Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader says he's not tired of saying "I told you so" about the financial market meltdown because most politicians and media won't acknowledge he ever said so anyway.
"The Washington press doesn't recognize prophets, but we predicted this, we fought it 20 years ago, 10 years ago," he said Tuesday, a week before scheduled Bay Area appearances.
Whether it was rampant speculation, precarious mortgage lending, excessive executive compensation as incentive to cook corporate books or what have you, he said, "We did all this in testimony, articles, demonstrations on Wall Street in 2000 and 2004. And guess what? The national press doesn't return our calls."
Now Nader, the 74-year-old consumer rights icon making his fifth White House bid, is pitching a package of conditions for the foundering financial markets' proposed government bailout. He wants reciprocity in the form of stock warrants so taxpayers can make some money back if these businesses flourish again; no lobbying rights for bailed-out companies; no golden parachutes or get-out-of-jail-free cards for guilty executives; public hearings on everything; letting below-median-value homeowners facing foreclosure rent-to-own their homes at fair market prices; and making the Federal Reserve into a Cabinet position accountable to Congress.
He also wants a securities speculation tax, which he likens to the sales tax paid on over-the-counter goods. With $500 trillion in transactions this year, he said, a one-tenth of 1 percent tax would relieve tax pressure on the working middle class while discouraging excessive speculation.
"(House Financial Services Committee Chairman) Barney Frank and (Senate Banking Committee Chairman) Chris Dodd want reciprocity, I don't know if they're going to get it"... but none of them are talking about tougher criminal enforcement"... none of them are talking about prudent margin requirements," Nader said, scoffing at the Bush administration's "four-page bill for a $700 billion bailout" that seeks to exempt itself from any oversight or review.
"For heaven's sake, even the pope isn't final"... He's infallible, but he's not final. I know my Scripture at that level."
Congress is "being stampeded — that's what they do, the corporate lobbyists and Bush and (Treasury Secretary Henry) Paulson's people are saying 'Hurry up, the markets are going to collapse, give us what we want.' But, you know, Congress has its own constitutional responsibilities"... and whenever there's a stampede, the people suffer."
Americans have to get angry and get active, he said.
"They're marching in the streets in Hong Kong, but you can't get a six-car protest in Washington. The people are asleep at the switch. They've convinced themselves they're powerless." And charging up the electorate is exactly what he aims to do on his upcoming swing through California, he said. To Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain, "California is a cash cow with no respect, but we're going to argue against offshore drilling, we're going to oppose Proposition 8. "... We take stands on local issues, unlike the big guys. That's one way we campaign with the people; we don't just turn them into spectators."
Nader and his running mate, former San Francisco Supervisor Matt Gonzalez, arrive in the Bay Area on Tuesday for a $200-a-head luncheon fundraiser at noon in San Francisco. Later that day, they'll hold rallies with "Peace Mom" activist and independent congressional candidate Cindy Sheehan at 2:30 p.m. at San Francisco State University and at 7 p.m. in Oakland's Grand Lake Theater.
Reach Josh Richman at 510-208-6428 or firstname.lastname@example.org.