LETTER:Anti-Nader column lacking research

Matt Denner

Since Zach Calef warned us that Ralph Nader was exploiting a national tragedy, I have to ask what the term “exploitation” means.

Digging through Calef’s article, I can only conclude that he believes that, in the case of Ralph Nader, exploitation is the use of facts about current events to fight for social change. However, I must also point out that Mr. Calef’s breath of support for the corporate world’s utilization of persons and groups for selfish reasons (fitting a more traditional definition of exploitation) lacks far too much research to be taken seriously.

Take his view of the airline bailout for instance. If the airlines were not compensated, he says that “thousands upon thousands would have lost their jobs, and it would be their families who [would have] suffered.”

Unfortunately, this has already happened. Within the airline industry, more than 100,000 aviation workers have been laid off in spite of $5 billion in gifts and $10 billion in loan guarantees for the airlines.

The losses have been even greater in other sectors of the travel industry – one million people employed by the hotel industry have been either laid off or are working just one or two days a week, and travel agency bookings stand at only 40 percent of last year’s levels and that industry has estimated a loss of $1.36 billion since Sept. 1, according to Public Campaign. Unlike the equally important bailout of Chrysler 20 years ago, stakeholders in the airline industry were not asked to make concessions.

Perhaps a modified plan for compensating the entire travel industry could have protected the jobs of millions with far less money. However, lobbyists from the airlines who, in some cases, are directly related or married to congressional leaders, helped create a plan beneficial only to airline CEOs and stakeholders. Calef could have discovered this with only 10 minutes of Web-searching.

After ignoring the ineffectiveness of the recent airline bailout, Calef goes on to criticize Nader and his fellow activists for opposing corporate corruption. He ignores the decades of work for protection of consumers and democracy performed by Nader, including campaigns to ensure automobile safety in the face of threats on his life.

A comment about revolt, taken out of context from a wire article, should do little to diminish his integrity. However, if by “revolt,” Nader means a coordinated effort to oppose war profiteering and a re-examination of corporate law, then I wholeheartedly support this revolt.

The perversion of democracy that is corporate personhood, criticized by such figures as Abraham Lincoln and capitalist theorist Adam Smith, must be done away with.

Clearly, Calef’s inability to realize this and see the corporate exploitation of Americans in the wake of Sept. 11 shows a failure to complete basic research. If Calef does not see that continuing to fight for one’s beliefs, even in the wake of terrorist attacks and corporate assaults on democracy, is something we all should aspire toward, then his failures lie much deeper.

Matt Denner


Liberal Arts and Sciences