No 393 Posted by fw, January 26, 2012
“Responding to President Obama’s State of the Union address, longtime consumer advocate and former Presidential candidate Ralph Nader says Obama’s criticism of income inequality and Wall Street excess fail to live up to his record in office. ‘[Obama] says one thing and does another,’ Nader says. ‘Where has he been for over three years? There are existing laws that can prosecute and convict Wall Street crooks. He hasn’t sent more than one or two to jail.’ On foreign policy, Nader says: ‘I think his lawless militarism that started the speech and ended the speech was truly astonishing. [Obama] was very committed to projecting the American empire, in Obama terms.’” —Ralph Nader
The above excerpt is from Ralph Nader’s ferocious, scathing criticism of Obama’s State of the Union address made during an interview on Democracy Now. His indictment will undoubtedly add to the Idea Counterpower of the various Occupy Movements. But Nader does more than just criticize. He lists fundamental demands that should be part of the Physical Counterpower component of an anti-Obama people’s movement. He calls on “justice seekers” —
. . . to make demands on Obama, to make demands for improving the rights of labor, improving the rights of small farmers, improving the rights of small business, the environmental demands that need to be made, the crackdown on corporate crime, a whole panoply of corporate reform agenda, the kind of crackdown on these global corporations that have abandoned America and shipped jobs and industries to fascist and communist regimes who know how to keep workers in their place.
It’s time for justice seekers to escalate their campaigns a notch or two by combining Nader’s ideas with the multifaceted Keystone XL campaign strategy.
Watch the video of Nader’s Democracy Now interview immediately below. And check out my abridged version of the transcript following the video. Alternatively, click on the following linked title to access the original video and complete transcript.
“He Says One Thing and Does Another”: Ralph Nader Responds to Obama’s State of the Union Address, Democracy Now, January 25, 2012
Well, I think his lawless militarism, that started the speech and ended the speech, was truly astonishing. I mean, he was very committed to projecting the American empire, in Obama terms, force projection in the Pacific, and distorting the whole process of how he explains Iraq and Afghanistan. He talks about Libya and Syria, and then went into the military alliance with Israel and didn’t talk about the peace process or the plight of the Palestinians, who are being so repressed. Leaving Iraq as if it was a victory? Iraq has been destroyed: massive refugees, over a million Iraqis dead, contaminated environment, collapsing infrastructure, sectarian warfare. He should be ashamed of himself that he tries to drape our soldiers, who were sent on lawless military missions to kill and die in those countries, unconstitutional wars that violate Geneva conventions and international law and federal statutes, and drape them as if they’ve come back from Iwo Jima or Normandy. So I think it was very, very poor taste to start and end with this kind of massive militarism and the Obama Empire.
A lot of good-sounding words. He’s very good at that. I’m glad he focused on Wall Street abuses on more than one occasion. I’m glad that he focused on renewable energy. But notice that he just mentioned climate change but didn’t go anywhere on that one. He still is not able to use the word “poverty.” It’s always the middle class, which is shrinking into poverty. But you’ve got 60, 70, 80 million people living in poverty in the United States, and child poverty.
And the most amazing gap was his promise in 2008 to press for the raising of the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.50 by 2011. So, he went for equal pay for equal work for women, but millions of people in this country, one out of every three full-time workers, are earning Wal-Mart wages, many of them not far over the $7.25 rate. Now, the $9.50 minimum wage would still be less in inflation-adjusted terms than it was in 1968, when worker productivity was half of what it is today.
So, a lot of his suggestions, like the attitude toward foreign trade—well, he said that in 2008 he wanted to revise NAFTA. He didn’t lift a finger. So how credible are his words vis-à-vis China, for example, in the trade area and importing hazardous products into this country? How credible are his words? How credible are his words when he says he wants to start a financial crimes unit in the Justice Department? I mean, what does that mean, unless he demands a much larger budget for prosecutors and law enforcement officials against the corporate crime wave? Maybe he needs a subscription to the Corporate Crime Reporter to tell him that we’ve been through these kinds of rhetorics before by prior presidents. They’re going to establish an enforcement unit here and there, but without a major budget, it’s going to go nowhere.
Well, that’s the double standard that he’s such an expert at, Obama. He says one thing and does another. Where has he been for over three years? He’s had the Justice Department. There are existing laws that could prosecute and convict Wall Street crooks. He hasn’t sent more than one or two to jail. So, it is important to strengthen the corporate criminal laws through congressional legislation, but what has he done? This financial crimes unit, that’s like putting another label on a few doors in the Justice Department without a real expansion in the budget.
But then, when he said to the American people, “no more bailouts, no more handouts, and no more cop-outs” — but that’s what’s been going on. And it’s going on today and it went on last year under his administration. Washington is a bustling bazaar of accounts receivable. They’re bailing out and they’re handing out all kinds of subsidies to corporations—handouts, giveaways, transfer of technology, transfer of medical research to the drug companies without any reasonable price provisions on drugs, giveaway of natural resources on the federal lands. You name it, it’s still going on. And as far as a cop-out, how about his deferred prosecution gimmicks with these corporations under the Justice Department, where they never have to plead guilty, they never have to make themselves vulnerable to civil lawsuits so they pay back the American people what they’ve stolen from them?
So, obviously, State of the Union speeches are full of rhetoric, they’re full of promises, but it’s good to measure them against the past performance of the Obama administration and what his promises were in 2008. They don’t really stand up very well.
Imagine Obama never mentioning the Occupy movement. Imagine Obama never mentioning the Occupy Wall Street movement, the main citizen awareness movement to be coupled with his alleged concern with Wall Street abuses. And yet he talks about advancing human dignity for all people abroad, and he never talks about a major human dignity initiative, the Occupy initiative, based on peaceful resistance to oligarchy and plutocracy. He’s a political coward. He’s got to repair back to the Oval Office and ask himself why he can’t stand for the people in this country who are really aware and trying to improve our democracy and advance justice and make government and corporations accountable.
Well, this is the book — and I’m going to drop it off at the White House soon. I think he should read it, because the left is not making any demands on Obama because they’re so freaked out by the Republicans and their crazed rhetoric on their debates. Well, if that is going to continue for 2012, that means the corporations are pulling on Obama and the Democratic Party. The Republicans are pulling on Obama and Democratic Party, because they’re getting all the media, because they have a vibrant primary process, and there’s no primary challenge to Obama, so the progressive agenda is not getting any media at all, week after week.
So the alternative, Amy, is for the left, such as they are — progressive, liberal people, I like to call them “justice seekers” — to make demands on Obama, to make demands for improving the rights of labor, improving the rights of small farmers, improving the rights of small business, the environmental demands that need to be made, the crackdown on corporate crime, a whole panoply of corporate reform agenda, the kind of crackdown on these global corporations that have abandoned America and shipped jobs and industries to fascist and communist regimes who know how to keep workers in their place.
But there is no pull, because they’re so freaked out by the Republicans. So, one can really say the Republicans could sit around in a smoke-filled room and say, “Let’s be even more crazed. Let’s be even more corporatist.” This will create a good vacuum for the Democrats to move into, because both parties are dialing for the same corporate dollars, and it will bring the left to their knees, because they’ll say, “We’ve got nowhere to go.”
Well, the reason why this speech was so failing, especially in foreign and military policy, the reason why it was so failing is because Obama doesn’t have to worry about tens of millions of people who call themselves progressives or liberals, because they have signaled to him that they got nowhere to go. Well, I think if they believe they got nowhere to go, that they don’t want to vote for a third party or Green Party, they can at least, in April, May, June, hold his feet to the fire and present him with a set of progressive demands, in order to tell him that they do have a place to go: they can stay home. And that’s what hurt the Democrats in 2010. People can just stay home.