By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
MEYERSON: You've been a leading figure for the movement that gathered in Seattle, particularly in defining a larger vision as to what kind of globalization that movement should seek. What sort of things do you look toward when you think about an alternative global order?
NADER: Let me begin in terms of Gore and Bush. Their idea of a global order is competing to set up a missile defense. They're competing to expand the military when there's no longer any Soviet Union. Historically, we demobilize after our enemies are vanquished or go away. Not this time. So they're talking about a $300 billion military budget.
MEYERSON: Are you going to make an issue out of this anti-missile system?
NADER: Yeah, that's almost beyond satire. You have the mainstream physics society, composed of physicists, some of whom are longtime consultants to the Defense Department, coming out and saying it's not going to work. Besides which, why do we suddenly assume that countries are willing to commit suicide by launching missiles against us, when for 35 years we didn't assume that with the Soviet Union or China?
But as to globalization -- it's got to be given an adjective. What we're dealing with now is corporate globalization. A corporate-driven military policy to sell more and more weapons to the Pentagon and then have the U.S. government subsidize the residual sales of similar weapons privately to other countries. Corporate globalization is the way the issue should be joined.
The question is, what do we mean to the rest of the world? What do we mean in terms of global infectious diseases? That should be a pillar of our foreign policy. It isn't. What do we mean in terms of stimulating democracy? It's all rhetoric, we don't do that. We do far more propping up of authoritarian, oligarchic, dictatorial regimes than stimulating any democracy. When are we going to really take the lead on the environment? We're the biggest polluter in the aggregate. We are subsidizing fossil fuels and nuclear and not making it a major global policy to promote renewable solar and efficiency programs.
And we're not very good on waging peace. We spend untold billions preparing to wage war, but you don't see a Department of Peace. That means we're weak on preventive diplomacy and preventive defense. So we're always stumbling into crises, and having to make instant decisions that are difficult -- and having to send our own troops. We don't have well-trained, standby, multilateral peacekeeping forces. So we get into NATO [interventions] and all kinds of U.S.-dominated situations which tend to backfire.
MEYERSON: So would you favor the United Nations' having a greater capacity for intervention for the kinds of violence that have occurred, say, in parts of Africa?
NADER: Yeah. I don't think as a world we can just sit around and watch half a million Rwandan men, women and children get slaughtered.
MEYERSON: What kinds of agreements would you like to see as part of an alternative model of globalization?
NADER: Currently, we are one of 137 nations that belong to the WTO [World Trade Organization]. Each one of those nations has the right to give six months' notice for withdrawal. We ought to withdraw and renegotiate trade agreements that pull standards up rather than down. Today, when products in international trade are produced by child labor, we can't ban them from being imported here -- although we can't buy products made in this country by child labor, because it's illegal. We're bound to let them in from other countries, though, because under the WTO agreement, we can't restrict imports based on how they are produced, except for prison labor. The subordination of labor, environmental and consumer issues to the supremacy of international trade -- that's the mandate of NAFTA and GATT and all other pending agreements. So we need to have trade agreements that stick to trade, and then have parallel environmental, labor and consumer treaties.
MEYERSON: Do you talk about fossil fuels and such when you meet with people from the United Auto Workers [UAW] and the Teamsters [the two major unions that have not endorsed Al Gore]? Or mainly issues of corporate power?
NADER: Well, the corporate-power issue comes in the form of their shrinking membership, and being challenged by Mexican truckers at 7 bucks a day, and the UAW losing the auto industry to Mexico and Brazil and elsewhere. That's much the biggest thing on their minds. They've got to realize that the technologies have to change, that you can't go with the internal-combustion engine. And if the technologies don't change when their companies are making record profits, when are they going to change? This is another sign of how powerful and concentrated corporate power is over public policy. Usually, when the industry is in recession, you can't strengthen regulations. Now you can't strengthen regulations when they're reporting sustained record profits year after year.
Clinton and Gore have not proposed any fuel-efficiency standards. Who would have ever dreamed that? And as a result, our motor-vehicle fuel-efficiency average standard is now down to the level of 1980. It's been going down every year.
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