Ralph Nader on 'The Daily Show'
(Top Posts - Social/Legal - 021302)

Complete transcript of the 2/13/02 Jon Stewart 'Daily Show' interview with Ralph Nader:

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Jon: Well the situation with Enron is precisely the type of thing my guest tonight has been speaking about for years. He's a former presidential candidate, and the author of the new book "Crashing the Party", please welcome Ralph Nader.

Thank you for joining us.

Ralph: Thank you.

Jon: When you saw the Enron debacle unfold, the first emotion was 'I told you', was it bemusement, was it anger, what went through your head when you watched this thing unfold?

Ralph: Just the latest volcano of corporate crime, fraud, and abuse.

Jon: The latest.

Ralph: The latest. It's the biggest one ... so far ... and, you know, it's not something that hasn't been reported on ... Business Week, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, they've all reported on company after company ripping off its pension holders, ripping off its investors, ripping off the government for corporate subsidies, handouts, giveaways.

What's great about Enron is it was hypergreed, in all directions, tentacles into Republican-Democratic party politicos, ripping off all those workers, many of whom listen to Rush Limbaugh every day, and they finally got a little Realpolitik about corporate crime, 'Crime in the Suites' we call it.

Jon: Right-right-right, so you were surprised.

Ralph: No, I wasn't surprised.

Jon: Is this ... you see this as symptomatic then of something much deeper underneath, obviously campaign finance reform. But would that be a salve for this kind of an issue, or not?

Ralph: Well, there are a lot of holes that have to be plugged here. I mean, congress is about to pass this, maybe, this Sheas-Meehan campaign finance bill ...

Jon: That was today, they were supposed to vote on it today.

Ralph: ... and, or maybe tomorrow, but they, you know, billions of dollars in the last decade have been spent on soft money. Soft money means you can give unlimited contributions from corporations to political parties even though it's illegal for corporations under federal law to give to candidates, but look at all the watchdogs who were anesthetized, who should have spotted the En...

Jon: OK, who were the watchdogs?

Ralph: The Board of Directors ...

Jon: OK, at Enron ...

Ralph: Yeah, at Enron, who were wined and dined, given all kinds of stock, given all kinds of thousands of dollars to sit at these meetings and sleep in front of these big briefing books ...

Jon: Now, how do I get a gig like that because that actually sounds ... so these guys, their oversight is basically for show ...

Ralph: Yeah.

Jon: They are basically there to provide prestige to a certain extent ...

Ralph: And to rubber-stamp multimillion dollar compensation packages for Ken Lay and all the other guys ...

Jon: Golden parachutes, etc., OK.

Ralph: Then you had the accounting firms, like Arthur Anderson. They were asleep at the switch. ...

Jon: Right.

Ralph: An Accounting 101 student would have spotted some of these shenanigans.

Jon: But this is, now, this is the issue that gets to me. People keep saying people were asleep at the switch. To my eyes, they weren't asleep, they were complicit. They were 'not missing it', or it wasn't oversight, this was premeditated, this was fraud.

Ralph: Yes, self-administered Valium ...

Jon: Right.

Ralph: In return for big bucks.

Jon: Right.

Ralph: In the corporate law firms, they're supposed to be, you know, watching out, and they look the other way in return for big bucks. And then you have the state accounting certification commissions that's supposed to pull the license of crooked ...

Jon: Now, who's in charge of the state accounting commissions?

Ralph: Those are state regulators in every state.

Jon: OK.

Ralph: And when was the last time you heard one of these guy's license being pulled?

Jon: Oh, I can't not hear it. I can't turn around. You can't throw a dead cat without these guys losing their license around here. No, I'm ... I didn't even know they existed.

Ralph: And then you got the state and federal cops on the corporate crime beat. You know, they're basically told by the politicos in Washington and Austin and elsewhere, 'lay off' - 'don't, you know', 'lay off Lay, so to speak'.

Jon: So this seems intractable ...

Ralph: Yes ...

Jon: This seems ... intractable ...

Ralph: That's why it's systemic, when you asked 'is this systemic?' The whole system of trust and watchdogism has collapsed, and guess who pays the penalty, obviously, it's the working stiff, the pension holder, the small investors 'cause the big guys sold out ahead of time.

Jon: Right, can they go to jail? At this point ...

Ralph: There's one way to improve the food in the prisons, Jon, and that is to send these corporate crooks to jail.

Jon: Really.

Ralph: They won't stand for this crummy food.

Jon: But they don't go to real prison, they don't go to Oz, they go to tennis club prison, they go to let's play polo and ride a horse and conjugal visit prison. They don't go to real prison.

Ralph: Yeah, they go to country club prisons like this one in Pennsylvania, you know, they have golf courses and ...

Jon: So, would you recommend, let's just start this at the very end of the rung here. Let's change the system, forget about all the intractable conflict of interest and the subversion and the tentacles. Let's make 'em go to real real prison with people that want to kiss 'em.

Ralph: Yeah, right ... or, you know, have two year sentences next to some guy who's in the pokie for ten years for forging a three hundred dollar check.

Jon: Yeah, exactly. Can, could that be our first line of defense? Let's really ratchet up, let's make it as bad as selling mushrooms at a Fish concert.

Ralph: Yeah, but of course.

Jon: Let's really make this a crime.

Ralph: And also, they ought to pay back all their hundreds of millions. Clean 'em out. Make that money go back to the workers, the pension holders, and investors. A lot of
these guys go to jail, but they still have 700 million dollars stashed away.

I had one guy actually tell me, a lawyer once, he told me, you know, 'I've got corporate clients who say they'll go to jail for six months if they can get away for 30-40 million dollars.' That's pretty good pay.

Jon: I would do that.

Ralph: You get health insurance in jail.

Jon: You know what's weird?

Ralph: You get health insurance in jail.

Jon: That actually sounds like a new Fox game show. You go to jail and get out with 30 million dollars. We'll be right back after this.

The book is "Ralph Nader - Crashing the Party". This basically documents the run for president.

Ralph: The whole run for president. It's a real cool book. If you want to read a book on politics, read it. You'll see, it's really directed to the young people in this country. Starts out that way, it ends up that way.

Jon: It's spelled phonetically, very easy to get through.

Ralph: You got to change the system, it's crumbling, our democracy is crumbling, we've got all kinds of poverty and injustice, we should be ashamed of ourselves, we've got to roll up our sleeves.

Jon: That, my question is about, you know, it's all about participatory democracy ...

Ralph: Yeah.

Jon: But isn't the whole reason to elect officials so that we can go off, and have our lives, and mow our lawns, and paint our houses, and they take care of our interests? I don't know how participatory I want to be. I like TV and games and things.

Ralph: Yeah.

Jon: I'm nervous that I'm not going to have the right stuff to be in the world you like.

Ralph: Well, you know, if ... that's the way the theory works, you know, that we elect these guys, the best person wins, that isn't the way the practice works, because corporate power is such they've got the grab hold of government and turned against its own people, they've got the grab hold of government so all kinds of freebies from the taxpayers are flowing to these companies ...

Jon: Is it that Machiavellian ... is it ...

Ralph: Oh sure, and it's called 'strategic planning' ...

Jon: There's a name for it?

Ralph: Well, of course. Corporations are planning our future. They're planning our political, economic, environmental, genetic, privacy, you name it.

Jon: Really.

Ralph: That's what they're doing. They want to own our genes. They're going to own your genes, Jon. What are you selling them for?

Jon: You know what? If you want 5-6 with goiters, you got it. It's up to you. Take whatever you want out of my genes.

Ralph: This is completely unrehearsed, by the way.

Jon: Yes, exactly.

Ralph: And also the stories of Annie de Franco, and Willie Nelson ...

Jon: People who came out to support you.

Ralph: ... and Eddie Vedder ... who held these great rallies with us, filling Madison Square Garden ...

Jon: The WEF protest, are these the kinds of activists that are also involved with your group?

Ralph: A lot of them are, yeah. These are people against corporate globalization.

Jon: Now, they're against it. I consider myself relatively aware of what's going on. I cannot tell you what they want. I know they have large puppets. I know they're mad. I know they enjoy the pachuli.

But I don't know, I don't know what they want, and that, to me, that is, that's a real issue 'cause they have a beef but it doesn't seem that they're that concise and that organized with it.

Ralph: Actually, well, the reason that they have puppets is it's the only way they can get on the press or get a photograph in the newspaper. They've learned that. But, what they want is democracy.

They don't want corporate government, corporations supporting dictators and oligarchs abroad and selling them weapons which we subsidize as taxpayers.

They want more attention to farmers, workers, peasants, public health, global infectious disease, problems dealt with ...

Jon: Boy, these guys are downers - these people ...

Ralph: It's the old fight for democracy against autocracy, that's what it's really all about.

Jon: But the interesting thing is actual democracy, I wonder if they'd really want it, and my question is this, you've traveled the country ...

Ralph: Yes.

Jon: These kids really are a minority in this country and if there were true democracy, Matlock would be on seven times a week, you know, the people have spoken to a certain extent. They love McDonalds, they love Starbucks, I wonder would they really want to live in a democracy.

Ralph: I think they want a safe and clean environment, they want a living wage if they work every day full-time. I think they want their taxes to be used for serious purposes like clinics and affordable housing, not stadiums and ballparks.

I think they want our country to wage peace and support peace efforts around the world.

Jon: You think we have the ability to do all this. I mean this is very idealistic.

Ralph: It's not idealistic. Our forebears overcame enormous problems.

How would you like to be an abolitionist against slavery when the cotton plantations ruled the south or how would you like to fight for women's right to vote or if trade unions
or ...

Jon: You see this as dire a fight as even slavery?

Ralph: Well there's a new kind of slavery. They used to own people, now they're gonna own our genes, they're gonna own the genetic inheritance of the world, the plants, the flora, the fauna.

Jon: But in terms of even the founding, but even the founding fathers, you know, slavery they never even addressed. They knew it was an issue, but you had guys that they basically tabled it for ...

Ralph: A compromise ...

Jon: A compromise to keep the Union together.

Ralph: They did, they did, some of them really did condemn it, but they knew the south would never go along, so what did they do? They allowed the Constitution to be amended, to be perfected, and we ended up with an amendment that abolished slavery.

Jon: And so the Constitution now, which was there to protect us, is now being hidden behind to keep this whole thing going is what you're basically suggesting?

Ralph: Yeah.

Jon: OK.

Ralph: But the important thing here, the important thing here is there were so many issues that were never discussed on that hooked up thing called the presidential debate commission which is a private corporation created by the two parties to exclude all competitors.

Jon: What would you do ... who would you ...

Ralph: I would have asked Bush and Gore 'Why are you supporting the prohibition of the most versatile plant in the history of the world, industrial hemp, that could produce food, fuel, clothing and everything?'

Jon: Whoa, whoa, what the hell ... wait a minute ...

Ralph: It has nothing to do with marijuana ... It's one-third of one percent THC. Clinton and Bush ...

Jon: One-third of one percent.

Ralph: ... Clinton and Bush could smoke a bushel a day and they wouldn't get high, even if they inhaled.

Jon: You really have been hanging around the kids, haven't yuh?

Ralph: Five thousand years ago, the ancient Chinese grew it. Jefferson grew it. Washington grew it. I mean, what's the big deal? American flags early on were made of it.

Jon: Really.

Ralph: The Declaration of Independence. It could get rid of chlorine and paper (?) ...

Jon: Wouldn't it be great if it were still made of it, and then when the Iranians burned it, they just got high and mellow?

We've gotta go. I could talk to you all day about this stuff ...

Ralph: Why not?

Jon: Because I have corporate sponsors. I'm a whore.

It's nice to see you. It's nice to see your passion remains undimmed and that you're still fighting the good fight. And it's a pleasure to have you on the program.

Ralph: Thank you. Stay in touch with us.

Jon: "Crashing the Party" - (?) the web site - Ralph Nader.

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