Nader's "Democracy Toolbox" which elaborates upon his goals for altering the US political system to ensure the empowerment of citizens, informs readers of his stance on the people's role in democracy. Striving to take power out the hands of corporations with the intention of handing it to the people, Nader pushes for better education of the populace in the contemporary context of a dominating elite in the government. Similarly to Obama's initiatives to increase the use of technology to strengthen the participation of citizens as well as the quality and amount of imformation coming from the government (as discussed in a previous post on this blog click here to view), Nader too wants to provide more transparency in this effort to give citizens access to previously hoarded information. In this proposition Nader reveals a distinction between ownership and control. While the people supposedly own public lands, pension funds, savings accounts, and the public airwaves, Nader proposes that we also control these public assets. The tools he proposes are "universally accessible, can reduce government and other deficits, and are voluntary to use or band together around." He goes on to note that, "it matters not whether people are Republicans, Democrats, or Independents. It matters only that Americans desire to secure and use these facilities or tools." In this contentious race for the presidency, it is imperative to understand how each candidate plans to give the people more power so that we may participate in this democracy. -Editor
[For several years, Ralph Nader has been advocating a series of changes intended to strengthen our democracy. February 1, 1992, Nader presented "The Concord Principles: An Agenda for a New Initiatory Democracy." This week and next, we offer you the Concord Principles, with commentary.]
WHEREAS, a selfish oligarchy has produced economic decline, the debasement of politics, and the exclusion of citizens from the strengthening of their democracy and political economy;
(a) to obtain timely, accurate information from their government;
(b) to communicate such information and their judgments to one another through modern technology; and:
(c) to band together in civic associations as voters, taxpayers, consumers, workers, shareholders, students and as whole human beings in pursuit of a prosperous, just and free society.
(a) a binding none-of-the-above opinion on the ballot. [If "none of the above" received the largest number of votes, this would trigger a new election.]
(b) term limitations, 12 years and out;
(c) public financing of campaigns through well-promoted voluntary taxpayer checkoffs on tax returns;
(d) easier voter registration and ballot access rules; [Congress has since passed the so-called "motor voter" law to make voter registration simpler and easier, but the bill has not yet come out of conference committee, so the exact provisions remain unknown.]
(e) state-level binding initiative, referendum, and recall authority, and a non-binding national referendum procedure. ["Initiative" gives citizens the right to propose legislation for consideration by the voters, not waiting for a legislator to propose it; "referendum" allows citizens to vote laws into effect themselves, circumventing legislatures; "recall" allows citizens to un-elect particular elected officials.] And:
(f) a repeal of the runaway White House/Congressional pay raises back to 1988 levels.
(a) computerized access in libraries and their own homes to a full range of government information for which they have already paid but are now unable to obtain, either inexpensively or at all;
(b) facilities in the form of periodic inserts, included in the billing or other envelopes sent to them by companies that are either legal monopolies (for example, electric, gas, telephone bills) or are subsidized or subsidizable by the taxpayers (for example, banks and savings and loans). These inserts invite consumers to join their own state-wide consumer action groups to act as a watchdog, to negotiate and to advocate for their interests. A model of this facility is the Illinois Citizen Utility Board which has saved ratepayers over $3 billion since 1983 and filled the consumer chair before utility commissions, legislative hearings, and courtroom proceedings on many occasions. This type of facility costs taxpayers nothing, costs the carrying companies or government mailings nothing (the consumer group pays for the insert and there is no extra postage) and is voluntary for consumers to join. Had there been such bank consumer associations with full-time staff in the 1970s, there would not have been a trillion dollar bailout on the taxpayers' back for the S&L and commercial bank crimes, speculations, and mismanagement debacle. These would have been dipped in the bud at the community level by informed, organized consumer judgment. So too would have costly and hazardous energy projects been replaced by energy efficiency and renewable power systems; and
(c) Citizen consumers are the viewers and listeners of television and radio. Federal law says that the public owns the public airwaves which are now leased for free by the Federal Communications Commission to television and radio companies. The public, whose only option is to switch dials or turn off, deserves its own Audience Network.
The Audience Network would enhance the communication and mobilization process between people locally and nationally. The owners of the airwaves deserve a return of their property for one hour prime time and drive time on all licensed stations so that their professional studios, producers, and reporters can program what the audience believes is important to them and their children. The proposal for Audience Network, funded by dues from the audience-members and other NON-tax revenues, was the subject of a Congressional hearing in 1991, chaired by Congressman Edward Markey.
Similarly, in return for cable company monopoly and other powers, cable subscribers should be able to join their own cable viewers group through a periodic insert in their monthly cable billing envelopes. Modern electronic communications can play a critical role in anticipating and resolving costly national problems when their owners gain regular usage, as a community intelligence, to inform, alert, and mobilize democratic citizen initiatives. Presently, these electronic broadcasting systems are overwhelmingly used for entertainment, advertising and redundant news, certainly not a fair reflection of what a serious society needs to communicate in a complex age, locally, nationally, and globally.
(d) Access to justice --to the courts, to government agencies, and to legislatures --is available to organized, special interests, and they widely use these remedies. In contrast, when consumers are defrauded, injured, rendered sick by wrongdoers or other perpetrators of their harm, they find costly dollar and legal hurdles blocking their right of access. They also find indentured politicians and their lobbying allies bent on closing the doors further. Systems of justice are to be used conveniently and efficiently by all the people in this country, not just corporations and the wealthy. Otherwise, the citizen shutout worsens.