12 Topics Democrats Will Duck at Convention
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12 TOPICS DEMOCRATS WILL DUCK AT CONVENTION
The Democratic National Convention that gathers in Denver this week to nominate Barack Obama for president will be more like a coronation than a competition. Huzzahs, speeches, bands, balloons. These affairs have long lost any suspense or spontaneity, but somewhere amid the many corporate 'hospitality parties' and lobbyist glad-handing, you'd expect some demonstration of political courage to shift power toward the American people.
Instead, voters will watch (or, rather, not watch) as more than $16.5 million of their tax dollars (the amount allotted by the federal government for each convention) is spent on saying very little of substance.
Rather than ideas, this convention is about power and avoidance: the power of big business and the avoidance of important but neglected issues.
Here is a short list of what you won't hear this week, either on the convention floor or in the party's platform. Call them the 12 taboos.
1. You won't hear a call for a national crackdown on the corporate crime, fraud, and abuse that, in just the last few years, have robbed trillions of dollars from workers, investors, pension holders, taxpayers and consumers. Among the reforms that won't be suggested are resources to prosecute executive crooks and laws to democratize corporate governance so shareholders have real power. Democrats will not shout for a payback of ill-gotten gains, to rein in executive pay, ending corporate personhood, or to demand corporate sunshine laws.
2. The convention will not demand that workers receive a living wage instead of an inflation ravaged minimum wage. There will be no backing for a repeal of the anti-union Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, which has blocked more than 40 million workers willing to form or join trade unions to improve wages and benefits above Wal-Mart or McDonald's levels.
3. Barack Obama will not call for a withdrawal from the WTO and NAFTA. Trade agreements should stick to trade while labor, environmental, and consumer rights are advanced by separate treaties with strong enforcement mechanisms without being subordinated to the dictates of international commerce.
4. Obama will steer clear of any suggestion that our income tax system be substantially revamped. Workers should keep more of their wages while we tax the things we like least at the source, such as polluters, stock speculation, addictive industries, and energy guzzling technologies. Corporations should be required to pay their fair share; corporate tax contributions as a percent of the overall federal revenue stream have been declining for 50 years and now stand at about 7.4 percent despite massive record profits.
5. There will be no call for a single-payer health care system. Sixty years after President Truman first proposed it, we still need health insurance for everyone, a program with quality and cost controls and an emphasis on prevention. Full Medicare for everyone will save thousands of lives while maintaining patient choice of doctors and hospitals within a competitive private health care delivery system.
6. There is no reason to believe that the Democrats will stand up to the commercial interests profiting from our current energy situation. We need a straightforward carbon pollution tax, not a convoluted cap-and-trade system that would invite massive manipulation. We need a major environmental health agenda that challenges these entrenched interests with new initiatives in solar energy, efficiency in motor vehicles, and other sustainable and clean energy technologies. Nor will there be any recognition that current fossil fuels are producing cancer, respiratory diseases, and geopolitical entanglements. Finally, there will be no calls for ending environmental racism that leads to contaminated water and air in our cities, to toxic dumps in poorer neighborhoods, and to high toxicities in the workplace.
7. Democrats will not demand a reduction in the bloated, redundant military budget that devours half the federal government's operating expenditures at a time when there is no Soviet Union or other major state enemy in the world. Studies by the Government Accountability Office and internal Pentagon assessments support the judgment of many retired admirals and generals that a wasteful defense weakens our country and distorts priorities at home.
8. You won't hear a clarion call for electoral reform. Both parties have shamelessly engaged in gerrymandering, a process that guarantees reelection of their candidates at the expense of frustrated voters. Nor will there be any suggestion that law-abiding ex-felons be allowed to vote. Other electoral reforms should include reducing ballot access barriers to candidates, same day registration, a voter verified paper record for electronic voting, run-off voting to ensure winners receive a majority vote, binding none-of-the-above choices and most important, full public financing to guarantee clean elections.
9. You will hear no calls for reform of the criminal justice system. Our nation now holds one out of four of the world's prisoners, half of them nonviolent. While they attempt to counter Republican charges that they favor criminals over victims, Democrats will say nothing about a failed war on drugs that costs $50 billion annually. And they will not argue that addicts should be treated rather than imprisoned. Nor should observers hope for any call to repeal the "three strikes and you're out" laws that have filled our jails.
10. Democrats will ignore the Israeli peace movement whose members have developed accords for a two-state solution with their Palestinian and American counterparts. It is time to replace the Washington puppet show with a Washington peace show for the security of the American, Palestinian, and Israeli people.
11. The Democrats will not call for the United States to begin a military and corporate total withdrawal from Iraq. Such a withdrawal would result in mainstream Iraqis no longer supporting or joining the insurgency. Internationally UN-supervised elections will allow for appropriate autonomy for the Kurdish, Sunni, and Shi'ite communities within a unified Iraq. Seriously waging peace will be far cheaper than a permanent war economy which is generating huge deficits and diverting attention, talent, and resources from the necessities of the American people.
12. Democrats will not stand up to business interests that have demanded changes that close the courtroom to wrongfully injured and cheated individuals, but not to corporations. Where is the campaign against fraud and injury upon innocent patients, consumers, and workers? We should make it easier for consumers to band together and defend themselves against harmful practices in the marketplace. To the voters I say: Don't hold your breath waiting for the Democrats to put people before corporations. Watch as this Convention obeys the 12 taboos.
About Ralph Nader
Attorney, author, and consumer advocate Ralph Nader has been named by Time Magazine one of the "100 Most Influential Americans in the 20th Century." For more than four decades he has exposed problems and organized millions of citizens into more than 100 public interest groups advocating solutions. He led the movement to establish the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and was instrumental in enacting the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Motor Vehicle Safety Act, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and countless other pieces of important consumer legislation. Because of Ralph Nader we drive safer cars, eat healthier food, breathe better air, drink cleaner water, and work in safer environments. Nader graduated from Princeton University and received an LL.B from Harvard Law School.
About Matt Gonzalez
Matt Gonzalez was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 2000 representing San Francisco's fifth council district. From 2003 to 2005, he served as Board of Supervisors President. A former public defender, Gonzalez is managing partner of Gonzalez & Leigh, a 7-attorney practice in San Francisco that represents individuals and organizations in mediation, arbitration, and administrative proceedings before state and federal regulatory bodies. Gonzalez graduated from Columbia University and received a JD from Stanford Law School.
About the Nader/Gonzalez Campaign
According to a CNN-Opinion Research Corp. poll conducted from July 27-29, Ralph Nader is at 6 percent nationally (equivalent to about 10 million eligible voters), higher than his highest major poll numbers during the same time period in 2000 and approaching the 10 percent threshold required for eligibility to participate in "America's Presidential Debate in New Orleans," a Google-sponsored event scheduled for September 18. In the key swing state of Michigan -- whose Democratic voters were partially disenfranchised by the Democratic National Committee -- an EPIC-MRA poll found Nader at 8-10 percent.
For more information on the Nader/Gonzalez campaign, visit: votenader.org.