Democratic Underground

Ralph Nader Was Half Right
March 30, 2001
by Bradford Shaw

It was almost impossible to count the number of times that Ralph Nader told the American people that George Bush and Al Gore were the same when it came to corporate greed. He told us that both candidates would be in a dead heat to get to the big business feeding trough. He went on and on about the similarities between the candidates, pausing only to make cutting comments about previous administrations, Republican and Democrat.

Both leading parties were morally bankrupt, whores to big business, and greedy to the point of ruining our nation and its ecological future, so he would have us believe. It hasn't even been 100 days for the Bush administration, and lo and behold Mr. Nader has been proven right. Half right, that is.

In the light of reason, with even this brief amount of time to give us perspective, all that a logical, intelligent person has to do is ask themselves a few pointed questions as to decisions made by the current occupant of the White House, and if the same decisions would be made by the loyal opposition.

Before he was even inaugurated, the current leader of the free world astounded many ecological groups by appointing cabinet members that could honestly be characterized as environmentally unfriendly. He showed no hesitation in placing people in offices that they themselves didn't seem to believe in. The Governor of a highly polluted state as head of the EPA, and a person who doesn't believe in the Endangered Species List in charge of the Department of the Interior, head the list of Bush appointees that would never make the grade in a Gore administration.

People have said, and rightly so, that Al Gore wrote the book on environmental stewardship. His work "Earth in the Balance" was a powerful call to environmental action for our collective future. Would a person who spent many long hours working his head off to write such a strong statement about environmental protection appoint people diametrically opposed to such philosophy? Not bloody likely!

This would of course, be the first gigantic difference between the parties, and even the apparently myopic Mr. Nader should be able to absorb this fact. The official first Bush decision was to discontinue funding for Planned Parenthood overseas. In addition, he has announced a review of the "safety" of RU486, the so-called abortion pill, with an eye toward restricting its availability.

Would Al Gore have done the same thing? Despite an effort to be fiscally conservative where government funding is concerned, Al Gore has always been for a woman's right to choose, as his voting record consistently shows. He would logically be the last person to want to limit funding for family planning. He has appeared through his actions to be straight forward and up front with his stand for reproductive rights.

Throughout election 2000, his campaign was clear in its support for Planned Parenthood, promising to uphold Roe v Wade in any way possible. In addition, Gore indicated the continuing need for funding for Planned Parenthood worldwide. As a person concerned with the planets dwindling resources, he has acknowledged the dangers of overpopulation. Bush has already expressed his support for a nation-wide ban on abortion. Well Ralph, can you see a difference yet?

As his next conservative act, Shrub declared a review of all past executive orders. His thrust outwardly appeared to be aimed at assisting big business in any way possible, from quashing workplace safety programs started by the previous administration, to restricting bankruptcy provisions-and thus handing gigantic cash rewards to his backers. This was just the beginning of what looks to be a business-friendly administration.

Since then we have witnessed an erosion of environmental standards on the fast track. It's a foregone conclusion that the Gore administration would have continued, and perhaps even strengthened our environmental standards as opposed to loosening them to suit big business like Shrub did. Al Gore has proved through his voting record that he strongly supported workplace safety, increased standards for airborne pollutants, cleaner water standards, and effective consumer protection. Would Al Gore rescind and or review all previous executive orders? Even an ideologue such as Nader should be able to see some differences at this point.

Next on the agenda for George was a cross-country "greed is good" tour to help promote and pass his massive tax cut, tailor-made for his millionaire backers. To anyone just waking from a 6-month coma, it must still seem like the 2000 primaries. Shrub is lost somewhere in Middle America, John McCain is feeling feisty over campaign finance reform, and Nader just wants to point fingers and lay blame everywhere but himself. Would Al Gore even propose the gigantic ten-year tax cut that Bush the younger has foisted upon us?

For the answer to that question, we have merely to look up the fiscal record for the Clinton White House for the past eight years. The most recent Democratic administration reflected in policy and deed, what seems to be the prevalent political philosophy of the nation: Fiscal conservatism, and social liberalism. Clinton and Gore managed to fund many needed programs while still balancing the budget and reducing the deficit. Even though the Republicans try to assert that it was a conservative congress that passed all of this legislation for the President to sign, let's just remember that it might not have been politically prudent for a Republican President to sign such legislation in that it might be interpreted as a philosophical coup d'etat. Let's not forget how popular the "Contract With America" was for Newt and his crew.

Gore did express an interest in a tax cut, but his idea was to target the cuts to the people who really needed it instead of the people who are just interested in how far up they have moved on the Fortune 500 list. His tax relief would have helped the average American family without bankrupting future generations. Is it possible for Ralph to see any division in philosophy here?

To find another glaring difference, look to campaign finance reform. George W doesn't like McCain-Feingold. The proposed legislation, that is, not the Senators. He would have liked to have seen a watered down version such as the Hagel bill pass, in order to legitimize the prostitution that goes on in the form of campaign financing, but the Democrats were too strong for that. His main thrust, if he feels he is stuck with McCain-Feingold, would be to emasculate the working sector by attaching "paycheck protection" to the bill. This provision would allow an individual to withdraw financially from participating in political donations, a great theory in thought, but not execution.

This action unfortunately does not empower the individual as much as it removes most of the influence that labor needs to protect itself and it's members. We have already seen a reduction in the concern for workplace safety, and some of us wonder what will be next. As if opposing the campaign finance reform bill weren't enough, the Republicans, with Shrub's approval, are trying to attach the right language to make the whole thing plainly unconstitutional.

Al Gore promised that the first bill that he wanted to sign was McCain-Feingold, and after his own controversy involving this subject, hardly anyone would doubt his word in this regard. Nader himself would benefit from Gores proposal for free air time for candidates in order to avoid the corruption that today's high cost campaigns currently cultivate.

If Ralph can't see any differences yet, it may be that he chooses not to. It may just be easier for him to stand outside the mainstream complaining about the status quo, pointing fingers at both sides, rather than coming up with any realistic and operable plan. This has always been his modus operandi in the past, and at his age it's unlikely he will change.


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