by Tom Sevigny and Tom Ethier
April 09, 2000
An open letter to Waterbury's Republican America newspaper
Some things never go out of style. The Republican America's March 31 editorial, "Green with Red Trim," is reminiscent of the 'red-baiting' tactics of an earlier era. The editorial is an endless barrage of distortions, innuendo, and outright lies and is not what you'd expect to find in an American newspaper in the 21st century, unless of course that newspaper is the Republican American, one of the most faithfully conservative and biased newspapers in New England. We would expect this kind of trash from the Republican's steady stream of conservative opinion writers such as Robert Novack, Thomas Sowell, Mona Charen, and Cal Thomas; but the editors of a newspaper in a democratic society should be held to higher standard. They need to be in the general vicinity of the truth.
Ralph Nader doesn't just portray himself as David battling the Goliaths of big business; he has been living it for decades. Ralph Nader's work through the years has lead to safer products, increased consumer protections, a cleaner environment, and access to public information through the Freedom of Information Act. What candidate running for president can say that his or her work has resulted in the saving of hundreds of thousands of lives? Who cares whether Ralph Nader is a man of modest means, or is as wealthy as Al Gore, George W. Bush, or Patrick Buchanan? Who among them has continually fought for the common man; workers, farmers, victims, and consumers? Ralph Nader is "steadfastly against tort reform." 'Tort reform', is a code phrase for returning to the days when access to lawyers and the courts was limited to those with the means. Today consumers and individuals have the ability to obtain redress in the courts from corporations, legal fabrications, really, 'super-people'; with rights beyond those of ordinary human beings. A trial before your peers is a tool for the common man against the far more powerful corporations and their armies of attorneys.
To call the citizen interest groups that Ralph Nader founded an empire is an unusual use of the word empire. So what the groups that Ralph Nader founded are partly funded by trial lawyers? Wealthy corporate benefactors have been dumping millions of dollars into conservative think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute so they can influence legislation in favor of the corporate agenda. Tobacco, logging, nuclear, and many other industries spend vast sums of money to lobby state and Federal legislatures around the country to pass legislation in their benefit. This money far outstrips the resources of interest groups that lobby for consumers and the environment.
How can the Republican American say that Mr. Nader would "centralize all political and economic power?" One of the Green Party values is grassroots democracy, not popular democracy, but only in the Republican American's contorted logic could it mean that the rule of law is "set by public opinion or party edict." The Green Party platform states: "decision-making should, as much as possible, remain at the individual and local level, while assuring that civil rights are protected for all citizens." In other words, giving people access to the legislative apparatus. Even Republican Senator John McCain recently decried a system that favors lobbyists and fat cats at the expense of the public.
We challenge the editors to show readers where the Green Party or Mr. Nader claim they would nationalize industry, collectivize agriculture and make the U.S. government the largest employer. If the editors had actually researched the Green Party platform and the key values, they would have found that we favor a decentralized free market economy composed primarily, though not exclusively, of family enterprises, small-scale co-ops, worker owned firms, and neighborhood and municipal corporations.
Where does it say that we would ban pesticides and chemical fertilizers? The Green Party platform calls for a "phasing out," not a ban, on the use of man-made pesticides and artificial fertilizers. The idea that these steps would lead to widespread starvation is erroneous. Famines in the Third World, and there seems to be plenty of starvation despite the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, are not the result of an under-production of food, but are caused by the inefficiencies of the market. Indian Economist Amartya Sen won a Nobel Prize for his work on this very topic.
Though the Green Party believes in free markets, most of corporate America does not. The editors accuse Ralph Nader and the Greens of being socialists and favoring gigantic government but it was Nader and the Greens that lead the charge against last year's Patriots stadium deal. This was a truly government program of epic proportions, and is really 'corporate socialism', or in the vernacular of the day, corporate welfare. What we have is an elaborate corporate socialist state in which the government, by using taxpayers money, subsidizes corporations' costs, protects them from market risks and lets them keep the profits.
The foundation of corporate welfare is to socialize the cost and privatize the profits. Most businesses wouldn't be able to survive three seconds in a free market system because the government would not be able to protect them from free market discipline. Any honest CEO will tell you the same thing that Dwayne Andreas, CEO of corporate giant Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), did in 1995 when he told a reporter, "the only place you see a free market is in the speeches of politicians. People do not understand that this is a socialist country." Ralph Nader is not alone in his attack on corporate welfare. Ohio Republican Representative John Kasich, a respected member of Congress, has been critical of it as well.
Where has the Green Party or Ralph Nader ever said that individual rights should be curtailed? The Green Party believes that it is "important to value cultural, ethnic, racial, sexual, religious and spiritual diversity, and to promote the development of respectful relationships across these lines." We should however limit the rights of the 'super-people', corporations; who have rights like the ability to live forever and exist in multiple places at the same time, characteristics that give them a decided advantage in court cases involving the Earth, it's resources, and the environment.
Attacks such as these on Mr. Nader and the Greens are not unexpected. That the Republican American is so dishonest and vicious in its criticism is an indication that support for Mr. Nader is on the rise as voters look for alternatives to the two major parties. A recent Zogby poll showed Ralph Nader outpolling Patrick Buchanan in a four-way race. If Nader were ever allowed into the presidential debates, his share of the vote would rise to 30 percent. Readers who are interested in the truth about Ralph Nader and the Greens should visit two web sites: www.greenparties.org and www.votenader.com. We recommend that the editors of the Republican American visit them too.
Thomas P. Ethier
Thomas J. Sevigny
Co-Chairpersons of the Connecticut Green Party