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A Novel Idea, by Ralph Nader

A Novel Idea, by Ralph Nader

October 7, 2009

At a little noticed meeting with Senate Democrats, Warren Buffett, the famous investors’ guru, told the lawmakers that rich people are not paying enough taxes.

A tax increase for the very wealthy? Many of the Senators backed away from that recommendation, even though it came from the world’s second richest man.

That is just one reason why Mr. Buffett plays a central role in my first work of fiction, “Only the Super Rich Can Save Us!” The title is derived from an exchange between Buffett and a woman from New Orleans. Buffett is leading a convoy of critical supplies right after Katrina to help the fleeing poor stranded on the highways without food, water, medicine and shelter. At one stop, Buffett was distributing supplies when a grandmother clasped his hands, looked right into his eyes and cried out: “Only the super-rich can save us!”

Her words jolted Buffett to his core. Arriving back at his modest home in Omaha, he knew what he had to do.

The next scene is early January 2006. Buffett and 16 enlightened super-rich elders gather at a mountaintop hotel in Maui, and devise an elaborate strategy to take on the corporate goliaths and their Washington allies, and to redirect the country toward long overdue changes.

What follows is a top-down, bottom-up mobilization of Americans from all backgrounds in a head-on power struggle to break the grip of the corporate titans on our government.

With four out of five Americans believing that the U.S. is in decline, imagining the super-rich powerful engine revving up an organized citizenry is a precondition to revitalizing democracy.

Tom Peters, the best selling author of In Search of Excellence, summed up my book’s objective by calling it a work of fiction that he would love to see become nonfiction.

Step by step, week by week, Buffett’s super-rich, who call themselves “the Meliorists,” build their campaigns—first privately and then openly launching their initiatives during the 4th of July weekend with media, fanfare and parades.

Turning real, well-known people into fictional roles does not mean that their past achievements and beliefs are overlooked. To the contrary, I extend their achievements and beliefs to a much more intense level of what I believe they wish to see our country become.

Over the years, I have spoken to many super-rich and found many of them discouraged and saddened about our nation’s inability to solve major problems—a society paralyzed because the few have too much political and economic power over the many.

Buffett, in my “political science fiction,” to use my colleague Matt Zawisky’s phrase, selected people like George Soros, Ted Turner, Ross Perot, Sol Price, Yoko Ono, William Gates Sr., Barry Diller, Bill Cosby, Joe Jamail, Bernard Rapoport, Leonard Riggio, Phil Donahue, and others because each brought unique experience, determination, money and rolodexes to that secluded Maui hotel where they met every month.

The “Meliorists” address the enormous mismatch of resources between citizen groups and the corporate supremacists. This time the entrenched CEOs are challenged by the retired or elderly billionaires and megamillionaires who know the ways and means of business and political power, and can throw the resources, smarts and grassroot organizing talent against the corporate behemoths, who are not reluctant to counterattack.

In 1888, a Bostonian by the name of Edward Bellamy published a tremendous bestseller about a utopian U.S. in the year 2000 called Looking Backward. The book inspired the then-growing progressive movement.

Obviously, Bellamy’s utopian dream was not actualized. In my book, I show not a utopian society but a primer for how the super-rich, as a catalyst, could provide the means for millions of Americans to upgrade their quality of life and their livelihoods while confidently building civic and political institutions to hold and extend their gains.

I mean this book to interest anyone searching for ways to make fundamental, sustainable change. With this book you could see how your favorite big issue could be handled strategically and tactically. If you just want to escape your despair over our national gridlock and peer into the possible, into what could happen now if enough people and progressive super-rich come together, this book is for you, too.

Every week, leading reformers in our country produce documentations, diagnoses, denunciations of injustice and proposals to address it. Little happens. Too many mismatches. We need major catalysts. But first, we need imaginations rooted in fulfilling available potentials—transformations for us and for posterity.

By the way, my fictional Meliorists have a task force on posterity as well. For more, see OnlyTheSuperRich.Org. Take it from there.

— Ralph Nader

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