Skip to main content

tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  September 26, 2016 10:32am-12:33pm EDT

10:32 am
once again, we question that. we looked it up in their 700 million people who've arrived every year. and so, we figured out the cost was about 10 cents per person per ride. when we revealed that, the opposition couldn't make their case. once again, one not. i'll tell you a story who didn't want to have placards on their trucks carrying agricultural chemicals which were extremely dangerous. they said it costs too much so we went on the internet was on the placards cost 53 said each. you've always got to question what the arguments of the other side are geared 505 lakh or if we delivered one to each member of congress to explain and we
10:33 am
said as a firefighter with 53 cents. [applause] been unfairly just like to say that there's so many things you can do. we've given awards to members of congress. they love to get awards. they want to be loved. we have taken ads out in their local newspaper which is really cheap and thank them for what they did. we persuaded the clinton to veto a very controversial liability bill by surrounding them with the dems. he was so happy to veto that bill even though he hated vetoing bills. so i'll just say we also helped robert redford defeat to secretary gerald ford nominated in the governor of wyoming.
10:34 am
the race that jc and we got so much media in bath that they continue the ms edition and prove to engage a fraud ahead of design. you never know where they're going to be. we are the ones i'm on the side of the ledger and we are the ones who raised a key issues people care about. and we often win even though we have so little help. thank you so much. [applause] >> thank you, john claybrook. if you're looking for a roadmap of how to get in stunning congress, i think it is wise to look joan up. our next speaker is program director at fairness and act as cm reporting and hosted the syndicated radio show counters then. she has appeared on abc's "nightline", cnn headline news and she is testified to the
10:35 am
senate communications subcommittee on the budget reauthorization or pbs. she is the author of civil rights since 1787 and stop the next war now affect your responses to violence and terrorism. janine jackson, welcome. [applause] >> i contributed to the spokesman was happy to do so. and very honored to be here today in support of my combination i'm working with my childhood hero, ralph nader and i wanted to say first of all, to those of you who are here today, certainly for those of you who are watching, if our question is what can we do about media and i think that is our question, you already answered the first part.
10:36 am
you party provided the first part of the answer which is to inform yourself independently of it he had i. am speaking now about corporate media because they think that is the power that needs breaking through. going to events, talking to people, reading a wide range of things in different countries and different perspectives allows you to talk around the dominant media and provide see how facts and stories you can use to check the information you're getting from there. i wish it were simpler. i wish i had a magic key, but the truth is i've been thinking hard about this for 30 years and this really is the answer. it is not easy. americans work more hours than people in any other industrialized country. we come home tired but there's no substitute for informing yourself independently as a citizen.
10:37 am
there just isn't. so what else can we do about corporate media. that starts with understanding fundamental problems with the system we have an honest light been a critic can be good because a careful understanding of the problems and jazz our response. the first thing as information is a public good. journalism is a public service. the media is a business. for reasons that are not natural, but historical and political, we in the united states have determined that her main sources of information are going to be media outlet that are owned and controlled by for-profit corporations and now they will be funded primarily by advertising from for-profit corporations. this is not how it had to be, but this is where we are. and a sad outcome of this structure creates conflicts, pressure and journalist to use something other than journalistic judgment in deciding what to cover and how.
10:38 am
these conflicts are baked into the structure is what i want to say. it's not a matter of reporters being bad people come and be lazy. among them are, but these problems are structural. conflicts of ownership. i really can't have a clearer example than the ceo at cbs thing out, super pac may be bad for america, but they are very good for cbs, unquote. he is not lying. all-caps media make a tremendous amount of money from elaborate has been. that is part of the relationship. politicians need media to get their message out and media companies need politicians for favorable legislation that allows them to a them to overlap public interest obligation to consolidate, but also for this thing where they back a dump truck of money to the door every four years for political advertising. this is the public.
10:39 am
we are actually harmed by a process where they pull strings without transparency or accountability such as super pacs and courage. the point is cbs is making decisions that are business decisions because it is a business. it is just that the impact of their business decisions have effects on all of us because it is not a toaster with pictures as regulators have said. sometimes the conflict because the owner of the media outlet also owns other things. contracts in bangladesh, for example for internet retailers. things that are to be subject to journalistic scrutiny but the same owner owns the media outlet in the object of scrutiny and so it just doesn't happen. for owners are just power players in a local community. they don't want to upset police
10:40 am
and local hospital. they literally have dinner with those people and they don't want to upset them. all of these structural conflicts so that the ownership piece of it. what about monsters? because sponsors fund is programming, they write the checks. they can and do exert pressure even the reporters below is cited a number of yellow. that pressure is there. i have some blood examples, emblematic samples. one of them is "time" magazine doing a special environment and make it a sole sponsor that is the ford motor company. an editor goes on record saying of course they're not going to talk about auto pollution. and he said we don't run airline as next to stories about airline crashes. so of course they are not go into when they have a car company do an environmental issue. we are the only ones left out
10:41 am
because we pick up the magazine and see a special issue on the environment. reporters make journalistic decisions. what do we need to know about environmental issues at this point and that's not what is happening. the fact that he says that out loud is not a secret. it's not a secret in the industry. a different way of slicing net, coca-cola sends a letter to mag saying which services tories they would prefer their ads for billions of dollars to run alongside or not to run alongside. they don't want them next to other ads. only certain kinds of editorial. hard news. sex related issues. drugs, prescription or illegal. madison, chronic illnesses such as aids, et cetera. how come they medical conditions. negative diet information.
10:42 am
quick weight loss. food, political issues, environmental issues. articles containing religious. okay, more celebrity swimsuit coverage and a one? when i tell that story i always make clear i'm sure some editor scott at letter in a crumpled it up and threw it in the garbage no doubt. what i'm trying to suggest is coca-cola was comfortable sending it. that's the climate. that the situation that they can say to a mac is what you and i think of as news comment they think about the climate in which their ads appear. yes, even public broadcasting intended as an alternative with a short political leash and a consequent reliance on the same corporate advertisers as commercial media. the pbs show no preventive brought caps-on drones that
10:43 am
tells viewers that the cutting-edge technologies are propelling us towards a new chapter in aviation history but not that they are created by lockheed martin, major sponsors of the program. i want to add something here because a lot of folks and this is something we are ready now. they just want money. they want guys on this that. that is not quite it. media want the biggest possible audience that their advertisers want to reach. there is a little-known practice called discounting that reach audiences seemed less desirable. it's a study of radio a few years back that talked about the notre dame mandate. back then sponsors pay full rates and advertise at all.
10:44 am
even when testing shows that the audiences can afford are able and willing to buy the product being advertised. in one case the font is said we just don't want them in our store. so when somebody says it's not like and why. it's green. it is still black and white. catering to advertisers means catering to advertisers, including their biases on things like race and age. fear has 30 years of it in bold. the media watch group i work for has 30 years of example of this sort of fear and favor. i mean, i really couldn't go on a non-tech comes again not from reporters and bad people but people who want to keep their jobs and work within an attrition like every other institution rewards behavior and punish other kinds of behavior. i was told to be positive than i want to be positive because they
10:45 am
really do believe understanding the problem suggests a response. the problem is the pressure some limitations created by the ownership pressure, the responses, the response is first about awareness, constant awareness and recognition of those pressures and impact on the news we are reading and hearing, but also the support for media outlet with different structures, different ways of finding themselves. different people they feel accountable to. a different bottom line. we are growing media outlets. outlets that are publicly supported better foundation supported combinations of private and public so maybe what we want is a mixed land gave like some other countries have. something public, some private, some admixture and if pursuant to that we want legislation to
10:46 am
break up dominant media conglomerates and promote truly public media, i'm all for it. [applause] >> thank you. but right now we really want to support and grow this independent alternative outlets we have. the other big problem with major news is their top-down bias. every study fair does some sources on who gets to speak shows that news media gives ample platform to powerful players. it's not only the people of color and women in lgbtq people with disabilities underrepresented, but the services on talk shows or overwhelmingly government officials, spokespeople and other journalists. we hear a lot from people we hear a lot from. you know what i'm saying? who's routinely missing is the whole of the public interest. environmental, indigenous, feminist who might provide substantive and sustained critique of government or corporate power. simply put, corporate media define this as what powerful
10:47 am
people say and do. so our response again vigilance, critical thinking as you can media but the growth and encouragement and support for media outlet that different structures yes, but also have a different definition of what news is than who gets to speak. that means even if the outlets run by the universe to date and it doesn't take ads come you have to ask yourself whose voice and my hearing? who's involved in this taurean not doing from because the test of a free press is not if they're clever or even diverse. it is what is its relationship to power. can i say things that powerful people don't want that? how many times have you seen a story, a hardening jury about sweatshops in at the end it says representatives from wal-mart or mcdonald's declined to speak with us and that is the end. that failure to interrogate the powerful it is a lot at the center of corporate free press
10:48 am
that would demand answers from back no comment crowd. maybe what makes me mad is fine really about corporate media is the way they missed a dose about ourselves and political possibilities. i was a member of the "usa today" story this and in seattle around the wto. little noticed by the public, the upcoming trade organization to see how that works. you can be a member of the public and that's okay but as soon as you join with other people in try and change something, you become a protester and that is different and not okay. you went from mainstream to marginal and didn't even change her clothes. the media say police kill a man armed black men and black people are angry, everyone is angry who want an end to racial less police violence. [applause] they see how media language can
10:49 am
erase people and distort the problem and its cure the solution and make you feel more alive than you really are. the noted that his people. everything corporate media presented people are solving somewhere out there and we need to hear those stories. those examples are the antidote to fear. so what we do read widely, thoughtfully, ask questions and talk to one another around them without media organizations. we can break through power and if the newspaper says we can't, we don't believe everything you read. [applause]
10:50 am
>> thank you very much, janine jackson. i hope people watching on c-span or lifestream will take some of your thoughts and apply to the local media, which is more accessible to local tv, radio, newspapers. go down and see the editors and producers and talk to reporters rather than just withdraw and be disgruntled. my pleasure to introduce the next segment on small claims court. all of our hall came to our attention when he was a law student at austin college. he wrote a large article on the obstruction to third-party candidates to get on the ballot and other obstacles. somehow he thought that a
10:51 am
two-party duopoly more vigorously than ever before in our history. they undermine the democracy and so they came to washington and became a lawyer frightening ballot access restriction and the parties to reduce competition to themselves by keeping certain party candidates off the ballot and draining the resources in keeping him off the debates and a whole variety of ways confronting them with political bigotry and discrimination for which there's no penalty, no criminal prosecution, keeping someone off the ballot with a massive audience and harassing. he was very, very persistent. he wrote beautiful breeze.
10:52 am
some of his petitions in the supreme court were raised by very demanding attorneys. he extended this persistence to his role as a consumer and he got ripped off like everybody else gets ripped off and he began to use small claims courts. lott claims courts are everywhere as he will point out, but they are very unutilized by the people for whom they were established. they were established at hopkins numerous and most of the uses mall claims court are by loan sharks, payday loan people, landlords, poor areas, creditors. they used the small claims court and he believes millions of americans should use the small claims court. you don't need a lawyer. here is all of our hall.
10:53 am
[applause] >> thank you, ralph. i have to say it was such an honor to represent ralph and i only wish he was running for president. i'd like a that now especially. [applause] when you have such a dearth of choices in this election and so much commentary about this issue. as rall said, i am founder of a nonprofit called senator for competitive democracy. we work to eliminate carriers to participation in the political process. i guess ralph gave some indication, but the question arises, what does that have to do a small claims court? that may come back to that. i would like to start with a story. the years 1980, and san francisco, not the area of san
10:54 am
francisco or pacific heights, and near the airport. you may not notice him with cisco at international airports started as an airstrip and if warmer out pasture birth of the city in 1927. within a few short decades, they had jumbo jets flying in and out from tokyo and london and sydney, australia and the people they are lived there, who lived near a former cow pasture found that the noise was somewhat irritating. as a matter of fact, and rattled windows, shut their homes and woke them up at all hours of the night. what would you do in that situation? what would she do if you basically can't live in your own house? a woman named gretchen eisenberg went to small claims court in september 1981 she filed a
10:55 am
lawsuit against the city of stamford disco which is the operator of the airport or an alleged acclaim of missing then requested the jurisdictional limit which was $750. maybe the city didn't pay attention to that, the then her neighbor did the same thing and another neighbor and another neighbor and another neighbor. at the end of the month, 170 separate small claims action have been solid against the city of stamford disco by neighbors of the airport. they all made the same claim, nuisance and they all requested the jurisdictional limits of $750. 116 of them one. then they filed another 183 separate lawsuits in small claims court against the city of
10:56 am
san francisco. that got the city's attention and the city itself went to court. not small claims court and requested a risk to actually with the small claims court from adjudicating anymore of these claims. the superior court did that and the court of appeals in california affirmed and said this is a totally appropriate way to use mall claims and this is actually in keeping with the purpose of small claims court, which was to allow people to adjudicate claims that they might otherwise not be able to adjudicate because it is either too expensive or maybe some money involved for each individual plaintiff is not sufficient to justify any lawyer for taking the case. they were free to keep suing the city of san francisco and that's what they did.
10:57 am
they prepared a master complaint. they organized, they held workshops. this shared information and raised voices with each other in a bid to gather to higher expert witnesses to testify on behalf of each plaintiff and to convince out with lawyers. and they kept on going like that. this is obviously a pretty unusual case, right? not just because they filed so many diff small claims actions relating to the same ongoing violation or harm, but because people don't use small claims courts anymore. how many people here have filed an action in mall claims court? certainly less than half, but pretty good. but small claims court is the original people's court before judge judy, before judge
10:58 am
loughner they were small claims court and they were founded in the early part of the 20th century. the idea originated with the harvard law dean named roscoe pound who wrote an article that was very influential and essentially called for the creation of small claims courts because there were all these claims that people have in their everyday lives and we still have them which don't hire a lawyer, but they deserve to be adjudicated. people deserve to get it to get justice even if the harm is relatively small. today small claims courts exist in every state. the procedure varies somewhat but they all share some basic characteristics. first of all, you don't need a lawyer. anybody can file. they are simple and adjudication
10:59 am
is really light and fast in terms of litigation time. the filing fees are low from $15 to about $150 depending on the state. the maximum claim value ranges from $2500 in kentucky and rhode island to as much as $25,000 in tennessee. that is real money. it is worth your time. the original purpose of a small claims court has really fallen by the way side and overshadowed as early as 1972 and empirical study characterizes them as the forgotten court because the idea
11:00 am
today once you find it the pockets of the small claims court is dominated by debt collectors and businesses and not at individuals for the redress harms as a result of business practices. in 2256% of the plane is of corporate or business plaintiffs while only 36% are individuals. they were hijacked by the varied interests they were intended to chat. there is a story in "the boston globe" in 2006 that mentioned that the benefit of small claims courts is that they have these relaxed standard. what has happened is businesses have taken an vintage of those relaxed standards to be able to
11:01 am
go after, you know, small debts owed to them by individuals. this brings me back to my original question what to small claims court have to do with my work about whether to consider myself as a civil rights attorney. nothing directly, but it relates in this way. .. it turned out out to be a total lack and the thing died after a little while and it
11:02 am
wouldn't even take a look at it unless i paid them another hundred bucks. i said, i'm not going to pay you $100, the thing is broken. i ended up having to sue them andthey ended up paying me more than i paid for that computer and i bought a new computer. the system works . and i would say that everybody can and should take advantage of this resource. it's something that is there, that is totally underutilized. just to give you a few examples of the kind of causes of action you can take to small claims court, anything you litigate in a normal court you can also litigate in small claims court so claims for nuisance or negligence, harassment, any of those type of claims but there are also particular statutes that provide a private cause of action, violationsof the statute. one is the telephone consumer protection act . has anyone been harassed by a
11:03 am
telemarketer lately? i'm on the do not call list, i get calls all the time. this shoot provides for $500 per violation for actual damages, whicheveris higher and for knowing violations, you can get triple damages, that would be $1500 . about that next time you get a call from a telemarketer, look at your caller id and think about whether you want to take action. another one is the fair debt collections practices act . also provides a private right of actions for harassment by debt collectors and you can get damages and attorney fees under that statute. the one that i tend to focus on is the consumerprotection act that each state has enacted . each of these states has a consumer protection statute, that allows anybody to sue a corporation for violations of
11:04 am
the statute. here in dc, the statute provides for $1500 per violation for actual damages, whichever is greater and it also allows for attorney fees. i'd sued under that statute and i've on so it's something you can do. and that brings me to what i guess i would like towrap up with which is i guess we've come to events like this and presented with so much useful information . but often times, we feel like it's maybe in the level of abstraction or the problems are too big, we really don't know how to attack them. there's something specific you can do. everybody when you go home today or if you're watching online or on tv, google your states consumer protection statute. familiarize yourself with the procedures and importantly, look at what the remedies are. look at what you can win if
11:05 am
you avail yourself of this resource. and the next time verizon or comcast or bank of america, one of these corporations that we all deal with on a daily basis hits you with a bogus late fee and they refused to remove it from your account or any of the other number of abuses we have all encountered, they cannot taking them to small claims court. you can do it and i tell you, it feels pretty good to make them pay you in that circumstance. i wanted to return to gretchen eisenberg to wrap this up. the woman who sued the san francisco airport. if you go to wikipedia now and you read the entry about the san francisco airport, it boasts that it was one of the first airports to implement a fly quiet program.
11:06 am
which grades airlines on their noise when they fly in and out of the airport and not only that but it was one of the first airports to conduct a residential sound abatement program, a retrofitting program and it turns out the san francisco airport today has spent $153 million and has insulated some 15,000 nearby homes and if wikipedia is to be believed and i'm not sure this part is to be believed but it was a very successful effort. anyway, the point is they put in the effort. and this took place sometime in the early 1980s so by my calculation, that was right around the time this eisenberg and her neighbors filed their 353rd small claims action against the airport. and that's what we call the large potential of small claims court, thank you very much. [applause]
11:07 am
>> hi, i'm back. hope you all enjoyed might be illuminating and invigorating talk on small claims court. let's move on. our next speaker is the cofounder of the institute for local self reliance. he served as senior staff of the waste to wealth initiative and he also serves on ils cars board of
11:08 am
directors. he specializes in helping cities and counties recover increasing amounts of material from the waste stream and adding value to the local economy through new processing and manufacturing facilities . please welcome neil feldman. [applause] >> well, good morningstill. it's certainly nice to be here, it's a pleasure to be part of this presentation . i will be talking on my experience in 40 years of working with citizens, citing bad incinerators and solving problems in waste streams but i also come from the background of manufacturing and as an academic i studied the process of change in many of our historical revolutions . for instance, in the russian revolution where societies were disintegrating and of course our own american revolution where society was emerging. business and civil rights were emerging. and from this experience and
11:09 am
from my own studies and working with the institution, our philosophy is that scale and ownership in the economy are critical. they're critical for sustaining civil society and all the benefits we are struggling to make our democracy become.we have, the country has a history of this period of course, the legendary tea party was a number of local businesses reacting against the global international corporation , forcing them to purchase things they didn't want and at prices that were exorbitant. similar to our economy today. we feel that the small business community, and i'll use examples from the recycling and anti-incineration world, are absolutely critical in
11:10 am
forming the coalitions that can turn things around. were about to face a major election. it is critical, we are very close to having a supreme court that will support our values on voter suppression, reversing citizens united and gerrymandering. if the election doesn't go away, these problems that plague our country will still be there. we will not run away, we will tighter our belts and work harder. and the importance of small businesses in our economy is one that small businesses and family farms, they breed independent people, people who have independent resources, can think for themselves, do their own research and if you connect with other people through their business and civic relationships. the fight for small businesses can be the same as the fight for citizen rights.
11:11 am
there are an important component as i said before, they were necessary if not sufficient aspect of our initial revolution . but even today, we can rely on them for fighting taxes, fighting for fair tax, fighting for fair regulations and to stop the regulations that are throttling creativity, innovation as david freeman mentioned in the energy field and others have been mentioning in other fields. they are very potent enemies of allies in fighting incinerators. you may know that new york state was the first state to tax the internet which without taxes gives these giant corporations a 69 percent advantage over local businesses. new york state was the first eight to do that and many others have followed, not all
11:12 am
and small businesses were a critical component of that coalition that force that legislation several years ago. small business people are rooted in the community. their kids go to the same schools, the same churches, the same swimming clubs, the same abilities as their neighbors and other businesspeople. they immediately get involved in civic activities when they receive their own interests and the interest of their neighbors and other elements of civil society. my two favorite examples and again i'll draw from the waste field are represented at bill pest growl who's now represented patterson in the u.s. congress, a medical doctor started out fighting incinerators, became mayor and now is in the house of representatives. my favorite story however as oliver has explained his favorite story about the san francisco airport, mine is about a woman named penny we who's just a regular person living in alachua county, county where gainesville is
11:13 am
and they were proposing a giant incinerator and she testified against it and literally, this goes to the early 80s, was told to go back to her kitchen. she did do so and she organized her campaign for the county commission which she won by more votes than any other politician in the history of the county and she became quite a powerful element in decision-making, not only on solid waste but of course the incinerator was defeated, citizens were organized, they put together their own plans and now alachua county is one of our leading zero waste cities at about 50 percent recycling tending toward 80 and 90 percent. if you want to have healthy economic system you have to have small businesses and small farmers.
11:14 am
both are in great decline, both are under tremendous threats from every aspect of society and every aspect of business. the networks that are being built are being built by people whowant a better economy for all . local businesses allow communities to have a collective efficacy to solve problems, to join together, reverse even climate change. there's one interesting project that is a marion county carbon project showing that applications of compost and crude waste actually can reverse climate change. there are a number of other revolutionary changes that small businesses in the recycling and waste field are emerging. the key here is the growth in small business means the market share of oligopolies and monopolies are diminished which causes all to focus our impact on local government, to dictate wage conditions, working conditions weather unions should be allowed in this process or not.
11:15 am
the, let me get now to the field that i've most been involvedin, people say i am knee-deep in garbage and i'm quite proud of it . it's 40 years of work, a little more than 40 years. it has resulted since the late 50s in a remarkable multi-gender, multi-race, multi-class and multiethnic and multi-gender and age coalition that has consistently defeated proposed incinerators, these are top-down decisions, massive incinerators three, four, 5000 tons today, you may have heard in baltimore citizens needed a 4000 times a day incinerator and the capacity to stop something bad is fairly prevalent inside society, it happens a lot but to stop something
11:16 am
that's bad and not only propose a solution but organized and gain control at the local level to solve that problem is very unique. and it's been a very worthwhile career working with small businesses, community groups and environmental groups to accomplish this. to give you a very quick set of numbers to put to you in context, the sector of waste is anywhere from $70-$100 billion a year. in the country, it's 60,000 businesses supported by 40,000 government programs, over 1 million jobs have been created in the last 40 years with recycling to give you a sense of comparison. for every 10,000 tons of garbage you put in the ground or in an incinerator which you destroy the material, you create one job.for every 10,000 tons of material you
11:17 am
recycle, you create or to 10 jobs just in processing and hundreds of jobs as these materials move out to industry and agriculture. the most labor-intensive and skill intensive activity is the repair of electronic scrap. for every 10,000 tons that are repaired you create just under 300 jobs and these are transformative jobs that teach skills, ability to cooperate, to understand technology and use that technology to improve your education . in context with other people. the recycling system in the united states today delivers 200 million tons of raw material to industry and agriculture. in the 1960s, it was not even counted less than five percent of materials were recycled. following the war, world war ii where of course a great many materials were recycled. not only is this recycling a very physical positive thing
11:18 am
in our economy in terms of cost and raw materials, it has also shown that organized citizens, ad hoc organizations of citizens getting together have stopped wall street from bombing these five, $600 million facilities. it has stopped the virgin material companies from expanding because everything once you recycle material, anything you make out of virgin material you can make out of recycled material so they there's a direct correlation with extraction of raw materials and recycling. it has helped beat incumbent officials and incumbent bureaucrats who refuse to acknowledge that incineration and mega landfills are the way to protect our health. in fact, neither of them do. so in order to not destroy materials but to recall their value, add value and create independent cities that are again manufacturing things,
11:19 am
we have worked with many groups, churches, youth groups, cultural groups, ethnic groups, environmental justice groups to show that local manufacturing from recycled materials is an important pathway to the future. finally, i would say that the recycling movement in the united states, let's call it the post-world war ii recycling movement really is getting grounded in the late 60s and empowering people in the 70s, 80s, 90s and to this day, the most important thing we produce our citizens and the sense, citizens thatare active or not passive, they vote, they take responsibility for holding office, these are the citizens we need . we all know that we don't need a majority of organized people to get our agendas across but we do need active citizens who've been
11:20 am
activated by concerns in their own community and everybody touches garbage every day. anything that becomes garbage passes through a human hand and that human hand can decide whether to make it garbage and destroy that material or put it in a different place to use for community and even regional and national economic security. thank you for your time. [applause] >> thank you neil feldman. who can give us another example of resources in the most unlikely places if we only think about where to look for them. i believe for our next speaker, ralph nader will be returning tointroduce him . is ralph in the house?
11:21 am
... >> alright everybody, make yourself comfortable, he'll be back. ...
11:22 am
>> thank you neil. it's my pleasure to introduce doctor michael jacobson. it was many years ago that i interviewed him when he was up at mit getting his phd. and i'll never forget the interview. we were interviewing all kinds of graduate students, to come to work with us in washington and those were the days when they stood in line for a public interest work
11:23 am
and he was finishing his phd in microbiology from mit and one of the questions i asked all the students who i was interviewing was are you in it for the long run? or you just want a couple years to get it on your time and you go to work for the establishment. and i asked mike, are you in it for the long run and yes, and here he is decades later. and his work has been extraordinarily effective because he's a multifaceted advocate. there would be these big food conventions where they would give awards to someone who developed a new artificial chemically doused with for dessert and mike would rush on the stage and criticize it
11:24 am
before he was dragged off the stage. . the level of degradation of the food supply from a to z when mike got underway would be stunning to young people today. the only bread that was sold in supermarkets largely was wonder bread and tiptop bread. when you're at your supermarket you didn't have to look at the label, when you pick the bread up your fingers and thumbs collided. >> now you have much more variety. at any rate, he started with us for a short period of time and then left with two other young scientists, started the center for scientists and public interest which is the premier group today, some of you get thenewsletter, nutrition action.if you don't, you really should . it has a huge circulation and it comes out with information
11:25 am
you can use and very colorful, very succinct and mike said he doesn't want to give a speech today, he wants to have a discussion so we want mike to come up here and we will have a discussion. thank you. >>. [applause] >> your little introduction reminds me of going up on the stage. it was the annual bon vivant class memorial award, it's the biggest chunk of producers per year. and i don't know how many of you remember bon vivant was a soup that killed people because it was contaminated with botulism. we thought that should be memorialized.
11:26 am
and the award was a beat up old garbage can that we would bring with us to the annual convention at the institute of food technologists who were a membership group that devised cool whip and jell-o and all kinds of other crap that lined supermarket shelves to get a little attention to the issue. >> he's the genius that informed the media that the displays and demonstrations and he would appear in the donahue's show, mike douglas show, merv griffin show and he have based on the recipes of the processed food companies he would say if you eat a cheeseburger or a hamburger, here's how much fat slithers down your throat . so he would hold it up, i did this once two, he would hold it up and it was like this. he would go like this.
11:27 am
to this day i meet people on airplanes who say i saw you on mike douglas. what you remember? it was great stuff. from hot dogs and so on. >> joan was alluding to it also.i tried to dramatize the issue with something concrete, something people can relate to. you remember the junk food hall of shame that we had at public citizen visitors juncture that really capture people's attention by depicting how much fat or artificial coloring or what actually went into our food. >> one thing about mike and his associates is that they deal with the massive silent violence that kills people and gives them diseases. post of the media eels with over violence, street crime, police brutality, war, that sort of thing. but when you consider how
11:28 am
many people die in this country from silent violence, 50,000 die from air pollution to over 1000 only, epa figures. about the same amount from work-related diseases and trauma in the job. 700 die every day according to johns hopkins report, every day from mishaps that are presentable in hospitals including malpractice, hospital induced infections and mike is focused and before we get into the other things, i always identify cspi and nutrition act and mike with, you focus on three ingredients in our food, that a lot of people are being overdosed with. fat, sugar and salt. can you go through and eight, what it was like before you came to washington, what kind of progress is made now but before you do that, how many people have died, was the
11:29 am
estimate on people who have died or gotten sick from those three. >> per year, probably 150,000 people or so. excess sodium from salt,about 100,000 a year , sugar, the best estimate i've seen is from, the main food in which sugar is used, soda pop, 25,000 people die every year because of the obesity and diabetes. and fat is complicated because there are different kinds of fat. some much better than others. the worst one is, the worst fat is trans fat and that's from partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, we could talk a little more in detail what harvard scientists estimated that was causing in the 1990s 51 to 100,000 excess deaths every year so just
11:30 am
astonishing and these are from the ingredients that people bought for decades was totally harmless so salt and sugar are on our kitchen tables and trans fat has been used in crisco, was used in crisco and no longer since about 1910 and so everybody was familiar with it and just it was innocent. >> you pounded on trans fat with great success. he's served as watchdog on the fda arm of agriculture and his staff along with him working regularly, tell us about the progress in trans fat and mayor bloomberg and other efforts quest trans fat makes for a great three. industry in the 90s was marketing about 8 billion pounds a year of partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. and through 1990, partially
11:31 am
hydrogenated vegetable oil was considered
11:32 am
the 1993 mandate for labeling and write about then, denmark band partially hydrogenated oil. so the fda is still talking about labeling and denmark is banning so we petition and the evidence had gotten so strong with both those clinical studies and epidemiological studies that that warranted us to urge and
11:33 am
petitioned the fda the band partially hydrogenated oil. which the fda didn't do until 2015. another 10 year delay but trans fat really became a dirty word and so many companies started labeling their food no trans fat and it has been largely whist out of the food supply.90 percent or more of trans fat is gone, 7 to 7 and a half billion pounds a year and it really shows the impact starting with the scientific research because that really has been the foundation and years of advocacy, pressure on food companies not to use it, food companies told oil processors, give us better oils. oil processors went back to farmers and said grow better, different kinds of soy and canola and so on and we will
11:34 am
pay you more money if you do so farmersgrew the stuff . the oil processors had more raw materials, they sold to food companies so this >> is a success story. >> huge success story. >> let'sturn to sugar. by the way, all those national tv programs , they are gone now.mike cannot get on any of these shows like phil donna show you show and all the other shows, you just look at what has replaced them. total job. nationally sadistic whose this, is that so thathas not improved . and you are unable to reach the number of people you reached. here's how you do it, for example, the classic coke can and classic pepsi can and you say how many of you have had this, all hands go up.
11:35 am
you say it's pretty sweet isn't it. let's say you are making this coke drink and you put the wire in, but the secret note from atlanta and you want to put the sugar that you want in it. how many teaspoons and somebody would say one, too. three. fewer hands would say i like it really sweet, four. how many teaspoons of sugar, 10 teaspoons of sugar in each 12 ounce can of coke area and we dramatize that in the video call the happiness band where we show the making of this happiness potion. >> the damage of the success of sugar, people take far more sugar in their diet in the 1900s, what's the advantage? what's the harm of all that sugar? >> when i started in the early 70s, tuesday was the harm and we go out there yelling and screaming and it
11:36 am
would be some people would buy i read about sugar calling tooth decay but beginning around 2000, there was developed solid evidence that sugar was a major contributor to diabetes and heart disease and obesity and then it really turned the tide. so since 2000, it's been major progress in reducing soda consumption and sugar consumption more generally. >> how much is that due to bottled water? more people taking bottled water instead of coca-cola? >> it had an effect bottled water sales have skyrocketed and drinking bottled water now environmental problems aside is seen as being hit. soda is being considered more kind of retrograde and soda consumption per capita has
11:37 am
declined and this is the calorie carbonated drinks declined by 27 percent since 1998 which is an astonishing change. the tide is really turning and partly because of bottled water but also the image and more people here in the scientific research. the center for disease control has funded new york, philadelphia, seattle, los angeles and different places to run advertisingcriticizing sugary drinks. so it's a remarkable change . >>. >> completely reversed the blasphemy of today becomes a commonplace of tomorrow. all right, let's go back . >> one more thing about soda. the soda industry, coke and pepsi know that soda sales are taking in this country and will probably continue to go down so they are investing literally billions of dollars a year in marketing soda in
11:38 am
developing countries, 1 billion of coke, just coke is investing $1 billion a year in china, 1 billion in mexico, 1 billion in brazil, 1 billion in india. one of the half billion dollars in africa, just astonishing investments in china and india, people drink this like soda year, here we drink this much soda. they see both as huge markets for the future. >> and replacing native fruit drinks in brazil so they are trying to wean people off more nutritious fruit drinks with this type of soft drink. it's often said that coca-cola has reached more areas of the world than anybody other than mosquitoes. [laughter] >> close call.
11:39 am
>> let's talk about salt now. we had a meeting with the secretary of culture, mike and i and some others and i think my sort of startled the secretary of agriculture bill zack when he talked about salt and why did they put so much salt in the food when you don't even think it's in there. go ahead. >> it's the cheapest flavoring there is area so we are consuming, there is evidence that the harmfulness of too much sodium for 75 years or so, and the evidence builds up every single year. so in 1977, i hired a young nutritionist, bonnie raitt men to look at the health impact of saul and see what we could do about it and so in 1978, we petition the fda to limit the amount of sodium in different categories of
11:40 am
processed foods and change souls regulatory status. there was killing thousands of people year and it was considered generally recognized as safe, so there began the long saga of trying to do something about too much salt and the fda said they're not going to regulate salt but after volunteering in this reaction, nothing happened. we got sodium label on food packages in 1990, we got the nutrition facts label and then we went back in the early 2000's to seewhat had happened to sodium consumption . since the late on the law was passed and since the original petition. nothing had changed. despite all kinds of admissions to the industry to lower sodium levels . so we petition the fda again and we got the institution of
11:41 am
medicine to do a report on what should be done about excess sodium and not whether or not it's harmful, that had been settled but what should be done and institute of medicine basically endorsed that 1978 petition saying the fda should limit sodium levels in cheeses and bread and different levels from these different categories of food the fda immediately said it would limit the levels but it might set voluntary targets so it took another six years, earlier this year for five years the fda didn't do anything. we sued the fdafor inaction, public citizens represented us and that got the fda to get off the dime and propose voluntary targets . so if we are lucky, those voluntary targets will be
11:42 am
adopted, final voluntary targets with two-year and ten-year goals and the ten-year goals would bring sodium down to safe levels. >> i wanted to ask you,you've been critical of the drug demonstration and us department of agriculture . before we get to how you educated tens of millions of people and how difficult or beneficial that was, what's your brief view of the regulatory projections to consumers now it starts with the looks and the laws are not bad but to get a law passed, then you have to get with the program. >> and conservative congresses starved the programs so the food labeling, food safety laws are reasonably good, they could be enforced with great vigor owing back to the 1958 food additives amendment but the fda doesn't have the
11:43 am
staff and it doesn't have the guts to enforce the laws with vigor, to regulate salt or sugar or to ask for warning labels onsoda pop because soda causes heart disease and diabetes and obesity . but the fda is in a bit of a pickle because if it does anything brave, congress would crackdown and through appropriations writers stop it from taking one action or another. and they just don't have the staff to do many of these things so the fda in effect with the meat inspection act, the usda inspects a chicken soup plant factory every single day of the year , even though it's the stupid sterilized and it's not going to harm anybody. a food processing facility that does not have meat or poultry like a vegetable soup
11:44 am
factory get visited every five or 10 years so the fda day just doesn't have the resources and it's very important to ensure that agencies get insured, desperately to try to prevent the agenciessufficient funding to enforce the law . >> have you expressed a view on efforts by the meat and poultry industry to have ties inspection ? to self regulate themselves instead of having daily or frequent us department of agriculture meat and poultry? >> most of those daily, it's really continuous inspections of the slaughtering and processing of the animals. and those where it's, the inspector is checking to see, look at every carcass, that's almost worthless. what they find are obvious defects, serious bruises or a
11:45 am
tumor, there are more quality than safety, things the food processors should monitor on their own. tyson doesn't want to have the market chickens with big bruises on them so they should be responsible for that. those inspectors that are scrutinizing achicken, they get one or two seconds to look at each chicken . >> that's the assembly-line. >> they're whizzing by. and they're looking for bacteria. >> they're not going to find bacteria looking at a chicken carcass. you need stronger systems and that's how the laws aremoving . where the company will look at the bruises and tumors and government inspectors will monitor the systems that should be in place to keep
11:46 am
the products uncontaminated. >> you think the penalties are strong enough, though for violations? >> they could be if they are brought about so the peanut corporation of america which killed many people and poisoned thousands of people with contaminated peanuts, the chief executive got thrown in jail but as russell has indicated, earlier, those kinds of penalties are rarely invoked. >> some people in the consumer area think you're not tough enough on certain issues so let me throw some on the table. >> a lot of consumer are upset with gl across, genetically modified crops . they say the argument for it is based in secret corporate science, not peer-reviewed, completely opposite the way you've operated on monsanto for example and that there's no evidence that it increases
11:47 am
crop volume around the world and it migrates and affects other neighboring farms and contaminates other neighboring farms and it just produces its own backlash with the so-called killer weeds mutating and resisting monsanto's seeds so monsanto has to the anti-on those. what do you think of all that? where are you on those foods where genetic engineering is a powerful functionality, it's kind of like electricity and when such a technology comes before the public for society, i think we should try to maximize outfits and minimize problems, with electricity, electricity price people every year. little babies stick their innocent little fingers and
11:48 am
the outlets and their dead. we need to try to control that because electricity arguably has provided benefits though some arguable and the same thing with genetically modified crops. some of them may be beneficial. some of them may be dangerous. we should look at each of them individually.has the government monitored, evaluated the safety adequately? are farmers using the products appropriately? sometimes yes and sometimes no but i think it's crazy to do away with the whole technology that is providing some benefit, could be providing much greater benefits in developing countries in terms of drought resistance, crop yield and so on. and it's nacve to say get rid
11:49 am
of the whole technology when it can provide really major benefits. >> what about food irradiation? instead of focusing on sanitation, just irradiate the food before it gets your dinner table. >> i think it would be stupid to rely, for a company to be producing dirty food and trying to kill the germs just before it leaves the factory. there's no real evidence that radiation is harmful. again, maybe it would prevent some of the thousands of foodborne illness deathsevery year . it would have an expense and it would be better to have safety systems in place that would prevent the germs from getting into the food in the first place. >> were going to finish with a story. when i was a little boy, my mother on the kitchen table fresh celery, radishes and carrots and i said i don't
11:50 am
want to eat it she said what? i don't like it, i don't want to eat it. so she leaned over and said whose eyebrow? it's me. whose eyes. his eye your liver, your kidney, when you say i don't want to eat it is your lungs, your heart? i didn't know what she was getting at area she finally concluded, i know who i is ralph, you say you don't want to eat the carrots and radishes which are good for you. and i said, who? she said i?eyes your tongue , why are you turning your tongue against your brain, eat all. and this massive educational effort that mike jacobson and his colleagues have engaged in, that has to be one of the big issues because he advertises focus on taste, taste and after it gets passed your mouth, it can be very damaging to all these
11:51 am
organs. how do you deal with that and in conclusion, mike, tell people how they can get nutrition in action which i read every time it comes. it's a terrific publication. >> the tongue is more powerfulthan the brain . in so many cases and i think people, some people we are not going to get through to some people so you try to make the food as safe as possible.if salt is dangerous, limitless all so it's not asbad . either the food tastes less salty or some of the saltiness may be replaceable with other ingredients area the people, so many people have learned that healthy food actually tastes terrific . tastes better than the process foods with kind of the cheap taste of sugar and salt.
11:52 am
but it can be hard to persuade somebody who's been brainwashed by eating this you mean tomwashed . >>. [laughter] eating this kind of food since they were infants, practically. >> you see just a few people can do, he had no money, no context, just persistence and a sense that he wanted to make food safety and nutrition his life's work so i guess when you told me you were in for the long haul back in the 19 early 70s, i guess you were in for the long haul. >> i didn't know what i was getting myself into but i have to answer the second part of your question. go to cspi, and you can sign up for a subscription to nutrition action. >> in print and online? x yes. >> i like the print version. >> so do i. >> it's a colorful newsletter.
11:53 am
>> you if you buy a color monitor you get a . >> you're talking to somebody who uses an underwood typewriter. thank you very much mike jacobson. [applause] thank you. >> thank you ralph and mike jacobson. our next speaker will be talking about empowering consumers, a subject near and dear to my heart. he is, he teaches and he's a professor of law at georgetown university law center where he teaches federal court, civil procedure, administrative law
11:54 am
and seminars in first amendment litigation. he also codirects georgetown's institute for public representation which is a clinical well program there. formerly he was the director of the federal trade commission's euro of consumer protection and he has also spent 25 years with the public citizen litigation group, public interest law firm in washington where he has handled multiple cases before the united states supreme court and more than 60 cases before federal courts of appeals and state courts of last resort. he is a senior fellow with the administrative conference of the united states and an elected member of the american law institute. he is also a scholar with the center for progressive reform. welcome david blatt. [applause]
11:55 am
>> i spent a mere 25 years working for ralph. i'll never forget my interview with ralph. the firstquestion was did you read the paper today and he said okay, what made you really mad ? so let me talk about what makes me really mad about the state of consumer protection in the united states. ralph talked about the blasphemy of what's going on with foodprotection , well the blasphemy about consumer protection in the united states these days is that very strong notions of freedom of contract are essentially corroding what we think of consumer protection. and this is a pincer movement that comes from two angles. one comes from essentially the disintegration of tort law as we know it. these days, consumers have no bargaining power with respect to contracts they sign, these
11:56 am
are often the i accept little box at the end of a form contract that you may or may not read. and many instances, consumers are not even presented with the contract prior to entering into them. the contract is available if at all after the fact. and in that contract, the generally are provisions that would've been unthinkable 30 years ago so one common provision is gives the seller the unilateral right to modify the contract area so if the seller decides well, i think i can eat more out of this relationship on the consumer, they are free to modify the contract and send you a little note. there are all sorts of sort of bombs in these contracts who often go off to the detriment of consumers so on
11:57 am
and i'm going to come back to this, one set of ubiquitous contract provisions these days is a mandatory arbitration provision which requires consumers to go to a privatized system of justice that's essentially invisible rather than exercising their rights in court but i'm going to come back to that. there are other waivers that are generally attached to modern contracts, for example forfeiture of remedies that one might be entitled to under statute. so for example, in many cases that involve contracts, a disappointed consumer with have the right to have his or her case heard before a jury. contract provisions these days often include waiver of rights of jury trials. contracts also include the forfeiture of remedies that would otherwise be available
11:58 am
to the consumer under state law. many of the contracts you've entered into require you to forfeit your rights of punitive damages. you can forfeit your rights to statutory damages . often statutes contain what are called liquidated damage provisions, provisions in which certain amount of damages are assumed, those provisions are also, those statutory rights are often waived in contract so you are asking wait a minute, these are statutory rights. these are rights congress thought were important enough to guarantee the consumer had this remedy in the event of breach. how could those rights be waived? the supreme court had amended in many cases, their arbitration substitutes the procedures and indeed oftentimes some of the substance that would otherwise be available if resort to court were available to the consumer so for example, the supreme court has upheld arbitration
11:59 am
agreements even where it is clear that a statutory right cannot be vindicated in arbitration. so even where it is clear this is a case called italian colors where rights that congress thought were important enough to enshrine in statute could not be vindicated through an arbitration agreement, top movies. the right is now unenforceable. and the class action provisions also often include sacrifice of procedural rights that would otherwise be available. if you sue in court, you have certain rights of discovery, you can get access to the other side documents, you may be able to take statements, depositionsof witnesses who had information into the case . class actions, excuse me, class-action rights are often afforded by statute that are
12:00 pm
abrogated by contract, so the kinds of form contracts we see today are not only deal with the underlying transaction but include essentially a long list of rights that consumers forfeit by entering into a contract and the courts have shown no interest in pushing back. making matters worse, the court arbitration jurisprudence has been essentially go away to consumer. there are a number of cases involving form contracts, a case involving at&t where the court splits 524 on the enforceability of these consumer contracts that could only be vindicated by groups of plaintiffs suing together because thedollar amounts were reasonably low . so one form of assault on
12:01 pm
consumer protection has been the court enforcing contracts literally even to the extent theysacrificed statutory rights in the supreme court's aggressive affirmance of private dispute , private ordering over transparent judicial proceedings. >> succeeded, so if you look at the important federal consumer protection agencies, they had been hollowed out. i was director of the bureau of consumer protection for four
12:02 pm
years. today it's about two-thirds the size of was 20 years ago. the population of the trade has grown by a third in the economy has doubled, yet a number of regulatory cops on the beat has shrunk. entity go up and down the list of the regulatory agencies, we all depend on for health and safety, there are quantitatively smaller. my former boss joan claybrook% of the national highway traffic safety administration responsible for overseeing auto safety, truck safety, tires, everything that moves. they have about 600 people to regulate the entire global automobile industry. really ?-que?-que x that is sufficient. the commodities future trading commission, a small agency, but as regular authority over most of the commodities trader in the united states is about the same size. the ftc which is both consumer
12:03 pm
protection and antitrust authority has about 1100 people in contrast to the 1600 it had in the '80s and '90s. even the cfpb, the new sort of, the first line of defense in terms of financial products and services, at the most will end up having about 1400 people. when people rail against the size of government, you need to understand that with respect to the agencies we depend on to protect us in the marketplace, those agencies are very thinly staffed, overworked. and to make matters worse, the states which is to be an equal partner in consumer protection matters of also been hollowed out. when i was at a federal trade commission i worked very closely with colleagues in state attorneys general offices. they have been cut massively because of budgeting and other state restrictions. so to the extent that we depend
12:04 pm
on government to be our first line of defense against egregious misuse of marketplace power, the government does what it can, but it is a very thin line that is spread thin. i want to ago another point mike made, which is there's a lot of talk about agency officials being a feckless, not be tough enough. there are -- they are between a rock and a hard place. tougher they are the more they face spending cutbacks. whereas the fcc we were very aggressive and i was called up onto the hill with some regulatory to basically say, you know, your fund is in jeopardy and you got to be careful here and so it's a very difficult position for federal regulators. let me talk about what other market failure, which is the courts, too, having equal partners to some extent in the
12:05 pm
ratcheting back of consumer protection. to take one field, so identity theft is now rampant in the united states. last year the justice department estimates that 70 million americans were victimized by identity theft. i initiatives because the federal trade commission has essentially self-help part of its website where people have been victimized can go and get access to standardized police reports and other forms that they would need in order to try to reclaim their own identity. last year, half a million americans used that site in order to file claims about identity theft. identity theft, the predictable the brick oven in the economy where data security is not taken seriously. and so this isn't a work
12:06 pm
congress has refused to act. the federal trade commission and other agencies have asked for authority to force the people who store your data to take adequate steps to safeguard it. ironically, of course, they safeguard own intellectual property data very well. your data, your social security number, the prescriptions you take, whatever other personal data these companies have is not very well protected. and part of the reason is because there is no economic deterrence for companies to lack security. the courts have really turned away people claiming injuries from identity theft, if the supreme court's recent decision in case called robbins still leaves unsettled the question about whether you have a right to sue when you're per cell data has been compromised due to a data breach.
12:07 pm
so all right, so that's the assault. in the assault is a real and erosion of our rights has been steady and predictable for the last i would say decade or 20 years. so what do we do about this? there have been some bright sides, science, on the horizon. of the passage of dodd-frank integration of the consumer financial protection bureau is an enormous step forward. the agency has been in existence for only four and a half years that is already done some important things to it's taken some enforcement actions. it's done policy work to protect those people who are not entitled or not eligible for anything other than subprime loans, to protect them in the market. it has proposed some curtailment of the rights to mandatory arbitration. but that's just the first step. that agency is under assault
12:08 pm
constantly in congress. i talked to my friend rich cordray. he stopped kenneth number of times he's been holed up to the hill to testify. it was i think 50 last count. easily been there for a few years. we need more legislation. in order to do that we need to organize. we need to personalize these stories, and we need to look at the lever of powers that are available to us and try to exercise power. so let me talk about a few things. one is, if you look at mandatory arbitration, congress understand how powerful a force that gives. there are exemptions to it. we dodd-frank was passed, the most fierce lobbying was not done by the banks. it was done by the auto dealers. why? because they wanted a provision in the bill that made it illegal for the out of manufacturers to
12:09 pm
require the auto dealers to arbitrate disputes. it's one of the few odd carveouts and dodd-frank. the auto dealers had a point, and we need to force congress to take a hard look at arbitration, mandatory arbitration. the only way we can get it is if we come up with a number of stories that drive home just how unfair, undemocratic and essentially how perverse that process is. the other thing we need to do is we need to win the battle in the courts, and this is where you're going to hear from paul bland and people from public citizen litigation group early on. we've been fighting his battles in the court. but the court is the up for grabs. justice scalia's seat remains vacant justice ginsburg is easy. justice kennedy is the. justice breyer is 78.
12:10 pm
the next president will remake the supreme court in all likelihood. most of the decisions that i've been fretting about have been fight for decisions. one vote can make an important decision of one vote on november 8 can make a huge difference. at the very much. [applause] >> thank you, professor. all right, our next speaker will be speaking about stopping corporate power and money and politics. he is the president of public citizen, a group that you've heard about, and you here again today. he's been leading public citizen since 2009 where he is now spearheading the effort to listen to chokehold that corporations and the wealthy
12:11 pm
have over our democracy. following the supreme -- supreme court's decision in citizens united, he established democracies for people program which is a project of public citizen, and specifically his intent to fight for a constitutional amendment to overturn the ruling and curb money and politics. please welcome robert weissman. [applause] >> so thank you for your stamina, for democracy, for breaking through power. fortunately, or otherwise i'm the last person between you and lunch. so try to an issue. unfortunate this microphone is take out ataken at a catwalk ret anatomy pictures, such as going to talk, but i'm suggesting to some degree could entertain all the wisdom shadow puppets with a good light we have. we have the people and where the
12:12 pm
cole brothers. -- koch brothers. we'll come back to that. there's a convention comments with conventional wisdom which is that america is a country deeply divided. we are ready and blue states. i urgently to reporting on this on npr this morning with some interesting reporting and some shocking views. we are planning a country divided, profoundly by race and equally as profound less often recognized by class. that political star, that's the dominant narrative to try to explain what's going on in the country that we are a divided nation. and it is some truth. that story has some truth. that's why it works. it overshadows another story that is at least as important i think probably more important, which is we actually in an amazingly united country comes
12:13 pm
to the policy agenda that americans favor. astoundingly united. i'm going to reach a set of statistics but the way of background, imprisoned to the fact that four out of five people agree that the earth revolves around the sun. that's a marker. it's not as an aside. that's not, nothing to do with americans, science teacher to its cross-cultural to. that's about the number when you look across countries. however, 83% of americans think that the top 1% have too much power and have used it for economic advantage. three quarters favor steep rise in the minimum wage. by about two to one people oppose corporate trade just like the trans-pacific partnership. the vast majority favor breaking up the big banks. about nine agency that we need stronger financial regulations.
12:14 pm
four out of five voters favor expanding social security. not protecting it cannot defending it, not something cutbacks but expanding social security. by a three to one margin americans want to close corporate tax loopholes. the president's controversy over clean power plan is favored by a two to one, a small two to one margin. three out of four americans favor stricter air pollution standards, the clean water act has 8% support. to get people to complete a ridiculous and misleading choice between environmental protection and cost to the economy, 59% say they want stronger environmental protections. more than nine in 10 want origin of labeling, country of origin labeling for meat. 83% of americans favor giving medicare the rights to negotiate drug prices. more republicans rate drug prices as come republicans rate hike drug prices at the higher level concern than obamacare. they are more concerned about
12:15 pm
drug prices, republicans, than obamacare. almost nine in 10 say we should have tougher enforcement of law and regulations that apply to corporations. so there is an amazing consensus in the country behind a progressive populist agenda. there's also, as david, mike commented using amazing lack of progress on that agenda. there's a huge discontent between what americans want by overwhelming numbers and what we get, when we get out of congress, what do we get in states, out of city councils. you can't explain that adequately in my view, with anything other looking at the power of corporations and especially the power of the corporate class in our elections. so corporate political pakistan to express the money and politics, but that's the cutting-edge. the problem was long before citizens united decision in 2010. but it got a lot worse with that
12:16 pm
decision. that decision held that corporations have the right to spend whatever they want to influence election outcomes. most you probably are not bound as a reading supreme court decisions but if you want to pick one although it's a long one, it's worth reading citizens united because it is astounding. even though it's got some glossy stuff in there, you'll understand immediately why it's astounding. it's predicated on the idea that the firs first amendment protece rights of oppressed people, oppressed classes to express themselves. and read the majority opinion from justice kennedy about his connection between the first amendment and the right of the oppressed and it is a liquid and moving at a recognized that the oppressed classes talking about is the corporate class. eastward about the right of excellent and wal-mart to speak out and not be unfairly discriminate against him and that's what got citizens united. we have another decision later on that deepened, a couple others, and what it stands for,
12:17 pm
this right of corporations can spend whatever they want, but what enabled us a wild was there in campaign spending. the world has become, the political world has become materially worse since that 2010 decision. in 2012, $6.5 billion spent on federal elections which was a huge record. you get these records, it becomes numbing. this year we will smash that. those numbers totally undercut how much is actually being spent for a variety of reasons. the advertising business says they spent 9.4 billion in spending on political matters. in the 2012 election site and they expect approach the 12 billion issue. that itself would be in undercount. to the amounts involved are just extraordinary. most of the things that fall from this are familiar to people, but how bad it is maybe not completely obvious.
12:18 pm
one thing that has long been the case is the need to fund raise for political candidates means they spend their time with rich people. that affects what they think and what they say and what to do. president obama may have spoken or written about more adequately than anybody prior to citizens united in this book audacity of hope. he was saying them runnin come r senate, was he did was increasing, so spending time with people of means. offer partners come investment banks, hedge fund managers and venture capitalist. as rule they were smart, interesting, knowledgeable. but they reflected almost uniformly the rules of the class. i sort think the way that though, because i was hanging out with them all the time. just more precisely if you look at the tone for the election, the "new york times" reported right at the end of the election that the president obama had spent, attended twice as a
12:19 pm
fundraiser in the course of election and he had attended campaign rallies. and mitt romney so disappeared for long periods only to an event a day because he was so busy fundraising. if you and what happened under clinton in the august trade, part of was a strategy to sort see if trump was going should himself in the foot as he had a pretty. didn't work out perfectly, unfortunately. a lot of it was just been a lot of of the fundraising. if you friends in los angeles or san francisco, they were to the traffic was mr. because clinton was going to fundraisers. it's kind of funny. but even all this, so that is what happens to candidates but the money we talk of it is worse than seems a first class because the money just to spread equally. it gets focus in the most competitive races and when out of the office outside money, the super pac money and so-called dark money that that is united enabled to spur along coming in at astounding o of his company
12:20 pm
billion dollars in 2012 and it will be way more this year but it gets focus in the races that are tight. in a tight senate races now spun spinnakers spend more than a candidates. so they get to decide what is being debated and discussed. they spend almost all their money on negative ads that everybody hates negative ads but they work. that's what people use them. the candidates are a bit deterred using negative ads because they can be held accountable. american future fund, whatever, whatever stephen colbert's parity was, americans for a better tomorrow tomorrow, the outside groups spent 85-90% of the money on attack ads that because what the races are that. the state of the political dialogue is meaningfully degraded. and then, of course, we have a lot of that money come in the form of secrets been and likely which meet you can't even taste where the money is coming from.
12:21 pm
the one thing you might get help groups again of us identify who the finder is. when it comes when they're all secret you can't do it. so the vast majority, which is another the koch brothers would raise almost a billion dollars. they scaled it down because they don't like trump so much. they will spin easily a half a billion dollars. you won't see them, they will come in for a couple million dollars in fiscal spending and all the money they point is going through groups that don't actually report. we do have some rules still on the book about campaign finance but they are not enforced and they are breached. as the former chair of the federal election commission would tell you, anyone is free to break the rules she said because there is no enforcement from enforcement agency. super pacs are not supposed according with candidates. no one thinks that doesn't happen. uses it was a wink and a nod. the wink is gone. they're out of coordinating, money sloshes around.
12:22 pm
you can follow a truck what went to where. thanks to know the supreme court decision in 2014, and the catch in a decision, you can put together the strings of political committees that make possible for us to donate directly huge amounts of money to candidates up to $3 million. remembered as a huge fighter that was controversial during the democratic primary george clooney posted -- posted for hillary clinton. to sort of get a good seat at the fundraiser here to contribute $300,000. it's worth asking why would anybody country with $300,000 if the maximum contribution of primer is like $2700? that's because the supreme court said you can string displayed together, write one check and it's all fine. so stuff visually honored in the breach. that's kind of like i think the lay of the land of some of the key elements of this but some of the consequences may be are not sufficiently recognized.
12:23 pm
there's too i think dominant. they are obvious but may be less obvious than first appeared. the first one is that all this money that is coming in provided by an incredibly small number of individuals and corporations. think of them together as a corporate class like a really, really small number. i would say occupy wall street which did a great service to the country kind of got it wrong. all this discussion about the 1%, the other 99, 1%, the business plan was going on in campaign funding. you need to talk about the top .01% to get any insight. the top point is a 1%, take about 4% of national income, about 30,000 people, something like that, they provide 40% of all campaign contributions. top .01%. even had actually under cells distribute if you look at super
12:24 pm
pacs as the cutting edge of the worst stuff, looking about whether people from election to election who dominate what is going on. uses the top 100 donors are responsible for the top super pac money. and went with were 52 people were found to get more than a to super pacs. this year we are already at 100, so i guess the benchmark for be taken seriously rises. not surprisingly people are overwhelmingly male. people of color don't have this kind of wealth so almost all these giant contributions come from white people. the other thing that's really underappreciated is extent to which all this money controls what's to be. so go back to the long list of things that americans agree on, mostly not even talk about are not talked about as much as they should be given the consensus in the country. they are not talk about because
12:25 pm
that interest doesn't line up with, unlike rudy giuliani in a cell phone call -- sorry. that interest doesn't line up with the donor class interest, and the politicians have to be responsive to the donor class to be taken seriously. so at the end of the day for donors decide effectively who runs. have a huge influence over who wins. they have a check influence over what is debated, what even his race as a serious political conversation, and, of course, after the election was going to be talked about seriously and congress. so what we have to do? the policy agenda is pretty straightforward, and americans don't have any discredit about that. is what all those other numbers. americans are completely incensed on the need for far-reaching reform depend on what poll you look at come is between 80-10, nine-10. the "new york times" had a
12:26 pm
remarkable poll that said the country is split not over the need for reform but whether the system needs fundamental change or to be completely rebuilt. i'm not sure which is the more radical one of those too. [laughter] that's basically got everybody agrees on one of those two things. nobody agrees the criticism is fine or even needs small change. the changes we need are familiar. the smallbore thing is that disclosure, everything, all the money, outside money, direct contradiction to all of that has to be disclosed to you just have to end this silliness of secret money dominate our election. we need to have a system of public financing for public elections. gifted system specialist had to do. we have to overturn citizens united and other supreme court decisions that both entrenched this ludicrous notion that corporations have the same rights as people to affect our elections but also make it possible to all of us outside spending. the americans completely agree
12:27 pm
on that agenda. but we know from the first part of the conversation that agree on the agenda isn't enough. people out to get mobilized. people since its united have been everybody change in what the conversation is, from a boring good government thing to a fundamental democracy issue, corporate power issued an interesting connection between money and policy issue and corporate power everything else that the whole agenda that americans want to see realize. so just using the constitutional amendment as a marker, we went from two senators who support in 2010 when it was thought to be either frivolous or two extreme, to 26 in 2012, started introduction. we have 54 u.s. senators voting for constitute a minute remarkably in 2014. one of the presidential candidates now says that she would introduce an amendment within the first 100 days of taking office.
12:28 pm
it is a core part of the agenda for the democratic party, remarkably. we have not broken through yet all the way to win. issues to be a bipartisan issue. mitch mcconnell has top that but it will be again in the near future. the total key to winning is mobilizing your the polls were insufficient. everything is about showing passion and the people care this past spring we have the first large demonstration around democracy issues in a generation. the first in money and politics as in washington, d.c. with 5000 people turning out to support the agenda i just talked about as well as the broader democracy agenda focused on the crucial of voting rights as well. that was a good small first step. we have to be at least an order of magnitude bigger. with people literally laying down in the streets to make a difference. that's what we have to do to win
12:29 pm
and we have to win on this issue to when everything else that is being talked about at this conference there were talking about raking through power. this is a central issue for breaking through power. last thing to say is okay, how do you get connected? if you don't know the website come into please sign up for e-mail list. we'll send you a lot of fundraisers but also a ton of information about thing she can do. if you care to be really involved and organize, we wanted to choke up with on the ground organizing going on across the country in these red states and blue states to win the fundamental democracy reform. thank you very much. [applause] >> okay. thank you, robert weissman. we are now ready to break for lunch. just what is a couple of words. if anybody or everybody
12:30 pm
hopefully likes what you here today, many of our speakers have written books. they are available for sale in the lobby outside. so make sure to check them out at the table that said about there. you have several options for lunch around here. if you go out the door and take a left, head towards 17th street and take a right on 17th. that are a few options down there. may be more options available if you come out the front door and take a right, go toward 14th street. there is a whole foods down there. i don't know if kaleb is officially passé, but it is something of an excellent salad bar and i recommend their very garlicky kale so the vendors a bunch of options out there on 14th street. we'll be starting again at, sorry, at 1:20 sharp. that everybody get back.
12:31 pm
.. [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations]
12:32 pm
[inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations]


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on