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Green Science In Montana

Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader, who has been campaigning in remote areas of the United States, said Thursday that Montana's flagging economy is an example of what's wrong with corporate concentration in America.

"Look at the way your state has been pillaged and plundered," Nader told about 350 people in the western part of the state. "You've even lost your sense of confidence that you can build an economy without turning your state into a quarry for extractive industries controlled by absentee corporations."

In effect, corporate concentration is turning government against its own people, but that can be changed if citizens fight to regain power over their legislatures and Congress, Nader said.

He criticized both Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the Democratic and Republican party presidential nominees-to-be, for failing to make any substantial commitment to ending hunger, relieving poverty, stopping labor abuse or protecting the environment.

Nader pointed to certain national trends as symptoms of how corporations are beginning to take control over areas traditionally controlled in the public sector: People drinking bottled water instead of fighting for better water quality; sending their children to private schools instead of improving public education; and seeking private medical clinics when regular hospitals appear inadequate all were examples he used.

"You are among the contented classes," Nader told the Missoula audience. "You can get your calls returned. But you avoid exercising that voice that others don't have at all."

Nader said voters were much to blame for allowing an entrenched two-party political system to strip their share of power from them.

"The Democratic Party leaders tell their progressive wing: `You've got nowhere else to go, so choose the least worst (candidate),' " Nader told the Missoulian, a local paper, in a pre-rally interview. "Choosing the least worst just ensures the worst gets worse."

The Green Party is making this presidential bid its priority this year, Nader said, although it's running another 16 candidates in local races throughout the country. The minimum goal is to get 5 percent of the national vote, which would qualify the party for national ballot status in 2002 and provide access to federal campaign matching funds. That will give it the political presence to inspire a much more widespread effort in future campaigns.

Nader said the Green Party would work to stop arms exports, ensure that American corporations working overseas still uphold U.S. fair labor standards, support programs that benefit individuals such as land reform, effective court systems and nonviolent solutions to international disputes. He would greatly cut U.S. defense spending, especially on overseas troops "defending prosperous countries capable of defending themselves against nonexistenenemies."

To counter corporate power, he told the rally, citizens should regain their right to benefit from the use of public forests, mineral rights, airwaves and other federal assets.

The government should charge appropriate royalties for the use of those resources, and encourage ways that local communities can add value to the raw materials taken from their regions, Nader said.

He called for greater anti-trust enforcement against multinational agricultural corporations that are using price-setting powers to push small farmers and ranchers out of business. And he said the government should use its power of granting corporate charters as a way to enforce good civic behavior within the business world.

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