tv Tavis Smiley WHUT August 21, 2012 8:00am-8:30am EDT
tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. tonight, a conversation with longtime consumer advocate and presidential candidate ralph nader. next week, the political parties take center stage at their conventions. despite the negative tone emerging, many find fault with the way both parties are serving our country. his thoughts tonight on a number of key issues including the failed promises by president obama to increase america's minimum-wage. >> there is a saying that dr. king had that said there is always the right time to do the right thing. i try to live my life every day by doing the right thing.
we are only halfway to completely eliminating hundred and we have work to do. as we work together, we can stamp hunger out. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. tavis: please welcome ralph nader to this program. the consumer advocate is also a longtime presidential candidates. timeforaraise.org, but the have
you back on this program. as you all know, the presidential debate commission announced these upcoming debates. the three presidential and one vice-presidential. i was just thinking earlier today about the question that you may remember when a particular candidate was asked the price of a carton of milk and he did not know. he was roundly dismissed around the country for not knowing the price of a carton of milk and how out of touch he was in the lives of everyday people. i ask whether or not you think all four of the top guys on the ticket, if they were asked the minimum wage, do you think they know what it is? >> i think now they would because there have been some press focused on that. romney was asked about it because for 10 years, they were for an inflation-adjusted minimum-wage.
he was asked very specifically and he started to waffle, but santorum held firm. $7.25, the lowest in the western world of major nations. the ontario is $10.25. in france's $11 equivalent. it was adjusted from 1968 to the present. it would be $10.36 an hour. and jesse jackson jr. rounded out with his bill, about 20 or 25 sponsors in the house of representatives at $10 an hour. there are 30 million workers in the u.s. between $7.25 an hour and $10 an hour. you would think that the democrats would see this as a winning issue and they have
dragged their feet in 2009, 2010. he promised by president obama of $9.50 by 2011 that he made in 2008 when by the wayside. and recently, senator harkin and representative miller have pu it to $9.80 by 2014 and made every signal that they are not serious about it. no hearings or press conferences a couple weeks ago by congressman george miller. losing it with organized labor and a social koches church group or anti-poverty group. they completely ignore it and put out a one or two page press release. i think this is an issue. the labor day is coming up at some of those 30 million workers should join with in the occupied groups and to surround the local offices back, of the senators
and representatives. you can get their addressed by looking in the phone book. that will really get momentum going and it will art pressuring president obama so that his labor day address, coming out, will focus on pumping tens of billions of dollars into a recessionary economy in the form of consumer demand to provide basic necessities for these hard- working people. it comes in the support of over 70% of the people consistently have favored an inflation- adjusted had minimum-wage. that includes a lot of conservatives and self-described republicans. i have no idea how the democrats have become of party of caution, cash, and cowardly is not picking up on fdr's great legacy. the minimum wage that he started in 1938.
>> why would a respected congressmen out of california, a democrat, mention something and put something out there. and then, to your sense, and not be serious about it. >> putting out so late in the election year? a they the answer is a sense of defeatism. i have been all over the house of representatives and one office after another. i have never seen such discouragement. they tell you privately they are not going to take back the house. the senior staff says to me, he will give us nothing. what kind of attitude is that? yet they can do it. just the way newt gingrich, a junior member of the house years ago said he was going to topple the speaker of the house, the democrats speaker of the house
and he did. and then he toppled tom foley three years later and recovered the house for the republicans. he didn't sit around saying, tom foley won't give us anything. there is a real defeatism and i can't explain it any other way. they needed jolt from prominent outside democrats like gary hart had they needed a jolt from back home surrounding the offices in good, peaceful demonstrations with great signs of the senators representatives. they are back home in the august recess. up, 30 having tom show million workers. just a few of those workers can turn the whole attitude and the whole climate around on this issue. it will get barack obama attention, too. >> i said almost two years ago, on national television program
that this was going to be the nastiest and ugliest and most expensive and divisive and racist campaign for the white house and the history. how did not want to be right, but sadly, i am. you see people in acknowledging the fact that this raises all of that and then some. in this ugly and nasty head of the civic campaign for the white house, those persons that support barack obama support him in large measure because they know or believe that he is so much better than the governor romney. as long as obama positions himself as better than governor romney and his supporters by the argument, and they tend to be the unemployed or the underemployed or those making minimum wage, how do you get them to push obama if he is their choice? >> they have to make demands on him.
they can still vote for him, but they can say before voting day, we are demanding that you take this position on cracking down corporate crime and consumer abuse and fighting poverty and raising the minimum wage. that is the way you do it. if you are a least-worst voter, that does not preclude you from the weeks before the election, making demands. to many people think that they are precluded. they think that just because they want obama to win, that they can't hold him in that direction that millions are deprived in economically suppressed working americans. that means obama can take all of you for granted and about even look back because he knows he's got your vote in be pulled by the corporate people. the corporate lobbyists in a direction where there is no pulled toward the people.
it is a failing voter strategy. put demands on the people. he put demands on the people that you're going to vote against. >tavis: how has obama been getting away with making promises that he has not been kept, not keeping the promise to of least fight to draw live in the stand and fight hard for an increase in minimum wage? i get the republican obstructionism, but what many of us have not seen is a fight on behalf of those making minimum wage or less, fiting to incrse that to $10 an hour. >> the republicans are so bad that he doesn't have to demonstrate a positive proposal or agenda for the country.
because he didn't do that in 2005 and 2010, he lost the house of representatives, some of the margin in the senate and he can say, why bother? the republicans that dominate the house are not going to allow anything to go through. that is an excuse. the second is a huge amount of emphasis on raising money from commercial interests, that is always in the back of the democrats' minds. and the third is the weakness of the labor unions. richard trumka that grew up as a coal miner, his father died from black lung disease. he became a lawyer and head of the united mineworkers. millions of workers belong to member unions. he is not taking a strong position. he is on the record for being a much higher minimum wage, but
they haven't put the tv ads on. they haven't focused on the white house. they just don't have the fortitude. they don't have the transforming leadership spirits. they are always making excuses on behalf of other people who are against what they are doing. i have never seen a worse seen in washington d.c. of the fetus and by people that should know better. the one reason is that they get reelected automatically, most of these democrats, as the republicans do, and these gerrymandered districts. tavis: the issue that is lost on me when it comes to unions, i share your concern that the unions have not been as aggressive were strong as they should be over the last few years. they have the argument that obama is better than the other
side. long term, it seems to me that you damage yourself and to diminish her own integrity and hurt your own credibility if you don't fight for those things you believe then, no matter who is in the white house. even if one person is better than another, how does this make labor stronger if labor doesn't draw live in the sand and fight now? >> is a losing strategy. the number of union members are shrinking year after year. it is down to the lowest in 70 years as a percentage of the workforce. the long-range short range making can be embellished this way. harry reid did not change the filibuster rule when he took control with obama. he didn't modify it, so he was left with having to get 60 votes, a super majority for anything.
the republicans smelled that and they said no way. they would e-mail threats of filibustering from senator mcconnell, the republican leader, to senator harry reid in the senate. dozens of the mails because reed never said, you want to filibuster? here is c-span and public broadcasting system, why don't you filibuster and let the american people know the origins of the worker and consumer protection, against clean-air and clean water. he won't do anything about a bloated military budget and you won't push for tax reform for the big corporations that pay zero income tax, less than any ordinary cabdriver pays. there is really no explanation except that they have safe seats, a very conflict avers president, and they have got no
pressure from the grassroots. they are a bit frightened by the occupied movement and it sort of fizzled. the loss of their concerns. tavis: let me ask you a philosophical question. you were talking about a lack of courage, conviction, commitment, and in some concerns, a lack of character. whenever someone thinks of ralph nader, in my own sense, all the wonderful actor boots, the seat belt safety law, and the wonderful consumer advocate proposals you have fought to put on the books, you have
gotten both sides of it. it seems to me that he has never lacked courage. the philosophical question is, what ever happened to that in washington? when you talk about abraham lincoln and fdr, talk about lbj, he talked about people willing to fight for the courage of their convictions. so from your perspective, and what ever happened to that kind of attitude on the part of some folks in washington? >> they are rewarded for not being transforming leaders at standing up for the people back home. they are rewarded in the language they understand. they raise money for their campaign, they don't worry about a primary challenger, they get reelected. it was only the last two congressional rows that 96% of the members of the house will be reelected.
it went down the slightly under 90% recently because of the surge of the tea party candidates. but still, it is the highest re- election re in the western world. it applies at the state legislative level as well. what is the weakening of the labor movement and its weak leaders with the exception of the california nurses association. you'll see a tough advocacy, pro labor california nurses association has a comparison with what is going on in the afl-cio in washington, d.c.. the media is not jolting them. we used to get on the phil donahue show.
these were afternoon entertainment shows. but they always reserve 20% of their time for serious advocates, highlighting women's rights groups, peace groups, labor groups, consumer advocates. that is gone out. it is nothing but sadomasochism mondays afternoon shows. as far as the newspapers go, they used to follow the story. if i was pushing for a lot of safety on capitol hill, they would say, this is pretty significant. there is evidence that there needs to be safer cars. no federal standards for motor vehicles. so they would follow the story has a the senate hearings at house hearings and all kinds of things going on, pushing the bill toward lyndon johnson to sign. now the big newspapers do
features. they don't follow the community. i have been complaining to the new york times about that. they are hoping to get to the enterprises or some other journalistic pride. i don't think they have any idea how that undermines the entire civic community. unless people are able to have a voice in the mass media, he won't be able to jolt into action these lumbering politicians, to put it mildly, who are on the campaign cash dole into action. that is the record of history. only when they get a rumble from the people. nixon was afraid of the rumble from the people that he cited the epa law and the occupational safety lock. with a flourishing statements, the air pollution laws, the water pollution law. he was afraid of the rumble of the people coming out of the
'60s. that is what we need. labor day is a person for this. minimum-wage, $10, the jesse jackson bill. get people out and around the offices of the senators and representatives and buttonholed the amal. they're having town meetings. i will give you an example of florida. one fellow had an eight hours and 50 cents an hour job and he went up to him and he said, are you for the $10 minimum wage? jesse jackson jr. calls catching up with 1968. young love him and said, why do you want that benefit? he said, benefits, i can't make it got $8.50 an hour. he said, go get a job. that went all over the country. if you've buttonhole your
senator or congressman, are you for a $10 minimum wage, catching up with 1968 when a worker productivity was half of what is now? is that a big deal? tavis: you mentioned in 1968, the media, others. there were a number of papers in this country that didn't just have a business page, but we used to have zero labor page. i wonder what the chances are and how it might make a difference is the media ever got serious again about covering labor in this country with a labor page of the newspaper. just like they have business pages. the only do we no longer have labor pages as opposed to business pages, but the business
magazines. arno labor magazines. the media seems to have turned a blind eye to the average worker in this country. it seems to me there is no better time than right now to start to focus on labor. >> excellent point. the number of full-time labor reporters is that a historic low. most of them don't even have a labor reporter. the labor pressed itself is sort of sleep the and declining. the unions have their newspapers. the best ones are the international association, the united autoworkers, and the california nooses. but that doesn't get people seemed the way that my new boat wants them to get speed to overcome corporatism. second, let that the colonists. i have written twice for the washington post, a columnist for
the new york times, and i have written to other colonists asking if they don't cover the minimum wage. you don't get any answer. 98 years old, out of his little apartment in manhattan, he has a great website and puts out three articles a week and is actually writing, the only person running the challenge for the presidency of the afl-cio. do want to see what labor used to look like, he is promoting labor. extremely clear and lucid, right on that. he he has a web site, some other name that you can find out. without that pushed by the labor press, again, there is nothing to jolt. in the meantime, the business
press has expanded spectacularly. tavis: it is one thing for the leaders to not get it. i am talking about white house leaders, romney campaign leaders, laobor leaders. how do they go from and labor day to election day without enforcing ts issue on the agenda? >> maybe discouraged and depressed, but only you are going to do it one at a time, to the time, that is a lesson of the highlights of american history for working people. this is really very important. labor day is the key point to turn this around. tell the labor unions to pull out major decisions, their offices back home. buttonhole the members of congress annual si the
reverberation coming right back. democracy has to secrets. it works in it is a lot easier than you think. you have to try. tavis: on that note, a longtime consumer advocate, we have a great deal to thank him for. timeforaraise.org. all the best to you, sir. >> thank you, tavis. tavis: until next time, as always, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a conversation with comedian jeff fox worthy of the premier of his american bible challenge. >> every community has a martin luther king boulevard. know.
it's not just a street or boulevard, but a place where walmart stands together with your community to make every day better. >> there is a saying that dr. king had not where it is always the right time to do the right thing. i try live life every day by doing the right thing. we know that we are half way to completely eliminating hunger and we have a lot of work to do. wal-mart has donated $2 billion to fight hunger in the u.s.. as we work together, we can>> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. an stamp hunge rout. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> be more. pbs. >> be more. pbs.