Auto safety crusader Ralph Nader testifies before Congress

Auto safety crusader Ralph Nader testifies before Congress

On February 10, 1966, Ralph Nader, a young lawyer and the author of the groundbreaking book “Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile,” testifies before Congress for the first time about unsafe practices in the auto industry.

By the mid-1960s, U.S. automakers were still largely unregulated. Nader’s book, which was published in November 1965, accused car companies of designing vehicles with an emphasis on style and power at the expense of consumer safety. One chapter of “Unsafe at Any Speed” focused on handling problems with the Chevrolet Corvair, a car produced by auto giant General Motors (GM). Shortly after Nader’s congressional testimony, the news media reported that Nader had been followed by detectives. It was later determined that starting in early February 1966, GM sent investigators to spy on Nader and look into his personal life in an effort to discredit him. Nader sued GM for harassment and invasion of privacy and won a settlement. The publicity surrounding GM’s actions helped make “Unsafe at Any Speed” a best-seller and turn Ralph Nader a household name.

Nader was born on February 27, 1934, in Winsted, Connecticut. He graduated from Princeton University and Harvard Law School, then served in the U.S. Army for six months before becoming a lawyer. The publication of “Unsafe at Any Speed” and Nader’s public advocacy of auto-safety issues, helped lead to the passage of the 1966 National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act. This legislation sought to reduce the rising number of injuries and deaths from road accidents by establishing federal safety standards for every American-made vehicle, including safety belts for all passengers. The Corvair, which suffered from slumping sales due in part to the negative publicity from Nader’s book as well as to consumer lawsuits (the car’s suspension system was blamed for rollovers), was discontinued by GM in 1969.

In addition to auto safety, Nader went on to advocate on behalf of a long list of other consumer causes, including food and drug safety. He also made several unsuccessful runs for the U.S. presidency as a third-party candidate. Nader was criticized by some people for siphoning away votes from Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore in the close 2000 election, which Gore ultimately lost to Republican George W. Bush.

READ MORE: Here’s How Third-Party Candidates Have Changed Elections

February 10, 1966 – Ralph Nader, author of Unsafe at Any Speed, testifies before congress

Consumer activist and lawyer Ralph Nader’s book Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile accused automakers of failing to introduce proven safety measures, such as seat belts, because of the reluctance to spend money on safety. Nader would go before congress on this day in 1966 to testify in regards to automobile safety for his first time.

He famously used the example of the first generation Chevrolet Corvair, stating the rear engine sedan was prone to rollover accidents. Following his testimony, Nader accused GM of prying into his personal life and filed a lawsuit against the company, which he would win. Nader’s activism resulted in numerous safety laws, namely the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, which allowed the federal government to set standards for automobiles and highways.

Ralph Nader

Auto safety crusader Ralph Nader testifies before Congress - HISTORY

Consumer Safety Activist

Consumer crusader Ralph Nader was born in Winsted, Connecticut, to a Lebanese immigrant father who owned a bakery and restaurant. After receiving a scholarship to Princeton University, he graduated at the top of his class and continued on to Harvard Law School.

At Harvard, the intense young man became interested in cases of car injuries, and wrote an article entitled "American Cars: Designed for Death." After graduating from law school, he began to practice law as a specialist in car safety, and worked for Senators Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Abraham Ribicoff.

In 1965, Nader published his book, Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-in Dangers of the American Automobile. As a result of the book, Nader became a celebrity and launched his career as a activist in the cause of product safety.

Unsafe at Any Speed contained charges against General Motors, and Nader followed up on his accusations by testifying before Ribicoff's Senate committee. General Motors hired people to investigate Nader, dig up potentially damaging information on him and ruin his career.

Nader sued GM and received $280,000. In 1966, Congress passed a car safety law, largely due to Nader's efforts. He used the royalties from his book and other funds for research, extending his studies to the meat-packing industry, unsafe trucks, polluting paper mills, dishonest banks and cheating supermarkets.

He established "Nader's Raiders," a group of attorneys who worked to defend the consumer. The "Raiders" later took active roles in the Center for Study of Responsive Law, one of many organizations affiliated with Nader. Maintaining a spartan lifestyle, Nader continued to work tirelessly for the defense and protection of consumers from industrial dangers. While there can be no doubt of his accomplishments in the area of consumer safety, Nader foray into politics will be best known for its unintended consequences. In 2000 he insisted on running as an independent. While he only received a small percent of the vote, the votes he received in Florida 97,421, were considerably higher than the 537 majority that GW Bush had that won him the election.

What Ralph Nader taught us about car safety – and the virtue of red tape

"You are about to meet a true international beauty, with a shape that blends elegance and excitement," intoned the golden voice of a television advert for the 1965 Chevrolet Corvair: "There is no feeling in all the world like the one behind this wheel."

Yes, America, bless its heart, had fallen head over heels for the automobile, and automakers like Chevrolet knew it. Mid-20th-century automobile advertisements promised horsepower, styling, and the allure of the open road. One even promised to turn Europeans into red-blooded Americans.

Yet, like many love affairs, America's mid-century infatuation with the automobile was proving destructive. In 1965, the same year that Chevrolet released its new Corvair, 49,000 Americans would die in automobile crashes: nearly as many as the total number of American soldiers who would die in the entirety of the Vietnam War.

In November of that year, Ralph Nader – yes, that Ralph Nader – would bring this harsh reality to the attention of American drivers with the publication of his book, Unsafe at Any Speed: the Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile.

The book inspired action in Congress – and quite vociferous objections from automakers – leading to the passage of numerous enhanced safety regulations as well as the creation of a new regulatory agency to enforce them. By 1980 the number of deaths in automobile crashes had decreased considerably. Yet what is more interesting is that, despite near-constant complaints from automakers that regulations would hinder growth and stifle innovation, the new regulations actually helped force innovation and American automakers to produce cars that were not only good for passenger safety and the environment, but for profits as well.

Following Donald Trump's recent (dare we say unrealistic) declaration that he hopes to "cut regulations by 75 per cent, maybe more" and the rolling back of regulations protecting streams, consumers, and retirees, the story of Nader, the American automobile, and passenger safety is worth revisiting.

Long before he won 2.74 per cent of the popular vote during the 2000 US presidential election (and got branded as a 'spoiler' who gifted the election to George W Bush), Ralph Nader was a Harvard law student who spent his free time investigating automotive safety. Over the course of a decade-long investigation starting in the mid-50s, Nader became convinced that automakers were peddling a dangerous product. "For over half a century," his 1965 book began, "the automobile has brought death, injury and the most inestimable sorrow and deprivation to millions of people." He seemed to have a point, for at the time automobile crashes were the fourth largest cause of death in America behind heart disease, cancer, and stroke.

Even worse, Nader contended, automakers had known that their product was dangerous and had done nothing about it. The benefits of cheap yet effective safety innovations such as seat belts, collapsible steering columns, and padded dashboards were well-known within the industry, but American automakers had neglected to install them in their new models or even direct much money to investigate their effectiveness. Despite earning $1.7bn in profits in 1964, General Motors contributed only $1m to fund external automobile accident research. This led, in Nader's words, to a "gap between existing design and attainable safety".

Why had the industry ignored such moral imperatives to public safety? Because, argued Nader, automakers feared that drawing public attention to the need for safety improvements like collapsible steering columns (which prevent the driver from being impaled on the driveshaft during an accident) would cause people to view cars as unsafe and therefore drive down profits. Better to keep potential buyers focused on 45-inch tailfins and 400 horsepower engines. Accidents, and the injuries or deaths that resulted from them, could be passed off as the fault of the 'nut behind the wheel' rather than anything to do with the design of the car itself.

The book was an immediate sensation, and in 1966 Nader appeared before Congress to testify about unsafe practices in the automobile industry. His campaign seemed to gain credibility when it was revealed that General Motors had hired private investigators to dig up dirt on the young, unknown lawyer. In a March 1966 article, the New York Times offered a detailed account of the extent of the surveillance, including the allegation that General Motors had sent "attractive young women in their twenties" to try to catch Nader in a compromising position.

In one episode, the paper recounted, Nader had been leafing through an auto magazine at a local pharmacy when "a woman apologised for being forward but asked if he would like to participate in a 'foreign affairs discussion' at her apartment." This made great newspaper fodder, and led to the spectacle of the president of GM seeking to assure Congress that, despite the often deeply personal nature of the investigations, he had "no interest whatsoever" in knowing Mr Nader's political affiliations, religious beliefs, or sexual preference.

When the Senate Commerce Committee released its report soon after, it echoed many of Nader's findings, noting that it had found "disturbing evidence of the automobile industry's chronic subordination of safe design to promotional styling". The report led to the passage of numerous enhanced safety standards under the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act as well as the creation of a new agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which had a remit to establish minimum safety standards for all automobiles and develop 'crashworthiness' design improvements.

Henry Ford II, eldest grandson of Henry Ford and then head of the Ford Motor Company responded curtly. "Many of the temporary standards are unreasonable, arbitrary, and technically unfeasible," he warned. "If we can't meet them when they are published we'll have to close down."

Despite these foreboding predictions, in the years since these safety measures were passed, the number of deaths from automobile accidents in the US has fallen from 5.50 per 100m vehicular miles travelled in 1966, to 3.34 in 1980. By 2015 that number was down to 1.12. Over that time, an estimated 613,000 lives have been saved. (A separate study puts the number at 3.5 million.)

A similar story played out in a number of other areas over the next decade as regulations were drawn up to protect workers, the environment, and public health. Nader, it seemed, had almost single-handedly helped convince the American public of the value of regulation.

By the early 1980s, however, public enthusiasm for regulation had begun to wane. A Louis Harris poll noted that while in 1976 roughly "as many consumers wanted more regulation as wanted less", by 1982 anti-regulation opinion outweighed pro-regulation opinion by a ratio of two to one.

How had this happened? According to two contemporary observers, regulation had developed "a public image problem". Writing in 1985 during the Reagan administration's campaign of deregulation, Joan Coalbrook (a former head of the NHTSA) and David Bollier argued that although social regulation was "demonstrably beneficial to human health and the environment", public conversations surrounding regulation no longer centred on the social value of regulation – eg the environmental and health benefits – but on those factors that regulated industries deemed most important – for example, cost, inconvenience and intrusiveness.

The Reagan administration had, according to Coalbrook and Bollier, spun a "simplistic, quantitative cocoon" around the debate, thereby limiting what counted as valid evidence and controlling access to the debate itself. Ethical judgments about safety, health, and the environment – which are not easily expressed in economic terms (indeed, how does one quantify the social value of clean rivers and streams?) – were therefore restricted. Once ensconced in their quantitative cocoon, those campaigning for deregulation were able to reframe the debate away from the "most inestimable sorrow" detailed in Nader's book and focus instead on 'removing barriers to innovation' and 'cutting out burdensome regulations'. The 'regulation is bad' narrative became so ingrained that the last thing regulators and government officials wanted was to be seen passing new regulations or enforcing existing ones.

And so, in 2017, Trump is declaring his intention to mount a "historic effort to massively reduce job crushing regulations" and Nader is often remembered by deregulation campaigners as an "anti-business activist". But the assumption that self-regulation or the market alone can provide the same protections to consumers, commuters, and the environment is clearly unfounded, as the automobile example shows.

But cutting such regulations will likely still not produce the desired effect of increasing production and strengthening the economy, whatever The Donald thinks. When governments focus on designing regulations cooperatively with input from regulatory bodies, regulated industries, and the rest of society – rather than simply scrapping them – regulations can not only protect humans and the environment from the excesses of market-driven industries, but actually benefit those industries. By establishing clear, simple, and intuitive goals and incentives, such cooperatively designed strictures can help lessen the legal and reputational uncertainties that often go hand in hand with the process of developing new technologies, and can shift industry objectives so that business goals like profit are more closely aligned with social needs like health and safety. More, they can level the playing field among industry rivals (net neutrality being a good contemporary example) while creating new forms of market competition.


The automobile industry again serves as a case in point. In an interview with the New York Times, Robert A Lutz, a former top executive at Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors, admitted that while he does not like Nader and did not like Not Safe for Any Speed, NHTSA regulations had nonetheless proven beneficial by setting "ground rules where everybody has to do something and nobody has to worry" about finding themselves at a competitive disadvantage. More, despite the fact that many automakers railed against the imposition of safety regulations, those that managed to manufacture the safest cars were able to market themselves as such to consumers and distance themselves from their competitors.

A similar shift in attitudes to regulation has occurred in the UK automobile industry over the past 10-15 years – this time in relation to regulation that seeks to encourage energy efficient and low emission vehicles. As one automotive manufacturer put it in a 2014 report on 'Investing in the low carbon journey': "At the highest level, the creation of a level playing field [CO2 target] by the [European Commission] was extremely helpful. A clear long term target is what industry needs – it will find a way to respond." An executive from an automotive R&D services company explained the industry's change in mindset: "Back then, environmental regulation was seen as a threat not an opportunity."

In both instances, well-designed regulations had the effect of helping national industries innovate and remain competitive internationally. At a time when US automakers are attempting to develop innovative new technologies (driverless cars, electric ones) and again face competition from foreign automakers, Mr Trump would do well to stop thinking of regulations as a barrier to innovation and start thinking of them as a means to spur innovation.

Not only will commuters and the nation's rivers and streams thank him, he might even receive a few thank you notes from grateful industry execs as well.

And speaking of thank you notes, if you or anyone you love ever survives an auto accident, maybe send one to Nader as well. I'm sure he'd appreciate being remembered for something other than the 2000 US presidential election.

Ralph Nader: Democrats Ushered in an Era of Corporate Fascism

With Joe Biden in the White House and Democrats controlling Congress and the Senate, Ralph Nader, the lifelong good-government crusader and consumer advocate, issues a stark warning to progressives: The Democratic Party is still not on the side of working Americans, no matter what politicians, media pundits and their corporate donors will have us think. The former Green Party presidential candidate has dedicated his life to putting pressure on America’s most powerful corporate and political leaders, and while some activists are ready to let the Biden administration get away with ecocide, expanded drone wars, and other forms of murder, Nader is prepared to do no such thing. His thorough and well-researched critiques, such as his recent piece on the Democrat-assisted corporate takeover of Medicare, are needed now more than ever as American media undergoes what Matt Taibbi calls a mass “sovietization” during the Biden honeymoon.

On this week’s installment of “Scheer Intelligence,” host Robert Scheer asks Nader, “What have you learned in these 60 years of being a consumer advocate and public intellectual?”

“One thing I’ve learned is that Democrats are on an infinite journey towards cowardliness,” responds Nader, “because now they’re getting credit for their $1.9 trillion stimulus bill, 100% financed on the shoulders of our children and grandchildren, without a single effort to [rescind] the Trump tax cuts that are at least $2 trillion over the ten years since they were passed in 2017.”

Nader points to the many “institutional taboos” that Democrats won’t speak of let alone challenge, such as tax cuts for corporations and the super-rich, as well as an outrageously bloated Pentagon budget. While the “Scheer Intelligence” guest says that Democrats may look better compared to “the cruelest, most vicious” Republicans, but they don’t address any of the significant problems impacting Americans every day and, at the same time, stifle dissent from the progressive wing of the party. He argues that all of this is part of the system that we now live in, thanks to both political parties selling out to corporate interests.

“Corporate capitalism is not capitalism,” argues Nader. “Capitalism is your ma-and-pa store on Main Street corporate capitalism is basically corporate socialism because without socialism in Washington bailing out capitalism, capitalism would have collapsed a long time ago.”

But Nader goes even further from calling our current system corporate capitalism or socialism and labels it “corporate fascism” due to the fact that moneyed interests have strategic power over everything from our diets to our public lands. Scheer and Nader have a lively discussion about whether or not it is possible to challenge the powers that be in an age of corporate fascism. Scheer argues that it is impossible to truly effect change under the conditions of life in today’s America, in which the traditional proletariat is no longer able to organize due to the gigification of the economy at the same time powerful corporations such as Google and Facebook disguise their obscene profit-seeking under the cloaks of anti-racism, women’s rights and other worthy social issues. Nader, however, is more hopeful than Scheer about a power that people still have the opportunity to harness.

“Here’s the rub,” explains Nader. “It has never taken more than 1% active citizens scattered throughout the country representing [or building] the majority public opinion to change Congress on any number of agendas throughout history.”

The former presidential candidate calls for civic movements to take on the legislative branch, which to him is the most powerful part of the federal government, with a laser focus. Listen to the full conversation between Nader and Scheer as they discuss the many ways Democrats, such as Nancy Pelosi, along with Republicans, have willingly placed American democracy in corporate claws and time and again betrayed the interests of the very people who elected them. You can also check out Nader’s most recent book, “The Ralph Nader and Family Cookbook” here.

Ralph Nader – political activist, author, lecturer and attorney – @RalphNader

Robert Scheer: Hi, this is Robert Scheer with another edition of Scheer Intelligence. I always say the intelligence comes from my guests, and I mean it, but never so much as today when my guest is Ralph Nader. Ralph Nader is one of the great legendary figures of American history. I’d put him right up there with Tom Paine, Walt Whitman, whatever, the people who try to speak for the common person, for the average person, and take on the powerful, take on the people who care about themselves not the rest, mock the idea of democracy. Ralph Nader has been the living embodiment of democracy, the advocate for everything from the consumers who are going to be killed in cars without seatbelts to now where he speaks the truth about our military budget, about our abysmal failure to deal with this pandemic because we will not do what every other civilized country does about medical care. And so, with just one little note here, I’ve had my differences with Ralph, and I’ve had to apologize for them. And one particular incident, which will come up here, is [that] we were both speakers debating on a Nation magazine cruise, and on that cruise, I was being critical of Ralph having run an independent campaign for president, and I was still of the idea that somehow the Clintonistas were not great but certainly a lesser evil, and I bought into all that, and I defended the Clinton administration, which has turned out in retrospect to be a horror they deregulated Wall Street, they ended the welfare system, they allowed concentration of media ownership with the Telecommunications Act, they betrayed the spirit of democracy and, I must say, bear tremendous responsibility, of course along with the savage Republicans, for this incredible income gap that we have, bringing the class struggle or the need for class struggle, to America. I also want to apologize to people listening to this because one failing of Ralph Nader is that he does not go with the times technologically, he is not enamored with the latest gadget, he doesn’t get the latest iPhone, in fact, he doesn’t own a computer. So, when it came time to do this podcast, I was assuming. because I have all the gadgets. that we would do it as we do with Zencaster, I would send him the signal, or Zoom, or something. Well, he doesn’t have one. So, we had a bit of struggle here to get the quality of the tape up to NPR standards. We’ve done it, thanks to Joshua Scheer, the executive producer. But trust me, what Ralph has to say is really worth listening to, maybe more than words coming from any other person in America at this time in our history. So, with that endorsement, let me put my first question to Ralph Nader.

So let me kind of begin with a basic question. And you know, we’re in a honeymoon period where just about everyone that I know thinks, wow, Biden’s going to do a great job, thank god the–you know, even the people who think it’s a lesser evil think, wow, the good times are going to roll. And then I read your piece, which I will publish, make available, saying look, they’re not going to do what’s needed. We’re not going to get healthcare reform. Once again, the Democrats are going to sell out. And if [there’s] anything we’ve learned from the pandemic, it is that this country, which is the richest country in the world and is proclaimed the best medical system, actually has the worst record in the whole world in dealing with the pandemic. The largest number of fatalities, despite spending an enormous amount of money. So why don’t we use this as a teaching moment, and what you’ve learned in this, what, 60 years of being a consumer advocate and a public intellectual, where are you now?

Ralph Nader: Well, one thing I’ve learned is that the Democratic Party is on an infinite journey of cowardliness. Because now they’re getting credit for a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill, one hundred percent financed on the shoulders of our children and grandchildren, without a single effort–never mind success–to restore the gigantic Trump tax cuts that are at least $2 trillion, over the next 10 years since they were passed in 2017. Probably larger, because the tax lawyers opened up new loopholes that were made possible. So what we have is another institutionalized Democratic Party taboo. You don’t talk about tax increases you don’t talk about tax increases on the wealthy you don’t talk about restoring enormous tax reductions over the years, on Wall Street, on the superrich, on the multinational corporations. You just let the children and grandchildren pay the bill.

So now we have a Democratic Party taboo on the military budget. It used to be they would talk about it, at least at least people like Senator Proxmire would hold hearings on military waste, fraud, and abuse. But no, that is the largest operating budget in the federal government, and it isn’t even audited. The Pentagon is violating a 1992 federal statute requiring them to submit an audited budget to the General Accounting Office, or Government Accountability Office as it’s now called, of the U.S. Congress. So you have two giant revenue factors. One, a huge drain on public infrastructure investment by empire and blowing up other countries abroad in the military budget.

And you have another taboo emerging now, you’d think they’re under the sway of Grover Norquist–they don’t talk about restoring the tax cuts. They don’t campaign on restoring the tax cuts, with the exception of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. So the tragedy here is that they are telling the IRS–starved-budget IRS, due to the Republicans starting in 2011 they cut the IRS budget to the bone, engaged in aiding and abetting tax evasion–and they’re telling the IRS, shovel out $1.9 trillion and watch the waste, watch the fraud, watch the money going to people and corporations who don’t deserve it. Luckily, they pinpointed $1,400 to designated people that’s going to go through. But it’s just a frenzied bit of legislation that the press is going to have a field day covering.

RS: So, but the reality is–I want to look at the trajectory of your life. Basically, you started as a consumer advocate, and argued for things that most people could agree were good things to be done. And you expected the large corporations could be pressured to do the right thing–most famously, have seat belts in cars, which of course everybody now accepts. But we’re up against a fundamentally different issue, which is that the corporations can’t do the right thing, because they’re committed to a profit model, and a competitive profit model that requires doing the wrong thing. Ripping us off, exploiting us, betraying our confidence in them. Isn’t that really the lesson of your life as a public intellectual?

RN: Well, there are many lessons, and one of them is that when you beat back corporate crime, fraud, abuse, and corporate control over our government successfully, as we did to some degree in the 1960s and 1970s, you have to expect a counterattack. And the corporations did that. They beefed up their lobbying in Washington and vastly increased their political action committee contributions they fielded their own candidates they challenged good incumbents in the primary they developed their own mass media right out of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. They made sure that talk radio was taken over by right-wing corporatists like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and all the others, dominating day after day, three hours a day by each one of them radio changing a lot of blue-collar workers into Reagan Democrats, which flipped election after election.

In the meantime, the people back home who benefited from these health and safety regulations and some economic regulations, took too much for granted. They didn’t do their homework on who they voted for or voted against. They didn’t strengthen the civic movements back in the grassroots. When I ran on the Green Party ticket and Independent ticket trying to mobilize civic activity and put pressure on the major parties–as small parties did in the nineteenth century against slavery, women’s right to vote and the populist progressive farmer movement–there was very little resonance by people who supported our agenda. We had an agenda of majoritarian support.

So we are at a stage that I would call a corporate state, that is exactly the definition of fascism conveyed by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in a 1938 message to the U.S. Congress. He said when private power takes over government, that is fascism. And it keeps getting deeper and more dominant with every four years of presidential election, and every two years of Congressional election.

You can see the signs everywhere, Bob. The Democrats now are so weak and cowardly that they can’t even protect what’s left of Medicare. The corporations now own 40 percent of the beneficiaries of Medicare. It’s called, euphemistically, Medicare Advantage I call it Medicare Disadvantage. What they do is they’ve hooked up with both parties in Congress to have the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees Medicare, allow corporations to offer alternative plans using the Medicare trademark, and invite elderly people to free lunches, which screens out the immobile and higher-risk, and selling them this very deceptive package, which Dr. Fred Hyde, who knows what he’s talking about, said, “It’s not what you pay, it’s what you get.”

So now, unlike traditional Medicare, where you can have your free choices of doctor and hospital, they have their own networks, just like private insurance, for Medicare Disadvantage. You have to have all kinds of bureaucratic prior authorizations by United Health Care, Aetna, and the other Medicare grabbers. And it’s OK if you don’t get sick if you get sick, you see the cudgels come down, just the way they do for patients who have private health insurance. Now, the Democrats are not even challenging this. Every year, they get fine-print amendments, the big insurance companies, allowing them to expand their tentacles, their grip on traditional Medicare, to the point where they now have 40 percent of all Medicare beneficiaries under these deceptive, cruel Medicare Disadvantage plans.

So what we’re seeing here is not the Democrats moving forward. They can’t save the health and safety regulatory agencies from being pushed backward. When they gain the presidency and the Congress, they can’t seem to roll back enough of what the Republicans have done. In 2009 under Obama, they hardly rolled back anything. In fact they expanded Bush and Cheney’s empire with more drone attacks, and more lawlessness. And the same is true for a lot of the regulatory changes. The Democrats were just as bad as the Republicans running the auto safety agency, the Food and Drug Administration they were a little better with the Environmental Protection Agency. But they put to sleep, just like the Republicans, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

And yet they can’t help but look better from the cruelest, most vicious Republican Party in history. Except they can’t landslide them every two years, because they’re too busy catering to the corporate state. They’re too busy marginalizing progressive Democrats. They’re too busy destroying any kind of alternative political electoral competition. They’re too busy to clean up campaign finance corruption, which they benefit from just like the Republicans.

So this is a propitious time only because Biden looks very good compared to Trump. But Biden comes from corporate Delaware. We know who Biden is. Now, he may be Biden Two instead of Biden One, because there’s such horror and deprivation in the COVID-driven USA. And we hope that is the case. But when I go up on Capitol Hill, and I meet with the most progressive Democrats in the House, like Jamie Raskin and others, they’re terrified of Nancy Pelosi. She is running a one-person rule in the House of Representatives, just the way McConnell was running a one-person rule, until he was displaced, in the Senate.

So we have here what’s called the symbol of democracy after January 6: how dare these rioters desecrate the symbol, the core of democracy. But as an institution, it’s run as a consummate autocracy, run by four people: the Democratic and Republican heads in the House, and the Democratic and Republican heads in the Senate. They’ve stripped the committee chairs of the power they had, and whether they’re Democratic or Republican. Newt Gingrich’s “deforms” in 1994 of Congress, to concentrate power in the hands of the few, have been continued by the Democratic Party.

And so if you don’t persuade Nancy Pelosi, you don’t get anywhere in the U.S. Congress, which is why we got nowhere with 11 impeachable offenses against Trump in December 2019, and she only picked Ukraine. And although Jerry Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and many other chairs wanted her to use more arrows in her quiver against McConnell and Trump, and make McConnell defend all the horrible impeachable offenses, that are really kitchen-table issues on television, in the trial in the Senate, she refused. And nobody dared oppose her. They call her the commander in chief.

So this is where we’re at. When you look at reality, it’s very grim, Bob. When you look at comparative depravity, you say oh, what a relief we got the Democrats in power. You know, we’re not going to sink further into the abyss. But we have to have higher expectation levels, don’t we?

RS: Well, we might–we might sink further into the abyss, because–far be it from me to take you to school, but actually, Bill Clinton, who came in as a New Democrat, was able to deregulate Wall Street, much more effectively, powerfully deregulate, than the Republicans were. He made the basic alliance that reversed the New Deal controls, that reversed Glass Steagall and the Financial Services Modernization Act, right? The Commodity Futures Modernization Act. All of that stuff the Republicans couldn’t do on their own. And so what’s concerning about the Democrats is they put a better spin on it.

And that’s what actually Obama did in the bailout after the Great Recession, right? Instead of helping homeowners keep their homes, or renters or what have you, he bailed out Wall Street. If the Republicans had just tried to do that alone, they would have been disgraced. It took Obama and Warren Summers and the crowd around him to say, oh, we’re going to bail out Goldman Sachs, we’ll let them become a public bank instead of a private, we’ll funnel money through AIG. I mean, it’s one of the great scandals in America, and in turned out the Democrats, both under Clinton and under Obama, were more effective in [the] deal for Wall Street than the Republicans.

RN: Exactly. Obama, as a lot of people know, refused to prosecute any of the Wall Street crooks that destroyed the economy in 2008, 2009. And he spent his political efforts bailing out, as you indicate, Wall Street. Whenever the Democrats go corporate, they succeed, because the Republicans gleefully jump on board. They can hardly believe what they’re seeing. And–

RS: Well, I think that’s really an important point. Because the article that we’re going to print from you on what’s happening to the medical system–they’re spending so much money because of the pandemic, now an additional $1.9 trillion we’re not getting any of that money from, say, the 30 richest people or whatever they are who made $1.1 trillion more during the pandemic. I mean, the rich and the superrich got much richer. And this money, as you lay out in that column, is basically going to flow back to these people. It’s going to go to insurance companies, it’s–right?–it’s going to go to the big financial interests. And we’re going to be stuck holding–.

So let me ask you a basic question. You’ve been a student of American capitalism now for a long time. The American–the corporate, capitalist system that you first went up against was inherently unattractive. They were fat cats. There was big, old General Motors and U.S. Steel and Alcoa and so forth. What we have now is a variety of capitalism that is very good at PR. The Googles, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, you can go down the list. They talk a great game, they have a lot of appeal to younger people. And it’s kind of contrasting Orwell and Huxley. It’s the capitalism of seduction, of consumerism, of the con. And it’s very difficult to take off after these guys, because they kind of have defined a new goodness, a new concern. It’s incredibly effective, is it not?

RN: Yes, and you make a very important distinction: corporate capitalism is not capitalism. Capitalism is your ma and pa store on Main Street corporate capitalism is basic corporate socialism. Because without socialism in Washington bailing out capitalism, capitalism would have collapsed a long time ago. Big time. Look at what the bailouts are like. Every time Wall Street gets in trouble, every time the banks overreach and speculate, Washington bails them out. Every time there’s a major industry deep in trouble, like the auto industry, General Motors, Washington socialism bails them out. And that’s what’s going on now. All these big corporations are in Washington desperately demanding, desperately pleading for socialism–to bail out the big drug companies, demand advance payment in the billions for producing drugs that make them a colossal profit with no price regulation. All over, they want bailouts everywhere, bailouts, handouts, giveaways, subsidies. It’s half of what Washington does every day, shovel out more of the money, the guarantees, the overblown contracts, to the military contractors. And it just keeps going. Boeing crashed a 737 MAX and got a huge bailout from Washington in a variety of ways. You can’t even count the variety of ways these corporations get government subsidies, handouts, giveaways, special treatment, privileges, deferred taxation, you name it. The tax code is a massive regular bailout for these multinational companies, who can pretty much park their profits abroad in tax havens, build up the expenses here, and then pay virtually nothing to support the public works and the public services in the United States, which gave them birth and maintains their bulging profits.

So the progressive language, Bob, hasn’t caught up with the reality that what we’re seeing here is an entrenched corporate socialist state, where Wall Street controls government and turns it against its own people. And the awareness of the young generation of what’s going on, in terms of the corporate supremacists controlling our political economy, strategically planning every conceivable nook and corner. They’re commercializing childhood, they’re strategically planning higher education, they’ve planned our tax system, they’re strategically planning our electoral and political system, our public budgets, our military foreign policy. They’re strategically planning the public land and its disposition daily, one-third of America. They strategically planned the epidemic of obesity, which they knew full well was the result of their high-fat, high-sugar, high-salt diet, that they’ve seduced young people with billions of dollars of TV advertising over the last 40 years. And this young generation that calls themselves progressive and changed, or change agent, they just don’t have a clue. They don’t read. You don’t read, you don’t think. You don’t think, you don’t read. You don’t do those things, you don’t set the stage for social justice movements. We all know this, over the years.

And here’s the rub, here’s the optimism. I wrote a paper back a few years ago called “Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think.” And I listed all these takeovers of our weakened Democratic society by giant corporations. And then I said, look how little it took in the past to change them. It has never taken more than one percent active citizens, distributed throughout the country, representing majority public opinion, or building to majority public opinion, to change Congress on any number of agendas. You name it, throughout history. Even the Civil Rights Movement never had more than two and a half million really active citizens all over the country. That’s about one percent of the adults in 435 Congressional districts. So why in the world aren’t all these demonstrators and marchers focusing on 535 men and women who put their shoes on every day the way we do–about 130 of them are on our side to begin with–in order to turn around the federal government by the smallest but most Constitutionally strongest branch of government, the U.S. Congress–a branch whose names we know, unlike the judiciary or the executive branch?

And it defies credulity how all this effort–marches, demonstrations, protests–the energy goes into the ether instead of latching on to a laser beam focusing right on Capitol hill. It’s Congress that should be the focus. Congress is the only Constitutional authority that can control runaway corporate power, discipline it, break it up, challenge it, displace it with cooperatives and other economic institutions, and render it subordinate to the power of sovereign human beings. These corporations, as we all know, are artificial entities they have no sovereignty under the Constitution they’re not even mentioned in the Constitution, the word “company” or “corporation.” The Preamble starts “We the people,” not “We the Congress” or “We the corporations.”

And unless we seize our sovereign power and then control Congress, which has a huge leverage effect on state, local, and national government, we will continue to be driven into the ground with over half the people in the country impoverished already, and with more and more corporations deciding that they are going to make money from money. Instead of investing trillions of dollars into productive enterprise and employment, they are buying back their stock, which is the closest to burning trillions of dollars over the last ten years in order to increase the metrics for their executive compensation. Doesn’t create a single job or create a single business.

RS: OK, Ralph. Now, you laid it out. But you haven’t answered why–why the protests are not effective, why they get away with this theft, why it’s so difficult to change. And I’m offering, or going to right now offer a different, even more pessimistic view. The corporate state that you were so effective in challenging, OK, was stodgy, overconfident, elitist, and lousy at public relations. And they were good at selling big cars with fins and all that, but they weren’t good at really mobilizing the public to identify all that with a lifestyle. Pepsi was pretty good, you know, the Pepsi generation, and feeling free and so forth. What has happened is a huge change in the nature of modern capitalism. And I do think your use of the word “socialism” is valid in the sense that it’s totally interconnected with government.

And that’s why I wanted to shift this discussion, and in the time we have left, to this modern manifestation of corporate capitalism. A company like Google–and Amazon, for instance, a huge defense contractor, right? They’re building the cloud for the major intelligence agencies, they lost out to Microsoft on who was going to do the Pentagon’s big cloud and so forth. They are, you know, as much military contractors as Boeing is. But Boeing was the old-fashioned company more obvious, you know. And what these companies are is they embody a lifestyle. That’s what Google, Apple–right?–Facebook, that’s what they’re all about. And that’s why it’s very difficult for a younger generation to see through that. Because they have conquered the notion of freedom. Freedom is buying their tools, their toys, communicating through their mechanisms, heavily censored, heavily controlled. And the modern face of corporate capitalism appears to be enlightened. It’s multinational, they can do business in countries all over the world. They support, they claim, civil rights, women’s rights and so forth.

So it’s a beast of a different order now. And I’m asking you, Ralph Nader, to compare the fight against a General Motors and the fight against Google and Facebook and Amazon.

RN: Well, we’ve been distracted massively. The necessities of life are not treated by Google, Facebook, and Amazon and Microsoft and Apple. They don’t provide food. They don’t provide shelter. They don’t provide the mechanics of transportation. They don’t provide healthcare. They don’t provide children’s support services. They don’t provide for retirement income, based on productive factories that used to give pensions to their workers. What they do is control our time and shovel before us ways to shift around and search and look for information, which they make sure is never connected to power. And they provide us with a massive advertising media on the internet. [overlapping voices]

RS: I want to just stop you for a second–you’re describing the totalitarian model of Brave New World, of Huxley. They’re amusing us to death, they’re distracting us to death. They’ve created a new consciousness in this country which justifies their theft.

RN: Yes, and they’re moving into entertainment now, they’re challenging Netflix and so on. What I’m saying is, we need to divide this economy into two parts: the internet virtual reality, and the necessity economy. And we need to organize Congress, watchdog groups in every Congressional district, to take back control of Congress–which isn’t all that big a deal we’ve got the votes, the corporations have the money but they don’t have the votes. And redirect national policy to raise the empirical reality of livelihood and opportunity in the country. Health, safety, economic well-being, public services that work, and so forth. So that’s the focus, that’s what we’ve got to do. We’ve been distracted by these illusionists. These corporations are basically illusionists. What is Facebook, in terms of economic history? What does Facebook do, in terms of any of the necessities of life? Nothing.

RS: OK–well, that’s not true, Ralph. What they do is provide an alternative sense of community that mocks a democratic model. It mocks a model of commitment–

RN: No. They provide illusion. They provide a community in the internet, virtual reality, that has all kinds of corrosive dimensions to it, in terms of nastiness, slander, viciousness, intimidation. They don’t provide anything new here. We have community back in our neighborhoods, which we can displace whatever narcissistic fulfillment comes from desperate people who use Facebook to connect with other human beings in an ethereal manner. So what I’m trying to do is, I’m trying to show the utter trivial but disastrous distraction and control of people’s time and minds by these Silicon Valley companies, whose basic research was almost entirely funded by the U.S. government.

RS: Right. Google was basically a Pentagon project. But Ralph, I have to push you a little more. And you know, I regret pushing you, because the times when I’ve done this, particularly on that Nation cruise where you and I had a fierce debate, I ended up apologizing after and saying you were right and I was wrong, because I was still pushing the lesser evil of Clintonism, and you were unmasking me. So I have some trepidation in challenging you here, but let me push it a little further.

In traditional economics, economic study, there’s always been this conflict between use value and exchange value. You know, it shows up in the classical economists, shows up in Marx, shows up everywhere, John Stuart Mill, what have you. You’re basically making the case for use value. And use value is important because we’re destroying the planet by not focusing on what we really need, what will really service we waste. We waste because of exchange value, profit-making, the illusion of power and success and so forth for ordinary people. So this is a fundamental issue in the construction of society.

But the fact of the matter is, this internet world that we live in–and it is global it affects young people in China, it affects them in Saudi Arabia, it affects them everywhere. And in that world, the exchange value, what you pay for something–whether it glitters, you know whether it–the Apple iPhone has to change every year or it’s not going to appeal to us. That constant notion of waste, fast fashion, you find all of these manifestations–that is the drug of our modern life. And that’s not going away. You know, that is a far fiercer enemy than anything General Motors was offering.

The other thing I want to throw in the hopper and get you to address before we end is that your ally in taking on General Motors and other big corporations was a well-organized working class. We could talk about class, and we could talk about the needs of the workers. Well, Apple has very few workers in the United States. We have a gig economy for many people, and we see that in the pandemic, finally we have to supply some unemployment insurance to gig workers, and so forth, some security.

But we basically have a proletariat that is rootless. Not ruthless, rootless. And it’s a model that is kept ripe for plucking, for deception and so forth. And that’s what you have now. You don’t have a United Auto Workers that can hold the Democratic Party responsible, as it held Franklin Delano Roosevelt responsible, you know. Or the steelworkers you know all that history. The coal miners’ union–that was what was pressuring Roosevelt and the Democrats. That pressured Truman, it pressured–you know, but then it ended.

And this model of capitalism now is a far more difficult–you just say, oh, you’ll just have to change the votes of some people in Congress–well, that’s not true. Those people respond to a culture that is created by the new capitalism. Their constituents will throw them out if they don’t cater to that. That’s the real dilemma of our modern time, is it not?

RN: I think in terms of the distribution of potential power in this country, as long as you have the Constitution and elective legislatures, you have the opening for civic movements that don’t even have to deal with elections. They work between elections. We won all our victories without really electing anybody in Congress in the sixties and seventies. We won because between elections we put great pressure on key members of Congress who had leverage with other members of Congress. So if we got Senator Magnuson to adopt an auto safety regulation bill, that was almost assured to go through the Senate, because of his power in that area of jurisdiction.

So I want to go back to feasibility thinking here. Let’s just start with the necessities of life and aspire to bring the livelihoods of people and the reliability of economic expectations of people, say, to the level of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark and Finland. We can do that with less than one percent of the people organized in Congressional districts. Because look, health insurance is now supported, single-payer, without even the Democratic Party pushing it, by 70% of the people. That’s a lot of conservatives, not just liberals. Seventy percent. You go through one improvement after another, and it has 65, 70, 80%. There was a time a few years ago 90% of the people wanted to break up the big banks in New York.

And so let’s just talk feasibility. Let’s just talk feasibility before we get into such speculations about the omnicidal trajectory of giant corporations without any national accountabilities, much less international restraints.

RS: OK, Ralph, let me push back just a little bit–

RN: And just one more thing. And you’re right, the giant corporation now has strategically planned the international labor market, like no socialist under Norman Thomas would ever have dreamed in the 1930s. They’ve broken the union movement they’ve broken the retirement expectation of workers in terms of livable pensions. They have divided and ruled them ideologically by controlling the media and the pipeline into millions of blue-collar workers they changed into Reagan Democrats, because the Democrats never challenged the corporate control of radio and television–sure.

But the point is, you’ve got to ask yourself, what is the foothold? Whenever you want to make changes, what is the foothold? The greatest foothold we have are the state legislatures and the Congress. OK–if that’s the foothold, what’s the fulcrum? The fulcrum is about two and a half million organized people out of 225 million adults, reflecting on many turnaround issues in Congress, majority opinion with significant inputs from conservative voters as well as liberal.

Quite a bit of the recent criminal justice reforms in about 15 legislatures came with left-right support in the legislature. But on many issues, including corporate tax reform, universal healthcare, living wage, clean air, clean water, public services upgrades–you have huge public opinion. Look at the public opinion support for the $1.9 trillion. But you don’t have focused pressure on those 535 members of Congress to force them to utilize the tools of Congress–public hearings, public access, you name it–the way we did in the sixties and early seventies.

RS: Can I–please, let me just push back a little bit.

RN: Go ahead.

RS: First of all, this public that you’re celebrating may even be redundant or irrelevant to most of what these corporations are doing. For example, many of the goods that people are buying right now on Amazon, I don’t know the exact percentage, but eyeballing it, it seems that most of them are made in China or in other countries that specialize in cheap labor. And when a country like China tries to get into higher tech and design and so forth, they’re pushed back with old-fashioned jingoism. You know, and red-baiting or what have you.

So the reality is, we’re not even having any debate at all about foreign policy. Not just military policy trade policy, for example. One of the things that I thought Trump deserved some credit for, I don’t know why or how he did it, but in the NAFTA rewrite, I think it’s the first time there is actually a provision for paying workers in Mexico $16 an hour on 45% of a car that’s going to be sold in the United States, right? That’s my understanding of that rewrite, the thing that sounds like the Marine Corps, not NAFTA anymore.

But at least there was a recognition–that’s not the $40 an hour or the $50 an hour that some autoworkers have made in the past, but at least to say that someone in Mexico assembling a car for the U.S. market ought to be paid $16 an hour, that’s an important victory. No one even talks about it. And in fact, on the contrary, you have a company like Tesla which is going to leave Hayward, California, not just to go to Texas–they’re going to go to–they’re in China now, that’s their real market, that’s where their real production [is]. Because they can have a docile labor force. And so trade agreements are off the table. Wars, forever wars, are off the table. A regime change is off the table, you know? So the fact of the matter is, in much of your workforce, the union movement is primarily locked into Democratic Party local politics of cops, firemen, city workers of one kind or another. With the exception of people in–janitors and so forth, some service workers. But basically we don’t have a labor movement to provide a counterpoint.

So you know, this idea that you can just go out and reorganize Congress–the people who control Congress–when Obama made the decision to turn down public financing in the presidential election, that was the end of public financing in the presidential election. And so we know these Congressional people, some of them may be progressive, they may welcome you to their meetings. But they’re going to basically deliver on the big economic war, trade, you know, even the guaranteed $15 an hour got lost–they’re going to basically play ball with the big money people. And their power is now much greater than it ever was in the capitalist world that you were describing. Because you did have strong labor movements, you did have to produce things here, you know. And now they can produce them elsewhere, where workers don’t have a chance.

You know what I’m saying, Ralph, you know that’s a critical problem, and it’s delusionary to say oh, let’s just work harder in these Congressional districts and get people elected. Because those people will end up selling out. Because they’ll sell out to the people who can keep reelecting them and have the big money. And they’ll threaten–look what happened with medical reform. They said, you do medical reform, union workers are going to be hurt, they have good medical plans. And they actually can organize what remains of the union movement to get workers to say, yeah, I don’t want to lose my health plan. Then unemployment comes along and they find they don’t really have a health plan, you know, and they find it doesn’t serve them well.

RN: Well, corporations are very good at dividing and ruling, to be sure. But if you look at the trajectory, they’re heading toward global omnicide. It’s not only climate violence, it’s science and technology completely out of control. Look at the warnings by that famous article in Wired magazine in 2002, saying that artificial intelligence, biotech, and nanotech are going to destroy the world if they’re not brought under control. So the corporations basically don’t know when to stop. Enough is never enough. And so they love to fund wars and military contracts they don’t do very much at all about redeeming poverty, even though they’re in charge. They can’t deliver for the political economy of the world.

So things are going to get worse and worse, and pretty soon there will be either total surrender and narcissistic mass suicide, or people will say that you cannot have a moral and humane economy and government when you have artificial entities that are inherently irresponsible and unaccountable subordinating human values and civic values to the imperial commercial values. You can’t do that. The money lenders were opposed in Biblical times because it was considered sacrilegious to make money from money, and not be productive, not produce food and other things. And what we have now is an increasingly monetized economy, where more and more corporations are just making money from money. That’s what brought Boeing to where it was, from an engineering company into a financial company.

So you look at the future, and you see serfdom everywhere. Contract, fine-print contract serfdom, the courts being blocked by tort reform–wounded people can’t even get their day in court. And everywhere the doors are closing. So you say, OK, what door is still open? Members of Congress want to get reelected. They don’t get elected by corporations. They get funded by corporations in order to intimidate potential opponents. But we’ve seen that they can’t do a complete job of that. That you can pry open Congress in a whole variety of techniques and ways, from civic strategies to primary challenges, et cetera, to using the leverage of your hard core supporters in Congress more effectively, and on and on. And that’s the only tool we have under our Constitution to turn around.

Now, what is a turnaround, in addition to raising standards of living and access to justice? A major turnaround is this: that artificial entities must be subordinated Constitutionally to the supremacy of real people–OK? We the people–and the second is these giant artificial entities must be displaced by other economic institutions. Starting with consumers who don’t buy from Amazon, if they can avoid it. Who don’t buy from all these giant Walmarts and McDonald’s and so on, and start supporting local economies that are now in the tens of billions of dollars of operation. And they’re all around, and they’re much more accountable, because you can highball them.

That’s the displacement. When you go to legitimate credit unions, you weaken Bank of America. When you improve your health with diet and exercise, you weaken the drug companies and the health so-called care companies. When you develop solar energy you weaken ExxonMobil. These are all displacements. It’s two things. Subordination under the Constitution of the artificial entities called the corporate entity, to real human beings. Corporations were originally chartered in the 1800s in Massachusetts to be our servants, not our masters they were on a short lease they had to renew themselves. And now they’re our masters and we’re their servants. So one is subordination, the other is displacement. Those are the ultimate goals in order to develop societies that can fulfill human possibilities.

RS: OK, Ralph–

RN: So, if anybody has better answers, I’m open to hearing about it.

RS: I’m going to give you a better answer. And I’m doing it, again, with considerable humility. Because I think you, more than any other single individual, educated the American public to the corruption, the deceit of the large corporations and the corporate culture. So you know, I want to pay tribute to that. I want to pay tribute to that, and I think there have been enormous positive consequences and results. We do have a consumer consciousness we have a suspicion of big power we have respect for regulation. And I teach in a college, and I find there are, you know, disciples of Ralph Nader in my classes, even if they don’t know they’re disciples of Ralph Nader. OK–that’s the positive sign, and I certainly don’t want to undercut your appeal, or–you know, I respect the hell out of it.

However, I want to present–you know, you’re a good friend of Chris Hedges let me channel Chris Hedges here a little bit. The real problem is manipulation from a liberal class. And that can divide and conquer in the modern media world in ways that could not have even been imagined, even in the old Madison Avenue advertising world. That a significant number of the people in the public that should know better, sell out, in a way that I’ve never seen before. Even the very idea of selling out is no longer part of the conversation. You try to sell out–how can I sell out? And enough comes off the table so that there’s a whole group of intellectuals and professors and people like that–you can be a college professor now, and particularly if your wife is working, in between you you’re making four or five hundred thousand a year in a major university. You know, 250, 300 thousand, or $200,000 for an individual. Your children can go to private schools and avoid all the problems of the real world of public education. You know this, Ralph. You can wall yourself off and live in gated communities.

And so they’re very good at cooption. It’s not the old, you know, Ford family, you know, my way or the highway. It’s, they can buy people off. Most of the people who work in your groups, the Nader leaders and so forth, ended up selling out. They’re the liberal class now. I don’t have the data to support that it’s just my assessment, my eyeballing. [unclear] But the reality is, this modern capitalism, with its socialist base, really–all that base is, is a base of cooption. Of meritocracy–we haven’t talked about the meritocracy, these elite colleges that specialize in training the snake-oil salesmen for these big corporations. So they don’t come across as head-crackers, they come across as concerned.

That’s what the appeal is of Apple, of Google and so forth they seem enlightened on civil rights, and even workers’ rights and lifestyle differences and identity politics and so forth. They’re incredibly effective at it, which as I say is what Huxley was warning about. You know, they don’t go for the boots and the club they’ll go for this cooption. And what you have left–and that’s what you see in the Trump base, you know–you see the most alienated, the people that believed, because of their being white and their being rural and their being this, that they could survive. They’re the angriest, because they’ve been the most blatantly betrayed, and they’re not given the legs up in the meritocracy and the good SAT scores, et cetera, et cetera, to do better.

That’s the crisis of America now. You’ve got all kinds of people who can talk a good game about the environment and everything, but they’ll go work for the same companies that are specializing in waste and destroying the planet. They will, Ralph. That’s the challenge. If you’re going to give a commencement address, you’re going to have to meet that challenge. That’s what got Chris Hedges booed when he dared tell a college crowd what imperialism really was about, and the wasted lives of people all over the world, and lost his job at the New York Times for that reason.

RN: Well, you put your finger on the biggest single problem, which is the hoodwinking of tens of millions of people supporting these autocrats, plutocrats who are working against the interests of the very people who are hurrahing them–that’s the Trump rallies, for example, the Trump voters. I mean, he did everything he could, other than his rhetoric, to undermine the working class of America. He even said in his campaign he thought they were overpaid, he froze the minimum wage, he deregulated their health and safety protections. He didn’t really do anything about trade. He gave Apple a waiver on tariffs importing hundreds of billions of dollars of iPhones and computers from China. In other words, fraudulent plutocrats and oligarchs can sell a phony populist message–phony to its core–to enough people to win elections.

So I said to Chris Hedges last year, I thought he grossly understated the title of his book, The Death of the Liberal Class. Because it’s even worse since the book was published. That’s why we need a new drive of people–who don’t have this baggage, who aren’t the Ivy League sellouts, who aren’t the Hillary and Bill Clinton empire advocates and warmongers–summoning the members back to town meetings. Believe it or not, Bob, it doesn’t take more than 500 signatures on a petition to get an in-person town meeting back home responding to the agenda of the petitioners by a member of the House of Representatives.

It can be done. And once you eyeball them–no flacks, no intermediaries, in auditoriums–you have a different kind of connection operating. The politicians, fortunately, are still afraid of the people. They’re afraid of corporate retribution, to be sure, but the corporations don’t have all that many votes. Not yet, at least. So that’s an important point, that we’ve got to begin publicly talking with one another back in the Congressional districts, deprogramming some of our myths about politicians that campaign for the people and then go back to Washington and operate against the people. That’s one.

But let me just give you an operating, optimistic example. The biggest threat to what was once the most powerful industry in America, the fossil-fuel industry, the biggest threat is bubbling up solar energy, wind power, and energy conservation. It is now cheaper to go that way than to go the way of nuclear, coal, gas, and oil. Now, how did that come about? Well, first of all, they couldn’t quite monopolize everything in the country, the ExxonMobils. Second, small business started flexing their efforts here. The solar panels are being put on roofs all over the country at an accelerating rate. Energy conservation creates much more jobs than a new nuclear power plant. Repairing and retrofitting buildings and homes all over the country.

So without a ban on fossil fuels, without a graduated ban, mandatory regulation, in order to save the planet and save a lot of other things, the fossil fuel and nuclear industries–and the nuclear industry is essentially shutting down now, not fast enough for me–those industries are being displaced. Now, we have to analyze how they’re being displaced. What started their displacement? A whole number of things, including a lot of public education by environmental groups give them some credit. And the profit motive. But the profit motive is going to smaller, decentralized units. Sure, the wind power industry can be subject to concentration, but that’s another problem compared to a much more monstrous problem of greenhouse-gas emitting fossil-fuel industries and production facilities.

So you’ve got to analyze it in this way. I always thought we should analyze the successes, not just deprecate our failures and our downward trends, to see what works and what doesn’t work. I mean, there are certain clinics in this country that are working very effectively on prevention, smoking cessation, obesity reduction, diet improvement. So we ought to work on those kinds of things that don’t need Congressional power. They need neighborhood organization, the rebuilding of community in ways that are clearly, clearly favorable to the survival and prosperity of human beings, regardless of the labels they give themselves politically.

So we should talk about best practices. I’ve got a book in manuscript of 12 CEOs that I have admired over the years, that really treated their workers well, made a profit, respected the environment, et cetera, et cetera. I can’t even find a major publisher. Even with best practices, operating companies–you know, like Patagonia. Like Interface Corporation, which reached carbon neutrality a year and a half ago, out of Atlanta, Georgia, the biggest tile manufacturer in the world. You can’t even get a major publisher. So that’s the level of pessimism among publishing it has nothing to do with censorship. They want attacks leveled. They told me, when are you going to go after more corporate crooks? I said, I’ve been doing it for 60 years, isn’t it time to give some alternative standards that are better, upgraded standards? Here are these corporations, they met the bottom line and they beat their competition by doing good. So, end of sermon.

RS, RN: [Laughter]

RN: You’ve got to keep reminding your listeners of With Enough Shovels. Remember that one?

RS: Yes, I wrote it, Ralph, as you know.

RS: But I–OK, and I do want to end on a positive note. I mean, you know, you’ve been a great force in the country. And you know, pessimism can only get you so far. And I think you showed–let me pay tribute to that. I mean, the fact of the matter is, you made concern for the consumer a mass movement. And people don’t understand that. I do want to end on that. The world that I grew up in, in the fifties and sixties, celebrated Madison Avenue, celebrated these thieves and the whole corrupt imagery and the big cars and the gas guzzlers and everything else. And you were able to develop a mass movement that challenged all that, and said it’s not working, and it’s ugly and it gets people killed and it pollutes the air and everything else. And so–and you’ve kept it up. And as I said, on more than one occasion I’ve had to apologize for challenging you. And frankly, I hope I’m wrong this time. I do.

RN: No, you’re very–that’s why you’re a good interviewer, you’re provocative. But the point is, what I’d like you to do, Bob, is interview the editors of YES! magazine out of Seattle. Because they’re talking about the expansion of local economies, which I describe as displacement of giant corporations. And the spread of food coops–that’s hardly a news item. Food coops are spreading around the country, where the consumers decide what they want to sell themselves. You know, and therefore they’re going to have a higher emphasis on nutrition. They’re not going to be so seduced by exciting packaging and special sales in these giant food supermarkets. So I always thought that YES! magazine had so many concrete examples–education, health, retail organization, energy, food, housing–it never gets any attention. But they’ve documented it. They’re not talking theory, they’re talking names and places. It would be a great interview for you.

RS: Oh, I’m going to get right on it. I never heard of them, but I’m going to get right on it. And let me, as long as we’re recommending books, let me close this by saying, you know, there are different Ralph Naders, and one Ralph Nader that I have [unclear] is your family Lebanese cookbook. And it’s still for sale, right? It’s out there?

RN: Oh yes, it’s for sale. If you go to the publisher, Akashic Books, a little publisher in New York, they’ll send you an autographed copy.

RS: And Akashic Books is also the publisher of my book, one of my books. I know Johnny Temple.

RN: Oh, wonderful.

RS: I didn’t realize he published that book. I bought it in one of the few independent bookstores around, and I didn’t even look at the publisher. But it’s great, because one has in that cookbook–and this is a good way to end this–this vision of the Mediterranean cuisine, you know, Lebanese cuisine, that is both spicy and tasteful and yet is great for your health. And so I think that’s a good closing description of Ralph Nader. You’ve retained your sense of humor, you’re always up for a good debate, and you’re nourishing. [Laughs]

RN: And I thank my mother for almost all those recipes, which are relatively low in salt, sugar, and fat, and are easily purchased in supermarkets, the ingredients. And as long as more people are cooking during the COVID period, this is a great cookbook. It’s called The Ralph Nader and Family Cookbook: Classic Recipes from Lebanon and Beyond. Thank you for the plug, Bob.

RS: OK, and thank you for the interview, Ralph. And that’s it for this edition of Scheer Intelligence. Christopher Ho at KCRW, the FM station in Santa Monica–it’s a terrific one–posts this. Natasha Hakimi Zapata writes the introduction. Lucy Berbeo does the transcription. And Joshua Scheer is our executive producer. And I want to thank, I don’t know if you knew Jean Stein well she wrote Edie, she wrote other books, and very important. But I want to thank the JWK Foundation in memory of Jean Stein for supporting these interviews. That’s it for this edition of Scheer Intelligence. See you next week.

Latest Updates

Over four decades, Mr. Ditlow badgered the traffic safety administration for more stringent standards, saying its leaders were often political appointees reluctant to move against the powerful auto industry.

He also became the industry’s fiercest critic, issuing scathing reports on defective vehicles and related problems ranging from child car-seat flaws to dangerously designed engine mounts. He testified at scores of congressional hearings on safety and warranty issues, consumer protection, air pollution and fuel economy, and he pushed for myriad recalls.

There were 51 million vehicle recalls in the United States in 2015, including millions for defective Takata airbags. In 2014, 2.6 million G.M. cars were recalled worldwide for a deadly ignition-switch defect in 2013, 1.6 million Jeeps for exploding gas tanks in 2009 and 2010, more than 10 million Toyotas for sudden acceleration. In the 1970s, 1.5 million Ford Pintos — half of all those produced — were recalled for fuel-tank fires in rear-end collisions.

In addition to millions of other recalls in the 1980s and ’90s, Mr. Ditlow and his organization achieved lemon laws in all 50 states to protect consumers. Over the last 25 years, he also served on the boards of Consumers Union, the environmental group Friends of the Earth and the Canadian highway and the auto safety organization Automobile Protection Association.

He often sought data under the Freedom of Information laws and sometimes found shocking unintended revelations. In 1978, he discovered a secret internal memo that raised questions about the safety of Firestone 500 steel-belted radial tires sold in the ’70s. A dozen deaths resulted from blowouts caused by tires that overheated. He pressed the issue, and 15 million tires were recalled.

Jackie Gillan, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, called Mr. Ditlow “the ‘Sherlock Holmes’ for auto safety when it came to investigating and identifying faulty vehicle systems.”

She added, “He was a trusted ally, and his veracity made him an indispensable resource to the safety and consumer communities, elected officials, government agencies, the media and the public.”

Clarence Mintzer Ditlow III was born on Jan. 26, 1944, one of three children of Clarence Mintzer Ditlow Jr. and the former Myrtice Lamb, and grew up in Camp Hill, Pa. His father was a service manager at a Chevrolet dealership in Harrisburg, Pa. He earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Lehigh University in Pennsylvania in 1965. After working for five years as a patent examiner in the United States Patent Office, he received a juris doctorate from Georgetown University in 1970 and a master’s degree in law at Harvard in 1971.

Drawn by Mr. Nader’s crusading for consumers, Mr. Ditlow, in the late ’60s, joined what the press called “Nader’s Raiders,” young volunteers who investigated the Federal Trade Commission and in their reports found it to be “passive” and “ineffective.”

A formal study by the American Bar Association then led to an overhaul that emphasized more aggressive consumer protections and antitrust enforcement.

Later, Mr. Ditlow joined another Nader spinoff, the Public Interest Research Group, which lobbied for consumer protections, environmental regulations and other progressive goals. He was a lawyer for the group until 1976, when, at Mr. Nader’s behest, he took over the Center for Auto Safety.

Mr. Ditlow, who lived in Washington, is survived by his wife, Marilyn J. Herman, and a sister.

He continued the fight into his last months. This year, he urged that auto executives who had concealed dangerous defects in their products be criminally prosecuted. And in a USA Today blog in August, he argued that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was endangering lives by not issuing standards on driverless vehicles.

141 Comments on “Ralph Nader: Unsafe at Any Age. ”

It must be noted that GM had decided in April 1965 to cancel Corvair, letting it perish on the vine, so to speak.

Poor fall 1959 sales, relative to the Ford Falcon, drove GM’s decision to develop an alternative, conventional compact…the Chevy II.

So Corvair became an outlier almost from the start. The sporty Monza package, introduced at the end of the 1960 model year, gave Corvair a new direction, and became the spark from which Ford developed the Mustang. But the bump in sales, while enough for GM to do a redesign for the 1965 MY, wasn’t enough for them to continue developing the line.

“Unsafe At Any Speed” was merely another nail in Corvair’s coffin.

The inherent dangers of the single-swinging rear axle were exacerbated by a number of last-minute cost-cutting decisions, like switching to cast-iron heads which added 78 lbs to the rear end.

Aaron Severson wrote an OUTSTANDING Corvair history here.

He correctly notes the car launched Nader’s career…but his book didn’t kill the car. That ship had already sailed.

“Six degrees” side effect of poor Corvair sales, which resulted, as noted above, in the Chevy II: ChryCo president William Newberg, overhearing and misinterpreting a conversation about Chevy II…

I own two Corvairs, a 󈨅 Corsa convertible and a 󈨆 Monza coupe. I can assure you the cylinder heads are aluminum.

If anything, the release of “Unsafe” forced GM to continue building the Corvair despite falling sales. To kill it at that point would make it look like they were caving in to Nader and admitting there was a problem. They made 237,056 cars in 1965, 103,743 in 1966, 27,253 in 1967 (but remember that the Camaro was out now so who wanted a Corvair? Especially with the top level Corsa gone.), 15,399 in 1968 and just 6,000 cars in 1969.

A bit of trivia is that the last two cars off the line were never registered, anywhere, ever. There’s theories that GM either has them hidden away somewhere or they sent them straight to the crusher.

What REALLY killed the Corvair is that you can’t put a bigger, more powerful engine in it without changing to a mid-engine design (Crown conversion, etc.) and losing the back seat area. GM engineers did try using a rear mounted aluminum Buick V8 and an aluminum version of the 283 but both were deemed too heavy.

the Chevy II (Nova) killed the Corvair. it was a more conventional car of similar size, and buyers preferred the familiarity.

My first car was a Chevy II Nova and in many ways I hated it simply because it was so ‘ordinary’. But then, that little inline 6 under the hood was virtually unkillable, if you didn’t overheat it and crack the block. Mine had a cracked block when I bought it and had to buy a new engine block that cost as much as what I paid for the car.

But then, _I_ didn’t buy the car, my father did, using MY money. I wanted a 󈧿 Impala for sale at a local used-car lot instead.

“What REALLY killed the Corvair is that you can’t put a bigger, more powerful engine in it without changing to a mid-engine design (Crown conversion, etc.) and losing the back seat area.”

Interesting. There’s a car company out of Stuttgart that didn’t seem to have this problem. Maybe they just have a better sense of humor?

“Interesting. There’s a car company out of Stuttgart that didn’t seem to have this problem. Maybe they just have a better sense of humor?”

Well, true, but then again, Porsche never sold 200,000 911s a year, and the people who did buy them tended to be enthusiasts who respected the car’s unique handling traits.

Folks who bought Corvairs were used to driving front engine / rear drive cars, and if you drive a rear-engine car quickly using the same technique you’d use on a conventional car, you’ll find yourself in trouble very quickly.

Same phenomenon happens today – the average car has FWD, and if you drive one hard, it’ll just plow its way through corners. You use the throttle to pull it through. Use the same technique in some high-powered RWD V8 car, like a Corvette or Mustang, and without the nanny systems you’ll end up sideways VERY quickly.

Also Porsche has been moving the engine towards the center of the chassis generation after generation since the 996.

You don’t ‘use throttle to pull it through” the corners in an understeering FWD car, you get off the throttle to transfer weight forward. Adding throttle only increases understeer in a production FWD model.

Only when you’re in severe oversteer (likely only in a race-tuned FWD) would you be using power to reduce your slide.

You’re half right, Ol Shel. You use enough brake to shift the balance forward and feather the gas to keep it pulling. Front-wheel-drive cars have been known to out-maneuver RWD in races because they are able to start accelerating much earlier through curves. It’s all in the skill of the driver, who admittedly isn’t always as skilled as they want to believe.

From what I’ve been able to find out, the Buick 215 V8 and Corvair engine both weigh right around 300 lbs, so if they rejected that for the Corvair, it wasn’t due to weight. If they used a water-cooled V8, they would have had to add a radiator somewhere, significantly reengineering the front end. The aluminum Buick V8 had a short production life at GM (it stayed in production at Rover into the 21st century) for a few reasons. Early production castings had a very high reject rate, it was relatively expensive to make and the technology for casting thin wall iron blocks was improved to the point of practicality

I just visited, and I will vouch for the fact that it is a terrific site.

I often photograph classic cars, and many years ago (somewhere in the mid-latter 󈨞s) I shot a second generation Corvair with a license plate that said BUM RAP.

Yup, the Corvair was launched down a dead end.

The story of the Corvair starts with the success of the VW Beetle in the US market during the 1950s. At first car execs dismissed the popularity of the VW as a flash in the pan. They assumed that the VW was being bought by people who were poor, or stupid, or communists, or all of above. By the late 50s it became clear that the Beetle had tapped into market niche that US car companies were not exploiting. Ford’s response was to conduct a careful study of new VW buyers. What they found out was astonishing to Ford execs. The buyers of a new Beetles, on average were better off financially than the average new American car buyer. In addition, new VW buyers were better educated than the average new US car buyer.

The study also asked VW owners why they bought their Beetles. Common answers were: Easy to drive and park. Reliable. Cheap to maintain and repair. Good on gas, etc. Ford decided to design a car that had the same attributes as the Beetle, not copy the Beetle mechanically. The car Ford designed was the Falcon.

The Falcon utilized a conventional American car layout. Front mounted, liquid-cooled engine. Rear wheel drive, etc. Many of the bits used in the Falcon were common to other Fords. The car did not require any special assembly lines or training of dealer techs. When the Falcon went on sale, it was the best selling new design in US auto history, only to be outdone by the 65 Mustang, itself a Falcon derivative.

Over at GM, arrogance was the order of the day. GM didn’t need no stinkin’ surveys. They winged it. They built the Murican version of the VW….mother of Beetle. What they ended up with was a car that was unlike any other built by GM, it shared almost no other components with existing GM models. Dealers needed special tools and training to service the car. Costs began to skyrocket. In desperation GM tried cut corners wherever it could. One of the places they cheaped-out was on the rear suspension. Maybe it would have made no diff on an enthusiasts car, but on a family car it was murder.

It wasn’t Ralph who offed the Corvair, it was GM management. Sound familiar?

The first person I knew with a Beetle was a parental friend who was a Harvard economics professor. The common American cars in my neighborhood growing up, which was full of well-educated people, were the unusually reliable Valiants and Darts. I don’t remember any Falcons, except for a beater that my father got from his engine rebuilder friend after the Chevy II got totaled, when he just wanted a car for the next 9 months or so, until we went away on sabbatical. (There was an unusually high concentration of Peugeots as well.)

Considering all of the academically lightweight stuff that goes on at today’s universities, it’s a shame that Aaron Severson doesn’t have a faculty position at a college doing automotive history. I consider anything Aaron writes to be reliable – particularly because he’ll revise earlier published work if his later research demands it. I think that I do a pretty decent job but Ate Up With Motor is the gold standard for online automotive history.

Because the job prospects of automotive history majors are so overwhelmingly lucrative?

I can think of a few worse majors.

If he has the credentials, he could teach ethics at the old GMI (Kettering University).

I am serious about one thing on this subject. Driving along the interstate, you couldn’t keep the damn thing out of the neighboring field to save your life. It just happened too fast.

Time has shown the problem was tire pressure plus adding an additional piece to the undercarriage. Nader just exposed a problem that put my college roommate into a field four different times. You can’t sell ‘unsafe at any speed’ once the word gets out.

How GM executives covered their collective asses is interesting but unimportant.

Nice swipe, Ronnie….I’ll be sure to add that to my wall of things people say that I don’t care about. :)

There are really two reasons: Automotive History writers tend to come from the journalist community and they tend to be considered ‘hobby historians’ which is a polite term for people who write history about pop culture.

The second and bigger reason is that business history encompasses this kind of discussion but takes it into a far more in-depth study of the businesses themselves, Nader’s impact on them, and usually are part of the business school’s department as a faculty member, not in the History Department. Occasionally they’ll end up as an economic historian in the Economics department. In all cases they tend to have an MA in History and a PhD in the two fields that they’re primarily in.

I agree, Ronnie, and have expressed that opinion many times. I have yet to hear any negativity concerning his writing from any circle. The way he footnotes and carefully constructs his articles makes them feel ready for publication. Anywhere. Library of Congress?

I hold him responsible for letting “president Cheney” and his is little lap-dog George Bush steal the 2000 election. The lives Nader may have saved by car safety regulations are outweighed by those lost in the unjustified Bush/Cheney wars.

I’m inclined to agree, though Nader pretends otherwise. He’s not convincing on this at all.

Gore won the popular vote. Besides, it was the Supreme Court and “hanging chads” that gave that election to Bush.

I was expecting some Nader hatred but it’s subdued so far.

I think that most Americans know that the Electoral College elects the POTUS and Vice President. Individual voters do not elect them. That’s why there is such low participation in voter turn-out.

Didn’t realize that (from this side of the Atlantic). Question remains if Gore would have reacted differently on 9/11. If so, the world would have been different today.

It would have been the exact same had Gore won, the only difference is the media and their minions would have hailed Gore a hero for saving the world from danger in the suddenly “justified” war.

Not exactly. Although Democratic Presidents tend to overreact, afraid of being accused of being soft on foreign threats (like Obama is blamed now).

However, I do think that the combination of “Halliburton oil interests”Cheney, Gung Ho Rumsfeld and “finish the job dad forgot” Bush Jr. formed a deadly cocktail.

Or, it’s possible that Gore’s administration might not have downplayed the intelligence that was ignored by the Bush admin in the prelude to 9/11 – and the attack may have been thwarted.

After all, Clinton tried multiple times to eliminate Bin Laden. It’s entirely possible that Gore’s team – which would have probably carried over some Clinton officials – would have tried again.

Of course it’s all speculative and it could have just as easily still happened. Not having the Wolfowitz/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Rice gang of profit-driven neocons at the controls in the aftermath, though, would have assuredly made the completely unrelated Iraq invasion far less likely.

I believe that the immediate post-9/11 response would have been similar – perhaps with more nation-building, instead of the “blow the place up and let’s go home” approach the Bush administration took (and which we’re still paying for).

In addition, there would not have been the fiasco that was the Iraq invasion. That was a very personal project of Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld.

Still, all we can know is that we’ll never know.

Way back in the 󈨔s even, one common phrase in my ears was “Nuke ’em ’til they glow!” This was about the time of the bombing raid on Tripoli that narrowly missed Muammar Gaddafi.

First of all, Gore probably wouild not have ignored the intelligence that something was brewing, and I think it’s very likely 9-11 would have been stopped before it happened.

Second of all, Gore would have understood that Iraq had nothing to do with it, and would simply have gone after Bin Ladin (sp?) and brought him to justice.

Bush wanted the war in order to outdo his father, by getting rid of Saddam, and Cheney/Halliburton wanted it in order to get hands on more oil.

Nader is not the only thing that got in the way of Gore’s becoming president. The five Supreme Court justices who gave the election to Bush deserve a lot of that blame–more than Nader, I’d say, because it was legally such a p!ss poor decision. One could blame Clinton for allowing the Lewinsky scandal to happen, which led Gore to downplay Clinton in the campaign…

Agreed with David. Whether a Gore administration would have stopped 9/11 is a good question (my bet is that it wouldn’t have)…but would have they invaded Iraq? Not a chance.

Only Bush – who was looking for payback for Iraq threatening his dad – would have been dumb enough to do that.

But there is this: Bush definitely DID go after Bin Laden. There’s no doubt about that. If nothing else, it’d have been a huge political win for him – look at the boost it gave Obama.

Don’t forget the nearly $40B of contacts–many of them of the ‘no-bid’ variety–that went to Halliburton to supply troops with substandard services. Cheney himself made tens–perhaps hundreds, I don’t think anyone knows for sure–millions of dollars enough to keep financing his loser daughter’s losing political campaigns for decades.

Al Gore??
The all time hypocrite of our time.
Talk about someone who sells himself for power and money!
The live as I tell you not as I live Libby.
David…this is silly presumption stuff.
That Gore would have “probably” anything is silly.
And his predictions on global warming are embarrassing.
This is the very same hypocrite that sold his soul to big tobacco even after his sister dies from lung cancer.
Really…find another hero and stick to car talk.

And this whole revision of history going on right now is stunning.
But revision and 20/20 hindsight seems to be the entire base for this Nader feature. Isn’t that what these losers do?

Oh, and by the way…see I didn’t think we invaded Iraq due to 9/11? I thought that was Afghanistan!
I thought, and this shows my inability to revise history, that we invaded Iraq cause of WMDs.
And this will set off another round of history revisions.

“supply troops with substandard services”

Like improperly grounded electrical systems in shower rooms installed by KBR (Halliburton subsidiary) that killed 12 US soldiers in Iraq?

The irony “writ large” (Thanks George Carlin) here is that the monster Cheney is kept alive to this day by an implanted defibrillator.

You just can’t make this stuff up.

mr.cranky > I was expecting some Nader hatred but it’s subdued so far.

Please don’t wake the dinosaurs.

“Please don’t wake the dinosaurs.”

The dinosaurs are awake, nrcote. I can’t tell you how much I hate all the ‘nannies’ we have on our cars today because of him.

“Gore won the popular vote. Besides, it was the Supreme Court and “hanging chads” that gave that election to Bush.”

Leaving out the whole hanging chad question, in Florida, Gore lost by 537 votes and Nader got 97,488 votes.

There’s your answer. Nader cost Gore the election. No doubt about it.

The only person who cost Gore the election is Gore. He couldn’t even win his home state and ran a terrible campaign. Nader had every right to run for president.

A “terrible” campaign yet he won the popular vote? That’s an interesting assertion.

Let’s see: the decisive state Gore happens to “lose” in by a ludicrously thin margin also happens to be the one where there are oodles of bizarre irregularities AND where his opponent’s brother – well-known for his own legacy of corruption – is conveniently governor. Nevermind that the ultimate decision is made not by voters but by the Supreme Court.

Nope, nothing peculiar about that. Just a terrible campaign, that’s all. Right.

No one runs a campaign to win the popular vote. Bush didn’t and neither did Gore. It’s irrelevant to the final outcome. Yes I agree Florida was stolen from Gore, but why did Gore put himself in a situation that he had to win Florida? Gore ran a boring centrist campeign and the best he could do was present himself as “Republican Light” He simply expected progressives to show up and vote for him. Instead many stayed home or voted for Nader instead.

@twotone: There was not a single vote count – popular or electoral – in which Gore ‘won’. Bush stole nothing.

People who despise the electoral college forget that it is patterned after the structure of Congress. If you want elections decided by popular vote only, then we should eliminate the Senate, which gives equal voice to every state.

And if you really want only popular votes in national elections and decision making, then we should eliminate the concept of statehood. Then you’ll see how little your vote can matter.

I disagree completely, SCE.

The whole electoral college nonsense does one thing: it suppresses votes. In red states, where the Democrat is guaranteed to lose big, lots of Democratic voters stay home. Same holds true of Republican voters in a state like California or Illinois – they might as well write in the Deez Nuts guy.

(Come to think of it he might be better than anyone running this year…)

And in a close election, why does Florida basically get to decide the whole race?

Getting rid of the electoral college makes EVERY American’s vote count. As it stands, only the votes in the contested states really count. And we wonder why turnout is so low? There’s your answer.

The US president serves both the people and the states. This is a byproduct of American history, which brought thirteen different entities together with some conflicting interests and unequal weight into a single union. (Keep in mind that the US began with the Articles of Confederation, and that the states had to agree to cede powers in order to switch to the current constitutional form of government.)

Without the electoral college or something like it, we wouldn’t have a constitution in the first place, as the lower population states would never have agreed to it.

I would suggest that you read the Federalist Papers so that you understand why the electoral college exists and why it continues to make sense today.

It’s threads like this that remind me why I don’t go to an automotive site for political analysis.

“There was not a single vote count – popular or electoral – in which Gore ‘won’. Bush stole nothing.”

I want some of what you’ve been smokin’. Gore won the popular vote by more than a half a million people. Technically, you are correct- Bush didn’t steal the election. Fast Kathy and the juror’s juror, Tony Scalia, did it for him.

I meant in Broward County, Florida. Obviously, Gore won the popular vote nationally, but you have to win the popular vote in each district to win the electoral votes. This did not happen for Gore in any vote count in that county.

Florida decided the national election because:
a) The national contest was closely contested in terms of total electoral votes,
b) The Florida contest was closely contested,
c) Florida’s 25 electoral votes mattered in the national count. A smaller state’s electoral votes wouldn’t have made a difference that year, and bigger states’ votes weren’t that close.

Popular vote counting is ‘popular’, but unconstitutional because it degrades the value of statehood and local interests. Read up on the value of the bicameral legislature, which dates back to the 17th century:

It’s a good system, but those who want to get rid of it don’t realize how marginalized they will become if that happens. You’d end up with the population centers around the country dictating your local policies.

Don’t like red light cameras? Too bad. Maybe the voters in the big cities do, and so your little town gets them. Or perhaps the voters in flyover country decide they’re not interested in public transportation investment then the big cities suffer.

Local interests matter the bicameral system exists to protect them, while honoring common interests as well.

I think the 2000 election showed how valuable every vote really is – or can be, not the opposite.

That’s a good argument for states, and why we have a Senate, but it has nothing to do with the electoral college. Small states carry few electoral votes, so they don’t matter much anyway.

The problem with the electoral college is that, as it is, only the few swing states seem to matter. The candidates don’t even bother campaigning in states where they are behind on the polls. I moved from Georgia, a heavily red state, to CA, a heavily blue state. I have not seen single television ad for president in about the last 20 years.

And if we did use the popular vote, no one can say Gore would have won vs. Bush, as that assumes voter turnout is not influenced by the rules of the game.

“you have to win the popular vote in each district to win the electoral votes.”

Not exactly. 48 states and DC are winner-take-all, so it makes no difference who wins at the county and local level.

Nebraska and Maine are exceptions, with each congressional district getting one electoral vote, with the remaining two going to the winner.

In effect, the US has 51 presidential elections (each state, plus DC), or 54 if you consider that Maine has its two districts and Nebraska has its three.

well…then equally maddening to other folks is the winning of Clinton over Bush due to that whiny smart little twit from Texas.

I certainly do. I’m probably the only person in the country to have voted for Jesse Jackson, Ross Perot, and George W. Bush in various primaries and elections.

The US could possibly end up with a 3-way contest this year, too. Part of me hopes for that all of me fears it.

maddening to me is that 20-some-odd years after I gained the right to vote, there was a non-zero chance that I would again be faced with the choice between Clinton and Bush (until he quit.)

Reading this thread, I have to wonder if there is anyone here who would in 20-20 hindsight, vote for Mr. Bush over Mr. Gore. I have this unsettling feeling the answer is yes.

I would vote for Bush again. He was a great president.

Personally, I am looking forward to the Trump victory in November. The victory is certain since Trump will have no problem prosecuting the case against Hillary and her predator husband Bill. For Hillary, she had better hope she wins the election else Trump will make sure Hillary and Bill are prosecuted after the FBI indites.

Fine about the article, but what’s with the “unsafe at any age” thing? Is it meant to be ironic?

I wondered that, too. I suppose it to mean that Mr Nader still exerts powerful influence.

“Ralph Nader probably wouldn’t have made it to this ripe old age if the industry hadn’t made design changes…”

Doubtful, as Nader doesn’t own a car. You’re essentially saying that it’s more likely than not that you would be killed behind the wheel if you drove a 1960 model car until age 82. I don’t think a statistical analysis would support such a conclusion.

I believe the writer intended to suggest that Nader would have been pierced by some other driver’s pointy tailfin tip, like those on the 1959-60 Cadillac. Or plowed under by a car with a slanted-forward front end like that of the 1963-65 Riviera. Both types of potentially dangerous design were mentioned in Nader’s book.

Hey, you can say what ever you want about 󈨄 Corvairs, but leave the 󈨄 Rivieras out of this!
Interesting, we had the Riviera for over 30 years, and I had never heard that said about one before. My father, who bought the car, did like the fact that “it looks like it’s speeding while it’s standing still,” though.

I was about to quote the same paragraph, it doesn’t even make sense, how did this mans book save his life?

Right industry Ralph. NRA would’ve JFKayed ya..

Sure, because the car industry never resists reform, and the NRA has its opponents shot to death.

Whatever the reason, the climate for gun sales these days is phenomenal.

Maybe Yahoo should start selling high tech, Silicon Valley posh, 3D-printed firearms.

I’m reasonably certain that 3D-printed components are already available on the market. I prefer the genuine article should I need it.

But the Receiver assembly of the AR-15 is what worries BATF. That’s normally where the serial number is engraved. A Receiver without a serial number is untraceable.

All the other components are already available through mail-order. You can order everything mail order except the receiver assembly to customize your original weapons. HUGE market.

The Clint Eastwood movie, “In The Line Of Fire” featured a functional plastic gun that could easily be made using a 3D printer.

News sources have also featured stories and live demonstrations on 3D-printed gun components.

Unintended consequences of technical advances in the printer industry.

“The Clint Eastwood movie, “In The Line Of Fire” featured a functional plastic gun that could easily be made using a 3D printer.”

Yes, and in Die Hard 2 they said a “Glock 7” (which doesn’t exist) was ceramic and couldn’t be seen by metal detectors.

If Hollywood is telling you something about firearms, it’s safe to assume it’s wrong.

The 3D printed gun thing is real:

They’re still evolving. I think they require special ammunition to keep from blowing apart, but the technology is evolving quickly. I wouldn’t want to shoot one. One little hidden flaw in the barrel and boom.

“I wouldn’t want to shoot one. One little hidden flaw in the barrel and boom.”

Not a big issue for jihadists, though.

Look at the plastic gun as the Derringer of this age or the modern Saturday Night Special – only good for short range work, easily concealed, and cheap enough to throw away after one use.

And like Shaker wrote, Jihadists and assassins don’t care.

As far as the plastic guns blowing up? Unlikely since there is no gas pressure built-up except in the chamber holding the shell and the “barrel” has no rifling.

People used to make guns out of hand-held metal tubing and history shows us that they were successfully fired. Not accurate but effective enough to to wound, maim and kill.

Getting ammo (at least here in the People’s Republic on New Jersey) is another story.

TomHend, that’s why so many gun fans do their own reloading. Or, if they get too old and impatient, they get people like me who have the equipment to do it for them.

Getting powder here (NJ) is almost impossible.

Ditto in California where people bring it in from surrounding states, along with hard-to-get ammo. And that’s just the legal way.

The illegal transactions are too numerous to detail here.

Criminals do not have any problem getting guns and ammo they want, only the law-abiding gun fans do.

To wit the San Berdoo shootings recently. No way of knowing how many of those people killed or wounded would have carried a gun, if they only had been allowed to do so.

That’s what happens when people live in a state where only criminals and terrorists are allowed to have guns.

I suppose they could always move away – and many have.

Guns and ammo are only a fraction of the underground economy where the illegal trade in tobacco products dominate. State Commerce Law Enforcement works harder to intercept the tobacco traders than they do the guns and ammo traders.

To me that seems odd. But loss of taxes on clandestine tobacco products are the driving force behind that rationale.

I really don’t care that much about figures like mr. Nader. Even when the cause is righteous (and they all are presented as such) I find myself with a limited supply of respect for outrage merchants of any stripe.

My complaint about Nader is his contribution to the idea that, if an idiot can hurt himself by misusing a product, the solution is to idiot proof the product, restrict its use to a level the idiot can handle, or ban the product entirely rather than hold the idiot responsible for his folly and let him suffer the consequences.

The solution to all of these so-called “problems” is to let the majority suffer for the sake of the minority that can’t figure out how to get out of the path of a train.

One-piece steering columns were among safety issues mentioned in Unsafe at Any Speed. How does the “majority suffer” when steering columns are required to be collapsible upon impact? Surely whatever expense was undergone by the carmakers in switching to an energy-absorbing design (such as GM did for all its 1967 cars) was amortized in a very short time, and many people lived who otherwise would have been skewered on steering columns during the past 50 years. You object even to this? If not, where do you draw the line?

My biggest complaints are ABS and ESC. They may work excellently most of the time, but when you really need them is when they fail to work properly and when you DON’T want them to work, they work too well.

gottacook, it all depends on how well the safety devices work and on whether they compromise other features.

In the case of energy absorbing steering columns, how long was it before steering designs recovered the sensitivity of a solid shaft? We have seen the same with power steering. Nothing is as good as unassisted steering. Hydraulic assist, which has had decades of development, is better than electric.

Despite Vulpine’s objection, I like ABS and ESC overall. However, there are some conditions in which non-ABS braking works better. The first Audis with ABS had a switch to disable it at the driver’s discretion. That’s long gone. When added to a well designed suspension system, ESC can save you when you finally exceed the car’s limits. However, it can also be a crutch for a lazy engineering team. They can dial down the ESC threshold to make up for poor suspension design.

Some systems, like automatic braking and lane departure control, can actually be dangerous. If the car’s solution to an emergency is different from the driver’s, they will end up fighting each other. The last thing I want is a car that decides to brake hard when I tell it to accelerate and steer around an obstacle. Roofs have been strengthened to support the entire weight of a vehicle during roll over accidents. The price for this is thicker A pillars wide enough to hide and entire vehicle on a cross street. This safety “improvement” merely trades roll overs for side impacts.

“Despite Vulpine’s objection, I like ABS and ESC overall.”

As I said, they work great under “ideal” conditions. Through personal experience I have had…

A) Anti-lock brakes assume I was at a dead stop while sliding down the road at 15mph on ice on a downhill curve. Let off the brakes and I’d have enough control to steer. The instant I touched the brakes… not even enough to feel their effect on a dry road, I was sliding again. The old style of gently ‘pumping’ the brakes manually wasn’t even an option for me.

B) ESC assumed I was putting down too much torque because one wheel spun slightly as I was punching through an ice barrier trying to drive my JEEP, of all vehicles, out of my own driveway through the wall put up by a snow plow. killing power so much that momentum alone managed to roll me through far enough for my front tires to find traction. No, I had not turned off ESC on that occasion because I had never, EVER felt it kick on prior to that time… not even off road at Rousch Creek in Pennsylvania. There’s a reason for limited-slip differentials and the JKU carries two of them. (Optional at the time.)

“In the case of energy absorbing steering columns, how long was it before steering designs recovered the sensitivity of a solid shaft?”

did anyone really care about that? We’re talking about cars which had 4+ turns lock-to-lock and recirculating-ball steering gears (which loosen up right away) connected to the wheel via a rag joint.

With respect to the steering column: I drove a 1966 Pontiac Bonneville for many years and its steering was barge-like. Likewise my grandparents’ 1967 Bonneville with the redesigned steering column. In that case at least – with only slight other differences such as 400 versus 389 motor – if there was any difference, it was negligible.

That is the principle applied in Ontario which is a ‘no fault’ system and to occupational health and safety accident investigations. Why the worker did it does not matter. What counts is how they were able to do it. And that should then be engineered out.

So it is a system that works, to the benefit of the majority, as we all make mistakes.

“…that should then be engineered out.”

In late summer of 1965, a sweet young thing let me drive her Corvair Monza Spyder to do some errands while she finished her shift at the Hi-D-Ho Drive-In.

That was one tail-happy car. It just had too much power and driving it felt like the tail wagging the dog if you pushed the go-pedal a bit too much.

VW’s Bug never had that problem because it was underpowered. But Porsches did because they also had too much power. Driving a Porsche requires special driving skills. Ditto the Corvair.

Most Americans were incapable of handling the Corvair. Something that could not be engineered out.

Agreed, the Beetle and Corvair were “mass market” cars.

A Porsche 911/912 even then was considered an enthusiasts sports car. Expectations were different.

My mom’s brother, a German-born American like my mom, was a Porsche fan. But even he, a long-time Porsche owner, respected the car.

At the time of the Corvair most Americans were used to the handling characteristics of the heavy metal American Yank Tanks then on the market.

“… if an idiot can hurt himself by misusing a product, the solution is to idiot proof the product…”

Now you know why the AK-47 was invented, even though the M-16 is a better-engineered weapon, and a soldier must be able to understand how to properly care for it!

I heard on the news that the AK-47 will be made in America now too. But I missed where.

No news on the AK-74 though.

You really crack me up, HDC. Just yesterday you wrote:
“And why are other commenters allowed to advocate their political, environmental, pro-union and/or homosexual agenda without repercussions or fear of being banned for life when such blatant activism rubs other commenters the wrong way and elicits commentary retorts risking being banned for life?”

And the very next day, you wade into discussions on guns and politics. And while today you haven’t written anything too extreme, controversial or offensive today, you often do.

To turn around and act all innocent and complain that others foist their pro-union and homosexual agendas on you is truly rich.

VoGo, I did not initiate the discussion.

FYI, you’re lucky that I just happened to catch your comment. Normally I just skip over them.

Yeah, that’s what we need…more AK-47s.

There’s a big difference between having the right to do something and that something being the right thing to do. That’s what I think people don’t get about the whole gun debate – lost in all this discussion of rights is the whole question of whether having these many firearms around helps or hurts the country overall. Clearly, it ain’t helping.

We could cut down on the number of guns that get into the hands of crooks quite simply: stop buying so many of them. That’d work without tinkering with the Bill of Rights. But as it is, we as a nation buy so many firearms that it’s no mystery why so many get into the hands of criminals. It’s no mystery why gun control legislation mainly fails – the sheer volume of them is impossible to fully regulate. This is the same reason the “war on drugs” failed.

Ban weapons that some nutcase could use to shoot 70 people in a theater in a minute and a half, make all firearm sales subject to a background check, and decide as a nation to stop buying so many of the legal weapons, and you’ll see a drop in gun violence. With fewer weapons floating around out there, the authorities would be better able to actually go after people who sell them illegally. None of this is unconstitutional. It just takes common sense.

Arsenal in LV and Definitive Arms out of FL already manufacture 74s. The ammunition is the issue as it is only made in Russia and the round isn’t popular enough to be made here.

Thanks. Learned something from you today.

I’ve been keeping busy custom reloading 30.06, .308, .223, 9mm, .45ACP, .44 S&W AutoMag, .44Mag, .38 and .357, the latter three in Slug as well as Copperclad and Hollow Point.

And this in spite of these calibers being dirt cheap OTC, the demand for Brass and reloads is insane.

and most of that Russian stuff is steel, and indoor ranges won’t allow it.

All fine calibers but truthfully I’d really like to shoot the 5.45吣 as opposed to the .223/5.56 but its just too limited to make the financial investment. I wanted a .308 battle rifle in the worst way in the fall but after much research I ended up not pulling the trigger. I also wouldn’t mind a .300 blackout AR but by the time you build it right (NFA stamp x 2 + suppressor) you’re in the rifle 2K and only get similar ballistics to 7.62吣 with the nice bonus of suppressed fire. Then I was thinking 6.8 Grendel and then its expensive/rare ammunition in a 1K-1500 rifle with the main feature being longer punch than 5.56 x 45 and .300 blackout in a reusable AR-15 chassis. See the thing is there are just too many good calibers and you just want to collect them all.

That’s a good point but it varies from range to range. The one I belong to is building an indoor rifle range and when I asked there wasn’t going to be an issue with steel.

28 – I understand. And it is exactly that personal-preference demand, like yours, that has set the market on fire. Too much demand, not enough readily available supply.

I got to shoot a Barrett .50 BMG sniper rifle at the shooting meet in Texas I attended last month. $5 per reloaded shot. Nearly wrecked my right shoulder. Would love to own one as an investment to pass down to my kids, but at $20K a pop, sans ammo, too rich for me.

But if you’re really interested to go after what you want, go to and let it be known that you’re looking.

I helped my friend with a Gun Show in ABQ Valentine’s Day weekend, and there are some real jewels on the market – anything you want, just bring money.

This is a highly debatable argument.

Yes…social saviors like this and then there are the modern comedians hell bent on being cynical for the sake of humor, they never really create or do anything themselves.
Comedians make a living making fun of other’s who put themselves out front and these do-gooders destroy the buildings and creations others tried to put forth.
They never fail cause they never do anything.
They just make a living at pointing out other’s fallibilities and errors.
They are the KINGS of hindsite. The 20/20 generals of history.
They couldn’t give direction to anybody on what to do when building…just tell you what you built wrong.

FreedMike, over the past twenty to thirty years, the number of firearms in private hands has doubled. Concealed carry has been legalized in most states. A few states require no permit at all. During that time, the violent crime rate has dropped in half. While correlation doesn’t imply causation, you can’t have causation without correlation. Your claim that more guns leads to more crime isn’t supported by the data.

Many years ago, a study attempted to show that crime was higher in Seattle, Washington, which had loose gun control, than in Vancouver, Canada, which had much tighter gun control. When the data were re-analyzed, with controls for differences in demographics, the crime rate was found to be the same in both cities.

Cities with high crime rates (e.g. Chicago, Baltimore and Washington, DC) blame their problems on black market guns imported illegally from places with loose gun control. They fail to mention that crime rates are far lower in the source areas. That’s easier than dealing with their own violent criminals.

One of the mothers of the Columbine shooters argues that the event might not have occurred had it been more difficult for the two boys to obtain firearms. Actually, it already was impossible for them to obtain firearms legally. They did so through illegal “straw purchases” made by friends on their behalf. She conveniently fails to mention that their principal weapons were intended to be bombs. The guns were just a backup in case the bombs failed. Had they been competent bomb builders, the body count would have been in the hundreds.

It all goes back to the same nanny-state philosophy: dumb down the world to suit the lowest, or worst, common denominator.

Ralph Nader, patron saint of the mother hen with a badge and a gun.

One person chits and they will not rest until they have all of the rest of us in diapers.

Yeah, this is the first time I’ve seen someone blame Ralph Nader for putting him in diapers. There must be a great story behind this.

Yeah. It’s called the Ford Expedition and Firestone tires vs ESC.

Either. Both. It really doesn’t matter. The point is that we wouldn’t have that ESC nanny if it hadn’t been for a big screw-up by Ford. And reducing the tire pressure wouldn’t exactly prevent the issue since it would make that truck wallow around even more on soft rubber.

Blah blah blah blah…government nannies…yadda yadda yadda…

Like you really trust large corporations to look out for our safety without the government keeping them in line. Right.

You may not like my arguments, FreedMike, but that’s Ok. But there are other ways to force a company to fix their problems than by siccing the government onto them. A lot of recalls have been triggered simply by class-action lawsuits against the auto companies themselves without the benefit of government intervention. Hitting a manufacturer in its pocket is a much bigger inhibitor of reckless endangerment than the government adding expensive technologies that drive car prices sky high. I bought my 󈨏 Cutlass Supreme for a mere $5700 the equivalent car today runs well over $30K. Inflation alone can not and will not account for why cars cost 6x more when a $2000 desktop computer at the same time (ok, five years later) costs $2000 or less today. I’ll grant some of the costs due to materials, but most of those added costs are in the governmentally-mandated gewgaws we’re forced to put up with in modern automobiles because of one lousy book.

“But there are other ways to force a company to fix their problems than by siccing the government onto them. A lot of recalls have been triggered simply by class-action lawsuits against the auto companies themselves without the benefit of government intervention.”

Not if those pushing for Tort reform have their way. Then any of those pesky & “frivolous” lawsuits will be settled via binding arbitration that is usually overseen by a representative on the payroll of the offending company.
Hate to say it, but sometime government oversight and intervention can be a good thing. *gasp*

The Ford Falcon and Mustang sank the Corvair. For years after the book it sold in the millions.

The problem that people scoff at killed a lot of people: they removed a stabilizer bar to save money – no doubt doing a cost benefit analysis of the part versus death law suits – death paid off.

If your air pressure was off by a few pounds, this coupled with jacking and the rear engine, resulted in a flipped car. They knew this, they didn’t care. Cost benefit.

Perhaps, since this article will be archived for the ages, some things should be cleared up a bit.

“car-buying public now knew the value of anti-roll bars thanks to Nader.”

Hardly, the 󈨄 and 󈨅 Corvairs had a “camber compensator” attached to the center bottom of the differential. Anti-roll bars they were not. Fancy name camber compensator aside, camber which they were incapable of compensating for, because no suspension geometry was affected, they merely prevented the rear wheels from drooping so far that dangerous levels of positive camber could occur that might cause jacking. EMPI sold them before GM offered them because they had used them to tame the Beetle and early Corvairs – price $19.99 plus shipping. They still sell them, better made and more expensive.

The 󈨅 to 󈨉 Corvairs had a very sophisticated rear suspension, what one could well argue was the first multilink type as we would characterize them today. Certainly in advance of the Mercedes swing axle in say a 250SL, and not by a little.

Had a fair amount of experience in a 1960, crazy weird with its 15psi front/26 psi rear tire pressure, 6 turns lock-lock steering, and in college student duty (argh), and a 1967 – a really handsome and pleasant vehicle hampered only by a 2 speed automatic.

The arguments, pro and con, about Nader will never end. What is interesting, even from these comments, is people’s refusal to accept the proposition that every product is engineered to a price point. The problem is when the tradeoffs are managed poorly. I don’t recall a large number of Corvairs rolling over. That would be VW Beetles of the same vintage, which had a high center of gravity.. What Corvairs would do is go into a spin. Like all rear-engined cars of their era, including the “legendary ” 911, they had lots of trailing throttle oversteer. American drivers in particular were not accustomed to this since most front-engine, RWD cars of the time under steered massively. Making the problem worse was the fact that the bias-ply tires of that era had abrupt breakaway characteristics. Interestingly, when BMW introduced the 1600 and 2002 sedan to the US market in the early 1970s, one of their selling points was that, unlike the single-jointed swing axle of the Mercedes-Benz, the BMW rear axle was double-jointed, mitigating rear wheel camber changes. If memory serves, VW went to a similar design for all of its rear engine products at about the same time. I know from personal experience that the first generation Corvairs could be quite a handful in the rain, even driven carefully.

“every product is engineered to a price point”

Finally, somebody here makes sense today. Although I think we’d agree that not all engineering is created equal – even for the same price point – and sometimes a few dollars more can make a huge improvement in a product.

I was a passenger in a 󈨄 or 󈨅. The driver lost control on a left hand 45deg turn, over-corrected right, jumping the curb and heading straight at a power pole. We were lucky! There was a guy wire for the pole directly in our path centerline to the car and we slid up it to the pole top. I remember looking at the sky wondering what the heck was going on. The car tipped and fell. We landed shiny side down, all paws in the air. The greenhouse was mostly crushed. Our seatbelts (lap only) suspended us and we were uninjured. Was Ralph involved with seat belts? If so, thanks Ralph, and happy birthday.

The seat belts were just your standard issue GM lap belts, AFAIK. But you were actually wearing them, which is more than could be said of a majority of passengers at the time.

Ralph Nader didn’t invent or improve a single automotive safety feature. While he undoubtedly had a role in focusing awareness on car safety, I believe that more credit should be given to Bela Barenyi, who invented crush zones and passenger safety cells for Mercedes-Benz, Nils Bohlin, who invented the three point seat and shoulder belt for Volvo – which gave away the patent, and William Carey and Charles Simon who were responsible for developing the first practical airbags at Eaton. Gabriel Voisin should be mentioned as well. His company made both airplanes and cars, and he invented anti-lock brakes in 1929 for aviation use.

Many of the features that Nader championed, like safer dashboards and breakaway steering wheels were in concept and show cars of the 1950s. The industry should have gone to collapsible steering columns earlier, as they’d been invented in the 1930s. GM was working on their own in the late 1950s. Even Lotus put slip joints in their steering shafts by the early 1960s (some wag said they were surprised Colin Chapman didn’t just tell drivers to wear a flak jacket).

So while Ralph Nader deserves some level of credit, I think the people who actually made cars safer were the engineers, most of whom will never be known to the public.

“some wag said they were surprised Colin Chapman didn’t just tell drivers to wear a flak jacket”

No flak jacket for you. Flak jackets too heavy.

True, Ronnie…Detroit knew about these safety features long before they became mandated. But as Lee Iacocca pointed out in his book, back in the day “safety didn’t sell.” I don’t think many drivers wanted to be reminded of just how dangerous driving could be, and Detroit was all too happy to let them live under that delusion.

Leaving these features out of their cars was a cost-cutting AND marketing decision.

Nader did two things:
1) He made it abundantly clear that some carmakers were fully capable of producing unsafe products. This awareness created a far greater demand for safer cars.

2) This demand wasn’t met initially by carmakers, and then it became a government problem, as usually is the case in instances like this. Nader was instrumental in pushing for new safety regulations.

Eventually I think “the market” would have come around to the idea that cars should be safer, but how many lives would have been extinguished before that happened?

Regarding “You can’t sell safety”. At best that’s taken out of context from what Iacocca said and at worst, it’s an attitude attributed to Detroit execs going back to the 1950s, without much in the way of actual quotes. I found it in a Popular Mechanics from 1956. Iacocca’s sentiment might have been based on the fact that Ford offered seat belts in 1956 and they were not well received.

Of course the automakers wanted thier customers to think their cars were safe. I’ve seen crash and rollover tests in promotional films going back to the 1930s. There is even a promotional film for the Corvair that, if my memory serves me well, included rolling the car over and showing that the doors still open.

It’s clear from Barenyi, Bohlin, the Eaton/Ford airbags and other safety tech that there has undoubtedly been interest in safety from within the auto industry.

” but how many lives would have been extinguished before that happened?”

Who knows? But this is another straw man argument. Nobody can answer and so we are lead to believe that lots were and the monies spent had to be worth it.
This same argument was made to save the To Big To Fail banks and auto manufacturers.
We never will know now, will we?

But then again…he never made anything. He made a living out of criticising the creations of others.
That is no great feat.
It is the art of 20/20 rear view history.

it’s not a “strawman.” We can make a ballpark guess. there are four times as many cars and light trucks on the road as there were in the 1960s, yet the on-road fatality rate today is less than half. the worst year of the 󈨀s was 1969, with a fatality rate of 26.4 per 100,000 people. The worst year so far this decade was 2012 with 10.7 per 100,000.

In 2013, the vehicle fatality rate was 1.09 per 100 million miles, or about 32,700 dead.

In 1963, the vehicle fatality rate was 5.18 per 100 million miles, or about five times higher than it was in 2013.

If the fatality rate in 2013 had been the same as it had been in 1963, then there would have been over 155,000 dead. Thanks to improvements in automotive safety, about 122,000 lives were saved just in that one year.

Of course, this is the sort of stuff that uneducated people can’t figure out, even though they benefit from it.

To be fair, the improvement is split somewhere between better cars, better medical treatment and the simple fact that seatbelt use has gone from nearly zero to the vast majority using them. Ultimately, I’m glad for all of it.

Nader deserves credit for writing a book that raised the issue with the public. What really got the auto industry’s attention was the case of Larsen v GM in 1968. This was a landmark case where the industry’s “intended use” defense [“we build cars to drive, not to crash”] was shot down, and car makers were put on notice that they were responsible for testing their product for reasonably foreseeable crashes.

Here we are not 10 years from the start of the financial crisis and less than a year from the Volkswagen
emissions scandal and people are arguing corporations don’t need to be regulated. Ideology
over common sense.

nobody is completely against regulations. but suggesting the holy government would save us from the evil corporations is naive.
afterall…it was government that forced the housing bubble upon us.
it was the government that forced banks to give home loans to those who would normally never have been approved.
this evil works both ways.
i am just suggesting losers like this guy make a living off other’s heavy lifting.

Turn off Fox News, go to an obscure little website called and type ‘who caused the housing bubble’ in the rectangular box. An excerpt from Wikipedia (arguably the most trustworthy site for impartial and substantiated info):

“pretty much all the evidence on the housing crisis shows” that Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the (CRA) and their affordability goals were not a major reason for the bubble and crash.[18][20][29]

Law professor David Min argues that view (blaming GSE’s and CRA) “is clearly contradicted by the facts”, namely that

– Parallel bubble-bust cycles occurred outside of the residential housing markets (for example, in commercial real estate and consumer credit).
– Parallel financial crises struck other countries, which did not have analogous affordable housing policies
– The U.S. government’s market share of home mortgages was actually declining precipitously during the housing bubble of the 2000s.[30]”

There’s more–much more–of these things called ‘facts,’ and some opinions, usually supported by citations–those are those funny numbers inside square brackets ‘[]’–and reasoned arguments. But they might make your head hurt.

Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig.

your reply is snobbish and condescending. Typical of your liberal bent. You read only your rags and think others who study more are just “fox News”.

I think YOU should concentrate more on cars and not the government.
You should stay away from Slate and your other liberal sites.

The government DIDS play the major hand in the housing bubble.
And those politicians like Dodd got way with it.

The better off were able, are still able, to ride it out and hold onto the home until this cleans itself up.
But the poor…those who were used by your slimy political hack friends, they suffered and lost everything.

And how dare you pretend you know how I educate myself with current events.
You are a libby hater.

You’re really earning your name today, TrailerTrash.

Just FYI, here is wikipedia’s description of your source:

“RealClearPolitics (RCP) is a Chicago-based political news and polling data aggregator formed in 2000[2] by former options trader John McIntyre and former advertising agency account executive Tom Bevan.[3][4][5] The site’s founders say their goal is to give readers “ideological diversity”.[6] However, this claim been disputed by observations of a conservative bias in the content it displays.”

“Patrick Stack of Time magazine has described the site’s commentary section as “right-leaning”. The site has been described as being run by conservatives, and containing “opinion pieces from multiple media sources”. In 2009 RealClearPolitics was described as a weblog “in the conservative pantheon” by Richard Davis”

It was banking deregulation that was the root of the financial crisis. Remember Glass Stegal ?

certainly I do.
I hated Clinton for doing it.
And I hate white collar criminals that get away with murder.
I wanted Wall Street to fail and see where it landed.
I hate corp welfare.
I hate welfare.
I wanted to NOT save the auto industry…at least not until I saw any Wall Street or Auto execs hauled to jail.
Nobody is to big to fail or go to jail.
The system doesn’t work if failure is not allowed.Cleansing is needed.
But this does not change my point of view…that government caused the housing bubble and many, man other crisis from their planning and regulations.

I was just saying…don’t trust govn to be your nanny and savior.

TT, Of the People, By the People, and FOR THE PEOPLE.

Our problem now is not so much one of regulation but of “the Best Government money can buy.” Food industry lobbies against labels that will inform the consumer as to what is in their food and vitamin supplements. If a food is genetically engineered then let the consumer know about that so that they can make their own choice. In the case of safety regulations it is the industry that has for the most part not taken the iniative until forced to by the Government.

so, if I understand you, it is only the regulations you like that are good regulations.
Only the good, your, lobbyist are OK.
Tax breaks that favor your politics are OK.
Teacher and Labor lobbying is OK…just not that of agriculture or guns.
I see how this works.

No,lobbyist should not be part of law making or regulations. Most of the problems with our elected officials are with lobbyists and the funding of campaigns. Industry needs to be a part of the regulation process but the funding of political campaigns corrupts the process. Do you favor funding of campaigns by big corporate interests? Do you think that a corporation has the same rights as an individual? There has to be a balance between too much Government and no Government and lobbyist calling the shots. Regulations and laws should protect citizens but it should not stifle business nor should it allow a free for all for corporate interests to do anything they want if it harms citizens safety and health. Having a balance between Government and Corporations is better for all of us.

I didn’t mention the Government regulating guns, it was you that made this into a discussion of guns. It sounds like you are in favor of no regulation and just allowing Corporations to make their own rules. A balance between Government and Business is better for all of us. The discussion of gun regulations along with abortion, gay rights, and unions are to blame for everything is used to distract people away from the real issues that effect most people. Rather than having an intelligent discussion it is much easier to use the argument that those who do not agree with you must be those who want to take away your guns. It takes less thought and intelligence to use that argument .

The demise of the Corvair was less about Nader and more about the market place. The Corvair was losing market share before Nader and would have been discontinued without Nader and his book. Why do you think Chevrolet released the Chevy II for MY 1962? Do you really think that Chevrolet need 2 compact models? GM should have conducted its own survey before planning the Corvair. Also as others have stated it was cost cutting that made Corvair more dangerous but it is also a car that the typical driver could not safely drive. Corvair was not a bad car but it was not the right car for Chevrolet. A market survey would have given GM this information.

Never do I trust Government to be out nanny and I do not trust Corporate American to self regulate. As for the auto bailout it did save the industry but it is still not a good idea to have the Government bailout industry. Too big to fail was a total disgrace. Just to focus on Government bureaucrats is to see just the tip of the ice burg. Wall Street benefited from the financial bailout as well and Wall Street contributed their fair share of financial resources to political campaigns. Wall Street got a nice return on their investment.

I also agree with President Eisenhower’s last televised speech about the Military and Industrial complex that profits from wars. It is one thing to defend our country and it is another thing to become involved in every global conflict. President Eisenhower’s last speech originally included the Military, Industrial, and Political complex but the last part was edited out of his speech.

Love Nader. First book I bought with my own money.
Gore? The one who preaches global warming whilst having a 1300 electric bill? The lawyer who could not
muster the nerve or energy to have the vote recalled in a stolen election from a crooked Jeb Bush? Not so much.

The death rate has fallen-from a variety of factors, including safety features, improved tires/brakes and crashworthiness.

Also, roads have improved dramatically–MANY more divided highways have reduced head-on collisions. The interstates took a lot of traffic off more dangerous roads. This is huge, but hard to quantify.

The war on drunk driving has helped too (though the zealous persecution of social drinkers has a minimal impact).


The Center for Auto Safety (the Center) was founded in 1970 by Consumers Union and Ralph Nader as a consumer safety group to protect drivers. Ralph Nader, the author of Unsafe at Any Speed, believed that automakers and the government were not adequately regulating safety. For many years, the Center was led by Clarence Ditlow, a well-known consumer safety advocate. [3] The Center has advocated vigorously for driver safety and automaker accountability by pressuring government agencies and automakers with many lawsuits campaigns. The Center has also published The Car Book annually, which presents the latest safety ratings, dealer prices, fuel economy, insurance premiums, and maintenance costs for new vehicles. [4]

Lemon Laws Edit

The Center for Auto Safety counts the enacting of Lemon Laws in all 50 states among its greatest successes. The Center has testified over 50 times before Congressional Committees on auto safety, warranties and service bulletins, air pollution, consumer protection, and fuel economy. The Center was the leading consumer advocate in passage of Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, fuel economy provisions of Energy Policy and Conservation Act and Technical Service Bulletin disclosure in MAP-21. [5] The Center recently succeeded in a lawsuit against DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx, forcing NHTSA to make public all manufacturer communications to dealers regarding safety issues. [6] Additionally, former Center Executive Director Clarence Ditlow and Ralph Nader published The Lemon Book in 1980 to educate drivers on how to avoid buying a "lemon" and what to do if they purchase one. [7]

Recalls Edit

The Center for Auto Safety has been involved in many campaigns to pressure automakers and NHTSA to issue recalls on dangerous car parts. Throughout its history, the Center has played a major role in numerous recalls including 6.7 million Chevrolets for defective engine mounts, [8] 15 million Firestone 500 tires, [9] 1.5 million Ford Pintos for exploding gas tanks, [10] 3 million Evenflo child seats for defective latches. [11] More recently, the Center was the main proponent for recalls of 7 million Toyotas for sudden acceleration, [12] 2 million Jeeps for fuel tank fires, [13] 11 million GM vehicles for defective ignition switches, and over 60 million exploding Takata airbag inflators. [14]

The Center for Auto Safety counts numerous far-reaching efforts among its successes: [15]

12 People Who Made a Difference (And You Can Too!)

Far too many people think not, and thus they sell themselves far too short. A wave of pessimism leads capable people to underestimate the power of their voice and the strength of their ideals. The truth is this: it is the initiatives of deeply caring people that provide the firmament for our democracy.

Take a sweeping look at history and you will discover that almost all movements that mattered started with just one or two people—from the fight to abolish slavery, to the creations of the environmental, trade union, consumer protection and civil rights movements. One voice becomes two, and then ten, and then thousands.

It’s fitting that this time of year marks the 79th anniversary of the sit-down strike in Flint Michigan, in which thousands of workers sat down in a General Motors factory to fight for recognition of the newly formed United Auto Workers (UAW) union. On February 11, 1937, General Motors conceded to raising wages and labor standards and recognizing the UAW, a major win for unionization in the United States.

This is an aspect of the American story that most people love and celebrate, yet sadly are quick to dismiss as being improbable in today’s partisan, corporate-dominated world. But, as I often say, real change is easier than you think.

The following twelve men and women maximized their power as citizens to improve the lives of millions of people in real, tangible ways. Let their stories serve as an inspiration to you in the coming year.

  1. Lois Gibbs. Lois Gibbs lived with her family in the Love Canal neighborhood of Niagara Falls, NY when news of the toxic contamination beneath their feet made local headlines. Lois organized her neighbors into what was known as the Love Canal Homeowners Association. Her movement grew to become the country’s largest grassroots anti-toxic movement. She later founded the Center for Health, Environment & Justice.
  2. Ralf Hotchkiss. I first met Ralf at Oberlin College over 40 years ago where he was majoring in physics and moving about the campus in a wheelchair after a bicycle accident when he was in high school rendered him paraplegic. Recognizing a need for low-cost, sustainable and versatile wheelchairs, he started Whirlwind Wheelchair to teach people around the world how to manufacture their own wheelchairs in small shop facilities.
  3. Clarence Ditlow. Once described by The New York Times as “the splinter the [auto] industry cannot remove from its thumb” Clarence Ditlow is an engineer, lawyer and the Executive Director of the Center for Auto Safety. He has been responsible for car companies initiating millions of lifesaving recalls, and was instrumental in the passage of “lemon laws” in all 50 states, which compensate consumers for defective automobiles
  4. Al Fritsch. A Jesuit priest and PhD, Al Fritsch was the environmental consultant at the Center for the Study of Responsive Law in Washington DC before returning to his roots in Appalachia to start the Appalachia Center for Science in the Public Interest. Using applied science and technology, Al Fritsch is a driving force for sustainability and maintaining a healthy planet.
  5. Ray Anderson. The late Ray Anderson was founder and CEO of Interface, the world’s largest modular carpet manufacturing firm based in Atlanta, Georgia. Disturbed by the hugely damaging effects of industry on the environment, he shifted his company’s directive to “make peace with the planet.” With the ultimate goal of zero pollution and 100% recycling for his company, he managed to move toward these objectives while reducing expenses year after year and increasing profits. Why aren’t more CEOs following his example?
  6. Annie Leonard. With her widely successful Story of Stuff project, Annie Leonard scoured the world for the stories that tell the tale of where our throwaway economy is leading us (hint: it doesn’t have a happy ending.) Her imaginative 20 minute Story of Stuff film has been watched and shared online by millions, and was turned into a book, and an ongoing website. She is now the Executive Director of Greenpeace.
  7. Wenonah Hauter. As the founder and Director of Food & Water Watch, Wenonah has fought tirelessly for the future of our food, water, energy and environment. A relentless organizer, author and activist, she is a champion in getting citizens involved in issues that matter most―the things we put in our bodies.
  8. Dr. William J. Barber. The Rev. William Barber walks with a cane but he is making big strides for justice and equality through his organizing of “Moral Mondays” protests, which first started in North Carolina. The protests started as a response to the “mean-spirited quadruple attack” on the most vulnerable members of our society. In the tradition of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Rev. Barber is fighting restrictions on voting and for improvements in labor laws. In addition to his work as a minister, Rev. Barber is the President of the North Carolina NAACP.
  9. Michael Mariotte For over 30 years, Michael Mariotte has been a leader in successful movements against nuclear power in the United States. As the President of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), Michael has testified before Congress and spoken in countries around the world against the dangers of nuclear power and its radioactive byproducts.
  10. David Halperin. David is a tenacious advocate and tireless worker for justice who has launched several advocacy organizations and projects such as Progressive Networks, The American Constitution Society and Campus Progress. Nothing gives him greater joy than thwarting those with positions of power in our society who seek to profit from unjust practices. Most recently, Attorney Halperin has focused his considerable talents on exposing the predatory and deceptive practices of for-profit colleges.
  11. Sid Wolfe. Sidney M. Wolfe and I started the Public Citizen Health Research Group in 1971 to promote good health-care policy and drug safety. Dr. Wolfe, through his Worst Pills, Best Pills books, newsletters and outreach via the Phil Donahue show, has exposed by brand names hundreds of ineffective drugs with harmful side effects which were removed from the marketplace.
  12. Dolores Huerta. A legendary activist, Dolores Heurta co-founded the United Farm Workers Union with Cesar Chavez in the 1960’s and has a long history of fighting for social change, worker’s rights and civil justice. She was rightfully awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011, amongst many other awards and recognitions.

Our country has more problems than it should tolerate and more solutions than it uses. Don’t allow cynicism to silence your voice―people matter, you matter, and systemic change will only happen when citizens speak out, gather, and believe in themselves and their ideals.


Ralph Nader was born on February 27, 1934, in Winsted, Connecticut, to Nathra and Rose (née Bouziane) Nader, both of whom were immigrants from Lebanon. [4] [5] [6] After settling in Connecticut, Nathra Nader worked in a textile mill before opening a bakery and restaurant. [7] Ralph Nader occasionally helped at his father's restaurant, as well as worked as a newspaper delivery boy for the local paper, the Winsted Register Citizen. [8] Nader graduated from The Gilbert School in 1951, going on to attend Princeton University. Though he was offered a scholarship to Princeton, his father forced him to decline it on the grounds that the family was able to pay Nader's tuition and the funds should go to a student who could not afford it. [9] Nader graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa [10] with a Bachelor of Arts from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs in 1955 after completing a senior thesis titled "Lebanese Agriculture". [11] [12]

After graduating from Princeton, Nader began studying at Harvard Law School, though he quickly became bored by his courses. While at Harvard, Nader would frequently skip classes to hitchhike across the U.S. where he would engage in field research on Native American issues and migrant worker rights. He earned a LL.B. from Harvard in 1958. [8] Nader identified with Libertarian philosophy in his youth, but gradually shifted away in his early 20s. Although Nader acknowledged that he "didn't like public housing because it disadvantaged landlords unfairly", his viewpoint changed when he "saw the slums and what landlords did". [13] After graduating from Harvard, Nader served in the U.S. Army as a cook and was posted to Fort Dix. [8]

Early history

In 1959, Nader was admitted to the bar and began practice as a lawyer in Hartford, Connecticut, while also lecturing at the University of Hartford and traveling to the Soviet Union, Chile, and Cuba, where he filed dispatches for the Christian Science Monitor and The Nation. [8] In 1964, he moved to Washington, D.C., taking a position as a consultant to Assistant Secretary of Labor Daniel Patrick Moynihan. [14]

Unsafe at Any Speed

Nader was first propelled into the national spotlight with the 1965 publication of his journalistic exposé Unsafe at Any Speed. Though he had previously expressed an interest in issues of automobile safety while a law student, Unsafe at Any Speed presented a critical dissection of the automotive industry by claiming that many American automobiles were generally unsafe to operate. Nader researched case files from more than 100 lawsuits then pending against General Motors' Chevrolet Corvair to support his assertions. [15]

The book became an immediate bestseller, but also prompted a vicious backlash from General Motors (GM) who attempted to discredit Nader by tapping his phone in an attempt to uncover salacious information and, when that failed, hiring prostitutes in an attempt to catch him in a compromising situation. [16] [17] Nader, by then working as an unpaid consultant to United States Senator Abe Ribicoff, reported to the senator that he suspected he was being followed. Ribicoff convened an inquiry that called GM CEO James Roche who admitted, when placed under oath, that the company had hired a private detective agency to investigate Nader. Nader sued GM for invasion of privacy, settling the case for $425,000 and using the proceeds to found the activist organization known as the Center for the Study of Responsive Law. [8]

A year following the publication of Unsafe at Any Speed, Congress unanimously enacted the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act. Speaker of the United States House of Representatives John William McCormack said the passage of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act was due to the "crusading spirit of one individual who believed he could do something: Ralph Nader". [18]

"Nader's Raiders", Public Citizen and Center for Auto Safety

In 1968, Nader recruited seven volunteer law students, dubbed "Nader's Raiders" by the Washington press corps, to evaluate the efficacy and operation of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The group's ensuing report, which criticized the body as "ineffective" and "passive" led to an American Bar Association investigation of the FTC. Based on the results of that second study, Richard Nixon revitalized the agency and sent it on a path of vigorous consumer protection and antitrust enforcement for the rest of the 1970s. [19]

Following the publication of the report, Nader founded the watchdog group Public Citizen in 1971 to engage in public interest lobbying and activism on issues of consumer rights. He also served on its board of directors until 1980.


By the early 1970s Nader had established himself as a household name. In a critical memo written by Lewis Powell to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Powell warned business representatives that Nader "has become a legend in his own time and an idol of millions of Americans". [20]

Ralph Nader's name appeared in the press as a potential candidate for president for the first time in 1971, when he was offered the opportunity to run as the presidential candidate for the New Party, a progressive split-off from the Democratic Party. Chief among his advocates was author Gore Vidal, who touted a 1972 Nader presidential campaign in a front-page article in Esquire magazine in 1971. [21] Nader declined the advances. [22] [23]

In 1973, Ralph Nader was plaintiff in the case against acting attorney general Robert Bork, who under orders of President Richard Nixon had fired special prosecutor Archibald Cox in the so-called Saturday Night Massacre, an action that was ultimately ruled illegal by federal judge Gerhard Gesell. [24]

In 1974, he received the S. Roger Horchow Award for Greatest Public Service by a Private Citizen. [25]

In the 1970s, Nader turned his attention to environmental activism, becoming a key leader in the antinuclear power movement, described by one observer as the "titular head of opposition to nuclear energy". [26] [27] The Critical Mass Energy Project was formed by Nader in 1974 as a national anti-nuclear umbrella group, growing to become the largest national anti-nuclear group in the United States, with several hundred local affiliates and an estimated 200,000 supporters. [28] The organization's main efforts were directed at lobbying activities and providing local groups with scientific and other resources to campaign against nuclear power. [29] [30]

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, through his ongoing work with Public Citizen, Nader continued to be involved in issues of consumer rights and public accountability. His work testifying before Congress, drafting model legislation, and organizing citizen letter-writing and protest efforts, earned him direct credit for the enactment of the Freedom of Information Act, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, Clean Water Act, Consumer Product Safety Act, and Whistleblower Protection Act.

In the late 1990s, Nader would accuse Microsoft of being a monopoly. He would organize a conference featuring Microsoft's critics from the tech world. [31]

In 1999, Nader was unsuccessfully approached by Nike to appear in an advertisement. The firm offered Nader $25,000 to say "another shameless attempt by Nike to sell shoes" while holding Air 120 sneakers. After Nader turned down the offer, the corporation hired filmmaker Spike Lee. [32]

Presidential campaigns

Ralph Nader's name appeared in the press as a potential candidate for president for the first time in 1971, when he was offered the opportunity to run as the presidential candidate for the New Party, a progressive split-off from the Democratic Party in 1972. Chief among his advocates was author Gore Vidal, who touted a 1972 Nader presidential campaign in a front-page article in Esquire magazine in 1971. [21] Psychologist Alan Rockway organized a "draft Ralph Nader for President" campaign in Florida on the New Party's behalf. [33] Nader declined their offer to run that year the New Party ultimately joined with the People's Party in running Benjamin Spock in the 1972 presidential election. [22] [23] [34] Spock had hoped Nader in particular would run, getting "some of the loudest applause of the evening" when mentioning him at the University of Alabama. [35] Spock went on to try to recruit Nader for the party among over 100 others, and indicated he would be "delighted" to be replaced by any of them even after he accepted the nomination himself. [36] Nader received one vote for the vice-presidential nomination at the 1972 Democratic National Convention.

In the 1980 Presidential Election, the progressive oriented Citizens Party approached Nader with the prospect of running as their Presidential Nominee. Nader declined their offer stating "I will never run for president". [37] . The party ended up nominating biologist Barry Commoner instead.

Nader stood in as a write-in for "none of the above" in both the 1992 New Hampshire Democratic and Republican Primaries [38] and received 3,054 of the 170,333 Democratic votes and 3,258 of the 177,970 Republican votes cast. [39] He was also a candidate in the 1992 Massachusetts Democratic Primary, where he appeared at the top of the ballot (in some areas, he appeared on the ballot as an independent).

Nader was drafted as a candidate for President of the United States on the Green Party ticket during the 1996 presidential election. He was not formally nominated by the Green Party USA, which was, at the time, the largest national Green group instead he was nominated independently by various state Green parties (in some states, he appeared on the ballot as an independent). However, many activists in the Green Party USA worked actively to campaign for Nader that year. Nader qualified for ballot status in 22 states, [40] garnering 685,297 votes or 0.71% of the popular vote (fourth place overall), [41] although the effort did make significant organizational gains for the party. He refused to raise or spend more than $5,000 on his campaign, presumably to avoid meeting the threshold for Federal Elections Commission reporting requirements the unofficial Draft Nader committee could (and did) spend more than that, but the committee was legally prevented from coordinating in any way with Nader himself.

Nader received some criticism from gay rights supporters for calling gay rights "gonadal politics" and stating that he was not interested in dealing with such matters. [42] In July 2004, however, he publicly stated that he supported same-sex marriage. [43]

His 1996 running mates included: Anne Goeke (nine states), Deborah Howes (Oregon), Muriel Tillinghast (New York), Krista Paradise (Colorado), Madelyn Hoffman (New Jersey), Bill Boteler (Washington, D.C.), and Winona LaDuke (California and Texas). [44]

In the 2006 documentary An Unreasonable Man, Nader describes how he was unable to get the views of his public interest groups heard in Washington, even by the Clinton Administration. Nader cites this as one of the primary reasons that he decided to actively run in the 2000 election as candidate of the Green Party, which had been formed in the wake of his 1996 campaign.

In June 2000, The Association of State Green Parties (ASGP) organized the national nominating convention that took place in Denver, Colorado, at which Green Party delegates nominated Ralph Nader and Winona LaDuke to be their party's candidates for president and vice president. [45] [46]

On July 9, the Vermont Progressive Party nominated Nader, giving him ballot access in the state. [47] On August 12, the United Citizens Party of South Carolina chose Ralph Nader as its presidential nominee, giving him a ballot line in the state. [48]

In October 2000, at the largest Super Rally of his campaign, [49] held in New York City's Madison Square Garden, 15,000 people paid $20 each [50] to hear Nader speak. Nader's campaign rejected both parties as institutions dominated by corporate interests, stating that Al Gore and George W. Bush were "Tweedledee and Tweedledum". A long list of notable celebrities spoke and performed at the event including Susan Sarandon, Ani DiFranco, Ben Harper, Tim Robbins, Michael Moore, Eddie Vedder and Patti Smith. The campaign also had some prominent union help: The California Nurses Association and the United Electrical Workers endorsed his candidacy and campaigned for him. [51]

Nader and LaDuke received 2,883,105 votes, for 2.74 percent of the popular vote (third place overall), [52] missing the 5 percent needed to qualify the Green Party for federally distributed public funding in the next election, yet qualifying the party for ballot status in many states.

Nader often openly expressed his hope for Bush's victory over Gore, saying it "would mobilize us", [53] and that environmental and consumer regulatory agencies would fare better under Bush than Gore. [54] When asked which of the two he'd vote for if forced, Nader answered "Bush . If you want the parties to diverge from one another, have Bush win." [55] As to whether he would feel regret if he caused Gore's defeat, Nader replied "I would not—not at all. I'd rather have a provocateur than an anesthetizer in the White House." [56] On another occasion, Nader answered this question with: "No, not at all . There may be a cold shower for four years that would help the Democratic Party . It doesn't matter who is in the White House." [54]

Spoiler controversy

In the 2000 presidential election in Florida, George W. Bush defeated Al Gore by 537 votes. Nader received 97,421 votes, which led to claims that he was responsible for Gore's defeat. Nader disputes that he helped Bush to win. [57] [58] [59] A 2003 study found that Nader's candidacy was a critical factor in Bush's victory. [60] A 2004 study found that Nader voters had the profile of likely voters with a preference for Democratic candidates. [61] They were therefore likely to vote for Gore over Bush in the absence of Nader's candidacy. [61]

A study by Harvard Professor B.C. Burden in 2005 showed Nader did "play a pivotal role in determining who would become president following the 2000 election", but that:

Contrary to Democrats' complaints, Nader was not intentionally trying to throw the election. A spoiler strategy would have caused him to focus disproportionately on the most competitive states and markets with the hopes of being a key player in the outcome. There is no evidence that his appearances responded to closeness. He did, apparently, pursue voter support, however, in a quest to receive 5% of the popular vote. [62]

However, Jonathan Chait of The American Prospect and The New Republic notes that Nader did indeed focus on swing states disproportionately during the waning days of the campaign, and by doing so jeopardized his own chances of achieving the 5% of the vote he was aiming for.

Then there was the debate within the Nader campaign over where to travel in the waning days of the campaign. Some Nader advisers urged him to spend his time in uncontested states such as New York and California. These states – where liberals and leftists could entertain the thought of voting Nader without fear of aiding Bush – offered the richest harvest of potential votes. But, Martin writes, Nader – who emerges from this account as the house radical of his own campaign – insisted on spending the final days of the campaign on a whirlwind tour of battleground states such as Pennsylvania and Florida. In other words, he chose to go where the votes were scarcest, jeopardizing his own chances of winning 5 percent of the vote, which he needed to gain federal funds in 2004. [63]

When Nader, in a letter to environmentalists, attacked Gore for "his role as broker of environmental voters for corporate cash," and "the prototype for the bankable, Green corporate politician," and what he called a string of broken promises to the environmental movement, Sierra Club president Carl Pope sent an open letter to Nader, dated 27 October 2000, defending Al Gore's environmental record and calling Nader's strategy "irresponsible." [64] He wrote:

You have also broken your word to your followers who signed the petitions that got you on the ballot in many states. You pledged you would not campaign as a spoiler and would avoid the swing states. Your recent campaign rhetoric and campaign schedule make it clear that you have broken this pledge . Please accept that I, and the overwhelming majority of the environmental movement in this country, genuinely believe that your strategy is flawed, dangerous and reckless. [65]

Nader announced on December 24, 2003, that he would not seek the Green Party's nomination for president in 2004, but did not rule out running as an independent candidate.

Ralph Nader and Democratic candidate John Kerry held a widely publicized meeting early in the 2004 presidential campaign. Nader said that John Kerry wanted to work to win Nader's support and the support of Nader's voters, prompting Nader to provide Kerry more than 20 pages of issues that he felt were important. According to Nader, he asked John Kerry to choose any three of the issues and highlight them in his campaign should Kerry meet these conditions Nader would not contest the election. On February 22, 2004, having not heard back from Kerry, Nader announced that he would run for president as an independent.

Due to concerns about a possible spoiler effect, many Democrats urged Nader to abandon his 2004 candidacy. Terry McAuliffe stated that Nader had a "distinguished career, fighting for working families", and that McAuliffe "would hate to see part of his legacy being that he got us eight years of George Bush". Theresa Amato, Nader's national campaign manager in 2000 and 2004, later alleged that McAuliffe offered to pay-off Nader if he would not campaign in certain states, an allegation confirmed by Nader and undisputed by McAuliffe. [66]

Nader received 463,655 votes, for 0.38 percent of the popular vote, placing him in third place overall. [67]

In February 2007, Nader criticized Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton as "a panderer and a flatterer," later describing her as someone who had "no political fortitude." [68] During a February 2008 appearance on Meet the Press, Nader announced his intention to run for president as an independent, later naming Matt Gonzalez as his running-mate. [69] Nader was endorsed by Howard Zinn, Jesse Ventura, Justin Jeffre, Tom Morello, Val Kilmer, Rocky Anderson, James Abourezk, Patti Smith, and Jello Biafra. The Nader campaign raised $8.4 million in campaign funds, primarily from small, individual donations. Nader/Gonzalez earned 738,475 votes and a third-place finish in the 2008 United States presidential election. [70]

Campaign Running mate Ballot access Funds raised Popular vote Party affiliation Co-nominators Media and organizational endorsers Notable endorsers

Ralph Nader presidential campaign, 2000

Winona LaDuke
$8.4 million 2,882,995
Green Party USA Vermont Progressive Party
* California Nurses Association
* United Electrical Workers
* Hemp Industries Association
* Village Voice
* The Austin Chronicle
* Worcester Magazine
* San Francisco Bay Guardian
Susan Sarandon, Michael Moore, Howard Zinn, Eddie Vedder, Bill Murray, Pete Seeger, Linda Ronstadt, Paul Newman, Willie Nelson, Noam Chomsky, John B. Anderson, Phil Donahue

Ralph Nader presidential campaign, 2004

Peter Camejo
$4.6 million 463,655
unaffiliated Reform Party USA
Independence Party of New York
Independent Party of Delaware
David Brower, Patti Smith, Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Phil Donahue

Ralph Nader presidential campaign, 2008

Matt Gonzalez
$4.3 million [71] 738,475

Congressional Accountability Project

Nader founded the Congressional Accountability Project to "oppose corruption in the U. S. Congress." [72]

Later activities

Nader condemned the 2011 military intervention in Libya. [73] He branded President Barack Obama as a "war criminal" [74] and called for his impeachment. [75]

In June 2019, Nader, who lost his 24-year-old grandniece in the Ethiopian Airlines crash, [76] claimed that the Boeing 737 Max "must never fly again. it's not a matter of software. It's a matter of structural design defect: the plane's engines are too much for the traditional fuselage". [77] Nader also called for Boeing top leaders to resign and said that the Federal Aviation Administration "has been in the pockets of the Boeing company for years". [77] [78]

D.C. Library Renaissance Project

In 2002, Nader founded the D.C. Library Renaissance Project, which has sought to halt the development of the West End Library in Washington, D.C., alleging that it "violated affordable housing guidelines, undervalued the land, and didn't conform to the city's Comprehensive Plan." [79] The legal obstacles presented by the Library Renaissance Project have cost the D.C. government over one million dollars in legal fees. [80] Nader has opposed the privatized development of D.C. libraries despite community support, citing a lack of oversight and competitive bidding process. [81]

Only the Super Rich Can Save Us

In 2009 Nader published his first work of fiction, Only the Super Rich Can Save Us. Many of the characters were fictionalized versions of real-life persons including Ted Turner and Warren Buffett. The book's principal villain, a "conservative evil genius" named Brovar Dortwist, represents Grover Norquist. According to Norquist, Nader had called him prior to the book's publication and said he "wouldn't be too unhappy, because the character was principled". [82]

The novel met with mixed reviews with The Wall Street Journal noting that the book "reads less like a novel . than a dream journal" with a plot that victoriously concludes with "American society thoroughly Naderized", though The Globe and Mail called it "a powerful idea by the perfect person at a fortuitous time". [83] [84]

He also branched out into fiction with the fable collection Animal Envy in 2016.

2012 debate moderator

During the 2012 United States presidential election, Nader moderated a debate for third party candidates at Washington D.C.'s Busboys and Poets. The debate was attended by Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, Libertarian Gary Johnson, Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party and Constitution Party candidate Virgil Goode. He later moderated a similar debate in a studio appearance broadcast by Russia Today. [85]

Ralph Nader Radio Hour

Since March 2014, Nader has co-hosted the weekly Ralph Nader Radio Hour, [86] produced at KPFK-FM in Los Angeles and distributed via the Pacifica Radio Network. The program features "interviews with some of the nation's most influential movers and shakers" and discussion of current events. Nader's co-hosts are Steve Skrovan and David Feldman. [87]

American Museum of Tort Law

In 2015, after a decade planning, Nader founded the American Museum of Tort Law in Winsted, Connecticut. The opening ceremonies were emceed by Phil Donahue. Nader personally donated $150,000 to the establishment of the museum, which was sited on two parcels of land rezoned by the town of Winsted to host it. At the time of its opening, some expressed skepticism that a museum dedicated to tort would have much interest to the general public, though Nader responded that he was "astounded how a country can go over 200 years and not have a law museum". [88]

Campaign for Harvard admissions reform

Nader unsuccessfully sought a seat on the Harvard University Board of Overseers in 2016 as part of an insurgent candidate slate operating under the name "Free Harvard, Fair Harvard" which called for increased transparency by the university as to how it made athletic and legacy admissions decisions. [89] In February of that year he expressed support for Donald Trump making a third-party run for president, saying that such a move might help break-up the two party system. [90]

Nader was raised in the Eastern Orthodox Church. [5] His siblings are Laura (a professor of social and cultural anthropology at U.C. Berkeley), Claire, and late brother Shafeek. [6]

Nader defines his ideology not as left-wing or right-wing but as a "moral empiricist". [91]

He has lived in Washington, DC since the 1960s, but is domiciled in Connecticut, where he is registered to vote. [80]

In addition to English, Nader also speaks Arabic, Russian, Portuguese, Chinese and Spanish. [92]

After his older brother Shafeek died of prostate cancer in 1986, Nader developed Bell's palsy, which paralyzed the left side of his mouth for several months. He commented on his partial facial paralysis to audiences during this time with the quip that "at least my opponents can't say I'm talking out of both sides of my mouth." [93] [94]

Nader's grandniece Samya Stumo was among the 157 people killed in the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 in March 2019. [76]

Personality and character traits

Nader has been described as an "ascetic . bordering on self-righteous". [95] Despite access to respectable financial assets, he famously lives in a modest apartment and spends $25,000 on personal bills, conducting most of his writing on a typewriter. [96] [97] According to popular accounts of his personal life, he does not own a television, relies primarily on public transportation, and over a 25-year period, until 1983, exclusively wore one of a dozen pairs of shoes he had purchased at a clearance sale in 1959. His suits, which he reports he purchases at sales and outlet stores, have been the repeated subject of public scrutiny, being variously described as "wrinkled", "rumpled", and "styleless". A newspaper story once described Nader as a "conscientious objector to fashion". [98]

Nader has never married. Karen Croft, a writer who worked for Nader in the late 1970s at the Center for Study of Responsive Law, once asked him if he had ever considered marriage, to which he reportedly responded that he had made a choice to dedicate his life to career rather than family. [99]


According to the mandatory fiscal disclosure report that he filed with the Federal Election Commission in 2000, Nader owned more than $3 million worth of stocks and mutual fund shares his single largest holding was more than $1 million worth of stock in Cisco Systems, Inc. He also held between $100,000 and $250,000 worth of shares in the Magellan Fund. [100] Nader said he owned no car and owned no real estate directly in 2000, and said that he lived on $25,000 a year, giving most of his stock earnings to many of the over four dozen non-profit organizations he had founded. [101] [102]

Nader owns shares in Amazon and believes the corporation should be paying shareholders a dividend. [103] He also believes that there should be an "antitrust investigation" looking into the company's business practices. [104]

Nader is also an Apple shareholder. In 2018, he wrote an open letter to Tim Cook criticizing Apple's $100 billion share buyback. [105]

In the 2005 Jim Carrey film Fun with Dick and Jane, Nader makes a cameo appearance as himself.

The Steve Skrovan documentary film An Unreasonable Man is about the life of Ralph Nader and uses both archival footage and original interviews. It debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in 2006.


Nader was featured on the cover of the January 22, 1968 issue of Newsweek the December 12, 1969 issue of Time the June 1971 issue of Esquire and the August 2016 issue of Pacific Standard.


Nader has been a guest on multiple episodes of Saturday Night Live, Real Time with Bill Maher, The Daily Show, The O'Reilly Factor, Meet the Press, Democracy Now!, and The Late Show with David Letterman. In 2003 he appeared on Da Ali G Show and, in 2008, was interviewed by Triumph the Insult Comic Dog on Late Night with Conan O'Brien. In 1988, Nader appeared on Sesame Street as "a person in your neighborhood", the episode also featuring Barbara Walters and Martina Navratilova. Nader's appearance on the show was memorable because it was the only time that the grammar of the last line of the song – "a person who you meet each day" – was questioned and changed. Nader refused to sing a line which he deemed grammatically improper, so a compromise was reached by which Nader sang the last line solo, with the modified words: "a person whom you meet each day." [106]

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