One of the wonderful things about the internet, is that it is much harder for things to disappear down the memory hole. Unless one lives in Chicago or follows labor issues closely, one is not likely to remember that one of the longest strikes in U.S. history is ongoing; and, unless a settlement is reached within the next five weeks, will pass an infamous milestone of lasting a decade. On June 15, 2003, members of UNITE HERE Local 1 working at the Congress Hotel went out on strike after the hotel decided to cut wages by seven percent, refused to pay healthcare premiums for its employees which would effectively eliminate employee healthcare benefits), and reserved the right to contract out union members' jobs.
Hotel and restaurant employees are some of our hardest working Americans, and they are at the forefront in battling for a living wage for all. President Obama's nomination of Penny Pritzker, a confessed bank scammer, a loan-sharking mortgage predator, to his cabinet made me think of these poor strikers, and how they, like so many of us, are pawns, playthings, and props for the political class.
Chicago based historian and frequent contributor to The Nation magazine, Rick Perlstein has recently penned a wonderful two part piece on the relationship between this shady billionaire and President Barack Obama. Along with Greg Palast, Part One, and Part Two by Perlstein will bring you up to speed on what to expect from Obama now that he is "unfettered from the constraints of reelection."
Pritzker is important for understanding how candidate Barack Obama was able to so so easily tap into the neoliberal Wall Street money machine before 2008, or before his speech at Bob Rubin's Hamilton Project kick off. As Greg Palast wrote
Pritzker introduced Obama, the neophyte state senator, to the Ladies Who Lunch (that's really what they call themselves) on Chicago's Gold Coast. Obama got lunch, gold and better - an introduction to Robert Rubin. Rubin is a former Secretary of the Treasury, former chairman of Goldman Sachs and former co-chairman of Citibank. Even atheists recognized Rubin as the Supreme Deity of Wall Street.Besides showing the corrosive effects of money upon our political system, what makes this pick especially appalling, is Pritzker's well known anti-union, anti-working people stance. It also shows how quickly, casually, and almost pathologically easy it is for an ambitious Democratic politician to dispose of ordinary people once the cameras are no longer there.
Rubin opened the doors to finance industry vaults for Obama. Extraordinarily for a Democrat, Obama in 2008 raised three times as much from bankers as his Republican opponent.
So what did Citibank's Rubin get for showering Obama with gold? Obama agreed to take care of Rubin's poodles, Larry Summers and Tim Geithner. They became Obama's first cabinet picks: Summers as Economics Czar and Geithner as his czarina, Secretary of the Treasury.
Harvey "Two-Face" Dent could take lessons from that guy. All he has to do is listen to the rhetoric of the last forty-five seconds of that clip with the reality of the President's record.
How do we keep from being fooled again?