The Ralph Nader Reader

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In a pop media culture dominated by dismissive irony and cloying sentimentalism, how do we talk about a true American political hero? The answer is, we don't. After 40 years in the trenches, Ralph Nader, the standard-bearer in the battle for the rights of the disenfranchised and the consummate American citizen, is still being ignored by the mass media. Reading The Ralph Nader Reader may lead one to view that oversight as less than accidental. Nader has tilted against injustice wherever he has found it, and he has found it in spades in corporate America. Beginning with his crusade against the auto industry in the early 1960s, Nader went on to fight for the rights of workers by helping create the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, as well as for a citizen's right for access to government documents in the creation of the Freedom of Information Act. He has often stood resolute before the juggernaut--and more often than not, the juggernaut has flinched. His investigation of corporate crime led him to see a far-reaching problem of accountability. Corporations are supposed to be accountable to the people and laws of America, but what happens when the government exempts corporations from these responsibilities? Nader gives one of many shocking examples: "Of America's 250 most profitable corporations in 1988, 45 reduced their tax liability to less than 10%, 6 received refunds." This and countless other examples of corporate-government malfeasance have led Nader to focus increasingly on reestablishing democracy in America. He advocates citizen groups at the local level to be watchdogs for their own interests--be it as voters, taxpayers, workers, consumers, or shareholders. "It is time for a civic rebellion, Jeffersonian style," he writes. So is there an effort to keep Nader out of the media? When you realize, as Nader points out repeatedly, that one corporation owns 800 radio stations across the U.S., that a handful of corporations control the vast majority of television networks, and that The New York Times owns The Boston Globe , you see that he has ticked off the wrong people if he wants his voice to be heard in America. But his voice speaks clearly in this book, and gives us all an ideal of citizenship and democratic action to strive for. But beware The Ralph Nader Reader --once you take the red pill, you'll have to see how deep the rabbit hole goes, and once you see, you may find yourself doing something about it. --Steve Andersen