Some of the prior speakers touched on a number of issues, and as I was listening to them, what occurred to me was that most of the issues and the subjects that the Green Party is adhering to are majoritarian issues to the United States of America. And what commended the Green Party so much to those of us who were not in on the founding is that if you look very carefully at the Green Party Platform that's being proposed for your approval, this is by far the most comprehensive, broad-based--platform that deals with a wide range of systemic justice that's needed in this country: from the political, to the corporate, to the cultural, the civil liberties, the civil rights--platform of any party in the country. I wouldn't begin to compare it with the flaccid, insipid, empty, cowardly platforms of the Democratic and Republican Tweedle-Dum Tweedle-Dee parties.
Somehow these two party platforms don't realize that society rots from the head down, like a fish, and is built from the bottom up. As a matter of fact, the Democratic Party Platform doesn't even contain an affirmation of universal health coverage for all Americans. It even backed off of that. While they took money from the hospital lobby, the medical lobby, the drug industry lobby, the giant HMO's, and insurance lobby. And as far as the Republican Platform goes, this one could have been written by the Fortune 100.
[In response to someone shouting, ``It was.'']
You must know something I don't know.
There's no mention of the corporate crime epidemic in America, that the Wall Street Journal and Barrons Financial Weekly print stories about almost every day. With no mention about corporate welfare--why would they mention campaign finance reform? They sailed into San Diego on a sea of corporate cash--it's a wonder they didn't slip off their seats. Tobacco cash, insurance cash, oil cash, auto cash--you name it, it was there. Cash register politics.
You know the Democrats, in their desperate display of political mimicry of the Republicans, are driving Bob Dole to distraction. Every time he makes a public policy statement he precedes it by saying, ``I hope that Bill Clinton doesn't get this ahead of me because he'll deliver it.'' It's almost a boilerplate phrase. I understand Susan Molinari did that in her speech as well. It's like saying, ``Stop! Stop from being so much like us!'' What does that tell us about competitive politics in America today. Not much competition.
I suppose the theme of what we're all about is titled ``I The Citizen, We The People.'' I The Citizen, the self-reliant, civically informed, assertive, involved, engaged public citizen. Joining with others to make it We The People. The two are inseparable from each other. Underneath all our respective social, economic, political problems and abuses and injustices rests the quality of our democracy.
Democracy is the greatest problem-solving mechanism ever devised.That's why so many people intuitively--if not empirically--like it so much. And democracy is always a work in progress and in some countries it's got a long way to go. And the dictatorships that rule those societies have a lot of difficulty solving any problems because they're so busy producing them.
In our country, our democracy's gone through fluctuations. Some generations experience resurgence, where the people get a break, they get organized, they get rights and remedies. And then the entrenched powers--in our country it's mostly corporate power--counteract and begin wearing down the gains of the past. And as far as citizens are concerned, what they have to confront is how much time they're going to put in their lives as private citizens--taking care of themselves and their family--and how much time they're going to put in as public citizens--taking care of the community, the society, the nation, the world.
When we spend too much time on our private citizen lives, because we're having a hard time making ends meet or for other reasons, and we don't spend enough time on our public citizen lives we will never have happy private citizen lives. And it's that balance that is out of balance. Too much in this country have people given up on themselves. The greatest power of the corporate state is not their power. The greatest power they have over the people is the widespread feeling among millions of Americans that they don't count, they don't matter, and why try.
Why try, because the powers that be will decide for them. Whether they get laid off or not from their work, whether they grow up in toxic chemical exposures, whether they're sent off to foreign adventures, whether they're bled dry in taxes that go to unproductive investments, through Washington and state capitols, they just seem to have lost control. And you see that everywhere. It doesn't matter if they're liberals or conservatives, moderates or anarchists, libertarians--whatever. They feel they have lost control over almost everything that affects them, whether it's the marketplace, the workplace, the government, the streets, the environment, their own children. And it's that recovery that spells the future of democracy as a problem-solver, as a fulfiller of human possibilities in our country.
Now when we talk about democracy, we're going to be very specific. You notice the two major parties, when they give a kinds of statements and addresses to the public, they have all kinds of words that they use to make people feel good, but there's one word that is in increasingly short supply in both the statements of the Democrats and the Republicans. And that is the great work of human beings on earth. And that word is ``Justice.''
That phrase, by the way, came from Daniel Webster:
``Justice is the great work of human beings on earth.''Very memorable.
And I might add that progress in a democracy means equal justice under law, for economic opportunity, for rights of privacy which were the shield individuals should be given against corporate and governmental invasion, to resolve common problems commonly, in common. Democracy brings out the best in people. An oligarchy, plutocracy, autocracy--whatever you call the concentration of wealth and power--suppresses the best in people. And brings out the worst in the power of the few over the many.
Democracy works--one of its greatest secrets--it works. To give you an example, there was a democratic resurgence over 200 years ago that brought us our Constitution, which developed a framework, and made it a perfectible document for later on with the amendment process. It was democratic activity that led to the abolition of slavery, the greatest crime ever committed in the North American continent. It was democracy in action that brought the women's' right to vote, starting in 1846.
If you think you're up against overwhelming odds, think of those six women in that small farmhouse in Seneca Falls, New York who started this drive to achieve the impossible, with a lot of men and a lot of economic interests against them. Most of them didn't live to see the constitutional amendment. Some of them saw some states--Montana, for example--but think, just think of what they were up against, and how they fanned out all over the country. I remember one episode where they were canvassing in a small town in Kansas where the plan of the day was to open the window on the second floor and dump dirty, hot water on their heads. We often forget what a street-action movement that was. And how they were hauled off to jail. And dragged off the street where they were demonstrating, in downtown Washington.
And if you think those were odds, try being an early period abolitionist against slavery. And how about the workers who started the trade union movement. Another dimension of democracy in action. We tend to forget what industrial workplaces were like before the trade union movement, and not just in very low wages but in long hours and hazardous working conditions and having to compete against seven-, eight-, nine-year-olds before the trade union movement and the human rights movement abolished child labor in the U.S.
And how about the fathers who brought the food to the table. How about those fathers around the turn of the century. They were up against the railroads, and the banks who were bleeding them dry. And they started organizing in east Texas in the late 1880's. And within a few months they signed up 200,000 farmers, going door to door through the mud and the rain. For $1 dues to start the farmer populist political and economic revolt which led to the second wave of the progressive renovation early in our century which produced reforms that we use to this very day, both economic and political.
What do think they were up against? Imagine the knock on the door--the farmer, dead tired, comes to the door--and is asked to join a movement. The crops may be spoiling, the weather is indeterminate, even hunger may be on the horizon. You think those farmers said to the people who knocked on the door, ``Get away! You bothered me! You intruded on me. I was watching Shirley and Levine!''
Shirley and Laverne, I should say. You can say one thing about the Greens: They don't use teleprompters!
Now look at the modern citizens successes, because citizens refused to say no. They refused to say que sera sera, whatever will be will be. They refused to be part of a huge number of people who when asked what's the difference between apathy and ignorance they say, ``I don't care and I don't know.''
Who led the conservation and environmental movements? Citizens. Before official action was taken. Who led the consumer movements? Who led the modern civil rights and human rights movements against all kinds of bigotry and discrimination? Citizens. And you wonder, don't you, how indeed we achieved all these things because we refused to give up. And do you know now how many millions of people who were in accidents or otherwise physically incapacitated are now able to join the mainstream of American rights--physically, occupationally, intellectually--because they fought for it. They sat in. They made sure those barriers were torn down. They were part of that disability rights movement. When I was in elementary school and high school and college I hardly ever saw a student who was disabled. They weren't around. They weren't around to go to school. They were in special enclaves, out of sight, out of mind. Who says democracy doesn't produce progress?
And then here in California, the giant property casualty insurance industry, loaded for bear with their puppets in Sacramento, pushing people around, redlining them, arbitrarily canceling their auto insurance, territorial rating, exempting themselves from the anti-trust laws and from the consumer protection laws, regulated by Puppet #1: the insurance commissioner, appointed by the insurance companies, in the usual turnstile regulatory agency process--a little on the job experience in government before they become vice presidents of insurance companies.
And then along came some citizens, Harvey Rosenfield--they ridiculed Harvey, you remember? And 800,000 people signed the initiative petition and put Proposition 103 on the ballot in 1988. Now look at the array of power: the insurance industry put two of their initiatives on the ballot as decoys and distractions. They pumped $80 million in advertisements on TV and elsewhere to defeat Proposition 103. Proposition 103 citizens were lucky if they spent $1 million net after a lot of canvassing. And the day after the election, it was Proposition 103 that won and the insurance industry initiatives that lost, against all odds.
Do you know what that has meant? California's now one of the lowest auto insurance price rate states in the country. You have saved about $12 billion because your rates have actually gone down since 1988--on the average--while the rest of the country's rates went up 35% on the average. Also, the insurance companies suddenly became interested in loss prevention. They figured gee, let's join with consumer groups in Washington and form an auto and highway safety advocates group to push for tougher motor vehicle safety standards, for tougher traffic standards, because if fewer people are in crashes, fewer people are injured, and the claims are reduced. Boy, that really took a brilliant insight, didn't it? It took what I call a thundering civic jolt from the people of California at the ballot box.
And now Proposition 216 is on the ballot, the Patients Protection Act, designed to bring to bay the arrogant, profit-glutted HMO giants and hospital chains who are now telling doctors and nurses what kind of treatments they can and cannot give, turning them into technical minions under these cruel protocols, who are telling women going to hospitals to give birth, ``Twenty-four hours and you're out.'' Drive-through births! In Connecticut they have drive-through vasectomies now. In order to squeeze the so-called savings at the clinical level of diagnosis and treatment, and suck the billions of dollars up, up, up to enrich beyond the dreams of avarice those executives who are pulling in 10, 20, 30, 40 million dollars per executive a year. Not counting their stock options. One of them just out sold to Aetna and his worth from this kind of work was $800 million.
And yet you have a little child who fell from a tree, here in California, and a piece of wood penetrated his nose, into his brain, rushed to the hospital--his mother was a nurse--she asked for a CAT scan and they looked at the protocol and they said, ``Oh, we've got to economize. No CAT scan.'' And that little boy now is blind and has cerebral palsy. This is what's going on. The Patient Protection Act, Prop 216, is designed to put an end to that. To start a drive across the country.
Now these are just a few snapshots of the victories that citizens have registered: the National Clearinghouse on Hazardous Waste--Lois Gibbs from Love Canal in New York. Six thousand groups went out to her clearinghouse, she started it from her own sheer energy--virtually no money--her determination, connecting all over the country. And what are those groups involved in? They are trying to suppress the silent cumulative violence that we too charitably call ``pollution.'' In their neighborhoods and in their schools. And in the water they drink. And what their children are exposed to.
It is interesting that almost none of these civic victories get on the mass media. And why don't they get on the mass media? Why is the mass media so completely obsessed with stories that spell violence, sex, and addiction? Why are they so obsessed with flooding the public airwaves with overwhelming amounts of evermore tawdry and cheap entertainment, laced by massive amounts of advertising, greasing their corporate profit wheels?
Have they ever heard of real news, news that tackles real life problems? Have they ever heard of what it means for people struggling in their community to get a little attention, to get a little support by being on radio, being on TV? You know what you have to do in America today to get on those daytime talk shows? You gotta be a freak or a weirdo. You've got to be somebody who is semi-depraved and willing to be exploited. You got to be people who are down and out on their luck. You got to be people who are, in so many ways, utilized by those executives at the top of those media corporations to maximize their profits, while these people are goaded in between commercial breaks to rage against each other, spat against each other, swear against each other. And this in on our property. Our property, the public airwaves.
Indeed, you can't even get a medical malpractice program on the Jenny Jones, Ricki Lake, Gary Springer, Sally Jesse Raphael, and other shows--not even something as gripping with human interest than people that have been done in by incompetent hospitals or negligent physicians. You can't even get that on anymore. You can't get it on. Male strippers who once committed incest and are on their way to the seminary, they're on.
And Sally Jesse, who once had a mind of her own on a radio talk show, now rationalizes all of these shows. If I ever read the titles, even you wouldn't believe how bad they've become and you and you are not innocent in observing the decay of our culture. And here is what she says: ``Those are morality plays.'' That's how she justifies getting it on. They're just reality plays, you know. She's just watching them go at each other.
In the meantime, anything dealing with big business workplace issues or corporate crime, they don't get on. And I'll get to that in moment, but we've got to become far more demanding on how our public property is used. We're the landlords of the public airwaves; the broadcasters are the tenants. Yet they pay us no rent, they decide who shows what twenty-four hours a day, and they laugh all the way to the bank. And, therefore, anything that really builds a solid, just society doesn't qualify to get on our very own property.
Now any knowledge of history registers this observation: any society that allows one segment of it to have an excessive concentration of power and wealth, and that segment has a commercial, mercantile priority above every other value system in the society, is going to get into trouble. And we have, from time to time, as a society fought back against the big robber barons and the railroads and the financial and natural resource companies, etc.
Within the last twenty years we've had an extraordinary concentration of power and wealth in fewer and fewer global corporation hands. And you can see the consequences of that in so many ways. When you have that kind of concentration of power and wealth, you have a weakened democracy. You have a weakened public voice. You have a weakened public advocacy. And that registers. And look how it's registered.
Look at the signs of decline in this country because our democracy has no been allowed to strengthen itself. Because we don't spend enough time as public citizens. Because we have allowed global corporations, with no allegiance to our country, to scour for the dictatorships and the dirt cheap labor, to exploit and export the jobs there. We have allowed them to take over our government, to dominate our economy, to exploit small business, to straightjacket inventors, to shape our very culture--to replace our thought culture with commercial culture, that stresses violence and addiction--to decide what kind of research is done at our universities, to decide that the ordinary people pay the taxes (as someone once said, ``Only the little people pay taxes.''), to decide that they, the corporations, weren't going to pay any taxes.
And now look at the result. In the 1950's corporate income tax represented between 25 and 30% of the federal outlays. Today it's between 6 and 8%. Record corporate profits, record stock market prices, record executive compensations, and they are paying a shrinking amount. And many of these giant corporations pay 1% federal tax, 2% federal tax. How about this one? Everybody watching this assemblage, whoever paid a dollar to Uncle Sam between the years 1981 and 1983 paid more taxes than the giant General Electric Company, which produced $6.5 billion in profits, paid no taxes, because of a safe harbor loophole provision got a $150 million refund--and that was supposed to get General Electric to invest in new productive capital equipment--instead they bought RCA, NBC, and now maybe you'll wonder why NBC isn't covering the closedown of four nuclear plants Connecticut, three of which are closed down due to safety defects this summer. Well, General Electric is in the nuclear business. What do you expect?
[In response to applause and spontaneous chants of Go Ralph Go!]
The intonation should be go WE go! Go WE go!
For all those super-rich Pollyannas who think America is #1, look what they and their corporate cohorts have done to America to make it far less than #1: In 1980 the U.S. was first with wages in the world; it's now 11th and sinking. In 1980 the U.S. was the greatest creditor in the world; it's now the biggest debtor in the world. Today we're 17th in the world in infant mortality. We have 23% child poverty--think about that--almost one out of every four children in America live in dire poverty, with all that means in terms of stunted human potential, health hazards, safety hazards, brutalization and surroundings you wouldn't want to have to describe with any equanimity.
You know what the child poverty rate is in the Netherlands and Sweden? Three percent in Netherlands; 2 percent Sweden. We're the only country industrialized in the world that doesn't have universal health insurance. Over 40 million Americans--many of them children--have no health insurance, 20 million are underinsured, and the rest wonder when they're going to fall through the cracks--when they change jobs, pre-existing conditions, co-payments, deductibles, exclusions,cancellations--hey, this is the Land of the Free. Home of Brave. What gives?
The GNP is up; 80% of the American people have suffered a decline in income and wealth adjusted for inflation in the last twenty years. One percent of the richest people have taken 2/3 of the financial wealth increase in the 1980's. The wealth of 90% of the American people barely is equal to the wealth of the top 2%--even the 1%, depending on which figures you rely. Imagine. That kind of concentration of wealth is greater than any country in Western Europe, greater than in Japan. We now have the greatest disparity in wealth between the rich and rest of the American people of any country in the western industrialized world. And we used to have the least inequality, because Europe was so class-stratified with their barons, etc.
Imagine the decline. The hunger in this country--while the taxpayers are forced to pay the Cargills and the Continental Grains to store all that food that's rotting in the warehouses. And just imagine. Corporations are contributing 50% less to private pensions of workers who are lucky enough to have private pensions.
And it keeps getting worse. Homelessness is up. You know, some of you who went abroad years ago came back to the U.S. and said, ``Am I glad I'm back in the U.S.A.'' Someone would say, ``Why?'' and you'd say, ``You know, people there are afraid to drink the water. They gotta have bottled water. And they've got poor there that buy lottery tickets--can you imagine? They hardly have enough money and they're out there hoping for the big bang. And do you know those countries think imported products are higher quality than products made in their own country.'' And on, and on, and on.
Let's look at this figure, if you will. We have been exposed to so-called free trade dogma for over twenty years now. They keep saying, ``It'll work out all well for America. It'll work okay, American workers.'' What do we have to twenty years? Record trade deficits. Which means record exporting of jobs. Now, what's the latest nostrum by the free trade dogmatists? GATT and NAFTA, designed to envelope our democratic processes underneath an autocratic governance system with headquarters in Geneva with secret tribunals, closed harmonization committees, equivalence procedures and all the mumbo jumbo that spell three things: one, that under GATT the nations that treat their people more humanely are the ones who get into trouble.
The countries who treat their people inhumanely are the ones that don't get into trouble. Because if we have strong consumer workplace and environmental standards, other countries can say, ``Those are really indirect trade barriers. They're keeping out pesticide-laden foods from Brazil, or unsafe automobiles from the European community. And they take us to Geneva. And if we lose we have to repeal these safety and health laws or pay tribute economic fines to these countries before secret tribunals that are closed to the public and have no independent appeal.
Can you imagine? Suppressing our democratic processes by these kinds of autocratic systems of government. And harmonization, you know what that is? That means we'll never be first in health and safety standards. Because we have to meet behind closed doors with other signatory nations and figure out how many dolphins are going to die, how much reformulated gasoline is going to be allowed, what kinds of safety devices on our cars are going to be permitted--lowest common denominator harmonization. Meat and poultry inspection harmonization meetings are going on now under GATT.
This is a subversion of the progress that we've made and a chilling of future progress. Those of you who want to have stronger cancer prevention standards applied to industry, next time you propose them you may well get a letter from the State Department saying, ``Well, we respect your indulgence here but don't waste your time. This proposal is GATT illegal.''
Do you know that we banned child labor in this country but if we pass a law in Congress that bans the importation of products manufactured by brutalized child labor in other countries that we will be defeated before the tribunal of the World Trade Organization, and we'll have to repeal that law or pay tribute economic fines perpetually to the countries such as India or Bangladesh or others who are allowing this kind of tens of millions of children to be so horribly exploited? We're losing our sovereignty.
Now, notice what happens when the GNP goes up and the aggregate and the yardstick show growth that it's decline for more and more of the American people. What happens is people start fighting people. The big guys at the top begin dividing and ruling, and the middle class is told, ``Hey, it's those poor people on welfare. Why, they're eating your taxes alive.'' Have you ever heard of these big guys at the top say, ``Hey, it's those rich guys on welfare. They're really eating you out of house and home.''
You know it's amazing. One sign of propaganda is that it's devoid of fact because it's full of lies. And here's the propaganda: you ask the average citizen in this country what percent of federal outlays goes to means tested poverty entitlement programs--you know, that's food stamps, AFDC, child support, child nutrition, school lunches. I doubt whether many of them would say 3.4%, of entire federal outlays.
Now when you ask them how much do you think goes for corporate welfare, well suddenly there's a lack of statistics. But even the Wall Street Journal estimated it at $140 billion a year. And if you take corporate welfare in terms of subsidies, bailouts, giveaways, inflated government contracts, tax loopholes of the grossest sort, and forgiveness of corporate debt, you're up to over $200 billion a year--easily. And yet, when the citizen groups go up to Congress and say, ``Please, can we have $50 million more dollars a year for safe drinking water systems in America?'' it's ``Sorry. No money.'' ``Can we have $300 million for equal justice under law, called Legal Services of For the Poor?'' ``Oh no. We can't afford it.'' ``Can we have $300 million for public broadcasting, for wholesome programming for children instead of the violence they see on TV?'' They say, ``Oh no no no no. Gotta balance the budget.''
You know this is the same Congress that funded billions of dollars to the biggest mass transit program--back a few years in our country. You know what it was? The MX missile. This is the same Congress that pumps billions of dollars into antiquated or redundant or unnecessary mass weapons systems. And you just imagine the grotesque allocation of the federal budget. If the family allocated its budget the way the federal government under corporate power allocates its budget, the family would be committed.
What if an average family spent 20% of its budget against a nonexistent enemy? Another 15% of its budget to make the people living in the mansions on the hill richer, and then wrung its hands when it came down to feeding the children, to providing them with health care, providing them with a decent education, clothing and housing. Our federal budget has enormous money-- that is being misused, and wasted, and escalated up from the middle class to the rich and the corporate--which can be used to produce millions of jobs in public works, and building, rebuilding, repairing America.
Go we go! Go we go! Go we go! Go we go!
For those Americans who stay home and don't vote because they're disgusted with the Tweedle-Die, Tweedle-Dum politics, I say your slogan should be, ``We're not staying home anymore!'' Because we don't have to stay home anymore. Because we can vote Green. For a change.
Let me say a few words on how these corporations are dismantling our democracy, because this has not been that visible in contemporary press reports. Giant corporations are on a collision course with American democracy, and American democracy is losing, and people are paying the penalties every day as they lose control over their future.
Let me give you an illustration. Corporations now pretty much control legislatures, and they pretty much control those so-called wimpy regulatory agencies. What they don't fully control are our courts. And so there's a massive drive called Tort Reform--which is better know as Tort Deform--which is designed to protect perpetrators of wrongdoing, the corporations that produce unsafe pharmaceutical, flammable fabrics, defective cars--from the people that they injure or kill, or whose property they destroy. And there are doing it with a massive propaganda drive, that even Goebbels would be envious.
For example, they're not concerned that nine out of ten wrongfully injured Americans never file a lawsuit, because it's so difficult to go up against an Exxon or a DuPont or a Union Carbide or a General Motors, with all of their ability and their law firms to delay, and to overexpense, and to hide the evidence. They're not worried about opening the civil justice system for the nine out of ten, they're going after the one out of ten who's managed to surmount the obstacles to have his or her day in court.
And look how they're lying. They're saying that this litigiousness has reaches record levels. Let me tell you, the University of Wisconsin Law School studies--the best in the business on this issue--say we had more civil suits filed per capita in America in 1830 and 1840 and on the 1640 Virginia plantation. And the reason why is because it was easier and less expensive. But it was a great privilege.
These are the people coming off of King George III and predecessor tyrants. One that list of protests to King George III our forebears put number two on the list that he was trying to deprive them of the right to trial by jury. This common law, or tort law, has been built up over 200 years, and the problem is not that it's overused, the problem is that it's too little used.
Of all of the death, injury and disease caused by toxics and unsafe products and the negligence of these perpetrators--in any recent year, you know how much all of these injured people and their next of kin received by way of verdicts and settlements in state and federal courts in both product defect and medical malpractice? $7 billion.
Now let me put that into perspective. We spend $7 billion in this country on dog and cat food--not counting gourmet dog and cat food. General Motors made $6.5 billion last year after taxes. General Motors and Chrysler made more in profits than the entire payout to these unfortunate one-out-of-ten people who get any justice in these courts, and they want to restrict it further.
Medical malpractice is one of the leading forms of preventable violence in this country. A conservative estimate by the physicians at the Harvard School of Public Health says that in any given year 80,000 people die in hospitals from malpractice. Just in hospitals; not in clinics. That is more lost lives than the combined fatalities of motor vehicle deaths, homicides, and death by fire in the United States. And that doesn't count the injuries. And the generates $60 billion a year in lost economies. $60 billion.
And guess what? The corporations are on Capitol Hill trying to restrict the rights of victims of malpractice from having their full day in court, to hold their perpetrators responsible, and one of their ways is to make sure that the brain-damaged infant, the teenager who'll never walk again, the housewife who's a paraplegic, or the worker who's a quadriplegic--and all of them happen, from medical malpractice--that they cannot collect more than $250,000 for a lifetime of pain and suffering, not matter what the judge and the jury think they are entitled to.
Now to show you an iniquity--that even exceeds Medieval comparisons--one of the executives at one of the insurance companies pushing for these kinds of reforms (he is the head of the AIG Insurance Company, which pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into the Republican Convention a few days ago)--I looked up what he made in 1994. This man wants a $250,000-dollar cap--noninflation-adjusted, spread out over a 50 year life expectancy, for a brain-damaged infant, for medical malpractice. He was making $250,000 a week every week with no pain and suffering.
And the top CEO's of the Fortune 300 Companies, they're making 180 times the entry-level wage. You know what it was in 1940? Twelve. You know what it was in 1980? Forty-five. You know what it was in 1990? A hundred and forty. It's now over a hundred and eighty. You think things are getting a little difficult, aren't they? And this is what is continuing.
Now the dismantling of our democracy is not just the civil justice system. Millions of Americans are told to sign on the dotted line, whether its a bank, an installment loan contract, a home mortgage, whether its--almost any contract you sign now. And in that is fine print for compulsory arbitration in case there's any dispute. That means you've signed away your right to go to court. That means you've lost your bargaining power, your negotiating power. And the means--even if you don't know that that is what you signed on the dotted line--the pressure to exploit the consumers and the workers increases. You don't see much of that on talk shows, I'll tell you.
HMO's do this to people. The Bank of America does it--compulsory arbitration. And it's going on increasingly in the workplace. So a woman in Texas who found that she was discriminated against--sexual harassment--she was ready to sue, the employer said, ``You signed this employee agreement. Gave up your right to sue. It's the fine print. Here's a magnifying glass.''
Do you realize that the two pillars of the American legal system are the Law of Torts and the Law of Contracts? And we are being deprived of the use of these laws by this dismantling of our legal system on the installment plan. And you begin to wonder why you're charged by credit card companies with impunity, by banks with impunity--the banks charge you for everything but breathing.
Now we come to the corporation itself. It's important to recognize that the corporation is a creature of government. Government charters the corporation. And so concerned were our forebears with this Frankenstein potential emerging--this artificial legal entity, having power against defenseless human beings--that they required in the early 19th Century legislative chartering of a corporation. Corporation wants to produce textiles, they have to go to the legislature and get chartered--all you can do is just manufacture textiles; you got to be renewed after a few years--there was great suspicion of corporations early on, and for good reason.
And then about 1886 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled, without hearing any arguments, that the corporation was a person. It was a person. You know these corporations. Don't you know they're always persons, don't you? I mean you know HMO's are suffering from attention deficit disorder. Don't you know drug companies are admitted kleptomaniacs? What this means is--for a century now--corporations have been getting all the rights that we human beings have and an avalanche of privileges and immunities that we don't have. How can you have equal justice under the law in such circumstances?
Now let me give you a few illustrations. Corporations can create their own parents. They're called holding companies. For evasive maneuvers. Corporations can transfer costs in ways you can't. When General Electric and Allis [Challmers] and Westinghouse were caught red-handed fixing prices for heavy-duty turbines in the early 1960's, and sold them overcharged as a result to the electric utilities, the utilities countersued, the Justice Department prosecuted--for once--and some of these executives went to jail for six weeks. This is a multibillion-dollar theft. The judge himself described it as such. And after six weeks they said good-bye to the fellow in the cellblock near them who was in jail for five years for forging a $300 check.
And here's what happened. The electric utilities got a multibillion settlement. They had to pay them back. The electric manufacturing price conspirators got a ruling from the Treasury Department--saying that all these payouts were necessary business expense, and deductible on their corporate income tax. If you get a traffic fine-- what about this--can you deduct this?
When you expend money lobbying your senator or representative, you can't deduct that. For decades corporations have been deducting that. Corporations sign contracts with the Pentagon; you know what they get reimbursed for? Their pollution and toxic dumping--the cleanup--even if it's intentional (Wall Street Journal, Page One, a few years ago--not a radical publication). If the Pentagon accuses them of criminal activity, they hire corporate law firms and until recently they sent the bill to you, the taxpayer. When Martin-Marietta merged recently and laid off thousands and thousands of workers the Pentagon spent a half a billion dollars of your own money to facilitate the merger. A $30 million went to bonuses for the top executives. And it just goes on and on.
Corporations can now have patents on life forms, in genetic engineering. They're going to be producing humanoids within 30 to 40 years. And it keeps getting worse. For example, they pay less taxes than human beings and get away with it. They have the ability to be a hundred places at once around the world, which gives them a rather impressive flexibility against people like you. They have subsidiaries that can transfer pricing and reduce their taxes here in the United States. They can hide the personal responsibility of their top executives. They can patent seeds and make Indian farmers pay--every year--for the seeds that they live off of, in terms of their little plots of land.
Now, you understand, I think, why our forebears were very suspicious of corporations. Why Justice Brandeis warned the states that chartered the corporations that they may be creating Frankensteins in their own midst. Why so many of the progressive movements of the past were designed to curb the power of these giant corporations, then called the giant trusts. But now the giant corporations have counterattacked, with GATT and NAFTA, and a whole series of stratagems to take control away from people, and from citizens.
One of the most interesting examples of how corporate power can affect everyday life: in 28 communities, day after day, people sweat and groan on crowded highways, trying to get to work and back--pollution, congestion, fuel waste, time loss, and bad tempers. Now, back in the late 40's there was a lawsuit brought by the Justice Department in Chicago Federal District Court against General Motors, a tire company, and oil companies. They accused them of criminal violations of the anti-trust laws. And what these companies did was to buy up the mass transit systems, including the biggest electrified trolley system in the world in Southern California, ripped up the tracks in 28 metropolitan areas, and pushed for more highways, so we could sell more buses, more vehicles, more oil, more tires.
And the result was the devastation of public transit development in the United States and the enormous economic--accident and other--toll that people are going through, and the billions of hours lost every year. You know what fine General Motors paid for what some scholars think is the Economic Crime of the Century? Five thousand dollars. And they were off back to Detroit to start designing Corvairs.
Let's face it, the problem with corporate power is such that if they are not restricted by boundaries--ethical boundaries that are enforced, legal boundaries that are prosecuted, competitive boundaries by innovators and entrepreneurs (like solar energy entrepreneurs). They know. They know few boundaries. They have a propelled, driven motivation to maximize commercial advantage no matter what. They have to be saved from themselves, competed against themselves, where necessary displaced by other forms of economic organizations, whether community development banks, cooperatives, worker-owned industries or what have you. Whatever is necessary.
These corporation are now increasingly raising our children. Thirty to forty hours a week pre-teenagers now spend on the laps of corporate hucksters, corporate overmedicators, corporate entertainers, corporate video purveyors, corporate arcades--you name it. Now can you imagine what possible counterforce can neutralize the three values that are communicated through those kinds of shows and exploitations, when both parents are away at work trying to make ends meet. And the television is the electronic babysitter, and it turns into an electronic molester.
When they psychoanalyze these children starting at age two, where they describe their brain as reptilian in their psychoanalytic studies. When they know exactly how to separate the children from their parents, they know how to make the appeals so the children play on the guilt trip of their parents who cannot spend enough time with the children. And all of this is conveyed directly from corporation to child. From corporation to very young child. This has never been allowed in the history of the world, to allow that kind of intrusion into the family unit.
The right-wingers talk about family values. They ought to start talking about corporate values smashing family values! You know, the corporations replace mothers milk. They overmedicate the children with exaggerated symptoms, like if the child's a bit nervous they say, ``You have a serious psychological problem that requires Drug X.'' They fill the boys toykits with military toys of mass destruction. The cosmetic companies go at the girls at age seven. Kindercare raises the kids, McDonalds feeds them, Time/Warner entertains them, when they become early teenagers the addictive industries claw at them in such subtle and nonsubtle ways--tobacco, alcohol, drugs. 420,000 Americans died last year from tobacco-related diseases. Most of the smokers are hooked under the age of fifteen. Talk about child molesters.
I'd like to make an aside here. You know, you have few people who admit to being liberal these days, compared to how many people say they're conservatives. Have these distinctions lost their historical meaning? I mean, I don't like these kinds of nomenclatures and I don't like that kind of pigeonholing--especially since so many conservatives now are turning against corporatists, that's nice--GATT, NAFTA, subsidizing nuclear power--you got conservatives there who are no longer corporatists.
But you know when you look at the issue of our country. I mean, who rebelled against King George? They were liberals. Who supported King George? Tories--conservatives. Who fought the farmer populist crusade? Who fought the women's' right to vote? Who fought Social Security? Who fought Medicare? Who fought labor union rights to organize? Who fought the abolition of child labor? Who fought the environmental and consumer laws? People who called themselves conservatives. That's who fought against them.
They fought against them. So let's get rid of the labels here and talk about deeds. What is actually done. Bob Dole: Senator For Sale. How a man who was so courageous on the battlefield and in the hospitals could leave his courage behind when he went to Washington and become the leading political advocate of the worst big businesses around as they claw the government in terms of what they want--nonenforcement of the laws, deregulation of law and order, soft on corporate crime, massive corporate welfare, opposition to campaign finance reform, opposition to health care, opposition to consumer protection--Bob Dole sided with the corporations time and time again.
And so we should look as citizens at the record of these politicians. We should spend five, ten, fifteen hours between now and November studying the record, not listening to a speech from San Diego and Chicago and then saying, ``Oh, I think I'm going to vote for...'' one or the other. We don't need knee-jerk reactions like that. We need to ask these candidates whether they support in the present system--the state regulation of insurance (which is so weak there is an estimate in MONEY Magazine--which is produced by Time/Warner--that the insurance companies, by manipulating state insurance commissions, are cheating people out of $65 billion a year)--what's your stand, candidate, on that?
What about the General Accounting Office which says that one out of every ten dollars spent on health care is ripped off by billing fraud and abuse? Never mind everything else--unnecessary operations, medical malpractice--you name it--just computerized billing fraud and abuse. You know what amounts to? $100 billion a year.
You might ask the candidates, why do you think the American taxpayer should spend $100 billion a year by having our soldiers in Europe and East Asia defending prosperous countries against nonexistent enemies?
Why should the candidates support over 120 programs that we call Aid To Dependent (but very profitable) Corporations--without a 5-year-and-out welfare term?
Why should the taxpayers be subjected to votes by politicians in Congress that make them subsidize all these corporations?
Now I'm going to give you a few quick examples. You're pretty well read. You tell me if this doesn't shock you. Ready? Rio Rancho, New Mexico: Intel Corporation dangles a new plant before its communities. Whose going to get the bid for the billion-dollar chip plant for the super-profitable Intel Corporation? Rio Rancho won the bid. They said, you don't have to pay property taxes. You can be exempt from this public obligation and that. And we're going to subsidize the infrastructure. The result was that the high school students had to be bused to schools in Albuquerque, very crowded schools in elementary schools. The property tax base was not broad enough to handle the expanded population and public service burden on that little community.
Now the executive of Intel--his name is Andrew Grove--very creative entrepreneur, wrote a column once telling businesses how to be more creative--I say to Andrew Grove, bringing a community to its knees that way so you can make another $20 million off the backs of the schools and the public services of that community is shameful. It's unfair. It's unfair to the small businesses and homeowners who are paying their fair share, and have to pay more because the big guy on the block--the $14 billion Intel Corporation that registers over $3 billion in profit after taxes (as if they have to worry)--got away with it. Was on welfare.
You think that the Republican nominee for the presidency of the United States will ever go across this country saying, ``This government must get big corporations off the dole!''
Corporations are not like you and me. They get big debts forgiven by Uncle Sam. The utilities running nuclear power plants built up $10-11 billion, owing Uncle Sam for uranium enrichment services. They decided, why pay it? So they got a paragraph in a bill three years ago, and they forgave $8 billion of it and spread the rest out over a couple of decades. A few years ago, in the late 70's, the big companies like Boeing, General Electric, McDonnell-Douglas took advantage of a DISC program, that is they were allowed--in order to promote exports abroad--to defer taxes on their profits. When it came time for them to pay those taxes--that ordinary Americans have to pay, to the U.S Treasury--they got a paragraph in a bill on the Hill and eliminated the debt. Just like that.
The 1872 Mining Act allows foreign and domestic mining companies to go on our land, discover gold, molybdenum, and other high rock minerals--as a Canadian firm did in Nevada, $10 billion worth of gold on our land. They figured out how many acres above the mine they needed, and they bought it from the federal government for $5 an acre, so they put out a $20,000 investment for $10 billion of gold--no royalties back to the taxpayer, and environmental wreckage after its over.
Corporations are not like you and me.
And it just goes on. How about this one? When the Department of Health and Human Services sues HMO's or clinics or hospitals under Medicare for Medicaid fraud they are under obligation to reimburse the legal fees of those companies they sue--win or lose. How about that legal services for the rich. And the General Accounting Office estimated tens of millions of dollars a year. They couldn't figure it out; it was so abstruse and complex and what was reimbursable and what was not.
And now we see, we get a glimmer, of how the corporate government is taking over our political government, how the corporate government is dismantling our democracy, how the corporate government is stifling the very creative democratic processes that spell justice and opportunity and equity and sustainable growth and respect for the environment and a trusted legacy for future generations of Americans to inherit. These corporations have more power than they can responsibly exercise.
And the corporate critique in the country is a majoritarian critique. Whether you talk with workers or retired people or people in all walks of life, they will tell you the stories of corporate injustice that they could do nothing about. Whether they were a patient, a consumer, a worker, someone in the community, someone trying to clean up City Hall, or what have you.
To illustrate just how much of a majoritarian position, its in the Green Party Platform. Let me read to you from a book that just came out--and I'll tell you who the author is in a moment--I quote:
``No political party sincere it its opposition to the national debt would be so reluctant to reduce, much less eliminate, what is rightly termed 'Corporate Welfare,' generous but unwarranted tax loopholes benefiting higher-income corporations and individuals: research grants and incentive payments, free federal facilities and services to business, insurance and loan guarantees, concessions and natural resource giveaways, commodity export and transportation subsidies, and all the other payments, preferences, and entitlements given to sizable and successful companies and industries. They can do perfectly well without these handouts.''
``These subsidies cost the taxpayer each year far more than a combination of all the children's hunger, health and related programs that these same generous Republicans have so extensively curbed. No political party honestly intent on eliminating the deficit would have forced on the post-Cold War Defense Department, whose budget already exceeds those of all other NATO countries plus Russia and Japan and all potential enemies combined, tens of billions of dollars for weapons that the Department will not need, could afford, and did not want.''
``Will the security of the average American over the next seven years be more enhanced by keeping Medicare, Medicaid, student loans, school lunches, food stamps, job-training programs at full strength or by forcing upon the Pentagon over its own objections twenty more B-2 bombers for $16 billion, another Seawolf submarine for $2.4 billion, and a revised missile defense program that will eventually cost $40 billion on a project that Senator Byron [Dorgen] said we don't need with money we don't have?''
``But all these corporate subsidies, tax loopholes, redundant weapons and pork barrel projects have added substantially to our national deficit without relieving any of the American peoples' fundamental problems. The shameful irony of it all! While federal aid to independently wealthy corporations continues, federal aid to dependent children is slashed, as if the 1% of federal spending that goes to the 2% of Americans on welfare was a significant cause of the deficit.''
``While subsidies for the giant corporations studying experimental forms of heating fuel are renewed (like synthetic fuels), subsidies to help poor citizens obtain heating fuel are abandoned. While millions of dollars are paid to corporations to educate foreign countries about their exports, millions of dollars are cut from Head Start programs, to educate American preschool children. While entitlements are preserved for promoting powerful agribusiness companies exports abroad, entitlements are eliminated for the powerless poor on welfare.''
``While instances of race, fraud and abuse and health and nutrition programs are cited to justify their virtual elimination, the presence of military procurement of much worse waste, fraud and abuse is conveniently overlooked in justifying these programs expansions. And while subsidies for large corporate farms continue to guarantee up to $250,000 per farm unit, such funds for mother and child nutrition are cut back to the bone.''
``For members of the labor force who are unemployed, underemployed, underpaid or simply insecure, and for families lacking assured access to medical care, safe neighborhoods, and college education for their children, the question of whether the annual federal budget deficit will be reduced to zero by the year 2002--or two years later, or five years later--is not the overwhelming issue of our time. Why should it be?''
And catch this:
``In relative terms, this country had a far greater debt burden during World War II, a burden that was heavy, but did not sink us or prevent us from making vital investments in our people--for example: the GI Bill of Rights. Instead, that deficit was reduced gradually as the economy grew, without starving either the federal benefits programs that helped to stimulate consumer demand or federal education and training programs that advanced our productivity. In fact, it was economic growth facilitated by just those programs that both reduced the relative impact of the debt burden and produced more tax revenues to reduce the deficit.''
Here's who authored those words: Ted Sorensen, a former speech writer for president John Kennedy, and for the last twenty-five years a major corporate lawyer in the New York firm of Paul Weiss Rifkin, representing, day after day, major corporations.
And I have talked to a lot of people in the big business arena--it's part of my job--and privately they say several things: that bad business practices will drive out small business, that big business straightjackets are squeezing small business and innovators. They also say that it's very foolish for the rulers and governors of our country to play Russian Roulette with the dismantling of our democracy. And that they should have learned the lessons of the 1930's, and the backlash and disrespect and antagonism that they incurred because they could never restrict their own greed, their own power.
Saul Price, who founded the Price Club discount stores, wants a 1% tax on wealth on the wealthy people. And he's a very wealthy person. Bernard Rappoport, who's head of the insurance company in Waco, Texas, one of the fastest growing, is opposed to the mergers and the monopolies and the acquisitions and the leveraged buyouts that are concentrating power in our economy. And has written such. Jerry Wilson, the head of Solarex in Portland, Oregon, has advocated in full-page ads a massive public investment program in our public works, the key wealth which is euphemistically called our infrastructure but which means our clinics, our schools, our sewage systems, our drinking water systems, our mass transit systems, and so many other public systems. Norman Lear started People For the American Way, a civil liberties group. Bob Townsend wrote Up the Organization on how to make these bloated corporate bureaucracies accountable, responsive, and actually fun to work in, after they've been cut down to size.
Why don't these people receive a larger hearing?
Why don't we realize that the tools of democracy, which we need to forge and renew in our country, are the ways to apply existing solutions to nagging problems. Our country is beset by problems it doesn't deserve and solutions it doesn't apply. Look at the basic problems. Energy: solar energy, energy efficiency--those are the solutions. They're being proven all over the country. Housing: there are pilot housing projects showing the way to go, so we don't have this disgraceful, inadequate, decrepit, decayed housing stock, not to mention the homeless. It's a scar on all our consciences that there are homeless people--many of them working poor, many of them veterans, many of them who can't make a go on $4.25 an hour, while the legislators are increasing their salaries to $64 an hour, plus all kinds of health insurance and other benefits.
Health care: we have the solution to health care. No solutions are perfect, but they certainly are a lot better than the problems. Universal health care, the single-payer Canadian system. In Canada you have free choice of doctor, hospital, on 10% of their economy--maybe 11% now. Everybody has access to health care from cradle through nursing home, and I might add our country's going to spend 15% this year on health care with tens of millions of people being excluded, dropped out, or otherwise underinsured. Yes, the Conservative Party in Ottawa built up a huge deficit; the Liberal Party is now squeezing the provinces in terms of the contribution to the health care budget, but by comparison with our problems, we should have Canada's problems in terms of health care coverage.
Modern public transit: all kinds of new technologies. Flexible, fast, safe. Look at the work done in Northwestern University for almost 30 years on the subject and ask yourself, why don't we have the kind of modern public transit that's fast, reliable, that's very close to zero polluting. We have the solutions.
Agriculture: instead of highly chemical-intensive agriculture, burning the earth, contaminating farmers and farm workers alike in more and more occupationally hazardous workplaces in the country. It's been proven again and again: pest management control--organic agriculture, all kinds of crop rotation.
Education: education at best is now a trade school. It's just a job training center, at best, for corporations, instead of the liberal education, the civic education that needs to go on up in colleges. They're vocational schools now, preparing themselves to be small cogs and big corporate wheels, instead of learning how to be civically skilled. Why don't we do that?
The most important skill in America today is citizenship skill. It should be taught in elementary school and high school and college and graduate school. And taught by connecting the classroom to the community so that youngsters can work under adult supervision, and learn how to practice democracy, and become understanding of what they have to do to build the future for our country and the world.
Instead they get Channel One for twelve minutes a day, including advertisements for underarm deodorant and Coca Cola and Nike Shoes or whatever. Can you imagine the PTA and the Urban League being able to appropriate twelve minutes every day in thousands of schools for civic education? They couldn't do it. But corporations can. The public schools, delivering a captive audience of youngsters to these corporate hucksters.
How about the unemployment problem? This country is full of work that has to be done. The jobs aren't there because the federal budgets are not allocated into productive enterprise because trillions of dollars of pension funds are being used for mergers and acquisitions and empire building instead of productive activity back in the community where the workers earn these pension dollars.
The student public interest research groups around the country on 200 campuses. Those are the principal centers for practicing democracy supported by the students. They tried to expand to other universities; they have to get the approval of the Board of Trustees and the president. And the corporations dominate the Boards of Trustees at universities and colleges, and they say to the students, no, you can't have--based on a referendum--a simple checkoff on the tuition bill so you can use your own money to build your own nonprofit citizen group to improve the community, state, nation where you live--to develop your civic skills (which the colleges do not teach).
No, you can't even have a checkoff where the students who lose the election and who are opposed to the checkoff can still get their money back, so that the majority rights are protected and the minority rights are protected. No, they are telling the young people in America, you cannot even use your money through a convenient collection facility as a community of students on campus, based on an election of students, to improve the society and link knowledge to action. This is what's going on.
Let me just give you an idea of the kinds of tools that we can use. All across the country the time dollar concept is spreading. That's where people convert time into a currency. Elderly people help tutor youngsters for 50 hours. It's put into a computerized time bank by a community group or a college, and then when the elderly people want help to go someplace or to have something done out in the yard they get 50 hours back. That is spreading all over the country. A new form of currency for people who don't have much money but have a lot of time. It binds the neighborhood together. It turns strangers into friends. It fights the atomization and the destruction of community by the impersonal economic forces that characterize our corporate-dominated economy.
And the other tools are quite obvious too. Those of you from Illinois--anybody here from Illinois? One, two?--this is the Citizen Utility Board concept. How do you get people who are ratepayers for electric, telephone, gas companies--who are tenants, who are customers of insurance companies and banks--how do you get them to band together and form their own form their own civic action groups? By inviting a facility to join in, using precisely the message that will get their interest. The insurance company bill. The bank statement. The utility company bill. It works like a charm.
These are the tools of democracy. When this was put in the bills in the early 80's in Illinois 200,000 people signed up--the customers of electric, telephone, gas companies. They have their own full-time advocates--lawyers, economists, organizer--they built up a community intelligence in meetings around the state. They've saved over $4 billion in utility rates, including a $1.3 billion-dollar refund from Commonwealth Edison in September, 1993. And they're there when the consumer's voice is needed. Now that's how it works.
This is ready to spread all over the country. So no longer will people take it on the chin without fighting back. In health insurance, auto insurance, home-owner insurance--the latter being canceled when there's a hurricane. So they won't take it on the back when they are redlined, when they are overcharged by the banks--when the banks took their savings and invested in suburbs and disinvested in the inner city. And this is about to sweep the country. What more universal tool could it be? It's up to the people to join or not join, they pay with their own money, it doesn't cost taxpayers anything, and the consumer group pays for the insert.
The Supreme Court in 1986 came in with 5-3 decision--that shows you what happens when a corporation is deemed a person--they ruled on a case out of California that a corporate monopoly, that is a utility company in California, could not be required to put an insert in their billing envelope because it would violate the corporate monopoly's right to remain silent--not respond to it--and therefore it violated the First Amendment rights of this artificial entity. Corporation is a person.
Now this is same corporation that can charge you, the ratepayer, for its legal fees, for its advertising fees, for its propaganda inserts--that's okay to put that in the ratepayers' bill, but not a no-expense-to-the-company insert that would form a more level playing field.
Tools of democracy should be a priority for Green Party and citizens all over the country.
The labor laws have to be upgraded. They cannot be utilized by industrial workers in particular, so weakened have they become. The taxpayer should have checkoffs on tax returns to deal with taxpayer assets being ripped off by corporations, like the federal lands, like medical research and development, like all kinds of innovations that the taxpayers paid for. It is outrageous that a woman with ovarian cancer has to pay Bristol-Meyers Squibb over $10,000 for a series of treatments to get the drug Taxol, which was developed from A to Z by $31 million dollars of taxpayer money out of the national institutes of health, and give them free--with no price control and no royalties back to you the taxpayer--to Bristol- Meyers Squibb, who immediately priced it at over $10,000.
The same occurred to AZT. The same occurred to all kinds of drugs, where sick people are now expected to fork over $50,000 to $100,000. This isn't America. Where many of these drugs were paid for--or substantially paid for--by taxed money in terms of the national institutes of health, drug research and development programs.
Our elections and election procedures need change. But where do you get public funding for elections? And, you know, what's the alternative? It's either General Motors, General Electric or DuPont funding our elections, or it's public financing of elections. It can be done. It's simple.
Check this out: the best investment return in the history of the world is the billion dollars that corporate-sourced campaign money puts into federal elections every two years. Can you imagine the tens of billions of dollars they get in return--corporate welfare, the nonenforcement of health and safety laws, the inflated and wasteful government contracts, the seizure of the public lands, the appropriation of all of these taxpayer assets. A billion dollars. What's a billion dollars? They have $12 billion in debt erased with one paragraph, $8 billion in another. They get away with $100 billion on health care fraud just on the bills that they submit. Pretty soon it adds up to real money.
Now how do we replace that billion every two years? First of all, by a well-promoted voluntary dues checkoff on the 1040 tax return, up to $100 per taxpayer--if the taxpayer chooses to contribute. And a certain amount of free time on radio and TV for ballot-qualified candidates. That amounts, by the way, to about $7 per taxpayer per every two years. And it would less than a billion every two years because they won't have to spend so much money to raise it. So, public financing of public elections. The Billion Dollar Displacement Movement must start immediately.
How about ballot access barriers? Our political electoral system is not kind to small political starts. It's not kind to acorns; it says to the acorns, ``You've got to be an oak tree--voila!--immediately before you get on the ballot to qualify.'' You know, what's interesting here is this: because there is so few independent petitions for presidential candidates by grassroots groups, a number of states have barriers that are insurmountable.
What happened in the last eight years? As more and more third party candidates go on, states like Texas starting passing laws to make it more onerous--a larger number of signatures, a larger number of disqualifications--in order to get through a petition for a candidate on the ballot. And that's what you're going to confront in the next legislative sessions of the states. The two-party duopoly wants to control the electoral arena. They will do everything to exclude petitions and citizen parties from competing with them. And that has got to be removed. So then a real genuine tool of democracy means the ease of getting on the ballot.
And how about more direct democracy, when representative democracy makes a mockery of itself, because it's in hock to special interest groups. The initiative, the referendum, the recall should be in every state in the union. And those Republicans who campaigned the state of New Jersey to elect a Republican governor and a Republican legislature on the promise that they would bring to New Jersey initiative, referendum, recall double- crossed the voters and pursued with business as usual. That's why you can't rely on this kind of elected officials, and why we have to have the direct democracy insurance policy.
How about this? None of the Above. Binding None of the Above. In our country you can't go to the polls and vote NO. All you can do is either vote yes for somebody or stay home, and not vote and be called apathetic and a dropout. How do you vote NO? How do you say you don't care for the candidates on the ballot--Green will have None of the Above; it's part of the platform. Binding None of Above conceals a protest vote, a null vote, a go-back-and-give-us something-better. And if None of the Above wins, and gets more votes than the other candidates on the ballot, it cancels the election, sends the candidates packing, and orders a new election 30 days from now.
By the way, we now have a project out in Pennsylvania to advance a binding None of the Above--whether by initiative or by legislation (by initiative is much more likely--it can be done at the local level for starters, at the state, eventually at the national level. I'd love to see the politicians who have been defeated by None of the Above. No longer will they be able to say to the American people, ``Vote for one us, or stay home.'' That's the key change.
Term limits: I'm for twelve years term limits on the grounds that most people after twelve years in Congress or in state legislatures, with almost no exception--maybe one of two out of a hundred--either sell out or wear out. They get resigned. They start throwing in the towel. They get eroded. They tire. New energies are needed.
And so let's start thinking about how can we develop these more powerful citizen tools of democracy for workers, taxpayers, consumers, voter citizens, and investors, shareholders--especially through pension plans. Do you know that the labor pool of pension money--if it was controlled by the workers though intermediate mechanisms--could control many of the large corporations on the New York Stock Exchange? Because that's where the money's invested.
Isn't it time that we made a national political issue out of this enormous anomaly that we own the public airwaves, but don't control anything. That we own the public lands, but don't control the public lands. That own $4 trillion in pension monies, and don't control their investment. That we own trillions of dollars in mutual insurance and mutual savings, and the banks and the insurance companies and other corporations control what we legally own.
And that's partially a problem that comes from growing up corporate. From being told, from when we were very young, that if we work hard and make money, we'll be able to own individual property like a car, a boat, a home, a piece of land. But we are never told that we are already owners, by virtue of our birthright, of the great commonwealth of resources and assets, from the natural resources of the public lands to the huge pools of capital controlled by the grip of a few giant corporate investors.
And so, we need to keep looking to reconstruct civic community. Where there is no community, there is crisis. Without people, nothing is possible. Without institutions, nothing is lasting. We have to keep creating them. The corporate juggernaut is such that it cannot tolerate strong countervailing communities, whether of workers, whether of parties that are independent of them, whether they're consumer associations, whether they're students who want to band together for civic engagement and improvement of their society.
It's really not surprising that many of the things they're doing are against public education, against community services. The whole privatization--the whole corporation movement--is designed to take public communities and turn them into private, profit-making centers, where the sense of community service and obligation is eliminated. That's what user fees are all about: ``Oh, you want use the library? You got to pay every time you go in there.'' Pay as much as you use. The library in America was built as a community service, community supported. ``You want to use the nation parks? Oh, you got to pay.'' If you don't use it, you don't pay. It breaks the whole community service apart. And they're doing this now in the health care industry at some extreme.
Well, some years ago I looked at a community and said, ``What a great community this could be.'' Alumni classes of colleges and of professional schools, like law schools and medical schools. Now, those of you who are members of alumni class of college, what do you remember going back to reunions? They flatter you. They give you a free meal. They urge you to write a check to the alma mater. But they don't seem to ask for your intelligence. And so, at a pre-reunion meeting with my Princeton classmates, and later with my law school classmates, we decided form a center for civic leadership, which now places 10% of the student undergraduates in Princeton in civic action organizations for the summer or for post-graduate fellowships.
Law school. My law school classmates are mostly corporate lawyers. They're beginning to reflect on how much they really have to give to advance justice in society. They've usually made a lot of money, their children are secure--sometimes their great-grandchildren are secure. And they now have banded together in an Apple Seed Foundation, which hires young organizers to establish centers for law and justice in every state in the country--this is one law school alumni class--telling these mainstream lawyers:
Your first responsibility is the advancement of justice in America. Your responsibility. And if our courts are clogged, and if our courts are inaccessible, and if our neighborhood legal services offices are being shut down, and if people are being excluded from access to justice, you have the first responsibility, because you are a member--and a leading member--of the legal profession. First you are a lawyer for justice in America. Second you are an attorney for your clients on retainer.
We should look for more communities. We have got to rebuild democracy. Without democracy there is no justice. There's no real choice. There's no civil rights. There's no civil liberties. There's no economic prosperity for the mass of the people.
Our country now is displaying signs of the results of oligarchy, plutocracy, and the rule of the rich over the many. We are now displaying signs of civic disintegration. The disintegrating forces that at work are not being countervailed by all the charities from coast to coast. We're losing the charity race. And besides, a democracy means that justice prevails and charity is not needed when justice prevails.
And so we're left with the final challenge: civic motivation. How do we get more citizens to be public citizens, to get the self-confidence, to develop their latent talents, to show what they can do--from their neighborhood to their community to their city, town, village, farm area, to the nation, to the world. This world is full of great challenges that only civically-motivated people will step up to.
Because civically-motivated people have a higher estimate of their own significance in life. They will not be marginalized, trivialized, or corporatized.
Go we go. Go we go. Go we go. Go we go.
Now I'd like to address three age groups very briefly. The young: youngsters, whether they're teenagers, preteenagers, people in their 20's--called Generation X by some marketeer. First, look that history of how young people have changed history. How in the past, young people have made history, all over the world, and they still are. They're on the barricades, as we speak, trying to overthrow tyrants in order to get the rights that you have in this country, which too often you take for granted and don't use.
Most people your age in dictatorships will sacrifice almost anything to have the right to vote and the right to live in a democracy. And the right of habeas corpus. And the right of civil liberties and civil rights. And yet not more than 20 to 25% of young Americans age 18 to 25 bother to vote. Look at your history. Who led with courage, determination and risk the struggles for the civil rights movement in America in the 60's, for the anti-war movement, for the environmental movement? Who struggled to get students' rights on campus when they were being patronized? People who were very young.
Who was leading the fight against brutalized child labor in third world countries in Canada? A thirteen-year-old boy. His name Craig; he was on 60 Minutes recently. He has alerted the nation to our north. He's gone to these countries. He's mobilized human interest groups--he's thirteen. Took seven weeks off from school to do an on-site visit in Southeast Asia.
And when the interviewer on 60 Minutes said: ``Why are YOU doing this?'' he said, ``Why not?''Here's one thirteen-year-old who's not spending half his waking hours watching MTV.
Now students need civics practice courses in their schools, to learn how to be skilled citizens. It shouldn't be periodic and episodic. As students such as fifth graders in Salt Lake City school in the poor area discovered a toxic waste dump in the late 80's a few blocks from their school which was covered with shrubbery. And got the city to clean it up and it went on for push Superfund cleanup around the state of Utah. These are fifth graders under the supervision of their teacher. And the teacher wrote a book called Kids And Social Action, published by Free Spirit Press in Minneapolis, Minnesota out of that experience.
These are the youngest, most effervescent, most idealistic of Americans. To squelch their idealism, to commercialize them, to restrict their experiences, to expose them to hours and hours of gazing at tubes and screens is to destroy the future of our society. Or at least to severely diminish it. With civic training, with parading in front of their alive imaginations all the good things that they can help us do, they'll go into their teen years and to their 20's more prepared for a future worthy of our national and historic pretensions.
Indeed, when you ask yourself the following questions, you know what the answers are. Who is going to work to save the world's forests? Who is going to work to save the world's oceans? Who is going to work to make public and corporate bureaucracies accountable? And responsible? And accessible? Who is going to work to put the ready-available resources, to abolish poverty and so many diseases and famine in the world? It's people who will no longer tolerate the organization of power in such a concentrated fashion as to first dismantle democracies, second reward authoritarian systems, and third to have a daily expenditure of $4 billion on arms in the world while 40,000 infants and small children die from preventable causes.
To the middle-aged Americans, called the Baby Boomers, you are the greatest source of potential ethical whistle-blowing. You have already blown the whistle on rot and corruption and hazards. You've blown the whistle on unsafe nuclear plants, on government waste, on corporate crime, which is at a crime-wave level in our country. You have risked your jobs, your future, your pensions. And we pay you a high degree of credit for that civic courage. But it isn't just a matter of saying, well because you have to go to work every day you can't be an active citizen. You can be an active citizen after hours, an active citizen on weekends, and an active citizen inside the workplace.
To older Americans I would say this: you now have the experience, the wisdom, the judgment and the time to become a very powerful force on behalf of the younger generation. You have the ability in your communities to reconstruct them. To pass the wisdom of the past to the generations of the future. You have the ability to take the time, to engage in effective complaining that other people who have to commute back and forth to work don't have time to do. You have the time. You have the time to gather the petitions for initiatives, referendums, recalls. You have the time. You have the time to flood the Green Party all over the United States with your resources and energy.
It's truly remarkable what the fulfillment of civic potential does to human beings. They're happier. When a woman who wrote one of our books on women activists went to interview them--one of the women was taking on a nuclear power plant in Michigan, Mary Sinclair, one of them was taking on an auto company selling defective cars (for she was in one of the accidents), another one was taking on the coal barons in Appalachia, other women were fighting for nuclear disarmament in England. And she went around and interviewed all these people....
I just remember, they came to their civic activity with virtually no experience. They had to leave their household and their children for longer periods than they wished. They were subject to criticism, calumny and all kinds of obstructionism. And they were slandered. And they persevered. They learned how to get the information. They learned how to complain. They learned how to communicate. They learned how to form coalitions. They learned how to put on press conferences. They learned how to use the Freedom of Information Act. They learned how to be practicing citizens. And they prevailed far more than they ever dreamed.
And she interviewed them and came back and we asked her, ``Ann, what was the singular common impression you had from interviewing these women?'' And she said without hesitation, ``I've never met happier people.''
And so the very pursuit of justice becomes the pursuit of happiness, and the pursuit of happiness become the pursuit of justice. Next time you hear someone say to you--rushing around--``You know I don't have time for a social life.'' you might respond, ``Do you have time for a civic life?'' Because, as many of you know, sometimes the best social life is a civic life.
And we shouldn't ignore what kind of society we want to see once most of major injustices are removed, if we ever reach that period. I remember a phrase by President John Adams, who's not known for his phrases, but he put it in a very interesting way; he said,
``Our generation (200 years ago) is made up of politicians and statesmen, so that our children can be physicians and scientists, so that their children can be musicians and artists.''
It is truly regrettable that in 1996 America, with its wealth, and its intelligence, and its appropriate science, and technology, and its educational institutions, that there are still millions of people trying to make ends meet--barely--trying to provide for their children, for their health care, for their education, trying to get some employment security, some retirement security. That's because of too much concentration of power and wealth in too few hands, and too many decisions for the many made by the few.
And the convergence of corporate power over government power. And if I read anything as a theme throughout the Green Party platform it is that the only way we build democracy is not to applaud it just, not to remember its blessings just, but to roll back our sleeves, look at our calendar, and commit the necessary time to the critical role of public citizen and all of the diverse challenges that a democracy invites, and commit it so that it can unleash our talents and our knowledge and our goodwill.
Justice needs democratic power to propel it forward. It does have some of its own imperative, but it needs the organization of a democratic society. It needs the kind of new political systems that will no longer put a finger to the wind and have the antennae tremble when the forces of power and greed come demanding. And I hope that you start with that critical issue of civic motivation. And spread it. It's inside most people. Just as a sense of injustice is inside most people. And take that I The Citizen and turn it into We The People, which is then transformed into civic communities that can produce the greatest good for the greatest number, and treasure the remembrance of future generations, toward our generation which, I think, is the last generation that has to give up so little to get so much to the present and the future.
Go we go. Go we go. Go we go. Go we go. Go we go. Go we go.
In a period of sound bites moving to sound barks, I want to thank you for the time you've patiently given me. I want to end with a few political housekeeping notes. Next time someone says to you, ``Why are you building a third party? Don't you know that a progressive third party will take votes away from the Democratic Party. Why are you being a spoiler?'' Well the easy answer is you can't spoil a system spoiled to the core.
And another answer is that we're sick and tired and weary of being told every four years we have to chose between the bad and the worst, because every four years they both get worse. Because we don't look kindly on two parties who are about to sign into law an increased child poverty legislation, where they literally throw out the baby with the bathwater, so-called welfare reform: no child care, no job opportunities, restricted food stamps, 350,000 disabled children off public assistance, and on and on. What's the difference between these two?
What we have in Washington are political hermaphrodites. They are Demreps or Repdems, depending on your choice. They are George Ronald Clintons. The corporations are pulling both parties to the right, reactionary wing of American politics, and the people who could pull them to the progressive wing are endorsing them without any leverage, any bargaining power or any alternative displacement opportunity.
And here is where the Green Party comes in. As it spreads its roots throughout the country--organically nourished, as it taps the young generation that is dangerously turned off politics--which is bad for the country and very costly to them in terms of their future, as it gets on more and more ballots, never again will this corporate Democratic Party be able to say to workers and to all kinds of progressive people that they got nowhere to go.
With your majoritarian policies--if you're given half a chance--your issues will poll much higher than the issues in the other two parties--given your determination to be universally relevant to people, given your recognition that organizers are the dynamos of new political organizations, and that you've got to train them and motivate them and get them into the field as fast as possible. I look forward to my home state of Connecticut when the senator from Aetna, Chris Dodd, and Senator Liebermann, who is truly a unique mutation, will no longer go back and think they've got a lifetime job in Connecticut because people have nowhere to go except the Republican Party.
And I want to give you one organic analogy: an acorn multiplies very rapidly into a small tree, and into an oak tree. But even so, it takes many years. But a political party that is so structured that it wins as it grows, that no matter how many steps forward it takes if it isn't the biggest stuff it still is prevailing. It's the margin of difference. It's the awakening of people to tissues that are taboo by the political parties. It's the recruitment of the next generation of political leaders. It's the creation and sustenance of new civic communities. If you have a multi-purpose political party you can never lose. You can only win in installments.
As the final conclusion, I do thank you for your energies. For where you come from--and not just here in this room--and I do beseech you to focus on the tools of democracy, without which we can't get this job of justice done. You know, if you have a the wherewithal to build a house, and the land, and if you don't have the tools you don't build the house. And those tools--like this insert which we call the silicon chip for the consumer movement--these tools don't require any tax money, they're universally accessible and they're voluntary to people to chose and they build communities all over the country. They also export democracy in a very, very compelling manner. And it certainly is about time, given what we have been exported, that our chief export be democracy that's adaptable to other lands and other cultures so that the citizen movement becomes global just like the Green Parties are becoming global.
Thank you very much.