Commentary Magazine


Topic: union leader

SEIU Lands Its Boss on the Deficit Commission

For those who suspect the president’s bipartisan deficit commission isn’t very bipartisan and isn’t going to do much about the deficit, this report should come as no surprise:

President Obama’s decision to appoint his close political ally, union leader Andrew Stern, to the newly created National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform has set off a firestorm of criticism from business and conservative groups who charge he is a political radical who should be investigated for failure to register as a lobbyist.

Really, what is the much criticized guy with the thuggish reputation belonging to a special-interest group that gave millions to elect Obama and has a vested interest in preserving costly budget items (such as the Davis-Bacon Act, which requires union “prevailing wages” on government contracts) doing on a panel supposedly dedicated to fiscal sobriety? Well, one supposes he’s there to protect the interests of his union members. That’s what he’s been doing for the last year, of course. (“Stern, whose union funneled $60 million to the Obama election campaign, has been a regular visitor to the White House since Obama’s inauguration.”)

Stern is already the subject of complaints over failure to register as a lobbyist. And his union has had its share of legal controversies. His appointment seems to confirm that the commission is about political showmanship and patronage rather than serious fiscal discipline. And it only amplifies the growing sense that Obama is not about change at all, but rather about the worst of old-style, backroom politics.

Granted, Big Labor hasn’t gotten much from Obama. But the consolation prize for the president’s failure to deliver what his patrons want shouldn’t be placement of one of its bosses on a commission designed to bypass the gridlock, self-interest, and seedy politics-as-usual. If Republicans were smart, they’d refuse to participate in a commission to which Stern is appointed. Let the president decide which is more important: a good faith try at deficit reduction or rewarding a disappointed ally.

For those who suspect the president’s bipartisan deficit commission isn’t very bipartisan and isn’t going to do much about the deficit, this report should come as no surprise:

President Obama’s decision to appoint his close political ally, union leader Andrew Stern, to the newly created National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform has set off a firestorm of criticism from business and conservative groups who charge he is a political radical who should be investigated for failure to register as a lobbyist.

Really, what is the much criticized guy with the thuggish reputation belonging to a special-interest group that gave millions to elect Obama and has a vested interest in preserving costly budget items (such as the Davis-Bacon Act, which requires union “prevailing wages” on government contracts) doing on a panel supposedly dedicated to fiscal sobriety? Well, one supposes he’s there to protect the interests of his union members. That’s what he’s been doing for the last year, of course. (“Stern, whose union funneled $60 million to the Obama election campaign, has been a regular visitor to the White House since Obama’s inauguration.”)

Stern is already the subject of complaints over failure to register as a lobbyist. And his union has had its share of legal controversies. His appointment seems to confirm that the commission is about political showmanship and patronage rather than serious fiscal discipline. And it only amplifies the growing sense that Obama is not about change at all, but rather about the worst of old-style, backroom politics.

Granted, Big Labor hasn’t gotten much from Obama. But the consolation prize for the president’s failure to deliver what his patrons want shouldn’t be placement of one of its bosses on a commission designed to bypass the gridlock, self-interest, and seedy politics-as-usual. If Republicans were smart, they’d refuse to participate in a commission to which Stern is appointed. Let the president decide which is more important: a good faith try at deficit reduction or rewarding a disappointed ally.

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