Antiqualified versus Incompetent
by Matt Stoller, Sat Apr 28, 2007 at 01:44:18 AM EDT
I've done some research in the extreme right business coalition groups, including looking into the monster that is the United States Chamber of Commerce and its President, Tom Donahue. Donahue is a deeply unethical and paranoid individual, with companies he helps govern as a board member caught for dangerous safety violations. Most recently, he was lobbying to weaken Sarbanes-Oxley shareholder protections while selling shares in a company he's a board member of prior to the release of damaging information. Donahue's Chamber is part of the 'gang of 6 trade associations' that "are considered the president's most reliable supporters. They include the Business Roundtable, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Restaurant Association, NFIB (National Federation of Independent Businesses) and NAW (National Association of Wholesalers-Distributors)."
These are very dangerous groups and they operate effectively in both Republican and Democratic majority environments. The National Restaurant Association, for instance, was recently the main roadblock to the minimum wage increase and was able to secure business tax breaks. The NFIB was behind the crushing health care plan debacle in 1993, and the Business Roundtable was behind NAFTA. The Chamber and NAM are adamently against consumer protection laws. And that's not all. Go peruse the issue page on NAM's website. It's against anything but voluntary action on global warming, anti-union, against universal health care, against the Family Medical Leave Act, viciously antitax and for pro-corporate trade agreements. It's as wingnutty as they come, and not particularly representative of manufacturers, who don't necessarily like having to move all their operations to China.
Anyway, I say this because working for or supporting any of these groups should be considered a political mark of shame. My new favorite website, the Consumerist, tells of how NAM's Vice President Michael Baroody has been nominated to become the head of the Consumer Product Safety Division. Baroody is patently unqualified, having no background in consumer safety and coming from a business coalition hostile to consumer rights. His career is entirely political; he served in the Reagan administration, and went back and forth from Republican Party positions to business PAC/lobbying.
I found this piece of his bio interesting: "He was research director and later director of public affairs at the Republican National Committee from 1977 to 1980, where he also served as Editor-in-Chief of the 1980 Republican Platform." This was a pivotal time for the emergence of the Republican coalition, when they learned how to work business groups against Democrats and turn business political culture to become paranoid and extremist.
Ruth Marcus at the Washington Post wrote about Baroody a few weeks ago, pointing out out that NAM successfully lobbied "against a petition to require makers of cribs, strollers and similar items to include registration cards with their products to be able to help notify consumers in a recall." Consumer groups are outraged, of course. What's nice is that now with a Democratic majority in the Senate, he can be stopped. It's ridiculous to put someone like that in charge of consumer safety since he's actually, and I don't know if this is a word but it should be, anti-qualified. He not only can't do the job, he is being put in charge specifically so he won't do the job. But it's not just that Bush appoints incompetent people, it's that these people are the same New Right business extremists that funded, financed, and trained George W. Bush and his whole political apparatus. It's one movement.
As a group formed in the wake of their disastrous and immoral governance, it's our responsibility to see that they never ever get their hands on anything remotely important ever again. That means that Democratic lawmakers should reject Baroody's nomination. It means ethical businessmen should write to the National Association of Manufacturer's and ask for the group to change its policies. And it means that bloggers should write about the 'gang of six', so that working for these groups will be firmly associated with the business extremism they promote.