Here's a big shocker - the Wall Street wing of the Democratic Party today announced it would be beginning its new war in earnest on the grassroots elements of the party that are demanding serious public policy changes. As the Financial Times reports, Citigroup Chairman Bob Rubin held a press conference at the Brookings Institution to announce the formation of the so-called "Hamilton Project." After paying lip service to various economic problems afflicting the country, Rubin and his former Treasury colleague Roger Altman quickly let it be known exactly what they are up to.
Here's the key excerpt:
"At a time when Democrats have become more aggressive in voicing concerns about the foreign ownership of US assets, Roger Altman, former deputy Treasury secretary under Mr Clinton, added that more inclusive economic growth could also 'blunt the political demands for protectionism'...[The group] said it was willing to take on entrenched Democratic interests, such as teaching unions. Policy papers unveiled on Wednesday proposed vouchers for summer schools..."
There it all is. First there's the dishonest name-calling aimed at those courageous Democrats who are challenging the free trade orthodoxy that is destroying the lives of millions of American and foreign workers. Then there is the promise of an ensuing attack on the labor movement - a reflexive move, of course, for a bunch of corporate executives. And finally, the nod to efforts to defund public education through "vouchers."
None of this is surprising, of course. As head of Citigroup, Rubin has a financial interest in the agenda he's pushing. And he's made no apologies for the brazenness with which he pushes his corporatism. Remember, it was Rubin during the debate over the Central American Free Trade Agreement who demanded that congressional Democrats back off their efforts to include labor, human rights and environmental protections in the pact. He and his pals are the same people who rammed trade deals like NAFTA, WTO and China PNTR down the throats of Americans, and then left government service for the high life of the corporate boardroom. There, they reaped the rich financial rewards of the very sell-out policies they used public office to push, while millions of Americans saw their jobs outsourced, their wages frozen and their benefits slashed.
Oh sure, the group claims it is going to look at critical issues like income inequality - but you can be sure they will look at that issue without looking at issues like "free" trade that are fueling that inequality. Because make no mistake about it - this move today is nothing more than the beginning of a frontal attack by Corporate America on the progressive movement, using the Democratic Party as an all-too-transparent cloak of legitimacy.
David Sirota is a writer and veteran political strategist. He just completed a book for Random House's Crown Publishers entitled "Hostile Takeover" - it will be released in the Spring of 2006. Sirota is currently the co-chairperson of the Progressive Legislative Action Network (PLAN). - a position he took after finishing a two-year stint at the Center for American Progress. Sirota is currently a Senior Editor at In These Times magazine, and a regular contributor to The Nation magazine. He is also a twice-weekly guest on the Al Franken Show.
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