By Ralph Nader
Since our meeting at your office in the Fall of 2014, I have tried several times to reach you about a number of civic projects that seem to be right up your alley. As others have noted, it is near impossible to get you to return a telephone call for the necessary two-way conversation.
During our meeting, I suggested a small roundtable of enlightened billionaires, such as yourself, in Washington, D.C., to achieve a much higher level of impact favoring the interest of the people. You replied, “If I could pull them together, you would attend?” Unfortunately, this didn’t happen. Billionaires prefer to return calls from billionaires.
Let me explain. While you have become an overachiever in wealth and publicly declared concerns for people’s well-being coming from your previous status, you are an underachiever given your present super-successful status.
Many people know you not from your “managing, funding or financing of over 30 companies, with market values of tens of billions of dollars” (quoting from your website), but from your articles in major publications calling for higher minimum wages and blasting trillions of dollars in stock buybacks. You argued years ago that corporations like Walmart should use such monies to elevate their workers to at least $15 per hour, not just because these laborers need the money, but also because such a policy would obviously increase consumer demand and stimulate the economy. You once warned major capitalists that if they keep their heads in the sand, “the Pitchforks Are Coming.” That phrase rang around the country for a while, but the impasse in Congress is blocking an increase in the federal minimum wage and other labor protections. (Fortunately, some states and cities have raised their minimum wage.)
In 2015, you started Civic Ventures, which you called “a group of political troublemakers that “rejects trickle-down economics in all of its forms” and moves to “improve the lives of the typical family in our community and country,” “including all consumers, workers, innovators and citizens,” by creating “systemic disruptive change that improves the lives of our fellow citizens and community.” “Said another way, we seek to prevent poverty, rather than treat the symptoms of poverty.”
I especially applaud your crisp declaration:
“The tenets of trickle-down economics – tax cuts for the rich, deregulation for the powerful, and wage suppression for you – have turned economic inequality into the defining issue of our time.”
You have an exceptionally well-articulated mission statement. (For more see Civic Ventures). Civic Ventures invites what I have asked you to consider repeatedly. I have recently requested to speak with you for your non-monetary participation for one hour during a one-day event to help thwart the fall of our Republic into authoritarian grips after the November election. To date, I have been unable to make direct contact with you. This initiative meets uncannily your five criteria for engaging in “local and national civic actions.” You know well that our democracy and political system rest on the quality and timing of our civic actions.
However, there is something even more basic than civic actions. That is initiating communications about civic actions. Without communication between two or more people, nothing happens. Everybody knows this, but far too many people, in this cluttered Internet age, do not practice what they know. (Starting with members of Congress, I might add, regarding serious matters of policy and action.)
All the above is a way of elaborating why I think you are such an underachiever relative to what you can now accomplish with the resources, experience and intellect you have thus far aggregated. From your present perch, you could galvanize a small number of enlightened billionaires to accomplish significant needed changes quickly and sustainably, especially in this momentous year of 2022.
You can get your calls returned and for serious purposes, including revoking the Reagan-SEC repeal in 1982 of stock buybacks as illegal stock manipulation. Add ending the “carried interest” loophole, which is draining an estimated $18 billion a year from the public treasury because not one full-time advocate is working Congress on this low-hanging fruit.
With President Biden and about half of the Congress already supportive of these three reforms, along with way over half the public, hire a dozen strong citizen advocates to work Capitol Hill and weave this tapestry for successful results. The time is ripe for action, not just great talk.
If you wish to recommunicate after eight years, you have my telephone number. Do it now, for tempus fugit.