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Stealing the Moment

by RALPH NADER

 

Historians like to speak of special times when leaders “seized the moment” to enact or implement their priorities. Giant hurricanes make these “special times,” and no one is moving faster to exploit them than the corporate powers.

Urged on by the Wall Street Journal’s editorials, corporate lobbyists are demanding of the federal and state governments

(1) taxpayer funded subsidies;

(2) more tax reductions;

(3) waivers from worker pay protection laws;

(4) a host of waivers from environmental health and land use regulations; and

(5) immunity from certain liabilities for harmful conduct. Even the shoreline gambling casinos are pushing for federal monies and getting support from more than a few so-called conservative Republicans.

After every national tragedy, large corporations move to cash in. They arrange for no-competitive bid contracts so that their cronyism can get them large government contracts awarded with few safeguards to prevent waste, fraud and abuse.

Of course, these companies have their favorite politician in the White House and a Republican Congress marinated in business campaign contributions. Such indentured servants further encourage the corporate supremacists’ grab of greed.

This is the President who is supposed to be preparing for mass evacuations in case of attacks or natural disasters. So what did he demand of Congress earlier this year. That the federal budget contribution to AMTRAK be eliminated.

Recall the televised 100-mile traffic jam out of Houston, Texas, fleeing Hurricane Rita, along with all other exiting roadways. Did you see any trains? Unlike Western Europe and Japan, an adequate, modern national railway system that can lessen congestion on the highways during daily commutes and serve to evacuate efficiently large numbers of people during emergencies does not exist for large, populated areas of the United States. Billions of tax dollars have gone to the troubled mismanaged airlines, especially after 9/11, but passenger railroads are expected to find their capital expenditures (upgrading roadbeds and equipment) on their own.

On the other side of the political aisle, the forces in Congress for the people can also “seize the moment.” They can “seize the moment” for expanding both intercity rail systems and modern in-city mass transit. This will provide more transportation for emergencies, allow lower-income people to get to their jobs or find jobs better, reduce gasoline usage and air pollution, and create good paying construction jobs building a very useful public service.

These forces can also “seize the moment” by opposing all the repulsive privileges, favoritism and freeloading by corporate executives exploiting devastations to innocent people.

There is not much of any forcefulness on these two objectives yet on Capitol Hill. But Congressman Edward Markey (D-MA) and a coalition of Democrats and supportive Republicans, have introduced a very modest proposal to increase the average fuel economy of motor vehicles from the current absurdly low average of 24 miles per gallon (the lowest since 1980) to 33 miles per gallon by the fall of 2015.

Why so little, since MIT’s Technology Review reported that SUVs themselves could reach 40 miles per gallon by 2010? The very modesty of the proposal, at a time of $3 plus per gallon of gasoline perilous reliance on imported oil, and oceans of gas guzzlers on the highways, is a test of just how arrogant and stagnant are the auto industry’s domestic leaders.

Sure enough, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers immediately attacked the Boehlert/Markey amendment with specious assertions, imperiously assuring that the industry can do the job by itself.

Sure just the way the industry has been doing ­ going backwards into the future with declining average vehicle fuel economy year after year.

Even the hot selling oversubscribed Hybrids by Toyota and Honda for about five years cannot get the lead out of the rear end of General Motors and Ford Motor Company. They are making announcements in newspaper ads that they intend to awaken from their technologically stagnant slumber, however. That’s a verbal start. But not anywhere near fast enough for motorists, commuters and the national interest.

Good members of Congress just “seize the moment.”

RALPH NADER is the author of The Good Fight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CLARIFICATION

ALEXANDER COCKBURN, JEFFREY ST CLAIR, BECKY GRANT AND THE INSTITUTE FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF JOURNALISTIC CLARITY, COUNTERPUNCH

We published an article entitled “A Saudiless Arabia” by Wayne Madsen dated October 22, 2002 (the “Article”), on the website of the Institute for the Advancement of Journalistic Clarity, CounterPunch, www.counterpunch.org (the “Website”).

Although it was not our intention, counsel for Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi has advised us the Article suggests, or could be read as suggesting, that Mr Al Amoudi has funded, supported, or is in some way associated with, the terrorist activities of Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda terrorist network.

We do not have any evidence connecting Mr Al Amoudi with terrorism.

As a result of an exchange of communications with Mr Al Amoudi’s lawyers, we have removed the Article from the Website.

We are pleased to clarify the position.

August 17, 2005

 

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! 

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