Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Obama and the “Public Sentiment”


Dear President Obama:

Abraham Lincoln once said that “With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it, nothing can succeed.” Presumably, he meant Presidential action on popular issues can and should overcome influential interests.

At long last, the “public sentiment” seems to be aligning with some causes you are advancing.

First, support is increasing for restoring the federal minimum wage to account for the inflation that, since 1968, has greatly diminished its purchasing power. The federal minimum wage is presently stagnant at $7.25 per hour. You are supporting the Harkin-Miller bill (H.R.1010 and S.2223), which would raise it to $10.10 per hour over three years. You have already issued an executive order to require federal government contractors to pay their employees no less than $10.10 per hour, effective in 2015 ( for more information).

Restoring the purchasing power of the minimum wage has over 70% public support and would lift the wages of 30 million hard-pressed American workers. Had you pushed to raise the federal minimum wage in 2010 when the Democrats controlled Congress, the House of Representatives might not have been given over to the Republican Party in those November elections. In light of this missed opportunity, you can still pressure Speaker John Boehner and House Republicans to support raising the federal minimum wage by noting that Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and former Republican Governor of Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty, now support this effort.

Affected workers need you to step up the pressure in the remaining months of this forlorn Congress and get an existing discharge petition to the House floor for a vote.

Second, U.S.-chartered giant companies like Pfizer, Medtronic and, perhaps most foolishly, Walgreens— given its 8,000 protestable stores—are planning to move their headquarters to countries that lure them with lower tax rates, such as Ireland and Switzerland, abandon their U.S. “citizenship,” and re-incorporate in those jurisdictions. This is all for another tax escape to add to their existing ones, including large tax credits to Pfizer and Medtronic for research and development that corporatist lobbies have written into the U.S. tax code.

“I don’t care if it’s legal, it’s wrong,” you have indignantly exclaimed in recent speeches. You are supporting legislative efforts by Democrats in Congress (H.R.4679 and S.2360, sponsored by Representative Sander Levin (D-MI) and Senator Carl Levin (D-MI)) to prohibit such drains on corporate taxes intended for the U.S. Treasury and make the ban retroactive to May 2014.

Third, and perhaps most impressively, you are questioning the “economic patriotism” of many giant U.S. corporations who have received support (financial and otherwise) from U.S. workers, taxpayers and the public laws and benefitted from the infrastructure of our country. The mere implication that these companies are unpatriotically abandoning their native country has outraged the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (to which you paid a courtesy visit in 2011) along with the predictable Wall Street Journal editorial page.

That highly vocal reaction means you touched on a vulnerability that has been on the minds of tens of millions of Americans. May you continue to promote the importance of insisting on the patriotic character of corporations, since the U.S. Supreme Court (5 to 4) keeps telling us that corporations are people.

The public sentiment awaits your leadership on other positive redirections as well. Large majorities on both the left and the right: favor breaking up the “too big to fail” New York City banks; support cracking down on corporate crime and fraud (see the Hide No Harm Act of 2014); and, the more they know about its benefits and fairness, support a Wall Street speculation tax, a sales tax that could bring in about $300 billion a year, fund repairs of our public infrastructure, and dampen some of the reckless gambling with other peoples’ money, such as pension and mutual funds.

The many rallies in New York City, in front of the White House and around the country— some of which have been led by the National Nurses United—are pressing Congress for such a transaction tax. Such activities have laid the groundwork for your exercise of the “Bully Pulpit.”

Another easier initiative, pointed out in my new book, Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State, is to highlight, once again, the legislation that you as a Senator co-sponsored with Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) in 2006 to require that the full text of all federal government contracts above a minimum amount be available online.

As I’ve written previously, putting the full text of these contracts online will: give taxpayers both savings and higher quality performances; let the media focus more incisively on this vast area of government disbursements to inform the wider public; encourage constructive comments and alarms from the citizenry; and stimulate legal and economic research by scholars interested in structural topics related to government procurement, transfers, subsidies and giveaways.

There is already support by members of both Parties in the Congress for this measure. Online disclosure would provide for greater scrutiny of some $300 billion in annual contracts by the media, taxpayer groups, competitors and academic researchers.

Yes, indeed, Mr. President, wondrous and beneficial changes can come to our country when you and Congress heed the long-standing “public sentiment,” more recently called the “voices of the people,” and translate that “public sentiment” into beneficial action by our government.


Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader’s latest book is: Unstoppable: the Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State.

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

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


October 26, 2016
John W. Whitehead
A Deep State of Mind: America’s Shadow Government and Its Silent Coup
Eric Draitser
Dear Liberals: Trump is Right
Anthony Tarrant
On the Unbearable Lightness of Whiteness
Mark Weisbrot
The Most Dangerous Place in the World: US Pours in Money, as Blood Flows in Honduras
Chris Welzenbach
The Establishment and the Chattering Hack: a Response to Nicholas Lemann
Luke O'Brien
The Churchill Thing: Some Big Words About Trump and Some Other Chap
Sabia Rigby
In the “Jungle:” Report from the Refugee Camp in Calais, France
Linn Washington Jr.
Pot Decriminalization Yields $9-million in Savings for Philadelphia
Pepe Escobar
“America has lost” in the Philippines
Pauline Murphy
Political Feminism: the Legacy of Victoria Woodhull
Lizzie Maldonado
The Burdens of World War III
David Swanson
Slavery Was Abolished
Thomas Mountain
Preventing Cultural Genocide with the Mother Tongue Policy in Eritrea
Colin Todhunter
Agrochemicals And The Cesspool Of Corruption: Dr. Mason Writes To The US EPA
October 25, 2016
David Swanson
Halloween Is Coming, Vladimir Putin Isn’t
Hiroyuki Hamada
Fear Laundering: an Elaborate Psychological Diversion and Bid for Power
Priti Gulati Cox
President Obama: Before the Empire Falls, Free Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal
Kathy Deacon
Plus ça Change: Regime Change 1917-1920
Robin Goodman
Appetite for Destruction: America’s War Against Itself
Richard Moser
On Power, Privilege, and Passage: a Letter to My Nephew
Rev. William Alberts
The Epicenter of the Moral Universe is Our Common Humanity, Not Religion
Dan Bacher
Inspector General says Reclamation Wasted $32.2 Million on Klamath irrigators
David Mattson
A Recipe for Killing: the “Trust Us” Argument of State Grizzly Bear Managers
Derek Royden
The Tragedy in Yemen
Ralph Nader
Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think
Norman Pollack
Centrist Fascism: Lurching Forward
Guillermo R. Gil
Cell to Cell Communication: On How to Become Governor of Puerto Rico
Mateo Pimentel
You, Me, and the Trolley Make Three
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
October 24, 2016
John Steppling
The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare
Oscar Ortega
Clinton’s Troubling Silence on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Patrick Cockburn
Aleppo vs. Mosul: Media Biases
John Grant
Humanizing Our Militarized Border
Franklin Lamb
US-led Sanctions Targeting Syria Risk Adjudication as War Crimes
Paul Bentley
There Must Be Some Way Out of Here: the Silence of Dylan
Norman Pollack
Militarism: The Elephant in the Room
Patrick Bosold
Dakota Access Oil Pipeline: Invite CEO to Lunch, Go to Jail
Paul Craig Roberts
Was Russia’s Hesitation in Syria a Strategic Mistake?
David Swanson
Of All the Opinions I’ve Heard on Syria
Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future