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tv   Politics and Public Policy Today  CSPAN  September 29, 2016 12:30pm-2:31pm EDT

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who have much more income to begin with to pay for their housing costs. so as mr. freeman says, what should dong do? well, the leading tax commissions under the bush administration and under the obama administration have concluded that we should reduce many of them, eliminate the really inefficient ones, the unfair ones. and expose more income to tax and make more sense out of all this. you know what happened. congress ignored it. but as mr. freeman said, a fair and sensible income tax is worth fighting for. such reforms should be done over time so not to totally disrupt the economy, but if congress moved in that direction, more people would pay in accordance with their ability to pay. and they would save and work and invest in ways that produce the greatist economic return rather than focusing on their tax savings. and assuming the government -- and there's some things that should be in the tax laws, the earned income tax credit is a
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wonderful example -- so assuming some social and economic provisions ought to be in the tax laws, let's think about tax credits. every dollar of tax credit saves you one dollar. it doesn't matter what your marginal tax bracket is. so if you owe a thousand dollars and you get a thousand dollar tax credit, you don't owe anything. if you owe a million dollars, you owe a million minus $1,000. now, the tax credits also should be refundable in many cases where they are social programs because a refundable tax credit like the earned income tax credit which says people who are working but don't earn a living wage are going to get extra money to help them have a living wage. and so if you make it refundable if you don't owe the income tax, you'll get a direct grant. both commissions said that about the home mortgage interest deduction, replace it by a credit. congress ignored that.
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finally, you might have the largest credit for people who need the help most and the least credits for people who need the help least. so this is how i end my talk with the students and i end it with you. i say to them, i hope that some of you are brave enough if you're at a political rally, and i hope you go to the political rallies, and you hear a politician say "i'm going to propose a new deduction to help ordinary workers. you hard-working workers." that you'll raise your hand and you'll say "why are you proposing a tax break that saves the most money for people with the highest income who need the assistance least and the least tax savings for people with low and moderate incomes who need the assistance most?" thank you very much. [ applause ]
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all right, to introduce our next speaker, i believe mr. nader will be returning. is that right? >> thank you, john fox. in fact, we have of pease of your 10 questions that politicians don't want to answer and we can give them out, especially to the hood college students who have arrived. [ applause ] and are going to demonstrate they have the highest attention span of all college students in the country today. [ applause ] no smart phones. it's a great pleasure to
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introduce joan claybrook who has worked on the congress for almost 50 years. the congress is the most powerful instrument of our democracy to transform our country. just look at the power it has in the constitution, the power to tax, the power to spend, the power of oversight and investigation, the power to confirm nominations for the courts and high executive branch officials and many other powers. they also have the eye of the media and that's why we all have to pay attention to the congress. it does spend about 22% of our income and what it does and doesn't do can either ennoble the country or get the country in a lot of trouble -- like the criminal invasion of iraq which the congress punted to the white house in 2003. the people are supposed to be sovereign. the constitution starts with "we the people" not "we the congress" or "we the
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corporation." and yet 1500 or so corporations, give or take, pretty much control a majority of the congress on many issues that affect everybody -- health, safety, economic well-being, environment. and so so there's this gap between the constant pressure by thousands of lobbyists on capitol hill everyday and the withdrawal of most of the people in this country from holding their members of congress accountable. there are only 535 of them, 100 senators, 435 members of the house, they put their shoes on everyday like you and i and as warren buffett once said, we're 300 million people, how come we can't control 535 elected politicians? now, what joan has done -- and she's going to demonstrate this, is show how a citizen lobbyist can go up on capitol hill and
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get things done. what does the citizen lobbyist, environmental, consumer, labor, whatever, what do they bring to senators and representatives? they bring a set of facts documenting perils or corruption or what have you. they bring their own determination and creativity and strategy. they bring a reflection of public opinion, majority public opinion like safe cars, they like clean air, they like clean water. sort of a left/right lung issue and so forth. and they bring the ability to selectively pick your allies where they are in congress in strategic committee locations and so forth to get a foothold. so what are these citizen groups up against? they're up against corporations who have far more lobbyists outnumbering the citizen
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lobbyists. the drug companies at one time when they were pushing the drug benefit bill had 450 full-time lobbyists going up on capitol hill. 450. and that's only the drug industry. they have a lot of money. they pour it into pacs. they have a lot of persistence, their job depends on their success in congress. they have their own specialized media like the chamber of congress and they are able to offer jobs to congressional staff or members of congress after they leave the congress which is a very little-appreciated tool that they have. now, you're going to hear how one citizen lobbyist actually dealt with this mountain of opposition and on more than a few occasions prevailed. she was the long-time president
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of public citizen. before that she ran public citizens' congress watch. she did work on capitol hill but when she goes up on capitol hill equipped with those items that i just mentioned, senators from both sides have a hard time ignoring her. so i want to introduce what the auto companies once called "the dragon lady" joan claybrook. [ applause ] well, i think we've heard the talk and i think i can go home now. [ laughter ] so it's a pleasure to be here today. this is a great conference. it's extremely important to assemble citizen organizers and
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citizen leaders to talk about what they do, what they've learned and to convey it as broadly as possible. so i'm going to talk about the congress which everyone is quite awed by and i'm going to give you a list of 10 principles for getting bills enacted, 10 principles, and then give you a few examples of how we use them. of course giving millions of dollars in campaign money or hiring reams of high-priced lobbyists is not a strategy option for the public interest groups. indeed, business entities spend billions on lobbying congress every year. it's amazing how often citizen groups knock down legislative battles against this. ralph mention that one of the strategies is hiring congressional staff or members of congress when they leave their post, when they're ready to make money and do something different and sometimes they
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hire the former chief of staff of a particular member who is a chairman of a committee, let's say the ways and means committee, a very important committee so that they can just -- they spend $20,000 a month hiring that person so that they can influence that member on one particular bill. that's how much money they spend. when i came to washington from baltimore a number of years ago on a fellowship in congress i was scared to death. a member of congress had me awe-stru awe-struck. and then a friend suggested that when i met the first member of congress that i envisioned him -- and most of them were men at the time -- in long red underwear with a top silk hat. well, that was very helpful, more than you can imagine. my first interview was with morris udal, he was 66 twimplg a -- and he looked like abraham lincoln and i giggled and it relaxed me and then i was on my way. never again was i awe-struck by
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a member of congress. it's a great technique. citizens should not be intimidated by high-level officials ever. remember, they work for us. in fact, members are very sensitive to pressure, particularly members of congress and they always want to be liked. never forget that because if you get angry with them, the next thing you know they are going to come back and want to make friends with you again so don't worry about it. and don't forget that the u.s. constitution gives us explicit authority in the first amendment to petition the government for redress of grievances. we are, in fact, carrying out the constitution. so 10 principles. first is to divide and conquer and then organize, organize, organize. don't be overwhelmed by 435 members of the house or 100 of the senate, ralph's already put in the perspective with 300 million americans, why can't we control them. but it's also important when you're actually doing the work
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to remember that congress has many subparts. they have committees, they have subcommittees, they have leadership groups, they have state and issue caucuses and that's where the real work occurs. so rather than having to worry about 435 members of congress, you really only have to worry about 40 or 50 because those are the ones that are going to make the decision on your bill. and that's very doable. second of all, second principle, find a leader. you need a leader, a member of congress, in each house who's a skilled legislator and serves on the committee of jurisdiction over the proposed bill. and preferably you want a bipartisan group leader. a strong leader makes the difference between winning and losing. work with your leader to draft the bill with help from congressional legislative council that he will arrange or she will arrange. help the leaders achieve their goals and yours and that always includes getting media. so leaders are really critical. third, know the rules governing
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your legislation. the congress has many rules just like the courts have their own rules. you and your leader must know the pertinent rules that will decide the outcome of the bill, and i won't go into all the details but there are lots of rules. work closely with the congressional staff while always connecting with the member. the staff are critical. because they can facilitate your work by telling you what's going on inside congress, they often hear first what's happening on your legislation. they hear of emerging opposition, and you always want to pay attention to your opposition. they will hear about possible hearings or floor action or key rules, they can help build and support other congressional staff offices. and so the staff are rally the gatekeepers for the members. you need their support. and when i say "you" i mean you as a group, not you as an individual. i think ralph nader is the only person who by himself got a bill
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enacted into law, and that was 50 years ago. so you need to have a group. you need to organize. five, you need to prepare materials to support your bill. you need to argue why you want this piece of legislation. you've got to make sure they're 100% accurate, concise, interesting and designed to persuade with graphs and pictur pictures. different documents must be prepared for the media and coalition groups because you want to build a coalition. that is how you get legislation through from the consumer perspective. they must have sources listed in at least one of your documents. you can get information from the internet, from libraries, from the congressional record, from freedom of information act request to government agencies, from free government publications, university professors, other public interest expert, the government accountability office and so on so there are lots of sources for you to get your information and, by the way, also from the industry that's relevant to what you're talking about.
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the bottom line is a one page summary. the one-page summary is dynamite because when i first started working as a lobbyist general motors would come in with notebooks. is ralph was so cheap he wouldn't let us have a xerox machine. [ laughter ] so we had to use a mimeograph machine which is a pain of the neck, maybe some of you have never heard of a mimeograph machine which is so old. so if you made a mistake you had to erase it with liquid and wait until it dried and retype it. so we did one-page summaries. it was too much trouble. what i learned was with a member of congress you hand one sheet of paper, they take the piece of paper, they fold it like this, they fold it like this and put in the their pocket. where would you want to be with your information and your -- that member of congress? you want to be on his inside pocket so always remember give very concise material. six, develop a broad a coalition as possible to advocate for the
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bill. join with consumer groups and victim group, labor entities, strange bedfellows such as individual businesses or business groups that sometimes break off from the rest of them. prominent individual, other nonprofits, groups concerned with the substance of your bill, for example, the environmental bill, all the environmental organizations. citizens from the congressional district with maximum organizing and minimum procedure for participating. seven, find and involve victims of the harm that you're trying to remedy. focusing particularly on victims from your leaders' district and those of members who oppose the legislation. if you bring in a victim and have it presented to somebody who's opposed to the legislation, they kind of melt and that's what you want to do. you want to melt your opposition. eig eight. media coverage of your bill or issue critical to your
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legislative success. you want to get the media to tell people about it. the broader the circulation, i.e., the "new york times," the "washington post," "wall street journal," a.p., television networks, but these are hard to achieve. but there are thousands of other media outlets from regional dailies to politico to 24-hour television and radio news, social media on the internet and so on to get the media attention to you need to tell a sympathetic story, you need to explain the story, you need to engage in a major fight, the media loves fights, they love battles. get prominent people involved, hollywood, sports, et cetera. put on a show like crash testing a car. that's easier said than done but that's one example i used. prepare accurate fact sheets synthesizing issues and facts. by ha be very, very, very, very, very persistent. competition from media coverage is fierce so you want to entice them into it.
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get the executive branch if possible to support the bill. this can be critical to your succe success. it has vast resources, can provide essential information. an agency or the president can express an opinion that helps. it can release a report of paper that turns the tide it can threaten to veto or express support through the office of management and budget. getting the right people early in the administration is very important. it doesn't always work but it's important. 10, educational value of hearings on your bill is important. members will engage other members who propose supporting the bill out of committee to get to the floor, which is what you want. getting committee members to support it is essential to get it debated on the house floor or the senate moore from. to be successful you need a variety of the best witnesses to argue for the bill, including victims if possible. always victims. legal or technical experts,
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representatives from the coalition, high-level officials and so on. after the committee vote a report will be prepared for conversation on the floor of each house, reade the report in draft if possible to make sure it has covered your issues effectively. and some staff, that's where the staff come in. they might let you do that. this is not an easy set of principles to achieve but it is how you work to get a bill enacted into law. and there's a wonderful publication called how a bill becomes a law that you can get from your member of congress which goes into some more detail with a little bit less emphasis on victims, which is what i've added to this. so now i'd like to give you real-life examples of experiences that i've had in trying to get bills enacted into law. amendments to the freedom of information act in the '70s were highly technical legal provisions but our house leader was not an attorney and he wanted to compromise away our specific remedies.
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and as i said you want strong leaders, he was not. luckily, senator ted kennedy secured these provisions without insulting or angering the house leader. a weak leader can cause cause e work and worse yet can ruin the hard work put into your legislative effort. so always try and get strong leaders. bipartisan sponsorship of controversial proposals achieves miracles. it really is amazing. as ralph points out in his book "unstoppable." if you want to read a fun book about how you really get action on not only congress but on other issues, read "unstoppable" by raf nader. we wanted window stickers on the windows of new cars showing how each vehicle pinched in crash tests. highly controversial idea. the auto industry was opposed to it. but we persuaded republican nor mike dewine to propose this as an amendment to a democratic
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bill and it just sailed through. the auto industry melted. they didn't know how to oppose someone who was sort of their guy. another example is that we stopped fedex in their huge push for longer trailers. they wanted to go from 28 to 33 feet. length after eight-story high building on the highway. it was like a train on highway. it's multimillionaire ceo fred smith personally lobbied many senators to whom he gives big contributions. but senator dianne feinstein agreed to oppose this provision and we need toed a republican. so we had to sort of do a little search, and we found that through a transportation leader in of all places mississippi who opposed these larger trucks because mississippi highways couldn't handle them. he got senator roger wicker in the senate to work with diane feinstein and it was a winning combination. along with our full bore lobbying to educate and infor
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members of the deadly consequences of these bigger trucks, we had pictures of the trucks, victims of the trucks. we had pictures of fedex trucks having crashes with these extra trailers. because they were allowed in a few states. our me ger struck safety coalition outsmarted the mogul with all the bucks. so it's a matter of strategizing, creativity, telling the truth. and having some visual ability to communicate it. the importance of staff, this is one of my favorite ones was revealed when senator trent loft, have you heard of trent lott? and he and i had had a huge battle over campaign finance reform. so he did not like me. so he took over the highway safety subcommittee and wouldn't let me testify on a bill dealing with rollovers. so we went to the top staffer of the committee chair. he was not the chair. we went to the chair, ted stevens of alaska who didn't have a dog in this fight as they say. who arranged for a small private
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meeting with us, senator stevens, senator lott and ranking senator dan inknow know way of hawaii. lott was very irritated. he walked in really mad but he came because his chair told him he had to. we presented our case in about ten minutes, very concise about the dangers of rollover in cars and why something needed to be done in the congress. he got interested in the safety issues and one of the things he said was, you know, i get it. he says my son makes me strap those babies inside frontways and backways and upside down and inside out. those are his grandchildren. and so he began to imagine and understand what we were talking about. he then heard a brief presentation by the auto industry but his mind was made up. the end result he became our advocate. he got a bill requiring rollover safety standards enacted into law in six months and all we
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need toed was the opportunity there to present our case. we knew we had to connect with this senator who didn't like me and wanted us not to talk to him. afterwards, i ran him in the hall and he said i guess you like me a little bit better, joan, now that i passed your bill he's in mississippi. one effort we made in texas was to line up the house committee chair barton and we connected somehow with his minister whose daughter had been killed in a rollover crash. now, that was really potent. it melted him. and doctors often lobby the congress. they use the family doctor to do it. victims are the best path 0 getting members of congress to advocate legislation and that happened with a motor coach bill. there had been no safety standards for years and so when some students were killed in a crash coming to a sports event, the senators from ohio who where
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the school was elected fromya where the crash occurred and that included john lewis, kay bailey hutchinson in texas where there were a lot of the these crashes and she had been on the safety board and understood why these things were needed, that is seat belts and roof crush and exit capacity. and so we got the bill introduced. and then the motor coach industry said it's going to cost tens of millions of dollars to put this into effect. once again we questioned that. we looked it up. and there are 700 million people who travel, individual rides every year on these buss. and so we figured out that the cost was about ten cents per person per ride. and when we revealed that, when we revealed that, the opposition
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couldn't make their case. and so once again, we won that. my last one is, i'll tell you a story about archer daniel who didn't want to have placards on their trucks carrying accultural chemicals. they said it cost too much. we found the placards cost 53 cents each. so you've got to question what the arguments of the other side are. we bought 3535 placards. i wonder why, right? we delivered one to each member of congress to explain the falsity of the industry claim and said is a firefighter worth 53 zplents that was it. right? so i would just like to say that there are so many things you can do. we've given awards to members of congress who have done great work. they love to get awards. they want to be loved. we have taken ads out in their local newspaper which is really cheap and thanked them for what
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they did and we get it framed and deliver it to their office so they can put it on their wall. we persuaded bill clinton to reit toe a controversial product liability bill by surrounding him with victims. he was so happy to veto that bill even though he hated vetoing bills. so i would just say that we also represented robert redford defeat the interior secretary that gerald ford nominated because he had been the govern of wyoming accuse confidence banking fraud. we raised such a stink and got so much media involved they continued an investigation and proved had he engaged in fraud and will he to resign. so you never know where the end is going to be, but since we're the ones on the honest side of the ledger and we're the ones who raise the key issues that people care about, we often win even though we have so little to help us. thank you so much.
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>> thank you, joan clay brook. if you're looking for a road map of how to get things done in congress, i think it's wise to look joan up. our next speaker is program director at fair, fairness and accuracy in reporting. and host of the syndicated radio show "counter spin." she has appeared on abc's night line" on "cnn headline news" and she has testified to the senate communications subcommittee on the budget reauthorization for pbs. she is author of "civil rights since 1787," and "stop the next war now, effective responses to violence and terrorism." janine jackson, welcome.
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>> should i use this? aha. i did not write those books. i contributed to those books and was happy to do so. i'm very honored to be here today in support of my, well, in combination in 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 the media, and i think that's our question, you've already answered the first part. you've already provided the first part of the answer which is to inform yourselves independently of it. you know? i'm speaking now about corporate media because that's the power that needs breaking through. so going to events, talking to people, reading a wide range of things, joining clubs, reading things from different countries and different perspectives, all of this allows you to talk
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around the dominant media, right? and provides you facts and stories that you can use to check the information that you're getting from there. so i wish it were splimper. i wish i had a magic key, but the truth is, i've been thinking hard about this for about 30 years and this really is the answer. you know? it's 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. there just isn't. so what else can we do about corporate pedia? that starts with understanding the fundamental problems with the system that we have, and that's why i think being a critic can be constructive because a careful understanding of the problems suggests a response. so the first thing is information is a public good. journalism is a public service. but media is a business. for reasons that are not natural
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but historical and political, we in the united states have determined that our main sources of information are going to be media outlets that are owned and controlled by for profit corporations and that they're going to be funded primarily by advertising from for profit corporations. this is not how it had to be but this is where we are. so this setup, this structure creates conflicts, creates pressures on journalists to use something other than journalistic judgment in deciding what to cover and how. these conflicts are baked into the structure is what i want to say. it's not a matter of reporters being bad people, being lazy. certainly some of them are, but these problems are structural. so conflicts of ownership. i really can't think of a clearer example than les moonves, the ceo of cbs saying "super pacs may be bad for america but they're very good
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for cbs." now, he's not lying. broadcast media make a tremendous amount of money from political advertising. that's part of the relationship. okay? politicians need media to get their message out. and media companies need politicians both for favorable legislation that allows them to kind of override public interest obligations and consolidate, but also for this thing where they back a dump truck of money up to the door every four years for political advertising. that's part of the deal. the only people not cut in on that deal is us, of course, as the public. for us, we're actually harmed by a process where rich people can pull political strings without transparency or accountability. such as super pacs encourage. but the point is, cbs is making decisions that are business decisions because cbs is a business. okay? it's just that the impact of their business decisions have
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effected on all of us through our life because television, for example, is not a toaster with pictures as regulators have said. sometimes the conflict comes because the owner of a media outlet also owns other things. clothing factories with contracts in bangladesh, for example, or internet retailers. things that ought to be subjects of journalistic scrutiny but the same owner owns the media outlet and the object of scrutiny so it doesn't happen. or they're power players in a local community and don't want to upset other power players like the police, the local hospital. they have dinner with those people and don't want to upset them. all of these structural conflicts affect the climate in the newsroom. that's the ownership piece of it. what about sponsors? because sponsors fund news programming, they write the checks. they can and do exert pressure even though reporters will always tell you they never feel it. that pressure is there.
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now, i have some favorite examples, some emblematic examples i like to use. one of them is "time" magazine doing a special issue on the environment. and they get a so sponsor and that is the ford motor company. now, an editor goes on record saying, of course, they're not going to talk about auto pollution. you know? and he said, we don't run airline ads next to stories about airline crashes. you know? so, of course, they're not going to when they have a car company do an environmental issue. again, we're the only ones left out because we see oh, a special issue on the environment. we think reporters are making journalistic decisions. what do we need to know about the issues at this point. that's not what's happening. and the fact that he says it out loud, it's not a secret. you know? it's not a secret in the industry the influence that sponsors have. a different way of slicing it, coca-cola sends a letter to magazines saying which sorts of
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stories they would prefer their ads worth skillons of dollars to run alongside or not to run alongside. they want them next to editorial. they don't want them next to other ads. they want them next to editorial but only certain kinds of editorial. hard news, sex related issues, drugs, prescription, smerksd eg chronic illnesses such askancer, diabetes, aids, et cetera, health, eg physical or mental conditions, negative diet information, bulimia, quick weight loss, food, political issues, environmental issues, articles containing vulgar language, religion. okay, you know, more celebrity swimsuit coverage anyone i guess? now, when i tell that story, i always make clear i'm sure some editors got that letter and they threw it in the garbage. no doubt. but what i'm trying to suggest
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is that coca-cola was comfortable sending it, you know? that's the climate. that's the situation that they can say to a magazine, we -- what you and i think of as news they think of it as the climate in which their ads appear. okay? yes, even public broadcasting. intended as an alternative but constrained from the beginning by a kind of short political leash and a subsequent reliance on the aim corporate advertisers as commercial media, the pbs show "nova" runs a broadcast on drones that tells viewers these cutting edge technologies are propelling us toward a new chapter in aviation history but not that they're created by lockheed martin, major sponsors of the program. i want to add something here because i think a lot of folks think this is something we already know. yes, they just want money. they just want eyes on the set and the maximum possible audience. that's not quite it.
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media want the biggest possible audience that their advertisers want to reach. and that's not everybody. there's a little known practice called discounting which means that experiences pay less to advertise on shows that reach audiences deemed less desirable. there's a study by the fcc on radio from a few years back that talked about the no urban mandate. that means sponsors refusing to pay full rates or even to advertise at all on stations reaching primarily black audiences. even when testing shows that the audiences can afford are able and willing to buy the product being advertised. in one case a sponsor said, we just don't want them in our store. so when somebody says oh, it's not black and white, it's green. hmm. it's still black and white. . okaying? catering to advertisers means
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indicators to advertisers including their biases on things like race and age. now, fair has 30 years of examples. fair the media watch group that i work for has 30 years of examples of this of fear and favor. i mean i could go on and on that comes again, no the from reporters being bad people but people who want to keep their job and people who work within institutions that like every other institution rewards some behavior and punishes other kinds of behavior. okay. so i was told to be positive. and i want to be positive because i really do believe that understanding the problem suggests the response. so if the problem is the pressures on the limitations created by this ownership structure, then the response is first of all, awareness, constant awareness and recognition of those pressures and their impact on the news we're reading and hear. but it's also the growth of and the support for media outwill hes with different structures. different ways of funding
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themselves. different people that they feel accountable to. a different bottom line. and we're growing those structures. we are growing those outlets. they're had sprouting up, outlets publicly supported foundation supported that are combinations of private and public. every kind of funding situation structural situation is going to have its limitations talking about journalism. maybe what we want is a mixed landscape. you know? it's like some other countries have, some things public, some things private, some things a mixture. if we want legislation to break up dominant media conglomerates and promote truly public media, i'm all for it. all right? thank you. but right now, we really want to support and grow those independent and alternative outlets we have. the other big problem with major news is their top down bias. their study fair does on sources on who gets to speak shows news media give ample platform to
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powerful players. it's not only people of color and women and lgbtq people, people with disabilities are underrepresented but the sources on talk shows are overwhelming government officials, industry spokespeople and other journalists. we hear a lot from people we hear a lot from. you know what i'm saying? who is miss are the whole array of public interest representatives. feminists who might provide substantive and sustained critique of government or corporate power. simply put, corporate media define news as what powerful people say and do. so our response again vigilance, critical thinking as you consume mediaen at growth and encouragement and support for outlets that have different structures yes but have a different definition of what news is and who gets to speak. that means even if the outlet is run by the university and it doesn't take ads, ask yourself
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whose voices am i hearing? who is involved in the story i'm not hearing from because the test of a free press is not is it clever or even is it diversity, it's what is its relationship to power. does it say things, can it say things that powerful people don't want said. how many times have you seen a story even a hard hitting story maybe about sweat shops and at the end of it says representatives from walmart or mcdonald's declined to speak with us. and that's the end. you know? that failure to interrogate powerful is the whole epicenter of corporate journalism. a free press would demand answers from that no comment crowd, right? so maybe what makes me maddest finally about corporate media is the way had he mislead us about ourselves and our political possibilities. i remember this lead on a "usa today" story on activism in seattle around the wto. "little noticed by the public, the upcoming world trade organization summit has
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energized protesters around the world." you 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 and try and change something, you become a protester and that's different and is not okay. so you went from mainstream to margeal. didn't even change your clothes. you know? when media say police kill an unarmed black man and black people are angry, no, everyone is angry who wants an end to racialized police violence, right? but you see how media's language can erase people and distort the problem and obscure the solution. and can make you feel more alone than you really are. and the antidote to that is people. so i want to say everything that corporate media present as an unsolvable problem people are solving somewhere out there. we need to hear those stories. those examples are the antidote to fear. so what we do read widely,
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thoughtfully, ask questions, and talk to one another around and without media organizations. we can break through power. and if the newspaper says we can't, don't believe everything you read. thank you very much, janine jackson. i hope people watching this on c-span or live stream will take some of her thoughts and apply it to the local media which is more accessible, obviously,
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local tv, radio, newspapers, go down and see the editors, see the producers. talk to the reporters. rather than just withdraw and be disgruntled. my pleasure to introduce in the next segment on small claims court oliver hall. he came to our attention when he was a lew student at boston college. he wrote a law review article on the obstruction to third party candidates to get on the ballot and other obstacles. somehow he thought that a two-party dioply excluding competition more rigorously than ever before in our history by all these barriers undermined the concept of a competitive democracy. so he came to washington and he became my lawyer fighting ballot access restrictions and the
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parties, the main parties' efforts to reduce competition to themselves by keeping third party candidates off the ballot or harassing them, draining their resources, keeping them 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 unethical means or harassing. and he he was very, very persistent. wrote beautiful briefs, some of his petitions for certiorari to the supreme court were praised by very demanding attorneys and 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. and small claims courts are everywhere as he will point out.
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but they're very underutilized by the people for whom they were established. they're established to help consumers. and most of the use of small claims courts are by loan sharks, payday loan people, installment loan rackets, landlords in poor areas, creditors, they use the small claims court, and he believes that millions of americans should use the small claims court. they're very easy to use. you don't need a lawyer. here's oliver hall. thank you, ralph. i just have to say it was such an honor to represent ralph all those years, and i only wish he was running for president again. i'd like to say that now especially. when we have such a dearth of choices in this election, and so
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much commentary about that issue. but as raf said, i'm founder of non-profit called center for competitive democracy. we work to eliminate barriers to participation in the political process. so i guess raf gave some indication, but the question arises what does that have to do with small claims court. well, let me come back to that. i'd like to start with a story. the year is 1980. the place san francisco. not the tony era of san francisco, not russian hill or pacific heights but south of the city near the airport. you may not note san francisco international airport started as an air strip in a former cow pasture a few miles south of the city. that was in 1927. but within a few short decades they had jumbo jets flying in and out from the tokyo and
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london and sydney australia. and the people there who lived there who lived near that former cow pasture found that the noise was somewhat irritating. as a matter of fact, it rattled their windows, shook their homes. woke them up at all hours of the night. well, what would you do in that situation? what would you do? i mean, you basically can't live in your own house. well, a woman named gretchen isenberg went to small claims court in september, 19 1, she filed a lawsuit against the city of san francisco which was the operator of the airport and alleged a claim of nuisance and requested the jurisdictional limit which was $750. maybe the city didn't pay attention to that, but then her neighbor did the same thing. and another neighbor and another neighbor and another neighbor. by the end of the month, 170
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separate small claims actions had been filed against the city of san francisco by neighbors of the airport. and they all made the same claim, nuisance and they call requested the jurisdictional limit, $750. and 116 of them won. then they filed another 183 separate lawsuits in small claims court against the city of san francisco. well, that got the city's attention. and the city itself went into court, not small claims court but into the local superior court. and requested a writ to actually enjoin the small claims court from adjudicating any more of these claims. and the superior court rejected that. and the court of appeals in
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california affirmed, said this is a totally appropriate way to use small 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's either too expensive or maybe the money involved for each individual plaintiff is not sufficient to justify any lawyer for taking the case. and so they were free to keep suing the city of san francisco and that's what they did. they prepared a master complaint. they organized. they held workshops. they shared information and resources with each other. and they banded together to hire expert witnesses to testify on behalf of each plaintiff. and to consult with lawyers. and they kept on going like that. now, this is obviously a pretty
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unusual case, right? but not just because they filed so many different small claims actions relating to the same on going violation or harm. but because people just don't use small claims courts anymore. how many people here have filed an action in small claims court? well, that's pretty good. certainly less han half, but pretty good. but you know, small claims court is the original people's court. before judge judy, before judge wapner, there were small claims courts. and they were founded in the early part of the 20th century. the idea originated with a 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 obviously, we
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still have them today which don't rise to the level that you want to file an entire lawsuit and hire a lawyer. but they deserve to be adjudicated, people deserve to get justice even if the harm is relatively small. and today, small claims courts exist in every state. the procedures vary somewhat, but they all share some basic characteristics. first of all, you don't need a lawyer. anybody can file a small claims action. the costs are minimal. the procedures are simple. and adjudication of your claim is really lightning fast in terms of litigation time. the filing fees are very low. they range from $15 to about $150 depending on the state. and the maximum claim value ranges from $2,500 in kentucky and rhode island who as much as $25,000 in tennessee. so that's real money. it's worth your time.
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but what has happened with small claims courts? some of us here today have used them, but the packet is that the original purpose of the small claims court has really fallen by the wayside or at least it has been overshadowed as early as 1972, a study an em bir cal study of small claims courts across the country characterized them as the forgotten court because the idea of giving the little guy a chance to get his small claim adjudicated had really fallen by the wayside. today, what you find is that the dockets of small claims courts are actually adopted by debt collectors and businesses and not by individuals seeking redress for the harms that they incur as a result of business practices. for example, a study of a california small claims court in 2002 found that 56% of the
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plaintiffs were corporate or business plaintiffs. while only 36% were individuals. so what you see is that small claims courts have been functionally hijacked by the very interests that they were intended to check. there was a story in the "boston globe" income 20 2006 that ment that the benefit of small claims courts is that they have these relaxed standards but what's happened is that businesses have taken advantage of those relaxed standards to be able to go after you know, small debts owed to them by individuals. well, this brings me back to my original question. what does small claims court have to do with my work as what i like to consider myself as a civil rights attorney. well, nothing directly. but it relates in this way. when we talk about breaking through power, you know,
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litigating a case takes years, decades even. it's a very difficult thing to do. but small claims court is something that everyone in this room, everyone following along online watching on tv, anyone can do it. and i'm living proof of that. i've won money judgments against corporations. i've collected them. one example when i was still in law school, a store sold me a used computer as new. and it turned out to be a total lemon. and the thing just died after a little while. and they wouldn't even take a look at it unless i paid them another hundred bucks. i said this thing is broken. well, i ended up having to sue them and they ended up paying me more than i paid for that computer. and i went out and i bought a new computer. so the system works. and i would say that everybody can and should take advantage of this resource.
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it's something that is there that is just totally underutilized. just 0 give you a pugh examples of the kinds of causes of action that you can take to small claims court. well, really anything that you litigate in a normal court you can also litigate in small claims court. so claims for nuisance or negligence, harassment, any of those types of claims. then there are also particular statutes that provide a private cause of action for violations of the statute. one is the telephone consumer protection act. has anyone been harassed by a telemarketer lately? i'm on the do not call list. i get calls all the time. well, this statute provides for $500 per violation or actual damages whichever is higher. and for knowing violations you can get triple damages. that would be $1500. so think about that next time you get a call from a telemarketer. look at your caller id and think
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about whether you want to take action. another one is the fair debt collections practices act. also provides a private right of action for hara. by the a debt collectors and you can get damages and attorneys fees under that statute. the one that i tend to focus on is the consumer protection act that each state has enacted. each of these states has a consumer protection statute. it allows anybody to saw a corporation for violations of the statute. here in d.c., the statute provides for $1500 per violation or actual damages which ever is greater and then it also allows for attorney's fees. i've sued under that statute and i've won. so it's something you can do. and that brings me to empty guess what i would like to wrap
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up with which is, you know, we come to events like this and we're prenned with so much useful information. but oftentimes we feel like it's maybe in the level of abstraction or the problems are too big. we don't really know how to attack them. here's something specific you can do. everybody when you go home today or if you're watching online or on tv, google your state's consumer protection at that time tute. familiarize yourself with the procedures and importantly, look at what the remedies are. look at what you can win if you avail yourself of this resource. and then the next time that 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 refuse to remove it from your account, or any of the other number of abuses that we have all encountered, think about taking them to small claims
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court. you can do it. and i tell you, it feels pretty good to make them pay you in that circumstance. i wanted to just return to gretchen isenberg to wrap this up. the woman who sued first sued the san francisco airport. if you go to wikipedia now and i read the entry about the san francisco airport, it boasts that it was one of the first airports to implement a fly quiet program. 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 to date has spent $153 million and has
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insulated some 15,000 nearby homes and if wikipedia is to be believed and i'm not sure this part it to be believed but it was a very successful effort. but 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 ms. isenberg and her neighbors filed their 353rd small claims action against the airport. and that's what we call the large potential of small claims courts. thanks very much.
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hi, i'm back. i hope you all enjoyed my illuminating and invigorating talk on small claims courts. let's move on. our next speaker is the cofounder of the institute for local self-reliance. he serves as senior staff of the waste to wealth initiative. and he also serves on ilsr's board of directors. he specializes in helping cities and counties recover increasing amounts of materials from the waste stream and adding value to the local economy through new processing and manufacturing facilities. please welcome neil seldman. >> well, good morning still. it's certainly nice to be here. it's a pleasure to be part of this presentation. i will be talking on my
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experience in 40 years of working with citizens fighting bad incinerators and solving problems in the waste stream. but i also come from a background of manufacturing. and as an academic, i've studied the process of change in many of our historical revolutions, the french and russian revolution where societies were disintegrating and, of course, our own american revolution where society was emerging, business and a civil rights were emerging. and from this experience and from my own studies and working with the institute, our philosophy is that scale and ownership in the economy are critical. they're critical for sustaining civil society and all the benefits that we're struggling to make our democracy become. we have the country has a history of this, of course, the
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legendary tea party was a number of local businesses reacting against a global international corporation forcing them to purchase things they didn't want and at prices that were exorbitant. very 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 forming the coalitions that can turn things around. we're about to face a major election. it is critical. we're very close to having a supreme court that will support our values on voter suppression, reversing citizens united, ending jerry mandering. if the election doesn't go away, these problems that plague our country will still be there. we will not run away. we will tighten our belts and work harder. and the importance of small
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businesses in our economy is one, small businesses and family farms, they breed independent people, people who have independent resources, can think for themselves, can do their own research and can 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. they're an important component, as i said before, they were a necessary if not sufficient aspect of our initial revolution. but even today, we can rely on them for fighting taxes, fighting for fair tax, for fighting for fair regulations. and to stop the regulations that are throttling creativity, innovation as david friedman
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mentioned in the energy field and others have been mentioning in other fields. they are very potent enemies of allies in fighting incinerators. had you may know that new york state was the first state to tax the internet which without taxes gives these giant coporations a 6% to 9% advantage over local businesses. new york state was the first state to do that and many others have followed, not all. and small businesses were a critical component of that coalition that forced 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 public facilities as their neighbors. and other business people. they immediately get involved in civic activities when had he per saeb their own interests and the interests of their neighbors and other elements of civil society.
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my two favorite examples again i'll draw from the waste field are representative bill pass kral who is now represents patterson in the u.s. congress, a medical doctor started out fighting incinerators became mayor and mou is in the house of representatives. my favorite story, however, as oliver has his favorite story about the san francisco airport, mine is about a woman named penny wheat who was just a regular person living in an latch shoeia county, the county where gainesville is 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
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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 counties is one of our leading zero waste cities at about 50% recycling trend toward 80 and 90%. if you want to have a healthy economic system, you have to have small byes and small farmers. 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 who want 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 very interesting project, the marin county carbon
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project showing applications of compost from food waste actually can reverse climate change. and 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 of small business means the market share of olgopolies and monopolies are diminished which freeze us all to focus, use our impact on local government, to dictate wage conditions, working conditions, whether unions should be allowed in this process or not. let me get now to the field that i've most been involved in, people say i'm knee deep in garbage. i'm quite proud of it. it's 40 years of work, a little bit more than 40 years has resulted since the late '60s in a remarkable multigender
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multirace multiclass and multiethnic and multigender coalition that has consistently defeated proposed incinerators. these are top down decisions, massive incinerators, 3,000, 4,000, 5,000 tons per day. you may have heard in baltimore, citizens just defeated a 4,000 ton per day incinerator. the capacity to stop something bad is fairly prevalent in society. it happens a lot. but to stop something that's bad and then not only propose a solution but organize to 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, environmental groups to accomplish these. just to give you a very quick set of numbers to put you -- to put this in context, the sector
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of waste is anywhere from 70 to $100 billion a year. in the country. there are 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 recycle, you create four to ten jobs just in processing and then 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 jobs. they teach skills. they teach ability to cooperate to understand technology, and of
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course, to use that technology to improve your education. and contacts with other people. to 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 5% 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 in our economy in terms of lowering costs of raw materials, et cetera, it has also shown that organized citizens ad hoc organizations of citizens getting together having stopped wall street from bonding these five and $600 million facilities. it has stopped the virgin material companies from
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expanding because everything you recycle material, anything you can make out of virgin material you can make out of recycled material. so there's a direction correlation with extraction of raw materials and recycling. it has helped beat incumbent officials and incumbent bureaucrats who refuse to acknowledge that incineration and megalandfills 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 city that are again manufacturing things, we have worked with many, 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. and finally, i would say that the recycling movement in the united states since let's call
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it the post world war ii recycling movement really getting ground in the late '60s but empowering people in the '70s, '80s, '90s and to this day. the most important thing we produced are citizens and the antrist toe tillian sense, citizens that are active are not passive. they vote, they take responsibility for holding office. these are the sizs that we need to. you but all know we don't need a majority of organized people to get our agendas across but we do need active citizens who have been activated by concerns in their own community and everybody touches garbage every day. anything that becomes garbage passes through a human hand than human hand can decide whether to make it garbage and destroy that material or to put it in a different place to use for community and even regional and national economic security. thank you for your time.
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>> thank you, nel seldman 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 to introduce him. is ralph in the house?all right. well, make yourselves comfortable. he'll be back.
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thank you, neil. my pleasure to introduce dr. michael jacobson. it was many years ago that i interviewed him when he was at m.i.t. getting his ph.d. 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 are the days when they stood in line looking for public interest work. and he was finishing his ph.d. in microbiology from m.i.t. and one of the questions i asked all the students who i was interviewing was, are you in it for the long run? or do you just want a couple years to get it on your vitae and then you go to work for the establishment. and i asked mike, are you in it for the long run?
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he said 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 whip for dessert. and mike would rush on the stage and criticize it before he was dragged off the stage. the level of degradation of the food supply from a to z when mike got under way would be stunning to young people today. the only bread that was sold in the supermarkets largely were wonder bread and tip top bread.
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when you went to the supermarket, you didn't even have to look at the label. when you picked the bread up, your fingers and thumb collided. now you have much more variety. at any rate, he built, he started with us for a short period of time. then he left with two other young scientists, started the center for science in the public interest which is the premier group today. some of you get the news let sper nutrition action." if you don't, you really should. it has a huge circulation and itps could out with information you can use and it's very colorful and 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'll have a discussion. thank you.
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>> you know, ralph, that your little introduction reminded me of that going up on the stage, that was -- we gave the annual bon vivant have i i swaz memorial award to the big just junk food producer of the year and i don't know how many of you remember bon vivantvich i choice soup killed people because it was contaminated with botulism. we thought that should be memorialized. and the award was a beat up old garbage can that we would bring with us to the annual convention of the institute of food technologists who was a membership group thatdy veesed cool whip angelo and all kinds of other kraft lined and lines supermarket shelves to try to give a little attention to the issue. >> see, he's a genius at
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informing the media with irresistible displays and demonstrations. and he would appear on the done in na hugh show, the mike douglas show, merv griffin haved 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 actually did this once, too. he would hold it up. it was like this. people would go like this. to this day, i meet people on airplanes who say i saw you on mike douglas. what do you remember? that stuff. from hotdogs and so on. >> i think, you know, and joan was alluding to it also, of trying to dramatize the issues with something concrete, something people can relate to. and you remember the junk food haul of shame that we had at
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public citizens visitor center that really captured people's attention. by depicting how much fat or the 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. you know, most of the media deals with overviolence of street crime, police brutality, wars, that sort of thing. but when you consider how many people die in this country from silent violence, 60,000 die from air pollution, over 1,000 a week. epa figures. about the same amount die from work-related diseases. and trauma in the job. 700 die every day, according to johns hopkins report, every day, from mishaps that are preventable in hospitals,
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including malpractice, hospital induced infections. and mike has focused, before we get into the other things, i identify csbi and nutrition action, mike, with you focused on three ingredients in our food that a lot of people are being overdosed with. fat, sugar, and salt. can you go through, a, what it was like before you came to washington, what kind of progress is made now, before you do that, how many people have died, what's the estimate, how many people have died or gotten sick from those three? >> over, well, per year, probably 150,000 people or so. excess sodium from salt, about 100,000 a year. sugar, the best estimate i have seen is from the main food in which sugar is used, soda pop. 25,000 people die every year
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because of the obesity and diabetes. and fat is complicated because there are different kinds of fat. some much better than others. the worst ones, the worst fat is trans fat. and that's from partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. we could talk more in detail, but harvard scientists estimated that was causing in its heyday, the 1990s, 50,000 to 100,000 excess deaths every year. so just astonishing. these are from the ingredients that people thought for decades totally harmless. salt and sugar are on our kitchen tables. and trans fat has been used in crisco, was used in crisco, no longer, since about 1910. so everybody was familiar with it. and you know, just thought it was innocence. >> you have pounded on trans fat
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with great subsis. i mean, he is sort of a watch dog on the food and drug administration department of agriculture and his staff, along with him, working regularly, tell us about the progress in trans fat and mayor bloomberg and other efforts. >> well, trans fat makes for a great story. industry in the '90s was marketing about 8 billion pounds a year of partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. and up through -- up until 1990, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil was considered perfectly safe. the government published a couple reports, one in the '70s. one in the '80s that looked at all the research and found shreds of research suggesting it was dangerous, but the studies were never confirmed, so it was continued to be considered safe.
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until 1990, a european study showed that trans fats raised the bad cholesterol and probably lowered the good cholesterol. a double whammy. and that was confirmed three years later by a department of agriculture study that really was a key study. it shows the value of independent government funded research. and so 1993, we petitioned the fda to require labeling of trans fat. and i don't want to go into all the details, but it took fda ten years to require the labeling of trans fat. >> and you're saying, what, just what are some of the products that people eat with trans fat? >> there's crisco, and everything with vegetable sho shorteni shortening. mcdonald's and every fast food restaurant's french fries, fried chicken, we were drenching our
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foots in trans fat. and the controversy and then the labeling made tremendous progress in getting rid of it. so the 1993 mandate for labeling and right about them, denmark banned partially hydrogenated oil. and so the fda is still talking about labeling. denmark is banning. we petitioned, and the evidence had gotten so strong with both those clinical studies and epidemiological studies that warranted us to urge and petition the fda to ban partially hydrogenated oil. which the fda didn't do until 2015. another ten-year delay. but trans fat really became a dirty word. and so many companies started labeling their foods, no trans fat. and it has been largely whisked
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out of the food supply. 90% or more of trans fat is gone. 7 to 7.5 billion pounds a year. it really shows the impact, starting with the scientific research, because that really has been the foundation. and then 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 soybeans and canola and so on, and we'll pay you more money if you do. so the farmers grew this stuff. the oil processors had more raw materials. they sold to the food companies. and so this is -- >> a success story. >> huge success story. >> let's turn to -- let's turn to sugar. by the way, all those national tv programs, they're gone now. mike cannot get on any of these
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shows like the phil donohue show, 10 million people, and all the other shows. you look at what has replaced them. total junk. masochistic, sadistic, who says who that. that has not improved. and you're unable to reach the number of people you reached. and here's how he would do it, for example. the classic coke can, and the classic pps pepsi can, and you how many of you have had this? all the hands go up. you say pretty sweet, isn't it? yeah. let's say you were making this coke tring, and you put the water in, you put the secret formula from atlanta, and you want to put the sugar that you want in it. how many teaspoons? some would say one, two, three. fewer hands would say, i like it really sweet. four. how many teaspoons of sugar?
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>> ten teaspoons of sugar in each 12-ounce can of coke. we dramatized that in a video called the happiness stand, where we show the making of this happiness potion. >> now, the damage of excessive sugar, for example, take far, far more sugar in their diet than 1900. what's the advantage? what's the harm from all that sugar? >> well, when i started in the early '70s, tooth decay was the harm, and we would go out there yelling and screaming, and people would be, some people would be irate about sugar causing tooth decay. but beginning -- beginning around 2,000, there was devel developed solid evidence that sugar was a major contributor to diabetes and heart disease. and obesity. and that really turned the tide. and so since 2000, there's been
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major progress in reducing soda consumption and sugar consumption more generally. >> how much does that do to a bottle of water? more people taking bottled water instead of coca-cola? >> well, it's hard to know cause and effect, but bottled water sales have skyrocketed, and drinking bottled water now, environmental problems aside, is seen as being hip. soda is being considered more kind of retrograde. and soda consumption per capita has declined, and this is full calorie carbonated drinks, declined by 27% since 1998, which is an astonishing change. the tide is really turning. and partly because of bottled water, but just also the image, and more people hearing the scientific research. center for disease control has funded new york, philadelphia,
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seattle, los angeles, other places, to run advertising criticizing sugary drinks. you know, so it's a remarkable change. >> yeah. completely reversed. the old story, the blasphemy of today becomes the commocommonplf tomorrow. >> one more thing about soda. the soda industry, coke and pepsi, they know that soda sales are tanking in this country and will probably continue to go down. so they are investing literally billions of dollars a year in marketing soda in developing countries, a billion -- coke, just coke, is spending -- is investing a billion dollars a year in china, a billion in mexico, a billion in brazil, a billion in india. $1.5 billion in africa. just astonishing investments. china and india, people drink this much soda a year.
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here we drink this much soda. they see those as the huge markets for the future. >> and replacing fruit drinks. native fruit drinks like guarana in brazil, so they're trying to wean people off more nutritious fruit drinks with this type of soft drink. yeah. it's often said that coca-cola has reached more areas of the world than anybody other than mosquitoes. >> close call. >> yeah. let's talk about salt now. we had a meeting with the secretary of agriculture, mike and i and some others, and i think mike sort of startled the secretary of agriculture vilsack when he talked about -- why do 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.
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so we're consuming -- so there's been evidence about 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, to look at the health impact of salt and see what we could do about it. so in 1978, we puditioned the food and drug administration to limit the amount of sodium in different categories of processed foods, and to change salts regulatory status. there it was, killing thousands of people a 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 asked for voluntary industry
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action. nothing happened. we got sodium labeled on food packages in 1990. got a good nutrition facts label, then we went back in the early 2000 to see what had happened to sodium consumption since the labeling law was passed and since our original u petiti petition. nothing had changed. despite all kinds of admonitions to industry to lower sodium levels. so we petitioned the fda again. and we got the institute of medicine to do a report on what should be done about excess sodium. not whether or not it's harmful. that had been settled, but what should be done. and the institute of medicine basically endorsed that 1978 petition saying the fda should limit sodium levels in cheeses, in breads, and different levels for these different categories of food. the fda immediately said it
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wouldn't limit the levels, but it might set voluntary targets. so it took another six years, earlier this year, well, for five years the fda didn't do anything. we sued the fda for inaction, public citizen represented us. and that got the fda to get off the dime and propose voluntary targets. so if we're lucky, those voluntary targets will be adopted as final voluntary targets, with two-year and ten-year goals. the ten-year goals would bring sodium down to safe levels. >> mike, i wanted to ask you, you have been pretty critical of the food and drug administration and u.s. department of agriculture. before we get to how you have educated tens of millions of people and how difficult or beneficial that was, what's your
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brief view of their regulatory protection of consumers now? >> well, it starts with the laws. and the laws are not bad. but if you get a law passed, then you have to fund the program. and conservative congresses starve the programs. so the food labeling, the food safety laws are reasonably good. they could be enforced with great vigor, going back to the 1958 food additives amendment. but the fda doesn't have the staff and it doesn't have the guts to enforce the laws with vigor, to regulate salt or sugar or we have asked for warning labels on soda pop because soda pop causes heart disease and diabetes and obesity. but fda is in a bit of a pickle because if it does anything brave, congress would crack down
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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 inspects with the meat inspection acts, the ufda inspects a chicken soup plant factory every single day of the year. even though it's sterilized, the soup is sterilized, it's not going to harm anybody. a food processing facility that does not have meat or poultry like a vegetable soup factory, gets visited every five or ten years. so the fda just doesn't have the resources. and it's very important to insure that agencies, not insure, desperately try to get the agencies sufficient funding to actually enforce the laws. >> have you expressed your view
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on efforts by the meat and poultry industry to have privatized inspections, to sort of self-regulate themselves instead of having daily or frequent ud department of agriculture and meat inspections. >> it's really rather continuous inspections of the slaughtering and processing of the animals. and those where it's -- and their inspectors check to see, look at every carcass. that's almost worthless. what they can find are obvious defects. you know, a serious bruise or a tumor that are more quality than safety. things that the food processors should monitor on their own. tyson doesn't want to have chickens with big bruises on them, so they should be responsible for that. those inspectors that are scrutinizing a chicken, they get one or two seconds to look at
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each chicken. >> that's how fast the assembly line is. >> they're whizzing by. and they're looking for bacteria. you're not going to find bacteria looking at a chicken carcass. you need stronger systems. and that's how the laws are moving. where the companies will look at the bruises and tumors and government inspectors will monitor for the systems that should be in place to keep the products uncontaminated. >> do you think the penalties are strong enough, though, for violations? >> they could be if they're brought about. the peanut corporation of america, which killed many people, poisoned thousands of people with contaminated peanuts, the chief executives got thrown in jail. but as russell has indicated
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earlier, those kinds of penalties are rarely invoked. >> mike, some people in the consumer area think you're not tough enough on certain issues. let me throw some on the table. a lot of consumer groups are upset with gmo crops, genetically modified crops. they say that argument for it is based in secret corporate science, not peer-reviewed. completely opposite of the bay you have operated. monsanto, for example. and that there's no evidence that it increases crop volume around the world and that it migrates and effects 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
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monsanto has to up the ante on those. what do you think of all that? where are you on gmo foods? >> genetic engineering is a powerful technology, kind of like electricity. when such a technology comes before the public or society, i think we should try to maximize benefits and minimize problems. like with electricity. electricity fries people every year. little babies stick their innocent little fingers in the outlets, and they're dead. we need to try to control that because electricity, arguably, has provided benefits. though some are arguable. and same thing with genetically modified crops. some of them may be beneficial. some of them may be dangerous. we should look at each one
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individually. have the -- has the government evaluated the safety adequately? are farmers using the products appropriately? and sometimes yes and sometimes no. but i think it's crazy to do away with a whole technology that is providing some benefits, could be providing much greater benefits here and in developing countries, in terms of drought resistance, crop yield, and so on, and it's naive to say get rid of the whole technology. when it can provide really major benefits. >> what about food eradiation? instead of focus on sanitation in plants, you just eradiate the food before it gets to your dinner table? >> i think it would be stupid to have, for a company to be producing dirty food and then trying to kill the germs just before it leaves the factory.
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there's no real evidence that eradiation is harmful. maybe it would prevent some of the thousands of food borne illness deaths every year. it's expensive and it would be far better to have safety systems in place that would prevent the germs from getting into the food in the first place. >> i have to finish with a story. when i was a little boy, my mother put on the kitchen table fresh celery, radishes, and carrots. and i said, i don't want to eat it. she said, what? i don't like it. i went through, i don't like it. i don't want to eat it. so she leaned over and said, who's i, ralph? it's me. is i your liver, your kidney, is it your lungs, your heart? i didn't know what she was getting at.
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she finally concluded, i know who i is, ralph, and you say you don't want to eat carrots and radishes. i said, who? i is your tongue. why are you turning your tongue against your brain? eat up. so this is the -- now, in this massive educational efforts that mike and his colleagues have engaged in, that has to be one of the issues because the advertisers focus on taste, taste, taste, and after it gets past your mouth, it can be very damaging to your organs. how do you dual with that? in conclusion, tell how people can get nutrition action, which i read every time it comes. it's a terrific publication. >> well, the tongue is more powerful than the brain in so many cases. but i think people -- you know,
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we're not going to get through to some people, so you try to make the food as safe as possible. you know, if salt is dangerous, limit the salt so it's just not as bad. and either the food gets tastes less salty or some of the saltiness may be replacement with other ingredients. people -- so many people have learned that healthy food, it actually tastes terrific. tastes better than the processed foods with kind of the cheap taste of sugar and salt. but it can be hard to persuade somebody who has been brain washed by eating this kind of -- >> tongue washed. >> tongue washed. for eating this kind of food, since they were infants, practically. >> well, you see what just a few people can do. mike came to washington, he had no money, no contacts, just knowledge, persistence, and a sense that he wanted to make
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food safety and nutrition his life's work. so i guess when you told me that you were in for the long haul, back in the 1970s, i guess you were in for the long haul. >> didn't know what i was getting myself into, but i have to answer the second part of your question. go to and sign up for subscription to nutrition. >> in print and online. i like the print version. >> if you bought the color monitor, you would get it in color on the internet. >> he's talking to someone who uses an underwood typewriter. thank you very much, mike jacobson.
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>> thank you, ralph and mike jacobson. our next speaker will be talking about empowering consumers, subject near and dear to my heart. he teaches -- he's a professor of law at georgetown university law center. where he teaches federal court civil procedure, administrative law, and seminars in first amendment litigation. he also co-directs the georgetown institute for public representation, which is a clinical program there. formerly, he was the director of the federal trade commission's bureau of consumer protection and he has also spent 25 years with the public citizen litigation group, public interest law firm here in
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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's 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 vladdic. >> so i spent a mere 25 years working for ralph. i will never forget my interview with ralph, the first question was, did you read the paper today? and yes, i had. he said, okay, what made you really mad? and so let me talk about what makes me really mad about the state of consumer protection in the united states. so ralph talked about the blasphemy of what's going on with food protection.
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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 pincher movement that comes from two angles. one comes from essentially the disintegration of tort law, contract law as we know it. these days, consumers ordinarily have no bargaining power with respect to the contracts they sign. these are often the i accept little box at the end of a form contract that you may or may not read. in 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 those contracts, there are generally provisions that
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would have been unthinkable 30 years ago. so one common provision gives the seller the unilateral right to modify the contract. so if the seller decides, well, you know, i think i can sort of eke more out of this relationship with the consumer, they're freel to modify the contract and send you a little note down the road. there are all sorts of sort of bombs put in these contracts that often go off to the detriment of consumers. one i'm going to come back to this, one sort of ubiquitous contract provision these days is a mandatory arbitration provision that 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. but there are other waivers that are generally attached to modern contracts. for example, forfeiture of
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remedies one might be entitle d to under stat ult. it involves contracts, a disappointed consumer would have the right to have his or her case heard before a jury. well, contract provisions these days often include waiver of the rights of jury trials. contracts also include the forfeiture of remedies that would otherwise be available to the consumer under state law. many of the contracts you have entered into require you forfeit your right to punitive damages. you forfeit your right to statutory damages. often, statutes contain what are called liquidated damage provisions. provisions in which a certain amount of damages are assumed, those provisions are also, those rights, statutory rights, are often waived in contracts. so you're asking, wait a minute. these are statutory rights.
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these are rights congress thought were important enough to enshrine to statute, to guarantee the consumer has this remedy in the event of breach. how could those rights be waived? well, the supreme court has held in many cases that 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 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 collars where rights that congress thought were important enough to enshrine in statute could not be vindicated through an arbitration agreement.
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tough noogys. the right is now unenforcement. and 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's documents. you may be able to take all statements, depositions of witnesses who have information that is pertinent to the case. class action, excuse me, class action rights are often afforded by statute that are obligated by contract. so the kinds of form contracts we see today 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.
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making matters worse, the courts arbitration jurisprudence has been essentially go away to consumers. there are a number of cases involving form contracts, a case involving at&t where the court split 5-4 on the enforceability of these consumer contracts that could only be vindicated by groups of plaintiffs suing together because the dollar amounts were reasonably low. and so one form of assault on consumer protection has been the court's enforcing contracts literally, even to the extent that they sacrifice statutory rights and the supreme court's aggressive affirmance of private dispute, private ordering over transparent judicial proceedings where the public at least has some insight into what's going
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on. second form of assault, and this gets back to mike's point earlier about shrinking government. so 20 years ago, grover norquist famously said his goal was to shrink government to the size where it could be drowned in a bathtub, and in large measure, he has succeeded. so if you look at the staffing of the important federal consumer protection agencies, they have been hollowed out. i was the director of the ftc's bureau of consumer protection for four years. the ftc today is about two thirds the size it was 20 years ago. population of the united states has grown by a third and the economy has doubled, yet the number of regulatory cops on the beat has shrunk. if you go up and down the list of the regulatory agencies we all depend on for our health and safety, they are quantitatively smaller. my colleague, my former boss,
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joan claybrook, who is head of the national transportation 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? i mean, that is sufficient? the commodities future trading commission, a small agency, but has regulatory authority over most of the commodities traded in the united states, is about the same size. the ftc, which has both consumer protection and anti-trust authority, has about 1,100 people. in contrast to the 1,600 h h00 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 1,400 people. so you know, when people rail
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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 sn lly staffed. they're overworked, and to make matters worse, the states which used to be an equal parter in consumer protection matters have also been hollowed out. at the federal trade commission, i worked closely with state attorney general's offices, they, too, have been cut because of budgeting and other state restrictions. to the extent we depend on government to be our first line of defense against egregious misuse of marketplace power, the government does what it can. but it is -- it is a very thin line that is spread thin. and i want to echo another point mike made, which is there's a lot of talk about agency
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officials being, not being tough enough, well, they're between a rock and a hard place. the tougher they are, the more they face funding cutbacks. at the tc, we were very aggressive, and i was called up to the hill with some regularity to say, you know, your funding is in jeopardy and you have to be careful. and so it's a very difficult position for federal regulators. let me talk about one other market failure. which is the courts to have been equal partners in some extent in the ratcheting back of consumer protection. so take one field. so identity theft is now rammant in the united states. last year, the justice department estimates that 17 million americans were victimized by identity theft. i measure this because the federal trade commission has essentially a self-help part of its website where people who
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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. so the identity theft is the predictable debris of an internet economy where data security is not taken seriously. and so this is an area where 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 store it, to safeguard it. ironically, of course, they safeguard their own intellectual property data very well. your data, your payment card information, your social
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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's no economic deterrence for companies to have lax security. the courts have repeatedly turned away people claiming injury from identity theft, and the supreme court's recent decision in a case called spokehill versus robins leaves unsettled the question whether you have a right to sue when your personal data has been compromised due to a data breach. so all right, so that's the assault. and the assault is real. and the erosion of our rights has been steady and predictable for the last, i would say, decade or 20 years. so what can we do about this? there have been some bright signs on the horizon. the passage of dodd/frank and the creation of the


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