On Contact: Rights & Regs w/citizen activist Ralph Nader

On Contact: Rights & Regs w/citizen activist Ralph Nader



welcome to on contact in 1963 29 year-old attorney practicing law in Hartford Connecticut hitchhiked to Washington DC his name was Ralph Nader when I was growing up the corporation's never bypassed families to sell products to children except maybe for bubblegum now it's a multi multi hundred million dollar hundred billion dollar industry and did you sweep aside parental discipline of authority and go right for the five-year-old the seven-year-old nine-year-old the seinem junk food is harmful Sunim junk drink violent programming cosmetics for girls age six and seven war toys for boys five and six they're raising our children in defiance of traditional conservative and liberal precepts he would become the most effective advocate for citizens subjected to the abuses of corporate power and corporate crime his tenacity in corrupt ability and brilliance coupled with prodigious organizing skills turned him into a David who beat back one corporate Goliath after another no America has fought longer harder and with more integrity and more success to protect us from the auto industry the chemical and pharmaceutical industry the animal agriculture industry and the fossil fuel industry than Ralph Nader the weapon he employed to ensure safety features such as seat belts in cars to ensure that our water was uncontaminated our air clean and our food safe were the passing of regulatory laws many of which he wrote public hearings and the empowerment of government regulatory agencies in the first of two episodes with Ralph Nader filmed in his office in Washington we look at the battles he fought and often won in his early decades as a consumer advocate we examine the vital importance of government regulation and regulatory agencies which he calls community intelligence the ability to use law and the coercive power of government to create systems of alert systems of prevention of labeling and of meeting safe standards that protect our health and our lives so Ralph you describe regulation as what you say is a degree of coercion but you say that coercion can be legitimate or illegitimate explain well government regulation basically is usually mandatory and historically when there is a health or safety hazard that there are calls from the people for the government to regulate it's a basic say to corporations you can't Balu you can't so ships that are less than standard safety you can't so unsafe pharmaceuticals that's the consumer driven regulation sort of a community intelligence the government doing what people can't do one by one although traditionally that has often come after a tragedy yes I'm talking about before you bill you know almost inevitably after safety for boats for example came after a disaster in the Mississippi River of a boat loaded with people that sank in the pre Civil War period Congress then had very rigorous hearings great detail all kinds of sketches and numbers and they established a code of safety they didn't even create a new regulatory agency now the power of regulatory agencies caught the attention of the corporate law firms and long ago they realized that they could under the guise of regulation fixed prices and so the airlines got the right to form a cartel which they couldn't do under the antitrust laws but the civil aviation board of the federal government did it for him so they limited the entry of new airlines and they basically were allowed to fix prices they didn't compete on prices same thing happened for railroads same thing how about what time period in the 1930s was the Civil Aeronautics Board railroads was a little earlier and the tariffs for the railroads that are decided on by the railroad companies who are supposed to be competing they would meet in Shoreham Hotel here in Lawrence indeed work out to terrorists under the supervision of a government agency and these terrorists like were thousands of for a product going from Cucamonga to so you know podunk there just thousand totally fixed prices totally destroyed competition and so there are two kinds usually of regulation what's called cartel price-fixing regulation and regulation that improves the health safety and economic well-being you actually talk to you right to the extent that people are walking down the streets of New York and being exposed to carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide or lead they are being exposed to a coercive compulsory consumption of these harmful ingredients but you you look at you you describe this as a form of regulation yeah of course it is regulating the harm that say corporations can do to people whether it's worker safety and health whether it's environmental pollution whether it's products that are toxic or unsafe it's a it's a form of preventing violence physical violence for example of unsafe cars crashing and the silent violence of toxics and what do you see as the function of government and police visa vie these private powers well it's just what you say it's keep putting the federal or state cop on the corporate crime and negligence beat and that struggle goes on forever and it's the police power pure and simple and what the corporations have been trying to do for 40 years is deregulate and allow the companies to decide who lives and who dies they decide the margin of safety I want to go back 1963 you hitchhiked to Washington and I've known you for a long time I think there's a the inner Ralph Nader is quite a fine investigative reporter and you write this masterpiece on say at any speed and that really launches this long confrontation you've had with corporate power explain or tell us what you saw when you got here in the early 60s not only with GM but across where we can begin with the GM that's what I saw in high school lost friends crashes there by six times more likely in the 1950s to die in a crash or to be seriously injured it's how much safer Motor Vehicles and aiwei's are now so I began in college you know you have spring vacation and someone didn't come back they were killed on the Pennsylvania Turnpike a student in a crash and so I said what's going on here well all it was going on this was the National Safety Council and the auto companies insurance guys are blaming a driver so he's not behind the wheel it's drunk driving unconfident driving and then I stumbled on something quite fascinating the Pentagon realized during the 1950's that more Airmen were being killed on the highways in the US than in the Korean War and so they funded Cornell Medical School and HI Harvard School of Public Health and others like just four or five million dollars total to see how cars could be made more protective in a collision so like seatbelts right so if you don't stop the collision you stop the injury from because the the occupants are are cushioned airbags for example padded dash panels steering console don't ran back into the driver like a spear and I said to myself boy you know that let's let's put the responsibility on the auto industry and on the highway designs and not just on the drivers because you know safe automobiles don't get drunk you know you haven't built in it's a much better human factors engineering approach in its prevention it's much cheaper and you get lower auto insurance rates and and it's very inexpensive to make safer cars and those small Changez and so I was driven to things what I knew was studying the Patent Office and all the safety features that they suppress but they incriminating themselves and second the emotional intelligence driven by the memory of the friends that I lost or became paraplegics and that's when I got basically saying to myself hey you know I can make it happen amongst I was hitchhiking once from Connecticut down to Washington to lobby Congress and a truck driver picked me up me so what are you doing this is Delaware and I said well I'm gonna go down and get GM regulated I thought he was gonna let me off side of the road he thought I was nuts you know but knowledge strategy stamina who the players are in Congress who the reporters are going to cover this regularly for the Washington Post Times Wall Street Journal you put it all together and one person could be much more agile than this lumbering General Motors that didn't even know how a bill that got through Congress they thought it got through Congress without hearings that that's how totally untutored what was key and what you've lost now which we'll talk about in the second part is that you had political figures senator Ribicoff and others who were on your side and who would hold those public hearings that's right yeah that you start with well who in Congress got power to hold public hearings so the press can report all this and break the taboo that auto safety relates to unsafe automobile design and construction not just drivers and that's how you begin now one of the things you point out is that the reason we need regulatory agencies and inspections and oversight is because the consumer doesn't have the ability to take apart a car and look at all the parts the consumer doesn't have the ability to take sleeping pills for instance and determine what the ingredients are or they don't have the ability to smell see or taste carbon monoxide right or any number of other silent forms of violence I mean it's just obvious that's what government is for it's to do for other people what the people cannot do for themselves Thomas Jefferson said that so you start with GM and that's just the beginning you're quite successful with GM they play a lot of dirty tricks on you I mean trying to blackmail you smear you which was it David Ridgeway right who exposed this there are hearings there the head of GM is brought was it before the Senate and exposed and pick up from there well then you just began this assault not just against the car industry but all of these industries that in their own way were carrying out this kind of malfeasance yeah it was a moment in history when the press would report these things they weren't into prize-winning features that are in their daily reporting and and there were some people in Congress who are responsive make things happen the White House was willing to sign the bills and so I took advantage of the moment I mean after I became nationally well-known with the signing of the motor vehicle and highway safety laws in September 1966 just imagine the book came out in 1965 November and about nine months the biggest industry in the United States was regulated you couldn't ever do that today and so I said I don't want to be a lone ranger here so I got a lot of young law students graduate students broke them up into teams during the summer okay you studied a part of Agriculture how it caves to agribusiness highly paid very very modestly paid it's the best experience their life now they look on it okay you write a report on the Food and Drug Administration you exposed the Federal Trade Commission they were called Nader's Raiders and the press just ran with it and so I realized that you had to build a movement you had to bring many many more people and because at the same time the auto companies were expanding their lobbying effort or campaign contributions their corporate law firms so let's put it this way my parents told me when I became famous he said all right so you're famous you know you're a household word TV cover of time this week is now night you know what you have to do Ralph I said what mom and dad is it you got to learn how to endure it haha okay we'll come back to that room thanks when we come back we'll continue our conversation with Ralph Nader welcome back we continue our conversation with Ralph Nader about regulation so one of the things that you did quite as Stewie was really step back because I know that when you had these law school students and others carrying out these investigations wasn't a linear in a high school student I think you brought the great Alan Aaron but they did the press conferences they they took ownership oh yeah there were authors of books at you know 22 years old 23 years old in fact we had a nursing home projects as awful conditions in nursing homes at 18 year old high school students from Connecticut formed the team that brought their teacher down got well documented and then they put out this book nursing homes the last segregation and lo and behold they were testifying for the house they're testifying for the Senate they were all over the media and they got reforms for the even started college people would say what are you doing bringing these kids down they don't know how to do this I said yeah watch and see so would it be correct to say that the consumer movement that you built and you created organizations like Public Citizen I mean a myriad of organizations to fight on behalf of consumers was this the first time in American history that we saw a proactive movement in a way yeah historically the muckrakers of a century ago they put out books like upton sinclair dirty meat plants and i don't know which which led to legislation right led to legislation to oversee the meat industry right Ida Tarbell on right giant standard oil company but they didn't go to the next step and set up permanent consumer groups and I learned from that history I was reading these muckraking books when I was 13 14 I had my eyes reading the books and my ears of listening WI ns and New York Yankee baseball and just run through because it's quite amazing what you really managed to get past I think there were 24 pieces of legislation many of which you author but just run through a little list of what you achieved well the first series of motor vehicle highway safety bills there are two of them and they led to levels of enforcement that averted three and a half million lives according to the verted three and a half million fatalities according to the Center for auto safety then we did the natural gas pipeline act and we did the Product Safety Commission act set up an agency this is all the household products that are hazardous or they explode or they're toxic and then we went to the great structures that remain today the air pollution the laws the water pollution laws the establishment the Environmental Protection Agency the establishment of the occupational safety and health agency then we went to the Toxic Substances Control Act in nineteen seventy six and two two years earlier the Great Freedom of Information Act which then became the best in the world you know and for information is the currency democracy you got to get that information out of government nursing home reports and meat poultry reports secret documents and the military-industrial complex and and so forth and then there are a lot of amendments that strengthened existing laws like the flammable fabrics Act and this was I think child children's pajamas yes yeah Wood had flammable material yeah oh yeah and then there's pesticide control bills and you know sooner or later you could see the corporate law firms were finding new office space expand 60s started in the 1970s and it was led by what was called the power memorandum one yeah which is Lewis Powell who was a utility lawyer from Virginia until Nixon made him Supreme Court justice and he wrote this plan on how to counter-attack and the business was on the second half we're going to talk about the counter yeah yeah and so you really have to take advantage of the moment this whole idea is you know take your time build the case no because Harry Truman proposed universal health insurance in 1940's we still go nap right this business of piecemeal gives the corporate lobbyists an opportunity to counter-attack to delay I want to know about the press because the press was different then and the press was a vital for this movement yeah the press it was a unique moment in time the press hadn't been reporting on worker issues and environmental and consumer issue in 1950s is the Eisenhower age but you can't believe what happened to the press because of the civil rights demonstrations the women's rights demonstrate the anti-vietnam or demonstration they created an aura that helped the press become bolder to do their job and of course a lot of the reporters had come from these kinds of demonstrations in college and law school to begin with so we have to keep in mind when the moment comes it's a seamless web it's not just one reform one reform can help the reform we're in that moment now for example and take advantage of the press because sooner or later the corporations are gonna meet with the publishers in their nice big mahogany roundtable rooms and say tell me where do you get your revenue profits from when you would produce a report that would expose unsafe conditions or toxins and the press would write stories about those reports we're going to talk about that doesn't happen later but they served as a kind of they amplified the message that you were attempting to get out quite effectively of course I tell the heads of the New York Times in post today well why aren't you proud of your golden age look how you you reported what these citizen groups disclosed and America became safer and better and healthier and more open why don't you do that now it was terrible no but in the old days I would go down myself to the New York Times Washington Post or to Drew Pearson the syndicated columnist I'd give him the press release and next morning's in the Washington Post or the New York Times now the heads of corporations would respond by talking about how this impeded profit was that their primary argument against oversight and regulation oh yeah that it strangled the economy it obstructed innovation it increased cost to consumers that was there one of their favorites they could never approve it and it had effect it had effect because it reached a brozen thaw who became the well we'll talk about a head of the New York Times and William F Buckley his close friend but I want to talk about night I think it's 1977 I can't find it Henry Ford who had fought you do you remember what he said yeah he said I know one of the sunday news shows that cars are safer and cleaner because of federal regulation and in many ways I think you pointed out that there at times for instance in the car industry auto manufacturers who understood that they could make cars safer or certainly engineers but without the pressure from regulatory agencies they could never make this happen even though they had the technical ability to do so yeah regulation fostered innovation and gave higher status to the engineers and scientists and GM and other auto companies because when the companies felt they had to meet higher standards they had to respect their own engineers and scientists who had a lot of these proposals languishing on the shelf for years like seatbelts that goes back decades they had seatbelts in air World War one mono planes right you talk about the cable industry in the 50s and the 60s promise no advertisements vibrant local programming in return for a modest monthly fee composed of many small firms locally routed community cable talked about that as an example so this is what they promised but without regulation what happened well the over-the-air broadcasters who didn't make you pay by the month because they had advertisements blocked cable for years they didn't want the competition or the contrast as well and when they decided they could have their cake and eat it too that they could do their over-the-counter and also you know collaborate with the cable industry then people started paying by the month the cable industry said hey yeah you know we'll get a monthly payment from our subscribers and we can also sell ads so who is to stop them right the cable subscribers on Elm Street USA they weren't organized the local towns who had the contracts of the cable companies they weren't able to counteract the cable say why are you breaking your promises you seduced these people into paying so much per month so they wouldn't have all this clutter and all this crazy influence over the content and you wouldn't even supply them with a local studio and you point out the pernicious nests of advertising in particularly it would particularly for children yeah well the barriers started breaking I mean you know when I was growing up corporations never bypassed families to sell products to children except maybe for bubble gum now it's a Multi multi hundred million dollar billion dollar industry and did you sweep aside parental discipline and authority and go right for the five year old the seven year old the nine year old the Sunim junk food it's harmful Sunim junk drink violent programming cosmetics for girls age six and seven war toys for boys five and six they're raising our children in defiance of traditional conservative than liberal priests and as you have often pointed out the airwaves are public yeah they are public it publicly owned you know we're the landlord's we own the public Airways the radio and TV stations of the tenants and guess what they don't pay us any rent and decide who says what and who doesn't on radio and TV 24 hours a day these companies have no scruples whatsoever they will go to the lowest sensory level semi pornographic stuff and I called them electronic child molesters for how they are twisting and contaminating the minds of these children to purchase products or nagged their parents to purchase products that are going to give them high blood pressure and makes them obese and damage their health in other ways and of course this is an important point because it is these corporate controlled platforms media platforms that turn on you and turn on the movement that you created very much so it's all part of but surprises people here this Chris the people in this country own the greatest wealth it isn't that 1% or Wall Street they they own the biggest share of the private but the people in this country own the public lands the only public Airways that they own trillions of dollars of pension funds that own New York Stock Exchange companies so the idea is how do you get people to control what's they already own yeah what a commons we're gonna come back for that next Thank You ruff that was consumer advocate and attorney Ralph Nader you

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33 thoughts on “On Contact: Rights & Regs w/citizen activist Ralph Nader

  1. I want to know how I (a convicted felon) who's straightend up, has the time but not resources can contribute to saving democracy. What exact issue should be first & how can I get through and galvanize & mobilize enough people to stop this corporatocracy? The press was different. Watch Good Night and Good Luck. Holding truth to power.

  2. Parents should do everything to NOT expose young kids to any commercial unless it is for study and analysis. Avoid main stream TVs and media full of harmful commercials and lots of fake news.

  3. Google should be ashamed of all the bullshit warnings about Russia. But, they pushed Hillary who dreamed up that sorry excuse for losing to the most beatable republican ever, had she not secretly been one herself.

  4. two of the greatest heroes of our age. RT does a great service to the world with programming like this and it does seem to have way more than it's share of important and profound intellectual content than other sources. That is why it irritates the hell out of me to see the disclaimer on YouTube that RT is funded by the Russian Government as if that hurts its credibility. Well, it doesn't for me. In fact, I find the opposite to be true given the quality of the content of the RT sources. It is Western Mainstream media that should have a disclaimer about excessive propaganda, not RT.
    I find myself going to RT first if I want the least bias reporting and honest discussion.
    Western MSM would be a joke if it wasn't so destructive to truth.

  5. Greetings from the Zionist Empire. If not for Ralph Nader, Al Gore would have been president and the second gulf war would likely have never happened. Saddam would probably still be threatening Israel. Mr. Nader, the people of Israel thank you for that!!!!!

  6. If there is a HELL, May Justice Lewis Powell Rot in it, FOREVER! Btw they touched on a Major irritation of mine to this day, which is Commercial Television! Which is why i no longer watch Regular T.V., except for Soccer, which is Ad-Free during Play, but these Ads are why your Commercial programming is Cookie Cutter, Content Edited, Safe, boring Dogshit, & all the Perversion is saved for the Commercials you're Forced to watch for half the Programming!…

  7. So proud I voted for Ralph in 3 elections. Wish Gore had stepped out of the way in 2000. Think what our country would be like! After the US assault on Iraq Gore said he would have done the same. But you can be sure: Bernie wins, Ralph is in his cabinet.

  8. Here is a journalism great and a political great, and RT can't get good production sound. Hedges and Nader deserve better.

  9. soooo angry that our pathetic excuse of the left, much of it nothing more then controlled opposition could've sabotaged, helped smear, and chosen 'lesser evilism' and their stupid 'reform the democrats' movement over this extraordinary gentleman who should've had their support, who should've been president three times over, and my god Nader was one of the best president we never had, and he should be showered in peace prizes and in charge of anything and everything. thank you Chris for this, love you Ralph, Bush stole the election from Gore, Bush semi-stole the election from Kerry, and KErry lost badly because he was Kerry and not you.

  10. What an inspiration Ralph is and has been. I so miss seeing him on the news like it was in those days of Naders Raiders!

  11. In high school, a friend asked me to go with her to hear Ralph Nader…I am so glad I went. Since that time, I have been a big fan of his…

  12. Try and explain to a liberal that some regulations are "cartel regulations" that hurt small business. They deny it and go insane, like Thom Hartmann……..👍👍👍

  13. Greedy corporations finely pushed him out, because he went too far with his law suits…

    It's one thing to sue a company that puts out bad products ~ its another thing to expect companies to be responsible for people's stupidity…

  14. Thank you for this insightful interview, Chris Hedges! So many lessons to learn from Ralph Nader, whose fought the good progressive fight all of his life! Incredible to think along the lines of the 99% OWNING and being LANDLORD to the corporate MSM and the systems of mass production & consumerism — powerful thought, in a world that's grown into a kind of totalitarian aristocracy with the 99% being indoctrinated into being the battered "peasantry"!

    It's both a sobering and empowering thought!!

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