Having spent the last half century showing ordinary citizens how they could fight corporate power, legendary crusader and presidential candidate Ralph Nader has taken on a new project.
Now he wants the wealthy, more specifically, the wealthiest of the wealthy, to confront the country’s problems.
In undertaking the project, Nader didn’t call a teleconference, issue a manifesto in the New York Times or send an email to George Soros.
He toiled for 5 years on Underwood typewriters to write his target audience an eccentric 733-page work of fiction, “Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us.” Nader describes it as a “practical utopia.”
And Nader says the super-rich have to read the whole thing in order to get the message because it’s a “blueprint for action.”
“I talked to Ted Turner the other day,” Nader told me by phone. “He said he’d gotten through 100 pages.”
A character based on Turner, named Ted Turner, plays a starring role in the book, along with 16 other characters based on the super-rich and celebrities, including Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and Warren Beatty. The story follows the super-rich and a parrot in their collaborative effort to turn the country around.
Yoko Ono plays a key role in the novel, inventing a logo that causes people to discard their apathy. Warren Buffet gets the ball rolling, inspired by a visit to post-Katrina New Orleans. Sol Price, the founder of Costco, eulogized on WheresOurMoney.org several weeks ago, leads a successful campaign to unionize Wal-Mart. Warren Beatty runs for governor against Schwarzenegger – and wins. The group of wealthy do-gooders call themselves the Meliorists. They push for universal health care and a cleaner environment, start a new political party and infiltrate corporate boards.
Nader lugs his message through his fantasy world, in which the rich and famous attend a series of meetings, conferences, conference calls, press conferences and other gatherings delivering policy briefs and stump speeches.
“I’m trying to get the rich to think differently,” Nader said. “They’re good at building business but at making change, they’re amateurs.
Nader says proudly: “There’s never been a book like it written in the history of the country.”
That part is probably true.
Wealthy people have always supported social causes, from abolition to the NAACP and women’s movement, Nader explains. What he’s proposing is that the wealthy take it the next level, and create a movement for themselves.
If the super-rich ponied up a mere $1 billion, that could fund a successful fight against insurance and pharmaceutical companies blocking single-payer health care that a majority of the people in the country support, Nader said. “Money brings money, money brings knowledge and knowledge is power,” he says.
And the super-rich wouldn’t even miss the money, Nader added.
I suggested to Nader that even those eager to pick a 733-page tome might be reluctant to pick up his, in particular, because they’re still mad at him over the 2000 election.
Nader was unbowed and unapologetic. Far from costing Gore the election, Nader says that the former vice-president only did as well as he did because Nader’s campaign forced him to take stronger positions. “Tell them to call Al Gore,” Nader said. “I actually made his campaign better. He was too namby-pamby. Wherever he took more populist positions he did better.”
Nader has little good to say about the current occupant of the White House, who he calls a Wall-Street funded phony. Scanning the political landscape, all is not lost. Nader sees one politician who could have stepped out of the pages of “Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us:” Michael Bloomerg, who has taken on transfat and tobacco. “He’s doing what I’m writing. It’s non-deductible philanthropy. It takes on power and shifts it.”