Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Daschle's Withddrawal

by Norman Markowitz

Tom Daschle's withdrawal as President Obama's choice for Health and Human Services Secretary is a setback, one that shows that the GOP and much of the media (including those sections of the media that can't decide whether they want Obama to follow Roosevelt or Clinton) are doing everything they can to push the new administration back, force it to retreat on both appointments and issues.

In a half hour I will go to listen to a scholarly talk on rightwing legal groups and foundations which sued the Department of the Interior during the Carter years in attempts to cripple its regulatory activities. A key figure in those groups was James Watt, whom Ronald Reagan appointed to head the Department of Interior with limited opposition in spite of his record. I mention this because it provides a bit of context for today's events. Reagan's deregulation and privatization policies also led to an exponential increase in both lobbying government and in private consulting contracts for government. Reagan and later Bush tax policies also made both legal and not so legal tax evasion a lot easier, along with, of course, sharply reducing taxes on the wealthy and glorifying the pursuit of wealth. There is more than a little hypocrisy to be very charitable in the Republican attacks on lobbies, private consultants, and of course, close scrutiny of individual's tax returns.

If I were President Obama I would immediately nominate a candidate clearly associated with the rapid establishment of a universal health care program. I might nominate, if he were willing to accept the position Representative John Conyers, the most important advocate of HR 676, the best of the universal health care proposals.

Now is the time for President Obama to make it clear to the Republicans and to his own party that he will not retreat on policy or on appointments---if they force out a cabinet member that they don't like on these kinds of issues, he will give them another candidate without these problems but one even less to their liking. Franklin Roosevelt often did that when he had the votes and it worked. Obama, while his majority is not as great or as clear as Roosevelt's was, does have the votes. And, the enactment of policies like Universal Health Care, the Employee Free Choice Act, a national economic rescue plan that provides jobs and protections the living standards of working people will get him, his policies, and the progressive members of his party many more votes while constructing a new politics in a more secure more humane and more advanced nation.