The Next President: On The Record

Presidential candidate Ralph Nader responds to questions from IndustryWeek.

Although his prospects of being elected president this November are not nearly those of George W. Bush or John F. Kerry, Ralph Nader as a third-party candidate is likely to shape the pre-election debate and could determine the ultimate outcome in a close contest. Here are his answers to the same questions posed to Bush and Kerry.

Most Important Manufacturing Issues

What is the most important public policy issues that must be addressed to ensure a strong economic future for manufacturing in the U.S.? Why are these the most important?

Nader: Deciding whether we want a domestic steel, auto, machine, tool, defense and electronic industry is an important public policy issue that needs to be addressed. If so, we must renegotiate international trade agreements, press for minimum labor, environmental and rule of law standards and stop subsidizing exporting industries to dictatorships for re-export back to the United States. As former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said: "You cannot have free trade with a country that is not free." Why? For one reason -- labor and other costs are dictatorially determined.



Trade

What is your operating trade philosophy and how will it benefit U.S. manufacturing? Would you limit offshoring of U.S. jobs? If so, how?

Nader: Nader-Camejo Campaign favors fair trade that protects the environment, labor rights and consumer needs. NAFTA and the WTO make commercial trade supreme over environmental, labor, and consumer standards and need to be replaced with open trade agreements that pull up rather than pull down these standards. These forms of secret autocratic governance and their detailed rules are corporate-managed trade that puts short-term corporate profits as the priority over these. While global trade is a fact of life, trade policies must be open, democratic and not strip-mine environmental, social and labor standards. These latter standards should have their own international pull up treaties on a level playing field with trade agreements.



Health Care

How do you address U.S. business leaders' concerns about the cost and scope of health-care coverage?

Nader: The state of health care in the United States is a disgrace. For millions of Americans it is a struggle between life, health and money. The failure to provide universal health care also allows an increasing cost spiral for the business community. The Nader Campaign supports a single-payer health care plan that replaces for-profit, investor-owned health care and removes the private health insurance industry (full Medicare for all). The United States spends far more on health care than any other country in the world, but ranks only 37th in the overall quality of health care it provides, according to the World Health Organization. The U.S. is the only industrialized country that does not provide universal health care. More than 44.3 million Americans have no health insurance, and tens of millions more are underinsured. Providing universal health care can only be accomplished through a single-payer system: no country ever achieved universal coverage with private health insurance. President Harry Truman proposed universal health care in 1948 but was rebuffed by Congress. The time to act is yesterday. Let us end our disastrous descent into the corporatization of medicine and its callous consequences. See further details at VoteNader.org.



Tort Reform

How do you respond to U.S. business leaders' concerns about the burden and cost of litigation?

Nader: When the rights of injured consumers are vindicated in court, our society benefits in countless ways. Injured victims and shattered families are compensated for unspeakable losses (and saving taxpayers from having to assist them). Future injuries are prevented by removing dangerous products and practices from the marketplace and spurring safety innovation. Evidence in court leads to better safety standards being issued for products that have caused injury. The public is educated about unnecessary and unacceptable risks associated with some products and services through disclosure of facts discovered during trial. And, civil litigation provides authoritative judicial forums for the ethical growth of law where the responsibility of perpetrators of trauma and disease can be established. This authoritative expansion of respect for human life serves to distinguish America from most other nations.

With all the benefits, what does civil litigation cost business? The 2001 Ernst & Young and Risk & Insurance Management Society's annual survey of business liability costs found that annual insurance and claims costs for U.S. businesses, including property damage, workers' compensation and all other premium and claim costs, to be miniscule and the lowest in more than a decade -- only $4.83 for every $1,000 in revenue in 2000. [2001 RIMS Benchmark Survey, Produced jointly by Ernst & Young LLP and RIMS, 2001].

Tort deform legislation that has been proposed in Congress and in state legislatures around the country over the last 20 years weakens the civil justice system. Tort reform ties the hands of our courts -- both judges and juries -- by legislators who never see, hear or evaluate the evidence in each specific case, thus undermining our uniquely individualized system of justice. Judges and jurors are free from the influence of corporate lobbyists who fund legislators who then press to weaken the people's right to their day in court. Under tort deform, the most severely injured or disease-afflicted Americans -- seniors in nursing homes, quadriplegic workers or brain-damaged children who suffer most and suffer for a lifetime -- are prohibited from obtaining fair compensation for their injuries and are unable to hold the perpetrators of their harm accountable. Indeed, tort deform laws take away the rights of 99% of the people who live in this country, while letting a handful of corporations escape accountability for reckless misconduct that causes injury and death. Of course corporations remain unfettered in their right to sue everyone else. For details refuting the propaganda of the tortfeasors lobby see Citizen.org and Centerjd.org.



Energy

What provisions in your energy policy would help ensure a healthy future for U.S. manufacturing?

Nader: The Nader-Camejo Campaign urges a new clean energy policy that no longer subsidizes entrenched oil, nuclear, electric and coal mining interests -- an energy policy that is efficient, sustainable and environmentally friendly. We need to invest in a diversified energy policy including renewable energy like wind and other forms of solar power, more efficient automobiles, homes and businesses -- one that breaks our addiction to oil, coal and atomic power. A new clean energy paradigm means more jobs, more efficiency, greater security, environmental protection and increased health. Failure to take action on this now continues to harm not only our environment but economy and role in the world as well.



Regulation

How do you respond to U.S. business leaders' complaints about the burden and cost of complying with federal regulations?

Nader: Regulation is another form of law and order for corporations. Safety and health regulations have saved millions of lives and prevented or diminished injuries and diseases over the past century. (This includes regulations of automobiles, job safety, toxics, e.g. lead and asbestos, pollution etc.) Since these regulations are almost never updated or newly issued without the closest scrutiny by companies, trade associations and corporate law firms weakening them significantly, they are not as effective as they should be. One failure of regulation occurred from the early '70s to September 11, 2001, when the FAA and its airline industry patrons continually rejected our proposals to harden cockpit doors and toughen latches on commercial aircraft starting after the early 1970s hijackings of planes to Cuba. Regulation could have stopped the 9/11 hijackers from turning airplanes into burning missiles. Regulation can work.



Big vs. Small Companies

How do you respond to those executives in small- and medium-sized manufacturing companies who assert their public policy needs are different than those of the multinationals??

Nader: The theory "the bigger the better" is not always accurate when it comes to business. Smaller businesses are closer to the consumer and react to consumer needs more quickly. Companies can get so big that they become giant monopolies that fleece consumers, compete unfairly with smaller businesses and inappropriately control government. In addition, they can become so big that government cannot let them fail resulting in corporate welfare and other bailouts while small businesses are free to go bankrupt. Big corporations often do not have loyalty to the community where they operate, relocating to other communities causing families to constantly move or lose their jobs. Multinational corporations are showing little loyalty to the U.S. -- willing to move off-shore to avoid paying taxes or seek lower wage employees often in oligarchic societies or dictatorships. Too often, big corporations are unfair to consumers, other businesses and their workers, while making massive profits and paying huge compensation to their CEO's.

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