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Ralph Nader Rolls Into Buffalo August 3rd

Drive On

Buckle your safety belts because Ralph Nader is coming to town and he is in the driver’s seat to take Western New Yorkers for one hell of a ride through the plutocracy of Wall Street and what the Green Party candidate for Governor (Howie Hawkins) can do for the majority with money, taxes, and debt-elimination. Nader, who visits Buffalo August 3, shares his ideas with Artvoice in an interview that exposes the long-time Presidential candidate and activist’s thoughts on everything from imagination to taxes and war.

Artvoice: Your latest book, Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! is being called “political science fiction.” Could you explain that genre?

Ralph Nader: That phrase came from a Polish-Ukrainian American from Buffalo so I thought it was a good term. Political science is a term, so it’s a term of political science imagination.

AV: What’s the general theme of the book?

RN: The idea is to expand peoples’ imaginations so they can begin thinking that there is a lot more possible and realistic in turning our country around so it starts dealing with a lot of overdue issues. I wanted to do that in a dramatic, engrossing, creative and funny way [words Leslie Stahl used in a letter to Nader] and I hope it will be a movie someday. When activists lose the battle they can wrap themselves up again and enlarge their circle by writing the story of what if. What if we had more—how would it have played out differently? People can write from their own experience and they can imagine. Imagination is what starts it all. Whereas if you are just writing non-fiction you cannot elaborate your own imagination in order to envision real possibilities for our country and world.

AV: In November New Yorkers are going to be voting for a new Governor. Who do you support and why?

RN: Howie Hawkins. He is the most qualified because he has a well-grounded community organizer background. He is a worker for UPS, a grad of Dartmouth, a former marine, he is as honest as the day is long, and he knows how to put people first and that is the most important qualification to resist the corporate supremacist that is bringing people to their knees.

AV: What issues should voters be listening for the candidates to address?

RN: The most important fiscal issue is to end the repaying of 16 billion dollars of NYS stock exchange stock transfer taxes. Starting in 1981 they started rebating these taxes (back to Wall Street). If they said ‘no more rebating you are going to pay sales tax at a mere rate of 1%’ that would prevent the layoffs of tens of thousands workers in NYS because the budget deficit in the state is about 8 billion. There is no more ready and justifiable source of revenue than a tax that is already assessed. That is the big issue and that is what we are going to highlight in Buffalo. It’s an issue that’s been in the shadows for a long time. The tax is about 1/20th of one percent whereas New Yorkers with their sales tax pay 100x more. This is a democracy?! This is plutocracy.

AV: If you had the power to make the federal government listen to just one of your messages and take heed, which one would it be and why?

RN: Get out of Afghanistan and Iraq! Put the money back into issues in this country. It does two things: One, it invigorates our economy here at home without raising taxes; and two, it reduces the militarization of our foreign policy, which is getting us in trouble all over the world.

AV: There are some big environmental issues afoot right now. What’s your opinion on the BP oil spill and how it has been handled?

RN: I think part of it is a regulatory failure and that’s been well documented. The oil companies had control of mineral management services. They fraternized, partied with them and it was a total sabotage of the health and safety of the American people and their livelihood in the Gulf area. BP is a uniquely reckless oil company and that’s also been documented. We should get our energy from Detroit and not 5000 feet deep in the gulf of Mexico. Now we are stuck with this huge gusher and we have to make sure that every last dollar BP has will be tapped to provide for every last person harmed.

AV: Hydraulic fracturing?

RN: That’s another example of inadequate preparation and public hearings. They are trying to rush into it without the public being fully informed about the affects on drinking water by the chemicals they use.

It’s stop, look, and listen time—community by community where they want to drill.

AV: What do you think about America’s financial situation?

RN: It’s in triple debt—government, corporate and consumer debt. So people are living off future income, future taxes and it has reached record level so they have to have a different system of taxation like say financial transaction taxes. We should tax things we dislike the most and like the least—corporate crime, pollution, gambling, addiction, sugar...there are all kinds of things we should tax before we tax labor.

AV: You and gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins have been pushing for a non-rebated tax on stock transfers nationwide. Could you tell us a little about the tax and how it would work?

RN: When people buy and sell stocks there is a stock transfer tax. It’s really a sales tax but it’s more specialized so it’s called a transfer tax. There is no federal transaction tax and NYS instantly rebates the stock transfer tax. It happens to be a very efficient tax to collect and not rebate because there are no evasions, they have a record of all transactions. Every single tax is rebated back though.

AV: What of Paterson’s claim that imposing this tax or a similar one would cause Wall Street firms to move to other cities?

RN: First of all, they won’t do it. The NYS stock exchange has a global trademark and the cost of relocation is tremendous. They will have to ask hundreds of thousands of workers to quit or move, and then there is traffic, congestion, disruption. It is nothing but a bluff and I don’t even know if they would bear the shame given what has happened the past two or three years with the NY taxpayer bailing them out.

AV: How would the tax affect Wall Street?

RN: You are buying 100 shares for $50 dollar a share and you pay five thousand bucks. The stock transfer tax is one twentieth of one percent, so it’s about $2.50. It’s a pretty miniscule amount to have a better NYS for tens of thousands of people and the millions who use public works.

AV: How would the elimination of the rebates affect Main Street?

RN: It would make up the deficit and provide for critical needs like health insurance. It would prevent job loss. It could build or renovate some public works, upgrade mass transit, provide for clinics, and schools. Why have these reckless speculators in NY in the stock exchange had their taxes rebated? It’s not like they have been behaving superbly in the past years. They have tanked some of their own companies, unemployed thousands of workers and then had the arrogance to go to Washington and drain the US taxpayers. You think they deserve more money? I hope not, otherwise we better start describing the USA as a corporate plantation with over 300,000,000 serfs.

For more information you can talk to Nader yourself on August 3 at 7 pm at Dnipro Ukrainian Cultural Center, 562 Genesee St.

For more information about Howie Hawkins and his gubernatorial platform visit

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