Organized labor tacks to the right

Samuel Gompers

Matea Gold and Melanie Mason of the Los Angeles Times briefly described this rightward shift in big labor:

Last May, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka stood a few blocks from the White House and issued a stern warning: Union members could not be counted on as the Democrats’ foot soldiers anymore.

“If leaders aren’t blocking the wrecking ball and advancing working families’ interests, then working people will not support them,” he said in a speech at the National Press Club.

Flash forward to today: Labor appears squarely back in the Democrats’ corner for the 2012 election — pushed there in large part by Republican attacks on collective bargaining rights for public employees.

Those and other anti-union measures are rallying organized labor to the side of its longtime Democratic allies, and not just in states such as Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan, where they are battling efforts aimed at curbing union organizing.

The country’s biggest unions also have played a central role in helping a network of federal pro-Democratic “super PACs” get off the ground, pouring more than $4 million into those groups in 2011, even as many wealthy liberals kept their checkbooks closed.

And some major labor groups have even inserted themselves into the Republican presidential primaries with ads that take aim at White House hopeful Mitt Romney.

Obama’s two faces

First, impose a difficult and economically irrational austerity on the 99%. The Hill reports:

Top White House officials are warning liberal and labor leaders to brace themselves for President Obama’s budget proposal.

Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council, sought in meetings last week to lift the left’s gloom about Washington’s crackdown on spending by promising that the president this year will focus on job creation rather than deficit cutting.

Obama staffers sought to present their budget plan as a glass half full. According to sources familiar with the briefings, they promised that the president will focus on jobs and the economy, instead of deficit-cutting, which dominated last year’s debate on Capitol Hill.

Next, conduct a reelection campaign as a ‘friend’ of the people:

Obama has signaled in recent weeks that he plans to run a populist reelection campaign. He will need to keep liberal activist and labor groups — important parts of the Democratic base — energized for his strategy to work.

One does not need to comment on Obama’s politicking. It speaks for itself.

A dictatorship gestating

Reuters reports that (h/t to Glenn Greenwald who wrote about this matter):

American militants like Anwar al-Awlaki are placed on a kill or capture list by a secretive panel of senior government officials, which then informs the president of its decisions, according to officials.

There is no public record of the operations or decisions of the panel, which is a subset of the White House’s National Security Council, several current and former officials said. Neither is there any law establishing its existence or setting out the rules by which it is supposed to operate.

And:

The role of the president in ordering or ratifying a decision to target a citizen is fuzzy. White House spokesman Tommy Vietor declined to discuss anything about the process.

Acrid mockery of the Congress

The Onion helps to correctly frame the debt debate:

WASHINGTON — Members of the U.S. Congress reported Wednesday they were continuing to carefully debate the issue of whether or not they should allow the country to descend into a roiling economic meltdown of historically dire proportions. “It is a question that, I think, is worthy of serious consideration: Should we take steps to avoid a crippling, decades-long depression that would lead to disastrous consequences on a worldwide scale? Or should we not do that?” asked House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), adding that arguments could be made for both sides, and that the debate over ensuring America’s financial solvency versus allowing the nation to default on its debt — which would torpedo stock markets, cause mortgage and interests rates to skyrocket, and decimate the value of the U.S. dollar — is “certainly a conversation worth having.” “Obviously, we don’t want to rush to consensus on whether it is or isn’t a good idea to save the American economy and all our respective livelihoods from certain peril until we’ve examined this thorny dilemma from every angle. And if we’re still discussing this matter on Aug. 2, well, then, so be it.” At press time, President Obama said he personally believed the country should not be economically ruined.

President Obama wants to respect Constitutional limits

After Barack Obama’s meeting today with Republican leaders — during which they discussed the pain they would spread around the country and when they also agreed that they could live with the pain they will cause if they go through with their plans — it was left to Treasury Secretary Geithner to whip up Congressional support for the latest austerity budget. In this, the New York Times reports:

Mr. Geithner appeared to be playing a role not unlike that of Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, who warned lawmakers in the fall of 2008 that unless Congress voted to bail out the banking system, the credit crisis threatened to plunge the United States into a depression. Stunned by Mr. Bernanke’s dire depiction, the lawmakers undertook measures that were until then unthinkable.

Lest his warnings go unheeded,

…Mr. Geithner told the lawmakers the White House did not believe it had the authority, under the Constitution, to continue issuing debt if it reached the debt ceiling. Nobody in the room disputed Mr. Geithner’s bleak assessment, the officials said.

Naturally, this President, a man of principle and a Constitutional scholar, would not want to exceed the authority given to his office by the Constitution. Never would he choose a path marked by excess and legal impropriety. He would not act unconstitutionally even though his doing so would spare so many they pain this austerity budget will inflict upon them. It is just not in his nature. He will not flinch when forced by circumstances to look deeply into the abyss; nor would he refuse to throw the “lesser people” into this nothingness when duty demands that he do so. He, like Kennedy, would ask them what they can do for their country.

The White House responds to the iNews report

Money talks to power in the Obama White House

In a report for iWatch News, authors Fred Schulte, John Aloysius Farrell and Jeremy Borden point out that:

More than two years after President Obama took office vowing to banish “special interests” from his administration, nearly 200 of his biggest donors have landed plum government jobs and advisory posts, won federal contracts worth millions of dollars for their business interests or attended numerous elite White House meetings and social events, an investigation by iWatch News has found.

And:

As a candidate, Obama spoke passionately about diminishing the clout of moneyed interests and making the White House more accessible to everyday Americans. In kicking off his presidential run on Feb. 10, 2007, he blasted “the cynics, the lobbyists, the special interests,” who he said had “turned our government into a game only they can afford to play.”

But, President Obama rewarded his backers:

Overall, 184 of 556, or about one-third, of Obama bundlers or their spouses joined the administration in some role. But the percentages are much higher for the big-dollar bundlers. Nearly 80 percent of those who collected more than $500,000 for Obama took “key administration posts,” as defined by the White House. More than half the ambassador nominees who were bundlers raised more than half a million.

The big bundlers had broad access to the White House for meetings with top administration officials and glitzy social events. In all, campaign bundlers and their family members account for more than 3,000 White House meetings and visits. Half of them raised $200,000 or more.

Some Obama bundlers have ties to companies that stand to gain financially from the president’s policy agenda, particularly in clean energy and telecommunications, and some already have done so. Level 3 Communications, for instance, snared $13.8 million in stimulus money. At least 18 other bundlers have ties to businesses poised to profit from government spending to promote clean energy, telecommunications and other key administration priorities.

What, given these facts, does the future hold. iWatch News concludes its article by telling us that:

With an eye toward the re-election campaign, the White House peppered the guest list for the June 7 state dinner honoring German Chancellor Angela Merkel with bundlers. Among the 200 guests at the Rose Garden event were a dozen bundlers, most with their spouses, including the Bainums.

And so it goes….