Yes Online: Chuck Collins: Wanted: A Commerce Secretary for Main Street

by Chuck Collins
Yes! Online, February 2009

Senator Judd Gregg’s withdrawal as designee for the post of Secretary of Commerce gives President Obama an opportunity to regain some credibility for his promise to bring change and restore the American middle class. He could name a Commerce Secretary who understands the real economy of Main Street and has a track record in serving the interests of Main Street businesses and workers.

It was a great disappointment when Obama named Tim Geithner as Secretary of Treasury and Larry Summers as his top White House Economic advisor and presumptive future Federal Reserve chair. Geithner, as former head of the New York Federal Reserve and Summers, as Secretary of the Treasury in the latter part of the Clinton administration, both loyally served Wall Street interests in their respective capacities, leading Wall Street’s drive to free itself from regulation and public oversight.

The bailout plan Geither presented to the Congress further affirmed his loyalty to Wall Street, as he called for yet more “give aways” to insolvent Wall Street banks with no provision for restructuring or new rules to end the excesses that created the crisis.

We now need a Commerce Secretary who will speak for the economic interests of the rest of us. Margot Dorfman, the CEO of the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce, would be an excellent choice.

Since the 1980s, the Department of Commerce has represented the interests of the U.S. global business elite to the detriment of healthy and sustainable commerce. For decades, the Commerce department has failed to abate the destruction of Main Street enterprise, the collapse of our manufacturing base, the looting of our public infrastructure, massive global outsourcing of jobs, and rampant tax shifting to overseas tax havens.

Margot Dorfman understands that small and regional businesses, anchored to local economies are the real engines of economy growth in our economy. The jobs of the future will be tied to these new enterprises, not global finance and multi-national corporations that add little to the real economy but instead squeeze value out of taxpayers and the productive economy.

A Commerce secretary like Margot Dorfman would bring a fresh “bottom-up” perspective and balance to U.S. economic policy. She would press to strengthen sustainable business development, durable economic policies, community entrepreneurship, worker education, and small business development for women and people of color.

When the U.S. Chamber of Commerce led the fight against raising the federal minimum wage in 2007, Dorfman and the Women’s Chamber led the fight to raise it. “We all lose when American workers are underpaid,” she said. She understands that “high road” economic policies that lift up wages, environmental standards and community accountability are the way forward. She would bring the vision of networks like Business for Shared Prosperity and the Business Alliance for Local Living Economics into the national conversation.

As David Korten writes in his new book, An Agenda for a New Economy, we need to move from the phantom wealth economy of Wall Street speculation and financial bubbles to a real wealth economy based on small and medium local and regional businesses devoted to serving the communities in which they are located.

Picking a Commerce Secretary who can find her around Main Street would be a step in the right direction.

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Chuck Collins directs the Business for Shared Prosperity Fair Taxes program. www.businessforsharedprosperity.org.

http://yesmagazine.org/article.asp?ID=3353

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