Monday, August 05, 2013

Executive ideas for Obama to act like a Democrat

Bob Kuttner in Obama, the Economy and the Movement Huffington Post 08/04/2013 names some of the Executive powers President Obama could legitimately use to support liberal/progressive goals.

... the president has a great deal of executive power that he hasn't used. One example is the power to set the terms of government contracts.

During World War II, President Roosevelt denied war production contracts to any employer who tried to bust unions. In the 1960s, before there were the votes to pass civil rights legislation, Presidents Kennedy and Johnson issued executive orders requiring government contractors to end racial discrimination in hiring and promotion.

President Obama could issue orders requiring government contractors to pay decent wages and not to interfere with workers' legal right to unionize. And now that the Senate has finally confirmed his appointees to the National Labor Relations Board, the NLRB could take a much tougher stance against illegal union busting.

The president could stop proposing trade deals that make it easier for industry to outsource and to evade labor and environmental regulations by moving offshore. Social standards should be part of all trade deals.
As we've seen in the massive surveillance program, the new extremes in Executive Branch secrecy he's adopted and the drone wars, Obama is willing to embrace very expansive views of Presidential power.

If he isn't doing things like this that he could, it's because they don't fit into his basically conservative ideas of economic policy. He can't blame the Republicans in Congress for his inaction in areas like this where he can use Executive authority without Congressional approval.

Kuttner is right about the following:

What's needed is not just presidential rhetoric but a mass social movement to press for decent wages. The Occupy movement was a start, but it was a protest without a program. The movement for a $15 minimum wage is a protest connected to a politics. As it grows, this movement can create a tailwind for presidential leadership and isolate the Republicans as the party of privilege.

For three decades, this society has been dividing into haves and have-nots. Yet the struggles of ordinary people have been weirdly disconnected from our politics. Democrats express an economic populism when their backs are to the wall, but our Democratic presidents tend to get captured by economic elites.
But I see no possibility of Obama embracing this idea:

Obama, who tends to dislike partisanship, needs to become a better partisan in order to be a more effective president. He should make it even clearer what stands between us and a strong recovery -- Republican obstruction on the budget. He should send up legislation for much more substantial public investment, and then lead the attack on the obstructionist Republican House, Harry Truman style.
He can't seem to give even the most partisan of his speeches without stepping on his own messages with pious bromides about bipartisanship or lowering the deficit.

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