Ralph Nader, Crashing the Party.
New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2002
Having lost key committee chairs and the Congress to the Republicans and Republicrats, some Washington-based environmental groups persuaded themselves that they could maneuver or outsmart polluting companies through private deals with them.
One such deal, involving the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and their West Coast representative Ralph Cavanagh, resulted in California’s electricity deregulation fiasco.
This idea was the brainstorm of John Bryson, CEO of the Southern California Edison Company and NDRC.
The latter thought that competition in generating and distributing electricity would bring more conservation, more renewable energy on-line, and cheaper prices for consumers. Deregulation unanimously passed the California legislature in 1996 with very little public awareness or discussion.
Our attempt in 1998 to repeal parts of this bad law by a statewide referendum - Proposition 9 - failed by a wide margin due to a $45 million television campaign by the utilities. Having given up on the prospect of regulation, California turned over regulatory power to the electric companies, their holding companies, and the large out-of-state power generators that have turned electricity into a speculative commodity.
The harshest price consequences for consumers and taxpayers have resulted, shaking the state’s economy and increasing costs to business. Any regulatory authority to stem this crisis was given up in 1996 to corporate supremacy.
It is difficult to recall major advances in fairness or living conditions in our country’s history that were not struggled over or wrenched from the avaricious grasp of the rulers by the ruled. I am not speaking of charity here. As I said repeatedly at rallies all over the country, a society that has more justice is a society that needs less charity.
That night I kept coming back to the critical medium called word of mouth which, by the way, made this major outpouring of Bostonians and college students possible. “Replace some of the small talk with exciting political talk about the future of this country,” I urged at the rally.
Complex, changing societies need more public or citizen time for a more just society if our private time is to be enjoyable, peaceful, safe, and productive. Each person has a contribution to make. It is sometimes useful to evoke a metaphor from the natural world.
The great natural asset of our country which is the Mississippi River start with a drop of water in northern Minnesota.
One drop joins with other drops to form a tiny rivulet that joins with other rivulets to form a brook, which together with other brooks makes a stream that with other streams makes a river, which together with other rivers swells the mighty Mississippi.
So, too, is the case with millions of citizens, watering the life-expanding potential of a functioning democracy open to fresh ideas and replenishing initiatives.
FIRST-STAGE GOALS FOR A BETTER AMERICA
1 Enact legislation that mandates publicly financed public elections and broad reforms of the electoral process. Strengthen citizen participation in our political economy.
2 Enact living-wage laws, strengthen worker health and safety laws, and repeal Taft-Hartley and other obstructions to collective bargaining and worker rights.
3 Issue environmental protection standards to systematically reduce damaging environmental toxins and to promote sustainable technologies.
4 Provide full Medicare coverage for everyone and revamp our national programs for prevention of disease and trauma.
5 Launch a national mission to abolish poverty, as other Western democracies have done, based on proposals made long ago by conservatives, liberals, and progressives.
6 Design and implement a national security policy to counter violence and the silent mass violence of global diseases, environmental devastation, and extreme poverty. Reduce waste and corporate domination of defense budgets—a wasteful defense i s a weak defense. Wage peace and advance nonviolence by education and by foreseeing and forestalling global perils.
7 Renegotiate NAFTA and GATT to be democratic and to be “pull-up,” not “pull-down,” trade agreements that subordinate labor, consumer, and environmental standards to trade matters.
8 End criminal justice system discrimination, reject the failed war on drugs, and replace for-profit corporate prisons with superior public institutions.
9 Defend and strengthen the civil justice system, apply criminal laws against corporate crime, and fully prosecute consumer fraud and abuses. Expand consumer, worker, and children’s health, safety, and economic rights.
10 Strengthen investor-shareholder rights, remedies, and authority over managers and officers and boards of directors so that those who own the companies also control them. End the massive corporate welfare schemes that distort and misallocate public budgets. Reintroduce the historic function of corporate chartering as an instrument of ensuring corporate accountability and the sovereignty of the people.