On Monday, I traveled out to Pittsburgh from my rented townhouse in Canonsburg, PA to hear my civic hero, Ralph Nader, speak about the movement surrounding Single Payer health care and to tout his new book, Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us. It was the first time I ever saw him in person. Nader was speaking at The Joseph-Beth Bookstore in the South Side of Pittsburgh at 3 PM, and he was scheduled to speak to a larger crowd at Point Park University at 6 that evening.
Upon my arrival at the bookstore, there were less than a dozen people awaiting Nader. I overheard one person say that he was currently upstairs talking to the local news. Then, at just around 10 minutes after 3, Ralph was seen coming down the escalator (Joseph-Beth Bookstore is fairly large). Shortly after being introduced by someone (possibly working with the Nader book tour), the crowd in attendance had reached new heights, somewhere between 40 and 50. Most of the seats were filled and a crowd had even assembled behind the rows of seats, standing at attention as Ralph spoke.
Ralph discussed his new book, calling it a “practical utopia,” a phrase that’s been noted by writers that have either reviewed or merely described the book already in recent publications (I.E. The Nation Magazine), but he went further by saying “if you want to get more esoteric, it’s the art of speculation.” The book, “Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us” is not quite a novel, but is said to read like one, telling the story of 17, very real, Super-Rich individuals (Warren Buffett, Ted Turner to name a few) who join forces (financially & politically) to bring about radical change in America. Nader explains that as readers, we need to be excited while reading his new book. He talks of the “emulative factor” in regards to the concept that “money raises money.” To clarify, he cited a story involving Ted Turner that actually occurred over a decade ago when Turner pledged to donate 1 billion dollars to United Nations causes. Nader, who has interacted with Turner since then, asked Mr. Turner an important question: What kind of money was raised as a result of his enormous donation? The answer: over 500 million dollars.
The 17, Super-Rich individuals are not random selections. They are all contributors toward what Nader calls “soft philanthropy.” Each person has donated large amounts of cash to different foundations in the past. Jokingly, he says “none of these people are angels, that’s why they were so successful.” Nader’s book aims to successfully transcend the practice of soft philanthropy into something that radically reforms the process of democratic achievements. He firmly believes that if 10 billionaires put a total of 1 billion dollars on the table, we would have Single Payer health care “pushed through by congress in 18 months.” Furthermore, we would have a president who would “sign the bill,” although he “won’t push for it (Single Payer).”
Ralph Nader emits justice and democracy as much as he emits wisdom and a sense of experience. He’s had first hand experience with the corrupt political system in America. He’s paid the price for standing up for what’s right, taking on the two-party system, battled to get on state ballots against tyrannical state governments run by Democrats, all the while sustaining objectivity as his one and only motive, one described by justice. He regrets the fact that there are 2,000 health care lobbyists blocking strong reform of the industry in Washington, D.C., juxtaposed with the complete absence of any Single Payer health care lobbyist in town. With 70 percent of the American population in favor of Single Payer (yet the system remains “off the table” in our congressional forums), Ralph is right when implying that we need to imagine more in order to change our minds about the potential for real reform and progress in society. Citizen groups with a mere 1 million dollar budget cannot compete with multi-billion dollar industries. Documentation of corporate crime, regardless of whether the crime impacts the environment or drains our 401K’s, doesn’t do the work our imaginations are capable of doing.
It’s time we once again work the imaginations that we gradually left behind to enter the “real world.” We can start by bringing more justice to those that oppress us and repress progress, but coin their blatant actions as “reform.” We can vote outside of a two-party system that refuses us a health care system that works and leaves no one behind. We can punish via voting power all those representatives that insist the war in Afghanistan go on. We can improve this country by answering justice’s beckoning call. Like Ralph so eloquently said in the bookstore on East Carson Street, “A country with more justice needs less charity.”