Ralph Nader still swinging at corporate America
Ralph Nader before his speech "The Mega Corporate Destruction of Capitalism & Democracy" at Point Park University yesterday.
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Ralph Nader wanted to inspire students last night, even if they did "grow up corporate" and attend "a high-priced tool factory" (translation: a major university).
Mr. Nader, a consumer advocate and perennial presidential candidate, spoke to more than 200 people at Point Park University. His speech was titled "The Mega Corporate Destruction of Capitalism and Democracy."
It was not a night for ambivalence.
"I want your indignation level to start rising," Mr. Nader said as he covered topics as varied as chronic pill-popping and chronic iPod use. The flood of screens in students' lives, from big-screen televisions to miniature cell phones, is the "new opiate of the people," he said.
People are inundated with corporate advertising that undermines personal choice, and Mr. Nader wanted his audience to break the cycle.
He challenged the college-aged listeners by asking what response they'll have for grandchildren who want to know why they didn't do more to help their country. "I was just too busy updating my profile on Facebook?" he asked.
Mr. Nader ran for president as the Green Party candidate in 1996 and 2000, then as an independent candidate in 2004 and 2008.
He had plenty to say on the financial collapses of this past year, calling Washington, D.C., "a corporate state" that caters to big business interests.
Mr. Nader sees fault on both sides, in the corporations that collapsed and the government that rushed to save them.
In an interview with the Post-Gazette, Mr. Nader said he had little faith in any financial regulation coming from the Obama administration.
He described officials like Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner as "straight out of Wall Street," and said no real change can occur until voters realize that corporations are "our servants, not our masters."
Federal bailouts grant "privileges and immunities not given to individuals," he said, adding, "the real capitalists in this country are small businesses."
He's a staple on the lecture circuit, but Mr. Nader also came to Point Park to pitch his latest book, a 733-page novel, "Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!"
The book is about a "practical utopia" that imagines a world in which real-life millionaires -- including Warren Buffet and Yoko Ono -- form a goodwill coalition.
By blending elements of fiction and nonfiction, Mr. Nader said he hoped to give readers a chance to imagine what's possible once they have "a sense of potential power."
And while he said he liked Pittsburgh and guessed this was his 80th visit, Mr. Nader acknowledged some frustration with the Keystone State.
"Pennsylvania is one of the worst, most difficult states for third-party candidates to get on the ballot," he said, as staff passed around a sign-up sheet for Nader mailing lists.
First Published October 20, 2009 12:00 am