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Independent Candidate Ralph Nader Discusses Bid for Presidency

October 14, 2008 at 6:55 PM EDT
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Presidential candidate Ralph Nader speaks with the NewsHour's Ray Suarez about his latest bid for the White House and discusses his platform on the critical issues facing the country this election year.

RAY SUAREZ: Presidential candidate Ralph Nader joins us now. He’s making the race for the third time. He’s on the ballot in 45 states this year.

Welcome to the program.

RALPH NADER, Presidential Candidate: Thank you, Ray.

RAY SUAREZ: Well, we’ve just come through these remarkable weeks, where the Treasury, the Fed, and Congress have been working to cobble together a plan.

The presidential candidates, the Republican and Democrat in the race, say they reluctantly went along with these bailout packages because of the urgency of the situation. What did you make of the bailout plans?

RALPH NADER: The right word is “cobble.” It’s the wrong kind of plan, and they have to readjust now with injections into the banks.

But what they should have done, because Washington had Wall Street over the barrel, Wall Street wanted a $700 billion bailout.

And what Congress should have done is add to Bush’s blank check with comprehensive regulation to prevent this; criminal prosecution resources for the culprits on Wall Street; more power to the shareholders to control their company and restrain their bosses’ excesses, real taxpayer equity, with good conditions and, finally, making them pay for it.

If you make the speculators pay for their own bailout, then there’s a relief throughout America that there’s some fairness coming out of Washington.

A 0.1 percent tax on security derivative transactions in one year — it’s going to be $500 trillion of transactions in one year — is $500 billion. So that alone would make a sense of equity. And you wouldn’t put it on the backs of the taxpayer.

England has that kind of tax, by the way, for years. FDR had it. We helped finance the Civil War with it. But after World War II, it was scrapped.

So people go into a store in all your areas where your show shows, and they buy necessities of life, and they pay 6 percent or 7 percent sales tax. Tomorrow, someone in Wall Street can buy a billion dollars of Exxon derivatives, pay no sales tax. That’s where the fairness has to go.

Tackling the deficit

RALPH NADER: What all these commentators don't talk about is where this money is coming from. More deficits, which apparently don't bother the two major candidates enough to have a corrective program. Are we going to sell bonds to the Chinese and to the Western Europeans, treasury bonds? Are we going to print money?

The deficit, as you said earlier in the program, is going to staggeringly expand in the next year. So the best way to deal with it is to cut the bloated military budget, cut the corporate subsidies, put the money into public works, repairing America, good jobs in every community, and make the speculators in Wall Street pay for their bailout.

That's what the Nader-Gonzalez campaign is taking across the country. And if you want to poll it, Ray, I think it would poll over 80 percent, because, you know, not immodestly, for 40 years, we have stood for the people of this country.

And these two major candidates and their parties have been dialing for a lot of corporate dollars. And more Wall Street money has gone into Obama's campaign than McCain by far.

And that's what we've got to do with Washington. We've got to change it into some -- a body of government that respects the taxpayer, respects the worker, and doesn't just use the word "middle class," "middle class," as Obama always does, without talking about the 100 million poor people in this country who are underpaid, overcharged, ripped off, marginalized, excluded.

They do the dirty work for us, and they're never mentioned in the campaign. It's like the poor is a no-no. And yet the poor Americans are shrinking the middle class because a lot of middle classes are going into poverty.

A call for 'justice'

RAY SUAREZ: Well, to what extent was the public, the people that you're talking about, at least minority partners in the mess, people pulling money out of the value of their homes to buy things that they wanted to buy, 125 percent loan-to-value mortgages, refinancing every couple of years?

Not everybody certainly, but a portion of the public had gotten used to this new world that apparently was poisoning the system, we're now told.

RALPH NADER: That's the lack of consumer standards, where we shouldn't provide a mortgage with no down payment or deferred interest. And, you know, most poor people, you know, they ask themselves, why should I turn down a bargain, even though it may come to haunt us?

That's the key here, that there's a whole brace of regulation to protect consumers, taxpayers, and to reinstate some of FDR's standards to control banks, investment banks, conflicts of interest, and the enormous ricochet effect against prudent institutions who did it right and prudent investors who did it right from the speculation and what Richard Fisher, the head of the Federal Reserve in Dallas, Texas, called, quote, "an orgy of excess and speculative behavior on Wall Street."

RAY SUAREZ: Well, none of this is permanently done, so let's fast-forward a couple of months. It's late January 2009. Let's say you were elected president. How would you re-craft these bills that have built this new architecture for recovery?

RALPH NADER: Quite simple. You re-install comprehensive regulation. It was Clinton's deregulation, with the Republican support in 1999-2000, opened this huge speculative excess, number one.

And, number two, shareholders are stripped of any authority. It's a violation of capitalist principles for people who own their companies to have no control over their bosses. And their bosses go wild with self-enrichment schemes that the mainstream press has written about constantly. That's second.

And then, third -- this is very, very important -- that there's got to be justice. People are crying out against this gross unfairness, where these bosses on Wall Street tank their own companies, un-employ hundreds of thousands of workers, and jump ship into a golden lifeboat.

And then their companies demand that socialism in Washington -- think of the irony -- has to bail out corporate capitalism in Wall Street.

The only place left for capitalism in this country is small business, because they're free to go bankrupt. They don't get bailed out.

Plans for Afghanistan

RAY SUAREZ: Let's keep on 2009 while we're at it. What would you do about Afghanistan? The Republican and Democratic nominee opposing you in this race have come out with different plans. What's yours?

RALPH NADER: Mine is more soldiers in Afghanistan and the Pakistan border is going to destabilize Pakistan. The National Intelligence Estimate of Mr. Bush just came out with a statement saying there's never been more violence and chaos in Afghanistan since 9/11.

So we have to look to wise people, like Ashraf Ghani, who is the finance minister for Karzai, the president, and who is a professor here in this country, a native Afghani, who says you've got to connect with the tribal leaders and give them and their people jobs, public works, security, and that will be the buffer against the people who just want chaos.

Let's put it this way. Nobody conquers Afghanistan. The British didn't do it. The Soviet Union didn't do it. We're not going to do it.

It's a scar on the conscience of Obama and McCain that they are ready to get us into a massive quagmire. And if Pakistan is destabilized, it's going to make Iraq look like small potatoes, even with the million Iraqis and 4,200 soldiers who have died in that conflagration.

Nader's Middle East proposals

RAY SUAREZ: And can you extricate the United States from Iraq?

RALPH NADER: Six months negotiated withdrawal with modest autonomy between Shiites, Sunnites and Kurds, under a unified Iraq of all U.S. soldiers and corporate contractors, continued humanitarian aid, and U.N.-sponsored elections.

That should do it, because that would knock the bottom out of the insurgency.

You know, give them the time. I'd have to ask people to contact our Web site for more details,, where we have this elaborated -- we invite volunteers. We invite donations. We take no money from commercial interests.

But I know this area. My parents came from Lebanon at age 19. We know the language. We know the authority of the religious leaders, the tribal leaders is still intact. And that's what we have to do to it.

Any diminution of violence in recent months in Iraq have been due to realignments between these authority figures. And that's what we have to support, not more preferring one sectarian group over another, wheeling and dealing $100 bills, and the intrigue, and the revenge killings.

And, also, there's no way to knock the bottom out of the insurgency, which will ebb and rise, according to circumstances, than to eliminate the occupation of their country and give Iraq back to the Iraqis and their oil back.

And it would help if the U.S. government would support the peace movements in Israel and Palestine, which have worked out a two-state solution, which was somehow prohibited from appearing in Congress. They're off-limits to the two- party campaigns, Obama and McCain.

And it's disgracefully cowardly for these two people who are smart. I know them. They know what it takes to make peace between the Israelis and Palestine people.

A majority of Jewish-Americans, Arab-Americans want a two-state solution. So do the majority of the Israelis and the Palestinians. And, instead, both major candidates support the hard-liners.

You don't make peace by supporting the militaristic repression, occupation and colonization of Palestine.

RAY SUAREZ: Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader, good to talk to you, sir.

RALPH NADER: Thank you. It's a pleasure to be on the Jim Lehrer show.