Toward Consumer Justice
The enforcement of consumer protection laws, especially against the terrible abuses in low-income communities, needs to be given the leadership and resources required. Neither Party in control of our city or national government has concerned itself with such predatory practices. The poor pay more and are expendable to them. Hundreds of billions of dollars annually are taken from consumers due to computerized billing fraud, unconscionable credit and financial services charges, price gouging, shoddy merchandise, phony repairs, bogus medical treatments, medical malpractice, real estate scams, identity thefts, and other fraudulent regularly reported and neglected crimes. There needs to be more, not less, civil action rights to pursue in court both these economic grievances and wrongful injuries under a preserved and expanded tort system that internalizes the costs of misconduct and enlarges deterrence. Safety standards from motor vehicles to pharmaceuticals and household products need serious enhancement to save lives, injuries and prevent diseases.
A Crackdown on Corporate Crime and Abuse
The US needs to crack down on corporate crime, fraud and abuse that have just in the last four years looted and drained trillions of dollars from workers, investors, pension holders and consumers. Among the reforms needed are resources to prosecute and convict the corporate executive crooks and to democratize corporate governance so shareholders have real power; pay back ill-gotten gains; rein in executive pay; and enact corporate sunshine laws, among others.
Reform of Corporate “Personage” Rights — Corporations Should NOT be Entitled to the Rights of "Immortal Individuals"
A national debate is needed regarding the necessity to reverse the dicta in the 1886 Supreme Court Case of Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad that first awarded the corporation constitutional status as a person and in subsequent decision. Corporations are not human beings, they do not vote; they are artificial entities which should be subordinated to the rights of human beings There can be no equal justice under the law if General Motors or Exxon has all the rights of humans plus all the privileges and immunities to concentrate enormous power and escape responsibility in ways unavailable to the wealthiest of real people.
Electoral Reform that Creates a Vibrant, Active, Participatory Democracy.
Our democracy is in a descending crisis. Voter turnout is among the lowest in the western world. Redistricting ensures very few incumbents are at risk in one-party districts. Barriers to full participation of candidates proliferate making it very obstructive, for most third party and Independent candidates to run. Obstacles, and deliberate manipulations to undermine the right to vote, for which penalties are rarely imposed, are preventing voters from voting. New paperless voting machines are raising questions about whether we can trust that our votes are being counted as they are cast. Finally, money dominates expensive campaigns, mainly waged on television in sound bite format. The cost of campaigns creates a stranglehold making politics a game for only the rich or richly funded. Major electoral reforms are needed to ensure that every vote counts, all voters are represented through electoral reforms like instant run-off voting, none-of-the-above options, and proportional representation, non-major party candidates have a chance to run for office and participate in debates, and that elections are publicly financed.
Fair Tax Where the Wealthiest and Corporations Pay their Share — Tax Wealth More than Work; Tax Activities We Dislike More than Necessities
The complexity and distortions of the federal tax code produces distributions of tax incidence and payroll tax burdens that are skewed in favor of the wealthy and the corporations further garnished by tax shelters, insufficient enforcement and other avoidances.
Corporate tax contributions as a percent of the overall federal revenue stream have been declining for fifty years and now stand at 7.4% despite massive record profits. A fundamental reappraisal of our tax laws should start with a principle that taxes should apply first to behavior and conditions we favor least and pinch basic necessities least such as the clearly addictive industries (alcohol and tobacco), pollution, speculation, gambling, extreme luxuries, taxing work or instead of the 5% to 7% sales tax food, furniture, clothing or books.
Tiny taxes (a fraction of the conventional retail sales percentage) on stock, bond, and derivative transactions can produce tens of billions of dollars a year and displace some of the taxes on work and consumer essentials. Sol Price, founder of the Price Clubs (now merged into Costco) is one of several wealthy people in the last century who have urged a tax on wealth. Again, it can be at a very low rate but raise significant revenues. Wealth above a quite comfortable minimum is described as tangible and intangible assets. The present adjustment of Henry George’s celebrated land tax could also be considered.
Over a thousand wealthy Americans have declared, in a remarkable conflict against interest , that the estate tax, which now applies to less than 2 percent of the richest estates, should be retained. The signers of this declaration included William Gates, Sr., Warren Buffett and George Soros. Mr. Nader does not believe that “unearned income” (dividends, interest, capital gains) should be taxed lower than earned income, or work, inasmuch as one involves passive income, including inheritances and windfalls, while the latter involves active effort with a higher proportion of middle and lower income workers relying on and working each day, some under unsafe conditions, for these earning.
Fair Trade that Protects the Environment, Labor Rights and Consumer Needs
NAFTA and the WTO makes commercial trade supreme over environmental, labor, and consumer standards and need to be replaced with open agreements that pull-up rather than pull down these standards. These forms of secret autocratic governance and their detailed rules are corporate-managed trade that puts short-term corporate profits as the priority. While global trade is a fact of life, trade policies must be open, democratic and not strip-mine environmental, social and labor standards. These latter standards should have their own international pull up treaties.
Opposition to Media Bias and Media Concentration
The mass media in the United States is extremely concentrated, and the messages that they send are too broadly uniform. Six global corporations control more than half of all mass media in our country: newspapers, magazines, books, radio and television. Our democracy is being swamped by the confluence of money, politics and concentrated media. We must reclaim our democracy from the accelerating grip of big-money politics and concentrated corporate media. This requires real campaign finance reform, which means public financing of public elections; some free access to ballot qualified candidates on television and radio; vigorous antitrust regulation and enforcement; ending broadcasters’ free licensed use of the public airwaves; and the reversion of some organized time on our publicly owned airwaves to establish audience-controlled radio and TV networks to ensure the diversity of voices and solutions necessary for a really free press and a true civic democracy.
Expand Worker’s Rights by Developing an Employee Bill of Rights
The rights of workers’ have been on the decline. It is time to reverse that trend and begin to give worker’s – the backbone of the US economy – the rights they deserve. Workers need a living wage – not a minimum wage; access to health care and no unilateral reductions in medical benefits and pensions for current employees and retirees. Employers should not be able to avoid these benefits by hiring “temporary workers” or “independent contractors.” The privacy of employees needs to be vigorously protected. The notorious Taft-Hartley Act that makes it extremely difficult for employees to organize unions needs to be repealed. It has resulted in less than 10% of the private workforce being unionized, the lowest in 60 years and the lowest percentage in the western world. Non-union workers need upgraded rights against the likes of Walmart.