Ralph Nader: For Most Roads Ahead, It’s All About Congress – OpEd


We know their names! We’ve given immense power to Five Hundred and Thirty-Five People to do good or bad. One Hundred Senators and Four Hundred and Thirty-Five Representatives. Unfortunately, some 1500 corporations control most Members of Congress. Think about all the dreams for a better world that could come to be realized if our elected officials worked for the big majority of Americans instead of Big Business interests.

Let’s go through a short list of Big Deals:

  1. Do you want a living wage for all Americans? The super-highway is through Congress.
  2. Do you want a universal, more efficient, free choice health care with an emphasis on prevention of disease and injury? The super-highway goes through Congress
  3. Do you want a fair tax system that makes the big corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share for a change? Take it through Congress.
  4. Do you want to stop your tax dollars from being spent on corporate welfare, corporate-powered wasteful budgets in Washington? Congress can do that.
  5. Do you want to eliminate corporate defrauding of government programs like Medicare and Medicaid? Take it to Capitol Hill.
  6. Do you want your tax dollars to be used to create good-paying non-exportable jobs, workers to repair and upgrade the public facilities or infrastructure, in every one of your communities?
  7. Do you want to cut the presently unaudited bloated military budget, stop the boomeranging Empire overseas, and redirect your tax dollars back home to pay for the necessities of life? That means getting through Congress.
  8. Do you want to end all the financial rip-offs such as overcharges and penalties, sky-high credit cards, and payday loan interest rates?
  9. Do you want to end the near-zero interest rates on your savings, where you are lucky to get ¼ of one percent interest, while the government charges many times that for student loans?
  10. Do you want to protect your families and your children’s children from climate catastrophes – worsening by the year?
  11. Do you want to quickly move away from fossil fuels and to self-reliant, local, cleaner, renewable solar and wind energy, plus huge energy conservation?
  12. Do you want to stop big companies from directly exploiting and tempting your children with junk food and sugary junk drinks that lead to spiraling obesity and related diseases?
  13. Do you want Congress to stop the digital age child molesters that undermine parental authority and promote violent and addictive entertainment programs?
  14. Do you want Members of Congress to give you what they have given themselves in the way of retirement security that is part of worker’s compensation?
  15. Do you want a pathway to universal basic income long backed by leading conservative and liberal economists?
  16. Do you want a modern convenient mass transit system (that will diminish traffic congestion) like what Japan and western Europe have had for years?
  17. Do you want across the board paid vacations, paid family sick leave, daycare, free or low-cost college tuition? (Many years ago, people like you got these social services through their Parliaments).
  18. Do you want to take back your control from corporations of what you already own – the public lands, public airwaves, massive public research, and development? (Remember you already own these great public assets, pay for them in direct and indirect ways).
  19. Do you want clean and fair elections and electoral districts, that stop the buying and renting of politicians? (This is the first step in breaking the Big Money chains on Congress by the corporations).

There are so many more congressional actions that could brighten the horizon. Congress could lead the way on affordable, available housing, repealing anti-union laws, push the White House to wage peace (diplomacy) rather than repeatedly threaten or use military force, ratify arms control, advance consumer, labor, and environmental protection treaties, push the Executive Branch to enforce the civil rights laws and to develop stronger corporate crime laws. The list of what should be done is long and overdue.

The road to a more just society runs through Congress with the Members of Congress working for you, the people.

You may say, what about obstructions of Congress by the Executive Branch and the Judiciary? Congress controls the purse, confirms the judges, has the tax-paying and the war-making authorities – as designed by our founding fathers, who never envisioned Congress abdicating those powers.

In my little paperback book, Breaking Through Power: Its Easier Than We Think, I wrote about the past battles for justice writ large that have been waged in Congress. None of these efforts took more than one percent of the people, actively engaged, connected, and knowledgeable, reflecting majority opinion. How did they win? They had a laser-focus on Congress and state legislatures – lawmaker by lawmaker.

Why don’t tens of millions of Americans, who are hurting, deprived, under-insured, underpaid, disrespected, stressed out and obstructed from a better life, form Congress Watchdog Lobbies?  Imagine summoning your Senators and Representatives to your organized town-meetings to receive your majority-supported instructions on how to use the power you’ve given them.

Americans care for 70 million pet dogs every day. Spend a fraction of that time taking care of your two Senators and Representatives. Maybe they can start using their cell phones to call Members of Congress while safely walking their dogs. For ideas on how to form your own congressional watchdog group see: Become a Congressional Ratwatcher.

Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader is a politician, activist and the author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!, a novel. In his career as consumer advocate he founded many organizations including the Center for Study of Responsive Law, the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), the Center for Auto Safety, Public Citizen, Clean Water Action Project, the Disability Rights Center, the Pension Rights Center, the Project for Corporate Responsibility and The Multinational Monitor (a monthly magazine).

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