Ralph Nader: While Americans Sleep, Our Corporate Overlords Make Progress Impossible

By Ralph Nader, a consumer advocate and the author of “The Seventeen Solutions: Bold Ideas for Our American Future” (2012). His new book is, “Wrecking America: How Trump’s Lies and Lawbreaking Betray All” (2020, co-authored with Mark Green).Originally published at Common Dreams

“Polarization” is the word most associated with the positions of the Republicans and Democrats in Congress. The mass media and the commentators never tire of this focus, in part because such clashes create the flashes conducive to daily coverage.

Politicians from both parties exploit voters who don’t do their homework on voting records and let the lawmakers use the people’s sovereign power (remember the Constitution’s “We the People”) against them on behalf of the big corporate bosses.

The quiet harmony between the two parties created by the omnipresent power of Big Business and other powerful single-issue lobbyists is often the status quo. That’s why there are so few changes in this country’s politics.

In many cases, the similarities of both major parties are tied to the fundamental concentration of power by the few over the many. In short, the two parties regularly agree on anti-democratic abuses of power. Granted, there are always a few exceptions among the rank & file. Here are some areas of Republican and Democrat concurrence:

1. The Duopoly shares the same stage on a militaristic, imperial foreign policy and massive unaudited military budgets. Just a couple of weeks ago, the Pentagon budget was voted out of a House committee by the Democrats and the GOP with $24 billion MORE than what President Biden asked for from Congress. Neither party does much of anything to curtail the huge waste, fraud, and abuse of corporate military contractors, or the Pentagon’s violation of federal law since 1992 requiring annual auditable data on DOD spending be provided to Congress, the president, and the public.

2. Both Parties allow unconstitutional wars violating federal laws and international treaties that we signed onto long ago, including restrictions on the use of force under the United Nations Charter.

3. Both Parties ignore the burgeoning corporate welfare subsidies, handouts, giveaways, and bailouts turning oceans of inefficient, mismanaged, and coddled profit-glutted companies into tenured corporate welfare Kings.

4. Both Parties decline to crack down on the nationwide corporate crime spree. They don’t even like to use the phrase “corporate crime” or “corporate crime wave.” They prefer to delicately allude to “white-collar crime.”

Trillions of dollars are at stake every year, yet neither party holds corporate crime hearings nor proposes an update of the obsolete, weak federal corporate criminal laws.

In some instances, there is no criminal penalty at all for willful and knowing violations of safety regulatory laws (e.g., the auto safety and aviation safety laws). Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) is trying to find just one Republican Senator to co-sponsor the “Hide No Harm Act” that would make it a crime for a corporate officer to knowingly conceal information about a corporate action or product that poses the danger of death or serious physical injury to consumers or workers.

5. Both Parties allow Wall Street’s inexhaustibly greedy CEOs to prey on innocents, including small investors. They also do nothing to curb hundreds of billions of dollars in computerized billing fraud, especially in the health care industry. (See, License to Steal by Malcolm K. Sparrow and a GAO Report about thirty years ago).

6. The third leading cause of death in the U.S. is fatalities from preventable problems in hospitals and clinics. According to the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine study in 2015, a conservative estimate is that 250,000 people yearly are dying from preventable conditions. Neither Congress nor the Executive Branch has an effort remotely up to the scale required to reduce this staggering level of mortality and morbidity. Nor is the American Medical Association (AMA) engaging with this avoidable epidemic.

7. Both Parties sped bailout of over $50 billion to the airline industry during Covid-19, after the companies had spent about $45 billion on unproductive stock buybacks over the last few years to raise the metrics used to boost executive pay.

8. Both Parties starve corporate law enforcement budgets in the Justice Department, the regulatory agencies, and such departments as Labor, Agriculture, Interior, Transportation, and Health and Human Services. The Duopoly’s view is that there be no additional federal cops on the corporate crime beat.

9. Both Parties prostrate themselves before the bank-funded Federal Reserve. There are no congressional audits, no congressional oversight of the Fed’s secret, murky operations, and massive printing of money to juice up Wall Street, while keeping interest rates near zero for trillions of dollars held by over one hundred million small to midsize savers in America.

10. Both Parties are wedded to constant and huge bailouts of the risky declining, uncompetitive (with solar and wind energy) nuclear power industry. This is corporate socialism at its worst. Without your taxpayer and ratepayer dollars, nuclear plants would be closing down faster than is now the case. Bipartisan proposals for more nukes come with large subsidies and guarantees by Uncle Sam.

11. Both Parties hate Third Parties and engage in the political bigotry of obstructing their ballot access (See: Richard Winger’s Ballot Access News), with hurdles, harassing lawsuits, and exclusions from public debates. The goal of both parties is to stop a competitive democracy.

12. Both Parties overwhelmingly rubber-stamp whatever the Israeli government wants in the latest U.S. military weaponry, the suppression of Palestinians and illegal occupation of the remaining Palestinian lands, and the periodic slaughter of Gazans with U.S. weapons. The Duopoly also supports the use of the U.S. veto in the UN Security Council to insulate Israel from UN sanctions.

13. Continuing Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich’s debilitating internal deforms of congressional infrastructures, the Democrats have gone along with the GOP’s shrinking of committee and staff budgets, abolition of the crucial Office of Technology Assessment’s (OTA) budget, and concentration of excessive power in the hands of the Speaker and Senate leader. This little noticed immolation reduces further the legislature’s ability to oversee the huge sprawling Executive Branch. The erosion of congressional power is furthered by the three-day work week Congress has reserved for itself.

14. Even on what might seem to be healthy partisan differences, the Democrats and the GOP agree not to replace or ease out Trump’s Director of the Internal Revenue Service, a former corporate loophole tax lawyer, or the head of the U.S. Postal Service, a former profiteer off the Post Office who will shortly curtail service even more than he did in 2020 (See: First Class: The U.S. Postal Service, Democracy, and the Corporate Threat, by Christopher W Shaw).

Right now, both Parties are readying to give over $50 billion of your tax money to the very profitable under-taxed computer chip industry companies like Intel and Nvidia, so they can make more profit-building plants in the U.S. These companies are loaded with cash. They should invest their own money and stop the stock buyback craze. Isn’t that what capitalism is all about?

Both Parties vote as if the American middle-class taxpayer is a sleeping sucker. Politicians from both parties exploit voters who don’t do their homework on voting records and let the lawmakers use the people’s sovereign power (remember the Constitution’s “We the People”) against them on behalf of the big corporate bosses.

Sleep on America, you have nothing to lose but your dreams.

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  1. DJG, Reality Czar

    Speaking of Intel and free loading, Intel is dangling its European HQ and a manufacturing plant in front of, ohhhh, just about anyone. Why am I reminded of Amazon’s tactics for the new HQ? It’s their pathology–endless promotion of the race to the bottom.


    In an article of a couple of days ago, Minister Giorgetti referred to the Americans as “complicati,” which is a polite Italian word for “jerks.” We’ll see if the Italians make a real effort, now that Intel is dragging everyone else into the fight.

    1. Gregorio

      Not to mention that Intel is the Boeing of chip makers sticking to their 10nm processors while their competitors had already moved on to superior 7nm and 5nm processors.

      1. Altandmain

        Strictly speaking, Intel’s 10nm is closer to TSMC’s 7nm process. Semiconductor nodes have long since lost meaning. Samsung’s 5nm process is closer to the TSMC 7nm and Intel 10nm. Nodes these days are more for marketing.

        Intel may be planning to rename its nodes.


        That is not to say Intel is not in trouble. The 10nm node is a disaster and their semiconductor leadership is lost to TSMC. On the architecture front, they are now behind AMD and possibly Apple.

  2. Jackiebass63

    I believe he is correct in saying both parties are corrupt and only serve their downer class.

  3. Cocomaan

    I was thinking about this the other day. Covid, for all its dangers, has only enriched the billionaire class and has more or less evaporated any anti corruption efforts out there. It’s Shock Doctrine through and through.

    1. DJG, Reality Czar

      Cocomaan: Yep, the Donziger sentence is emblematic: If you want a symbol or signal, that case and the wildly corrupt judge in charge of it are plainly seen. The only logic the explain her logic is pure corruption–also, the banality of evil, as the judge “enforces the law.”

    2. YankeeFrank

      And even its dangers are in many ways overblown, esp for those not in high risk groups. See the off-guardian’s reporting or Mike Whitney’s and judge for yourself.

      Like the Jan 6th “insurrection”, the elites manufacture and play up “shocks” to implement their doctrines. They don’t have to wait for actual shocks, which are so much more messy and unpredictable.

      I’m pretty sure many of them don’t even know they’re doing it. Which is grimly hilarious.

  4. Mikerw0

    Clearly why corporations needed the Citizen United ruling to further entrench their power. The Supreme Court is fully complicit in all this.

    1. YankeeFrank

      Yeah, I’m curious how the right wing judiciary feel now about all the “private corps can do whatever they want” and “corps are people with free speech” nonsense they all shoved down our throats. Letting twitter and facebook ban and censor many on the right, esp their most popular voices like Trump and Alex Jones, may give them a slight pause. Or they can bide their time until they’re in power again and drop the hammer on us all using the now approved-by-the-Dems option of censoring us all out of existence. They always do power better anyway. I for one of course embrace our neoliberal overlords whichever flavor they come in.

  5. Carolinian

    Go Ralph. His ethics critique of American business and politics had to be Powell Memo-ed into obscurity because it is the opposite what our two parties stand for which is power. But if he was always tilting at windmills, he did manage to skewer a few. This onetime left obsession with ethics and personal honesty –perhaps in part brought on by the lies of Vietnam–now seems so very far away.

  6. CanCyn

    Kind of a meandering comment here, any questions are rhetorical. I just feel the need to express some feelings where they are understood. I find myself quite in despair about the world these days and feeling rather alone. My husband gets it but chooses to just carry on with life as we live it, seeing no sense in trying to change anyone’s mind. He is not so cruel as to believe we have ours and others can ‘go die’. He approaches life ethically and charitably but his solution is not to worry about what he feels he cannot change. He cannot understand why I continue to read NC when all it does is confirm my belief that the world is a pretty horrible place. As I said initially, I find comfort here in knowing there are others who see the world as I do. Even the more positive folks here understand how bad things are. From the time I discovered this site, I have wondered why all of the things that are so painfully obvious to me (and most NC readers) are not obvious to others? This article gives me some new details but overall Nader is saying nothing new.
    I have been doing my best to do less ‘othering’, trying to show empathy and sympathy for people who don’t understand that it doesn’t have to be this way. Needless to say when I try to explain to anyone heaping curses on the heads of anti-vaxxers that people do have reason to be sceptical of the vaccine, I am immediately othered myself. Same as it was with trying to explain that Trump’s win was understandable and somewhat predictable. Amfortas’ approach of talking and finding common ground is laudable but I try it with little success. Mostly I remain silent as I do not really see a way through the armour of the righteous liberal mindset. I recently got one of my husband’s rather conservative friends to read Stephanie Kelton’s book, Deficit Myth. He admits that it gave him pause in considering the deficit but I don’t sense a big change of heart about the real purpose of government and taxation or the no brainer that is maintaining and enhancing our social safety net (we’re Canadian) and reining in corporate socialism.
    I understand that boundaries between us/hatred of those who are different from us plays into the hands of the elite and they’re quite content to let it happen and even encourage it but really, why? What’s a few less million dollars in their bank accounts? Why do they think they need all that money at the expense of so many others?

    1. Glossolalia

      I hear you. I live in the well-to-do suburbs of DC, surrounded by PMC elites and their enablers and hangers on. They are and angry and spiteful bunch. I looked at the crowd that stormed the Capitol on January 6 and the rage on their faces and I think a lot of my PMC neighbors have the same anger but try to keep a veneer of civility. But it comes through when they push through stop signs in their $60,000 Land Rovers. I’m not the confrontational type but I imagine it would get awkward quickly if I were to suggest that Biden, Pelosi, Hillary, etc. are a bunch of sleazy grifters. If I were to try and express empathy and sympathy for people who think differently I may as well be expressing sympathy for the marchers at a Klan rally.

    2. JEHR


      I, too, am Canadian and just today sent the following letter to the Government:

      You may be aware of a new disclosure listing the names of Canadian tax-evaders called Pandora. (https://www.cbc.ca/news/pandora-papers-offshore-tax-avoidance-1.6197303 ). I understand that it is not illegal to protect money in tax havens in order to escape paying taxes on it, but if I tried to evade paying taxes, I would be caught and made to pay them; so my question is why is it legal to evade paying taxes when you are rich?

      It would be very nice if your party passed legislation to make such tax evasions illegal and punishable under criminal law. The act of escaping taxation when you are rich is immoral and unethical so why shouldn’t it be illegal and punishable as a criminal act?

      It would also be very important to have the CRA track down and name all the evaders. Putting more people in the CRA to do this job would be very good. Paying a fine under DPA will not suffice. Time in jail would be nice.

      According to economist Michael Pettis: When the savings of the rich increase then there is a decrease in savings elsewhere in the economy. When one part of the economy has excessive savings that means another part of the economy (i.e., the poor) must suffer. Why should Canada allow this discrepancy? Isn’t democracy a way of sharing the riches amongst all of its citizens?

      This legislation would probably be the most important legislation (after climate change) that your Liberal Party could pass.

    3. Sawdust

      Sounds like we’re in the same boat. The thing I find myself hoping for is that the internet is the first thing to go as our civilization crumbles. That way our ability to directly cooperate with those around us may recover somewhat before the famines come. Unfortunately it seems like a vain hope nowadays.

    4. CanCyn

      Thanks for the replies Glossalia and JEHR. And thanks for sharing your letter JEHR – I agree with what you wrote wholeheartedly. I will send one to my MP too!

    5. ChrisPacific

      I recently got one of my husband’s rather conservative friends to read Stephanie Kelton’s book, Deficit Myth. He admits that it gave him pause in considering the deficit but I don’t sense a big change of heart…

      Well done. This is the kind of thing we have to do. Don’t be discouraged that you didn’t change his mind immediately – the scales don’t fall from the eyes all at once, and if you got him thinking critically and questioning some ideas that he’d never thought to challenge then that’s a win. Having read the book now, it will be hard for him not to notice how many public pronouncements about the debt are stupid or outright counterfactual. What he does with that is up to him, but you’ve given him an outlook and some tools that he didn’t have before. If we all do this over and over, it will start to make a difference. Do what you can, and be realistic about what you personally can achieve.

      1. eg

        I have managed to convert a neighbour here in southern Ontario to MMT over the course of a couple of years, culminating with Kelton’s book last summer.

        Keep trying, everybody!

    6. Mantid

      Nice comment Can. You mention “Needless to say when I try to explain to anyone heaping curses on the heads of anti-vaxxers that people do have reason to be sceptical of the vaccine, I am immediately othered myself.” What I’ve been doing as of late is stand my ground. I’m not anti-vax, even got mine but before I’d done lots of research. I still use 3X5 cards and a pencil in my poche as opposed to a cell phone. So when the debate come up about the vaccines, I pull out a card and if someone says “bla bla bla” (cheers Greta) I paraphrase, write it down and then debunk their argument and lack of sequential thinking. The person always wants to reply with ” But those Bubbas” or “It’s horse paste”, and other distractions. I refer them back to what’s on the card and reply “let’s stay focused”. I stay on one or two aspects and refuse to budge while siting evidence and wait for theirs, which they seldom have. If they get heated I say “look it up on your tracking device and you’ll see my facts are in order.” Due to the fear that I may be right, they seldom turn to their cell phone. Luckily I am of an age where I can piss off a few friends and not be bothered if they can’t get over it. One thing about Americans is that they can’t debate and then calm down. They lose a argument, or even engage in one and think you are evil if you don’t agree. Too many simpletons. I like debate, slam the table, then enjoy another pint.

    7. drumlin woodchuckles

      Overall, we are not talking a few “million” in their collective bank accounts all taken together. We are talking about a few “trillion”.

      They will use every method of social mass management and containment they have for that kind of money.

      Perhaps you and your husband should think about surviving the coming Long Jackpot. ( William Klunster calls it the Long Emergency over at his Custerfluck Nation blog, but I like ” Long Jackpot” better).

    8. Bawb the Revelator

      YOU WROTE “I have wondered why all of the things that are so painfully obvious to me (and most NC readers) are not obvious to others? This article gives me some new details but overall Nader is saying nothing new.”

      Lest you abandon hope altogether, CanCyn, consider the SCOTUS will hear arguments on DOBBS v. JACKSON on 12-1-2021 https://www.acog.org/news/news-releases/2021/09/acog-leads-coalition-in-dobbs-v-jackson-womens-health-organization. The overwhelmingly probable 5-4 decision to repeal ROE v. WADE will come in Summer 2022 – leading to this: https://youtu.be/Z6mof53YRV0?t=482

    9. .Tom

      I’m sorry to say that I believe the answer to your “Why?”s in the final paragraph is: because sadism. In this context, money is best understood as a dimension of power. So why do some people want so much power over others? Sadism.

      I know this oversimplifies but I’ve believed for a long time that sadism doesn’t get the attention it deserves in examination of the power relationships in our lives. In a superb comment replying to one of mine on Matt Taibbi’s Substack, Atma filled in the neuro-psychology behind my abstract conception of sadism. It was in the context of a discussion of the fighting among us serfs but it is useful in answering your question too.

      We all have the reward mechanisms of sadism. Some people limit their pursuit of sadistic rewards more than others. We say that such people have a moral compass, or that they have a conscience. Other people less so.

      And we have a political economy that gives more power (including money) to a few people by taking it away from others. It by-and-large rewards sadism (with money and power) and withholds reward from or punishes conscientious, kind people. At least it demands that those with more power find ways to control their practical use of conscience/kindness. For example, we see those advancing in corporate hierarchies having to adopt rationalizations, if they have a conscience that gets in the way.

      Back to your Why?s. Because that’s what they want. They want power over the rest of us and the more the better. And they want they power to be accepted and respected. They aren’t like you and me.

      I find such thinking depressing and it makes me unhappy, angry and crazy if I do it too much. I try to discipline myself to limit the amount of time I think this way. In practice this means committing myself to other activities: I concentrate on work, and being a musician, I spend time with the dogs, I produce an arts and culture podcast, I volunteer at the animal shelter. I invest in friendships to the extent I can but I have to be careful because BS irritates me and because I need to keep many of my thoughts, like those I shared in this comment, to myself.

  7. LowellHighlander

    I’m sorry; I know I’ve harped on this before, but I believe it bears repeating.

    One of the simplest acts that would seem revolutionary to the PMC is to vote for Green Party and Socialist candidates (or an independent like Mr. Nader), wherever they appear. And if you should tell a member of this class that you’re refusing to vote within the duopoly anymore, you’ll certainly likely to receive “feedback”, to which you can then retort, “Well, why doesn’t the Democrat party help to reform the electoral system so that we don’t have to put up with winner-take-all?”

    I recommend all this because we have very few, peaceable options here (unless I’m missing something – and that could certainly be true).

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Or one could also retort . . . ” If the Democrats would nominate Nader, I wouldn’t have to vote Green to get Nader.” See what they say to that.

  8. BeliTsari

    Still hilarious to see Ralph on CommonDreams which kicked a few dozen of us off Comment threads, for citing links (not infrequently: NC, NEJM, BMJ, JHU.edu, Mayo Clinic, KHN, etc?) If the electorate lacks requisite empirical, pertinent and scrupulously journalistic sources; perhaps Bezos, Bloomberg, Gates can finish buying-up nascent independent sources, David Brock, Prop’RNot, Koch or Atlantic Council cite on AT&T, Comcast, FOX, Disney or whomever owns Viacom, nowadays? Bell¿ngcat/ CAP?

  9. thoughtfulperson

    So how do we best resist?

    Not effectively at the ballot box, in nearly every race. I guess it is economic, vote with your spending, to boycott monster corporations where possible.

    Maybe try to organize locally (ie microgrid electric co-ops? Community gardens?) to minimize contributions to the overlords further.

    Still the scale of the war budget, and various corporate welfare Trillions of $ is real money. Not a spigot or fire hydrant more like Niagra Falls or an entire ocean tsunami metaphorically. Since it’s source is Congressional the only way to shut it down is control of Congress, and as Nader says, the duopoly is working overtime to maintain control.

    One key to unlocking that control might be campaign finance reform. Make campaign donations over 100$ illegal for example. Repeal the “money is speach” corruption of democracy through constitutional amendment. Dreams maybe but what else is there?

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      A hundred pounds of termites can tear down a twenty ton house if they have enough time.

  10. Susan the other

    We could make one change that might well eliminate bribery. Now that we have computers big enough to handle elections we could open up the two-party system to multiple parties. Then we could elect what in effect would be clerks to account for referenda going on on every national subject back in their home state. No more sausage making by Congress doing complex bills with endless riders and giveaways. Just straight votes for every single item. There could be voting going on constantly. Sounds inefficient – but it would make it much harder for “donors” to take over government. Can’t bribe every single voter in the country. We could even be paid to vote. Because it is a time consuming task – informing yourself and making decisions. Decentralize government. Defund Congress.

  11. Alice X

    Ralph Nader is incorruptible. The powerful tried to bring him down but they never could. They did marginalize him. Who will we look to when he is gone?

    1. Mantid

      Ralph runs a great podcast called The Ralph Nader Radio Hour out of Santa Cruz, Ca. – I think. Look it up as a podcast. It is superb with many interesting guests.

      1. Carolinian

        His partners are in CA but believe he stays in Connecticut. I used to listen to it regularly but got out of the habit. He’s had people like Thomas Frank on.

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      Ourselves and eachother. As Ghandi once said, ” you must become the Nader you wish to see in the world.”

  12. eg

    From across our southern border it looks to me like Americans can vote for Team Coke or Team Pepsi — either way, it’s neoliberal cola inside the bottle.

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