugs and medical devices into the U.S. through April. This decision is madness! FDA will even suspend inspections of Chinese labs producing large amounts of imported drugs for American patients.This is like telling corporate criminals that the panicked U.S. is unguarded without federal cops on the beat. More unprotected Americans will be at immediate risk of death and disease.
  1. Just last week, against the advice of even some major auto manufacturers, clenched- jaw Donald rolled back automobile mileage and pollution standards (See here the New York Times op-ed by Daniel F. Becker and James Gerstenzang on August 2, 2018). Trump’s mania knows no bounds! Trump’s compulsive crazy desire to repeal all Obama’s achievements means he is willing to move us backwards, making the future more dangerous and uncertain. The result is more life-destroying pollutants in your lungs, more consumer dollars spent on gasoline for less mileage per gallon, more climate crisis-exacerbating gases.Trump faces enormous opposition, from medical experts, consumer groups, environmental groups, civil rights groups, anti-poverty organizations, and even conservatives that will take him to court. What does he care?
  2. Stubborn Trump’s embargo of Iran and other severe sanctions on nations wanting to sell medicines and equipment to virus-plagued poorer locations disrupts international efforts to contain the deadly virus.

Almost no reporters are asking Trump about his reckless, anti-safety policies in the midst of a pandemic that is especially dangerous for victims with pre-existing ailments and sicknesses.

Again, Trump is a clear and present danger to the U.S.A. He is misleading, egomaniacal, unstable, confused, and cannot process information to make decisions carried out properly and quickly.

It’s all in plain sight, Trump voters! Do you think he will exempt you and yours from the dangers noted above? His actions will cause cancer, respiratory diseases, exposure to perilous medicines, loss of insurance coverage, and more. This is what happens when the government places the greedy wants of Wall Street over the basic needs of Main Street.

Trump voters face a harsh daily reality where they live, work and raise their families. One hopes they will finally demand a President who empathizes with peoples’ dire straits   and embraces the Golden Rule. Instead of a President who betrays us while giving sugarcoated campaign speeches and manipulative flatteries.

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Out of the Coronavirus Crisis Can Come Efficient Historic Changes for Justice

By Ralph Nader
March 27, 2020

Many of us have heard that the Chinese character for “crisis” is also the character for “opportunity.” During the coronavirus crisis, we have a duty to apply political solutions and emerge much superior than before the pandemic struck an unready country. The time for serious civic reforms is now! Here are five fundamental opportunities for structural reforms and transformations:

1. The U.S. needs a permanent framework of explicit Congressional standards and accountability procedures for gigantic corporate welfare grants, loans, and other guarantees especially during emergencies. Without these standards, the U.S. government has repeatedly bailed out capitalism with “socialism for the rich.”

The most recent example is the $2.2 trillion salvation package for big corporations, small businesses, local and state governments, workers, and a little for consumers. The bailout package is nearly 1,000 pages of vague language, loopholes, and other gateways for waste, fraud, and corruption.

To put it mildly, Congress is granting the Treasury Department huge discretion to provide more taxpayer welfare to the business community. We know how this is going to turn out in the highly partisan, corporatist, secretive Administration of Donald Trump.

The same lack of standards and openness afflicts the corporate “socialism” of the Federal Reserve even more deeply. The Federal Reserve has occult ways of incurring debt and printing money to save the big boys of Wall Street and those in their dependent commercial circles.

2. Congress must be held to a higher standard and must carry out its constitutional duties. Congress is the duly authorized branch of the government to establish clear public missions and exercise prudent oversight of government initiatives. But as constitutional law specialist, Bruce Fein, has testified repeatedly – “Congress is an inkblot,” abdicating its constitutional duties either to the Executive Branch, the courts, or to the ether.

Working a 2½ day week, when not on recess, Congress has less time to conduct rigorous appropriations and oversight hearings to be followed by competently drafted legislation.

So pathetic is Congress that since 1992, it has allowed the Defense Department to violate the requirement for annual auditable budgets—with impunity. Congress has rubberstamped trillions of dollars for the Iraq and Afghan wars under a special escape from customary Senate and House hearings. The military contracts with giant arms contractors are a wildly out-of-control fleece-fest marked by greased palms and golden handshakes.

And most troubling, Congress is complicit in endless wars, neither to be declared since World War II, nor to be evaluated regularly by the most powerful of our three branches of government.

3. We must never allow ourselves to be driven into a state of perilous domestic unpreparedness due to the grotesque misallocation of federal funds behind the warfare state. The Empire’s insatiable demands worldwide has created new enemies and starved funding for domestic necessities. Of the federal government’s operation budgets (excluding self-funded insurance and social security) nearly 70 percent goes to the military budget, interest on deferred debt for wars, the Veterans Administration, and pieces of other Departments such as Energy and Homeland Security.

The coronavirus assault finds the mighty, often-forewarned U.S.A. without adequate emergency planning for a pandemic. The U.S. has been unable to ready hospitals, add skilled staff, and conduct critical pandemic medical research. U.S. hospitals even lack basic equipment such as ventilators, facemasks, and – astonishingly, swabs. U.S. readiness requires a social safety net like what citizens in other Western countries have. It means more self-reliant production in the U.S. for pharmaceuticals (now outsourced heavily to China and India) along with the production of all basic necessities. The rules of corporate-managed “free trade,” have left us without a national defense from corporate avarice run amok.

The days of abandoning crucial elements of our protective economic sovereignty must be declared over once and for all. Our country must take care of itself right down to producing critical swabs, now rationed by a dominant Italian manufacturer besieged with virus-induced needs in Italy.

4. The media has to be smarter, dig deeper, and not wallow in official source journalism, while ignoring the knowledge and experience of citizen groups. Members of the media spend too much time ditto-heading each other, interviewing their own reporters, and not covering the daily power struggle between the haves and the have nots. Instead, some editors pursue long investigative features in search of prizes. Unfortunately, too many (but not all) journalists are content to rehash the news of the day with establishment talking heads.

Like politicians running for public office, the mass media mostly ignores the devastating impact on our country of the devouring, corrosive, burgeoning military-industrial complex (remember President Eisenhower’s warning) desperately looking for enemies abroad to justify their gigantic contracts.

5. The foundation on which all of the above relies— is the citizenry. Focusing on the 535 members of the Congress, a mere one percent or less of citizens forming Congressional watchdog groups over their two Senators and Representatives in every Congressional District can regain command of Congress. Only through citizen action will Congress perform its constitutional duties and turn the ship of state from corporatism to a functioning democracy.

In my small paperback, Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier than We Think, I outline specific, modest actions citizens can take to laser-beam focus back home on their legislators. What is needed is a left/right alliance on many fundamental changes. Such a latent, converging alliance, where people live, work, and raise their families, is politically unstoppable.

Marshaling decisive public opinion can overwhelm the divide-and-rule tactics of manipulative plutocrats. It happened before in our history and it can happen again in major ways—starting small and building quickly in each District.

Wide reaching, predictable crises, such as the coronavirus, invite long-overdue advances in the evolution of democratic societies. These include full Medicare for all, living wages, and law and order for big business. We need to make the most of these life-sustaining opportunities. Right now!

Please visit SinglepayerAction.orgFight for $15, and Citizen.org.

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For America’s Urgent Health and Safety, Trump Needs to Resign!

By Ralph Nader
March 20, 2020

Leaning on sober-minded experts in infectious diseases at his daily news conferences, Trump is frantically trying to look good. But the old delusionary Trump keeps resurfacing. On Monday, he rated his coronavirus performance at a perfect ten. On Tuesday, he lied to the public about his knowing it was a pandemic “long before it was called a pandemic.” The facts are just the opposite. On February 28th, Trump called COVID-19 a Democratic hoax (See the March 18, 2020 article in the New York Times).

Trump is unable to accept the ferocious reality of this pandemic.

Donald J. Trump is so consumed by his all-defining ego as to be occupationally insane. He is imperiling the public health of the entire country. If Trump endangered his family as he has endangered the country, he would be institutionalized. Again and again, Trump replaces realities with fantasies. He fibs, flails, fails, scapegoats, and never admits he was wrong or mistaken. Trump insists that the media heap undeserved praise on him, and solicits fawning, obsequious compliments from his cabinet members and staff. He just cannot absorb essential information.

Trump’s negligence is even worse than is often recognized. In 2018, his White House’s National Security Council disbanded the pandemic response team after Rear Admiral Timothy Ziemer, who headed the program, was told to leave his position. Last week, Trump vacuously said he didn’t know that this happened. Even though, the press had repeatedly reported Trump’s decision, Trump refused to take any responsibility. Trump insanely cut USAID’s tiny Predict Program tracking infectious diseases, while bulking up the bloated military weapons budget. Stockpiling redundant nuclear bombs but not precious medical equipment and facilities.

It is clear that Trump’s failed administration is responsible for our staggering unreadiness as the current catastrophe metastasizes, leaving America greatly vulnerable. But Trump doesn’t see it that way. When asked about the role he played in the U.S. government’s gross failure to anticipate and contain coronavirus, Trump responded, “I don’t take responsibility at all.”

Trump is crazily still pressing to weaken nursing home regulations designed to reduce deadly infections among millions of elderly residents. He stubbornly persists even after COVID-19 interrupted his golf game. He hates these rules because Obama issued them – his vendetta against Obama is all-consuming.

One of Trump’s biggest goals is to get rid of Obamacare without any replacement plan. When Democrats repeatedly stopped his efforts in Congress, Trump decided to turn to a prolonged court case. Would a rational president mindlessly cut desperately needed healthcare coverage for thirty million Americans during a pandemic? The potential victims even include Trump’s own supporters!

The corporations now want varieties of bailouts because of the virus crisis, and Trump and the Republicans are pouring Niagara’s of red ink into the federal budget. Yet Trump and his congressional cronies continue to starve the IRS that is unable to recover over $400 billion in uncollected taxes every year because of its inadequate budget. The IRS budget is lower than it was in 2011 and lack of funding has forced layoffs of thousands of employees. It is impossible for the IRS to properly audit many global corporations or even respond to inquiring taxpayers without long delays.

Would a sane president be fanatically disabling disease and injury prevention programs at federal agencies and boast about such “deregulation”? Trump continues to favor crooked/for-profit universities that rip off students and leave them impoverished with debt.

It gets worse. Year after year, Trump tried to cut the budgets of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institutes of Health, and the US contribution to the World Health Organization, including their pandemic prevention work. This is criminal negligence. His recent federal budget sent to Congress on February 10, 2020 still advocated these capricious cuts, along with more money for the bloated Pentagon budget than asked for by the Generals.

Last week, Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, called for President Trump to resign. (You can see his statement at Citizen.org).

Lunging between vicious vitriol and manipulative flattery, Trump never did know how to get out of the holes he dug. Here is how to get him out of this one: he should be a patriot for the sake of America and just resign. This is not the time for Captains Queeg or Ahab. The ship of state is sailing toward disaster and the President is incapable of transforming his temperamental dysfunctions.

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