Ralph Nader: We should have known

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Richard Moore

Apr 5, 2009, 8:21:45 PM4/5/09
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Published on Saturday, April 4, 2009 by CommonDreams.org

The Ones Who Got It Right

by Ralph Nader

Why is it that well regarded people working the fields of corporate power and performance who repeatedly predicted the Wall Street bubble and its bursting receive so little media and attention?

Instead, the public is still being exposed to the comments and writings of people like Alan Greenspan, Robert Rubin, James Glassman (of Dow 36,000 notoriety) while others like Timothy Geithner, Larry Summers, and Gary Gensler are newly-appointed at high levels in the Obama Administration. These men were variously architects, rationalizers and implementers of the massive de-regulation and non-regulation that unleashed the epic forces of greed, speculation and ruination of millions of livelihoods and trillions of dollars other peoples’ money worldwide.

Here are some of the people who got it right—early and often:

 1. William Greider—author and columnist with The Nation magazine—wrote books (including Secrets of the Temple, 1988) and articles warning about the Federal Reserve and the anti-democratic consequences of rampant corporate globalization.

 2. Robert Kuttner whose books (e.g. Everything for Sale, 1999) and articles predicted what will happen to workers and pensions when the regulatory state is tossed aside by the corporatists operating inside and outside of government.

3. Jim Hightower whose books (If the Gods Has Meant Us to Vote, They Would Have Given Us Candidates, 2000) and the monthly mass circulation Hightower Lowdown newsletter pointed out again and again the abuses of the “greedhounds” and vastly overpaid corporate bosses that have run consumers of health care, credit, cars and banks into the ground.

4. Nomi Prins (Other People's Money, 2004) a former managing director of Goldman Sachs, quit in disgust and began disclosing how these giant Wall St. firms deal and how, with their ideological backers, they wove their webs of deception and fraud against investors, students borrowing money for college, taxpayers ripped off by corporate contractors, sick people gouged and insurance companies denying legitimate claims. (See her book Jacked: How “Conservatives” Are Picking Your Pocket, 2008)

5. John R. MacArthur, author (The Selling of “Free Trade”, 2001) columnist and publisher of Harpers, authored a sharp, prophetic criticism of NAFTA’s effect on U.S. and Mexican workers. Finally, on March 24, 2009 the New York Times featured a report titled “NAFTA’s Promise, UNfulfilled.”

6. Robert A.G. Monks—the leading shareholder rights advocate in our country warned for years in books (latest Corpocracy, 2008) , articles, testimony and standup challenges at corporate annual meetings that keeping investors—the owners of these companies—powerless and dominated by corporate executives would lead to big trouble. Everyday, you can now see the ways that avaricious abuses of executive compensation by Wall Street led to cooking the books, hiding the debts and wildly losing other peoples’ money.

7. Tom Stanton, whose 1991 book State of Risk, exposed the dangerously undercapitalized condition of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and predicted coming disaster if this reckless leveraging continued. By comparison, a year ago Fannie and Freddie’s federal regulator, James B. Lockhart III called fears of a bailout “nonsense” and amazingly further lowered the required capital levels months before their collapse and takeover a few months later. Mr. Lockhart is still in his job heading a new regulatory entity over these two goliaths.

8. Republican Kevin Phillips, (latest book Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism, 2007) whose numerous writings on Wall Street power and money and the dictatorial rule of the plutocracy were wise, historically—rooted premonitions of future collapse.

9. Dean Baker, (latest Plunder and Blunder, 2004) Washington-based economist, warned repeatedly earlier in this decade of the housing bubble and the calamitous consequences once it burst. He even sold his own home in 2004 and became a tenant, so convinced was he of the housing precipice.

10. Then there is Naomi Klein who has been documenting how economic disasters produced by corporations and their governmental cohorts end up not with reforms but with further increasing the power of the corporate state. (See Shock Doctrine the Rise of Disaster Capitalism, 2007)

Chances are that outside the independent media and an occasional public tv-radio interview, you have not seen or read them in the mass media. But they were right, so why haven’t you? Well, first of all, they took on commercial interests and called them out by name and specific misdeeds. Take it from one who knows, big advertisers do not hesitate to let their media outlets know about their displeasure. Publishers, editors and producers will deny being affected by such realities of the bottom line but money talks—not always but enough to screen out or marginalize the provocative early warners.

Second, these early warners are not like their counterparts such as the market fundamentalists and other active corporatists in the world of writers and commentators. The latter meet and plan often and ferociously attach themselves to political and corporate leaders. While the progressive forecasters do not connect either with each other or with their policy allies on Capitol Hill as much. The media likes to see growing power like that of the intertwined Heritage Foundation with the Reagan regime and their supporters in Congress.

Third, there is this sense that these progressives are exposing conditions that the reporters themselves should be revealing. So why not publish staff-driven magazine-style features instead of publicizing outsiders and covering an unfolding story as reportage. Journalistic prizes go to the former. But, they’re not the same either in reader impact or for change.

Finally, there are establishment figures who tried, in their own way, to blow the whistle—James Grant, Henry Kaufman and, twenty five years ago, Felix Rohatyn come to mind. Their astute alarms regarding excessive risk-taking were ignored. They are not getting much media play either.

Maybe it’s also a cultural thing. Big book deals, radio talk shows, promotions and quotable celebrity status go to the rogues, the grossly negligent, the suppressors of truth and the wrongdoers. They’re just so much more exciting!

This is a fast road to a state of decay.

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His most recent book is The Seventeen Traditions.

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