Obama and the “Public Sentiment”

by

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 (seetimeforaraise.org 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.

Sincerely,

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! 

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
July 30, 2015
John Grant
The United States of Absurdity, Circa 2015
Jeff Taylor
Iowa Conference on Presidential Politics
July 29, 2015
Mike Whitney
The Politics of Betrayal: Obama Backstabs Kurds to Appease Turkey
Joshua Frank
The Wheels Fell Off the Bernie Sanders Bandwagon
Conn Hallinan
Ukraine: Close to the Edge
Stephen Lendman
What Happened to Ralkina Jones? Another Jail Cell Death
Rob Wallace
Neoliberal Ebola: the Agroeconomic Origins of the Ebola Outbreak
Dmitry Rodionov
The ‘Ichkerization’ Crime Wave in Ukraine
Joyce Nelson
Scott Walker & Stephen Harper: a New Bromance
Bill Blunden
The Red Herring of Digital Backdoors and Key Escrow Encryption
Thomas Mountain
The Sheepdog Politics of Barack Obama
Farzana Versey
A President and a Yogi: Abdul Kalam’s Symbolism
Norman Pollack
America’s Decline: Internal Structural-Cultural Subversion
Foday Darboe
How Obama Failed Africa
Cesar Chelala
Russia’s Insidious Epidemic
Tom H. Hastings
Defending Democracy
David Macaray
Why Union Contracts are Good for the Country
Virginia Arthur
The High and Dry Sierras
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, the Season Finale, Mekonception in Redhook
July 28, 2015
Mark Schuller
Humanitarian Occupation of Haiti: 100 Years and Counting
Lawrence Ware
Why the “Black Church” Doesn’t Exist–and Never Has
Peter Makhlouf
Israel and Gaza: the BDS Movement One Year After “Protective Edge”
Carl Finamore
Landlords Behaving Badly: San Francisco Too Valuable for Poor People*
Michael P. Bradley
Educating About Islam: Problems of Selectivity and Imbalance
Binoy Kampmark
Ransacking Malaysia: the Najib Corruption Dossier
Michael Avender - Medea Benjamin
El Salvador’s Draconian Abortion Laws: a Miscarriage of Justice
Jesse Jackson
Sandra Bland’s Only Crime Was Driving While Black
Cesar Chelala
Effect of Greece’s Economic Crisis on Public Health
Mel Gurtov
Netanyahu: An Enemy of Peace
Joseph G. Ramsey
The Limits of Optimism: E.L. Doctorow and the American Left
George Wuerthner
Bark Beetles and Forest Fires: Another Myth Goes Up in Smoke
Paul Craig Roberts - Dave Kranzler
Supply and Demand in the Gold and Silver Futures Markets
Eric Draitser
China’s NGO Law: Countering Western Soft Power and Subversion
Harvey Wasserman
Will Ohio Gov. Kasich’s Anti-Green Resume Kill His Presidential Hopes?
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, Episode 4, a Bowery Ballroom Blitz
July 27, 2015
Susan Babbitt
Thawing Relations: Cuba’s Deeper (More Challenging) Significance
Howard Lisnoff
Bernie Sanders: Savior or Seducer of the Anti-War Left?
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma’s Profiteers: You Want Us to Pay What for These Meds?
Joshua Sperber
What is a President? The CEO of Capitalism
John Halle
On Berniebots and Hillary Hacks, Dean Screams, Swiftboating and Smears
Stephen Lendman
Cleveland Police Attack Black Activists
Zoe Konstantopoulou
The Politics of Coercion in Greece
Patrick Cockburn
Only Iraq’s Clerics Can Defeat ISIS
Ralph Nader
Sending a ‘Citizens Summons’ to Members of Congress
Clancy Sigal
Scratch That Itch: Hillary and The Donald