Counterpunch’s Joshua Frank joins Ralph to discuss his new book, “Atomic Days: The Untold Story of the Most Toxic Place in America” about the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington State— the Cold War plutonium manufacturing facility that even after a $677 billion taxpayer clean-up bill still leaks radioactivity. And immigration lawyer extraordinaire, Susan Cohen, regales us about her experience representing asylum seekers and refugees as chronicled in her book “Journey From There to Here: Stories of Immigrant Trials, Triumphs and Contributions.” Plus, Ralph makes one final pitch before the midterms for “Winning America.”
Ralph Nader went to the root of the problem: how U.S. policies have contributed to or created the situations that propel people from their home countries. He is also correct in asserting that the role of U.S. policies is not even discussed when immigration is talked about.
Over decades the U.S. has created harm because of our military, trade and banking, drug, anti-union guns, and other policies Where is "the conversation" on what we are doing with these policies and how they relate to immigration?
The speaker, Susan Cohen who was very informative, told Ralph that she thought the reason that root causes and the role U.S. policies play are not talked up is because they are so complex. I don't think that is the reason. It is easier to use one's compassion to help one person than it is to understand a policy, however, understanding just a couple U.S. polices and their impact on people in another country is not beyond the capabilities of a concerned citizen. I think the problem is that this aspect is hidden; it's really not part of the politicians' and pundits' "conversation" on immigration. So, for me the question is why is there so much silence on the effect of U.S. policies on our neighbors?
These are two excellent topics. Mr. Nader brought up some very astute points with both guests which are ignored or otherwise overlooked by many other commentators including many progressives. Before I get into that, I wish to correct both Mr. Frank and whomever wrote the show description for this RNRH episode. The show description says that the Hanford situation is a “$677 billion taxpayer clean-up bill.” Mr. Frank essentially said the same thing. This is not correct.
Federal spending in the United States does not come from taxpayer money. Taxes serve other purposes even if that is not generally understood by the public. Now, if the spending came from the State of Washington or local municipalities, then an argument could be made that the spending is funded by taxpayers, but I suspect the great bulk of that $677 billion is federal funding. As such, taxpayers are not funding the clean-up. This by no means devalues the importance of this issue as taxpayers, and all US/global citizens, pay a high price for these environmental hazards, but that is not an excuse to spread falsehoods about how federal spending works. I realize these concepts are not widely known, even by educated people, so I only say this to encourage everyone to understand this subtle, but vitally important point.
Regarding the rest of the discussion with Mr. Frank: As someone who lives quite far from the Pacific NW, I was not aware of the Hanford issue. I’m glad the RNRH and Mr. Frank discussed this issue. The Columbia River area is one of America’s natural treasures and, of course, this issue impacts many people. It was a subtle point in the discussion, but Mr. Nader very correctly points out that being ‘green’ starts with conservation of energy. The three Rs are in weighted order: reduce, reuse, recycle. We must be very careful when corporate greenwashing and poor government regulation, non-regulation often, obfuscates this point.
Regarding the discussion with Ms. Cohen: It’s a shame the bulk of Mr. Nader’s excellent points were in the ‘wrap-up’ part of the program and not in the main show, but I understand there are time constraints. Mr. Nader’s point about ‘brain drain’ is spot-on and a great starting point for further discussion. Not only is the developing world missing a doctor, nurse, engineer, educator, etc. when people leave their home countries (and this has been really felt in the developing world during the pandemic), but these countries are losing some of the brightest, most educated minds they have who may help democracy in those countries and who can assist those countries in progressing rather than moving towards backwardness. Ms. Cohen brings up some good points in her discussion, but quoting the research, which I’ve seen before, about ex-pats sending money home and such only does so much good for those at home when those countries are lacking in fundamentals such as healthcare, sanitation education, and so forth.
Of course, this discussion isn’t only about immigration. Naturally, doctors, scientists, and so forth would be compelled to leave developing countries when their countries are lacking resources to allow them to do their jobs thanks to austerity imposed by foreign debt by the likes of the IMF and World Bank. These countries often get the bad end of trade with the US/west with the US getting their natural resources at below-value rates, but then these countries have to buy medical technology, green technology, etc. made with those same resources at inflated prices all while maintaining imposed austerity. Of course skilled, educated people in these countries cannot operate like they can in the US and elsewhere.
There is a potential solution to this issue though. Professor Fadhel Kaboub of Denison University has a very intriguing model of technology transfer which benefits both countries such as the US and the developing world. This is absolutely something the RNRH should look into if Mr. Nader wishes to expound on the ‘brain drain’ issue and what can be done about it since it’s not really just an immigration issue.
As Mr. Nader alludes to in his comments, there are beneficial aspects to immigration, but there are downsides as well and we must assess our own rôle in creating humanitarian disasters and backwards international (and domestic) governments that lead people to leave homelands they wouldn’t leave if it wasn’t for failed foreign (and domestic) policy by others. The US contributing towards humanitarian disasters and then taking pride in taking in refugees/asylum seekers is akin to people voting for poverty-causing policies in the US and then the same people beam with pride when they volunteer in soup kitchens when the soup kitchens need not exist in the first place.
The Deathocrats and Republikillers are not a two party duopoly. They are each one half of the one big money party.
"Third" parties are not the solution as they also take big money.
Voting for either half of the one big money party or "third" parties in the current election all but guarantees a choice of only big money candidates in the next election.
You could spend the next two years analyzing the results of 2022 and the good cop/bad cop show put on by the one big money party or you could begin working on the solution now which is to organize citizens outside of any party structure to demand small donor only candidates in 2024 and enforce that demand with our votes.
Our votes are how we hold politicians accountable.
Many of the 120 million citizens that will not vote in 2022 will never vote but a good portion just see voting for either half of the one big money party or "third" parties as an exercise in futility.
We need to start by giving those citizens a reason to vote rather than not vote again in 2024 and then we can start to pull voters away from the established parties when they see 20, 30 or 40 million non-voters in 2022 organizing to declare they will cast write-in votes in 2024 against the big money candidates on the primary and general election ballots in 2024 to create and demonstrate demand for small donor candidates.
There is no guarantee this will work, but not trying it does guarantee that the system that does not work will continue to not work and continue to make it possible for the false choices to keep getting worse.
To paraphrase Princess Leia- Help us Obi-Ralph Kenobi, you're our only hope!
I live in Washington state, and am familiar with Hanford. Very interesting program.
I'm always amazed at how many people, even those expert on the topic, can't seem to pronounce "Nuclear" (saying "nuke yuh lerr"). Always drives me nuts... ;-)
Cohen is another anti American traitiy who wants to replacee us with third world peasants that will vote for Democrats in exchange for welfare