By Ralph Nader
(Here is an open letter that Barack Obama should write to Mitt Romney – pronto!)
Dear Mr. Romney:
Not a day goes by without you blaming me for every slumping or stagnant economic indicator. Unemployment, increases in the number of food stamp recipients, government borrowing, and spending, home foreclosures, economic uncertainty for businesses, trade deficits – you name it. Only for droughts and hurricanes have you absolved me from responsibility.
I won’t go into what was inherited from your Republican party’s years in office. Deregulation, non-enforcement, non-disclosure by the financial industry, and subsidies and bailouts were that period’s hallmarks. But if I were to be held responsible for the state of the American economy, there would have to be a “command and control” economy enforced by the White House. You know full well that is not the case for several reasons.
First, our economy is dominated by corporations that make their own investment and hiring decisions. Two-thirds of the tens of millions of low-wage workers are employed by fifty large corporations, such as Walmart and McDonald’s. Thirty million American workers are laboring between the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour and what the minimum wage, adjusted for inflation from 1968, should be now – about $10 per hour. These companies are successfully opposing in Congress any increase in the minimum wage to such catch up with 1968. By the way, you favored an inflation-adjusted minimum wage for years. During the Republican primaries earlier this year, you changed your long-standing position and now oppose raising the minimum wage.
Moreover, many companies are sitting on more than $2 trillion in inactive cash reserves. I have no power to get more of that capital invested, other than to appeal to their USA corporate patriotism. I could also use that patriotic appeal to urge them to increase their dividends to shareholders which would pump tens of billions of dollars into our consumer economy to encourage much-needed spending. Some of these successful companies like Google, EMC and others offer no dividends at all to their owners. Those exhortations are just exhortations. CEOs can do what they want.
Second, I am not the Federal Reserve. The Fed has kept interest rates very low which has limited the return on savings. Tens of millions of middle and lower income people could spend those interest payments on the necessities of life. But the Fed is its own ruler, and its catering to the capital investment community don’t seem to be boosting the economy.
Third, there is the Congress and the oppositional unanimity by Republicans to block any economic, job-producing measures due to their priority of using a recessionary economy to help you defeat me in November. Remember Senate Republican leader, Senator Mitch McConnell’s oft-repeated words about that being their number-one priority?
I tried to promote a major public works construction and repair program in Congress. The Republicans in the House blocked it under the aegis of Representatives John Boehner and Eric Cantor. This program would have produced well-paying jobs, with multiplier effects, that could not be exported to China. Our communities have trillions of dollars in deferred maintenance afflicting schools, clinics, public transit systems, highways, bridges, dams, and water and sewage systems. I cannot make this happen without the Republicans in Congress. You and your running mate, Paul Ryan, have not exactly urged them to take up this jobs initiative.
You have declared that “Washington has become an impediment to economic growth.” Why then don’t you be specific, name and support an end to the vast array of corporate subsidies, handouts, bailouts and inflated government contracts, especially from the defense industry? Imagine what your friends on Wall Street and in Houston would think of you after that burst of candor.
See how many jobs disappear with the end of what conservatives call crony capitalism, the end of the huge, historic outpourings of government research and development monies that substantially built and help maintain innovations in the aerospace, biotech, pharmaceutical, computer, telecommunications and containerization industries – to name a few. And if you think taxpayer investment in public works all over the country is an “impediment to economic growth,” say so forthrightly, as you campaign battleground states.
I look forward to our first debate on October 3 in Denver and shall observe your struggle with consistency. While you’re at it, kindly bring your pre-2010 tax returns, so we can learn more about what you mean when you talk about your policy of tax cuts.
In solidarity for America,
Barack Obama, President
– Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of ‘Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us’. Visit: www.nader.org.