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Obama plunges down corporate rabbit hole
by Jake Highton
May 22, 2013 | 978 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Whatever hope many of us had in 2008 for electing Barack Obama president is rendered ridiculous by his recent naming of Penny Pritzker as secretary of commerce.

  “The despicable appointment boosts corporate power and shafts the public,” social critic Norman Solomon writes. “Obama’s frequent boast of standing up for working people against special interests tumbles, his integrity becomes laughable.”

Pritzker was Obama’s heavyweight fundraiser both as U.S. Senate candidate in Illinois and as a presidential candidate. She’s worth $1.85 billion, one of the 300 wealthiest Americans, and heir to the Hyatt Regency hotel chain.

She is viciously anti-union, a stance that helped swell Hyatt’s fortune. Offshore tax havens and $600 million in tax credits have also bolstered the Pritzker family wealth.

Investigative journalist Dennis Bernstein reported: “Her sub-prime operation for Superior Bank in Chicago targeted poor and working people of color. She ended up crashing Superior, a billion-dollar cost to taxpayers and a tragedy for the 1,400 people who lost their savings.”

In 2001 the federal government recognized the fraud, fining Pritzker and her family $460 million for “predatory, deceitful and racist tactics at Superior.”

Yet none of that enormous wealth and sullied record deterred President Obama. As Norman Solomon put it, paraphrasing Alice in Wonderland, he dipped into plunderland and went down the corporate rabbit hole.

Meanwhile, our noble president chose Tom Wheeler, another Obama megafundraiser, to head the Federal Communications Commission.

Former FCC commissioner Nicholas Johnson pointed out the truth: “Wheeler’s background is as a trade association representative for companies appearing before the commission, a lobbyist in Congress and a venture capitalist investing in and profiting from others whose requests he will be ruling on.”

Government largesse to the wealthy never ceases. Officials leave one branch of government to serve in another. They never challenge corporate power, just help enrich their pals and ignore consumers.

                                                                Zinn and unions

The late historian Howard Zinn espoused unions, not just for decent pay, but for the essentials of human dignity: a safe work environment and robust health insurance and retirement benefits.

Yet so many Americans today are anti-union and therefore anti-worker. That view is unfathomable. It is anti-democratic and anti-equality. Do they know that 4,500 American workers are killed each year on the job?

The recent tragedies in Bangladesh and the West Chemical and Fertilizer Co. in Texas cry out for unions to protect workers from death and injury.

The Texas attorney general brags about his euphemistically called “right to work” state. But the deaths in the Texas explosion suggest the “right to die” state is more appropriate.

The plant had stored 270 tons of ammonium nitrate, 1,350 times more than required to trigger Department of Homeland Security oversight.

The situation for unionless workers in Bangladesh is similar. At Rana Plaza factory owners refused to evacuate the building after huge cracks appeared in the walls. The result: 1,127 lives lost, 2,500 injured.

Bangladesh clothing manufacturers turn out cheap products by ignoring safety regulations and paying slave wages of 21 cents an hour. The capitalist way of saving money by not meeting safety codes is far more important than saving “mere” lives.

  Corporate response? “Vague promises and public relations dodges,” Scott Nova of the Workers Rights Consortium declares.

The conscience of shoppers at stores like Wal-Mart should be seared. The low prices they enjoy come at the cost of cheap outsourcing and plantation treatment of workers.

Jake Highton is an emeritus journalism professor at the University of Nevada, Reno.
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