Ralph Nader
Paul Wellman

Ralph Nader, the bad boy of American politics, accused by many Democrats of spoiling Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore’s chance to beat George W. Bush in 2000 by taking a percentage of Gore’s vote in key states, is back in force. He is on the November 2008 presidential ballot in 45 states including California, where he and his vice-presidential pick, Matt Gonzalez, are running on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket. He spoke with The Independent by phone from Washington, D.C., in advance of his appearance at UCSB this coming weekend.

What are you hoping to accomplish in this election? We hope to put pressure on the two parties to respond to the necessities of the American people instead of the greedy demands of corporations who, when they get in trouble, go down and ask for a bailout.

Example? When Clinton rammed the Financial Modernization Act through Congress in 1999, he turned Wall Street into a giant casino, and when it got in trouble the CEOs and major shareholders bailed out with golden parachutes. As we speak, Socialist Superman is sweeping down on New York City from Washington, D.C., to bailout the big casino capitalists on Wall Street, which continues to spew forth ever more kryptonite.

Who is Superman? Superman is the taxpayers.

I thought we blamed the Republicans for deregulation. Was the Clinton bill pure deregulation? It was pretty pure. It allowed the merger of investment banks and rolled back conflict-of-interest provisions. On matters of corporate power, there’s less and less of a difference between Democrats and Republicans.

What would you have a president do now? Right now, government is going to use taxpayer money to bail out the Wall Street gamblers, so if they recover, the taxpayers should get a profit. The companies should issue stock warrants in the name of the U.S. Treasury, as Chrysler had to do years ago. And they should get no more bailouts without public hearings. And of course there should be regulatory controls to prevent the kinds of abuse that led to all this phony paper.

What kind of regulations? Make it so a bank can’t just sell the mortgage to some firm that then resells it, so they don’t really care if it’s any good. In England, banks can’t sell mortgages. Or, if they do sell it off, make it so they have to be financially liable for it. : Beyond that, give shareholders more control. Make it so you can’t easily trick investors, can’t phony them up with lies, and details that they can’t explain. Don’t allow so many loopholes.

Do you think Barack Obama is up to the task? I think [John] McCain and Obama both are corporate candidates-based on their records, their donations, their statements. Go look at our issues page on the Web site, to see all the issues that are off their table and on our table, and on the table of the American people.

Do you still think there’s no difference between Gore and Bush? Gore won the election. It was taken away from him by balloting fraud.

What do your polls show for this election? In the 45 states where we’re on the ballot, we have 5 [to] 8 percent in the polls. And the major polls are showing that McCain goes down, not Obama. One was an L.A. Times poll. It’s on the Web site votenader.org.

What’s your position on offshore oil? We’re against it. You know, we waste a lot of oil. We can save a lot more, a lot sooner, than we’ll be able to drill 10 years from now when we get the first drops from offshore oil. Conservation is also better for the estuaries and the beaches. And you know in the Gulf there are serious problems with these hurricanes. So what are we doing? If you go to the kitchen to fill up a container with water and it doesn’t fill, and you see five holes in the bottom of the container, what’s the answer? Go into the backyard and drill another water well?


Ralph Nader is speaking at 3 p.m. on Sunday, September 28, at UCSB’s Corwin Pavilion. Suggested donation $10; $5 for students.


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