Howard Dean’s Plea for Advice

I just received a letter from Howard Dean, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, describing me as a “Democratic Leader” and “an active and engaged member of our Party in your community.” He asks for my “opinions” which “will help shape the future direction of the Democratic Party and make us more effective in building grassroots support for our agenda.”

Dr. Dean attaches a survey “registered in your name and intended exclusively for your use.” How nice! He made me feel even more exclusive when he called me “the strength and soul of the Democratic Party,” along with other “local leaders.”

Well, with such encomiums, how could I not peruse the lengthy questionnaire so that I can meet Mr. Dean’s expectations. Especially with his personal instructions “Ralph, please turn the page to begin your survey.”

The questions covered some important topics. They include one asking whether I support “new tax cuts targeted at working families.” But no request for my opinion on removing the massive Bush tax reductions for the wealthy, for their unearned income of capital gains and dividends, and for large corporations now making rocket profits.

Another inquiry asked about raising the minimum wage of $5.15 per hour, but no higher figure was listed. Nor was there a question about labor law reform assisting workers in our concentrated industrial, commercial and retail economy (eg. WalMart) to establish or expand trade unions. The present system is rigged in favor of giant companies.

Down further in the survey, there is the question about allowing Medicare to bring in less expensive drugs from Canada, but nothing about controlling sky-high drug prices, including drugs developed by your federal taxpayer research dollars or drugs purchased without Uncle Sam having the right to bargain under the new notoriously nutty drug benefit concoction.

Question seven asks quite properly my opinion about “healthcare for all Americans.” Three choices: tax credits for employers, medical savings accounts or “a government-run system where everyone is guaranteed health coverage.” Who gave them these last words-the HMO industry? Why didn’t the Democratic National Committee simply say “full Medicare for everyone?” Besides, the DNC should have said “a government-funded” system, which is what I believe they and “single-payer” advocates understand those words to mean. Not a takeover of the entire medical and health industry by the government.

One would have thought Dr. Dean would have caught this miswording.

Two questions relate to withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Various time frames are offered. But there is no question about whether a survey of Democratic leaders want to impeach Bush and Cheney or in any way hold these documented, serial outlaws accountable.

No inquiries on the corporate crime epidemic, so well described in the Wall Street Journal, Fortune and Business Week magazines. No question about the massive corporate welfare payouts, directly and indirectly by the U.S. Government, including the eminent domain controversy of seizing homes to raze them and give away the land to corporations.
Mississippi, for instance, wants to allocate $240 million in Hurricane-related federal tax escapes to a Korean auto company to build an assembly. The nearly $1 billion package of corporate welfare amounts to giving Kia Company $500,000 per job created, declared Automotive News in a critical editorial recently.

The survey also ignored the bloated, wasteful, redundant military budget, denounced as such by many Congressional and Executive branch reports, which now absorbs over one half of your entire federal discretionary budget. And there is no Soviet Union to provoke any more continual building of the Cold War era of weapons systems ala Lockheed Martin’s endless wish list.

Of course, no Democratic Party survey ever includes a question on the need for much more consumer protection to avert harms and fraud, eating mightily into the standards of living, health and safety.
Sure, you can’t keep adding questions for a survey like this but omitting questions relating to corporate crime, fraud and abuse of power is a telling commentary on the heavily business-funded Democratic Party. Which may explain why there is no question on getting dirty private money out of our public elections.

I was just getting going with my private critique of this survey when it occurred to me that I could not, in good conscience, reply to it. After all, I am not “an active and engaged Democratic Party leader.”

Oh how indiscriminate and indiscreet computers have become, Dr. Dean!




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