FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

What Obama Really Needs

by RALPH NADER

I just received a letter from President Obama. Right there on the outside envelope are the words “I need you.” After not answering several letters which I have mailed and faxed to him, I was, for the briefest of moments, curious about this personal plea for help. Then, of course, I realized that it was a form letter from Mr. Obama via the auspices of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

I started reading the two page, single-spaced missive. His words prompt responses.

He opens with undeniable declarations, to wit: “There are times in the life of our nation when America’s course can only be set by the concerted effort of citizens determined to pull our country through.

This is one of those times—and your personal involvement in moving America forward is absolutely essential.”

Just what this “personal involvement” is all about is unclear, other than to make a “contribution of $25, $35 or even $50 to the Democratic National Committee” which is somehow supposed to make sure that “America’s families are actively engaged in the critical decisions that lie ahead.”

This money will fund something called “Organizing for America” under the DNC which will unleash “volunteers and activists” to “carry our message…all across this great country of ours.”

The “message” includes “reforms that will bring down the cost of health insurance for families.” But Mr. Obama has taken the one reform—single payer, which he used to support—off the table and replaced it with a bill over a 1000 pages that will do just the opposite—to the delight of the drug and health insurance industries (see singlepayeraction.org).

Continuing into the letter, Mr. Obama emphasizes that “in communities all across America, people are worried about whether they’re going to have a job and paycheck to count on.”

But he has done nothing to support the card check reform to facilitate workers forming unions—an objective he supported during his presidential campaign. Still no push on Congress, no ringing statement of support, as he has uttered numerous times in promoting his various bailouts of Big Business.

One way to help low income workers to pay their bills is to elevate the federal minimum wage to $10 an hour which is what the minimum wage was in 1968, adjusted for inflation. The federal minimum wage is now $7.25. Adding $2.75 per hour would increase consumer demand in our faltering real economy.

The Democrats and Republicans, who gave bailouts in the trillions of dollars for the paper economy of the mismanaged, speculating, reckless big banks, big investment firms and insurance giants like AIG, should provide some economic assistance to workers on Main Street and not just Wall Street.

Mr. Obama writes: “Let’s put America’s future in the hands of people who are willing to work hard, willing to take their responsibilities seriously….” Perhaps Mr. Obama should read the short book by one of his Harvard Law School professors, Richard Parker, titled Here the People Rule. Professor Parker makes a strong case that the government has a constitutional duty to facilitate the political and civic energies of the people.

An important pathway toward this objective is to provide facilities whereby the people can easily band together in their nonprofit civic advocacy associations which they would fund themselves. Mr. Obama can start this process now by supporting a provision to establish a financial consumer association (FCA) with the pending legislation to start a consumer financial regulatory agency.

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) supported a Financial Consumer Association in 1985 when he was in the House of Representatives. Remember the savings and loan bailouts?

A similar provision can be included in the pending health insurance legislation. These facilities help to redress the present severe imbalance of power between the unorganized people and the corporate power machines which are often taxpayer subsidized and able to deduct lobbying expenses.

These consumer facilities have some precedents. In Obama’s home state of Illinois thousands of consumers of electric, telephone and gas companies voluntarily pay their membership dues to their private advocacy group: Illinois CUB (see http://www.citizensutilityboard.org).

He asks for our “personal participation.” Well why doesn’t he meet with the leaders of consumer, worker and poverty groups in the White House with the frequency with which he meets with the CEOs of giant corporations in the banking, insurance (Aetna), oil, gas, coal, auto and other commercial interests?

Instead he has turned his back on the very constituencies which gave him most of his votes. These are the people who remember Mr. Obama’s campaign promises and all his intonations of “hope and change,” including moving to reform the privileged tax laws for the rich and corporations and revising the notorious trade agreements.

Since Mr. Obama wants “personal participation,” how about moving for D.C. statehood or at least his expressed desire for voting rights and Congressional representation for the residents of the nation’s capital? As the months drag on with a Democratic Congress and a Democratic White House, people are losing hope for any change in their present state of political servitude.

RALPH NADER is the author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!, a novel.

 

 

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Mike Miller
What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In? 
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Jonathan Taylor
Hate Trump? You Should Have Voted for Ron Paul
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Rev. William Alberts
Grandiose Marketing of Spirituality
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
David Swanson
100 Years of Using War to Try to End All War
Andrew Stewart
The 4CHAN Presidency: A Media Critique of the Alt-Right
Edward Leer
Tripping USA: The Chair
Randy Shields
Tom Regan: The Life of the Animal Rights Party
Nyla Ali Khan
One Certain Effect of Instability in Kashmir is the Erosion of Freedom of Expression and Regional Integration
Rob Hager
The Only Fake News That Probably Threw the Election to Trump was not Russian 
Mike Garrity
Why Should We Pay Billionaires to Destroy Our Public Lands? 
Mark Dickman
The Prophet: Deutscher’s Trotsky
Christopher Brauchli
The Politics of the Toilet Police
Ezra Kronfeld
Joe Manchin: a Senate Republicrat to Dispute and Challenge
Clancy Sigal
The Nazis Called It a “Rafle”
Louis Proyect
Socialism Betrayed? Inside the Ukrainian Holodomor
Charles R. Larson
Review: Timothy B. Tyson’s “The Blood of Emmett Till”
David Yearsley
Founding Father of American Song
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail