The President is rightly proposing using government money to help
hire more Americans. Back at his house, Obama should set an example for
Congress by rehiring consumer advocates at the White House Office of
Consumer Affairs who have been deposed since the G.W. Bush era.
Every other Democratic president since President Kennedy has hired a
Special Assistant for Consumer Affairs. Eleven months into his first
year, Obama has yet to fill the post. President Nixon gave the Special
Assistant a broader role and big staff when he created the White House
Office of Consumer Affairs with a 1971 Executive Order that read:
There is need for a consumer office within the Executive
Office of the President, which not only advises and represents the
President on matters of consumer interest, but also analyzes and
coordinates the implementation of all Federal activities in the field
of consumer protection, helping to establish priorities and resolve
conflicts, and recommending ways in which governmental consumer
programs can be made more effective.
This is the gift President Obama needs to give American consumers
for the holidays, a voice in the White House to balance out the
economist troika of Geithner, Summers and Bernake. And some more
progressive jobs to boot.
President John F. Kennedy created the Special Assistant post in 1961
to give average folks a voice in the West Wing. The White House Office
of Consumer Affairs thrived until being diminished greatly by the
Reagan Administration, then de-funded by Newt Gingrich during the
Clinton Administration. Obama needs to issue the executive order to
bring it back.
Consumer Watchdog has created an online application to let the
President know we should be in the picture and the office should
return. "Barack and Me"
allows you to take a photo of yourself with Obama, to caption the
photo, and send the image to the White House. Facebook friends can use this application and add the photo to their live feed.
Why hasn’t Obama welcomed the opportunity to give consumers this
kind of direct access and issued the order to rehire the White House
Sure, he’s been busy, but if ever there was a President who needed
to show his fealty to the consumer it’s this one. The real reason is
probably that Geithner, Emmanuel and Summers hardly want to argue in
the West Wing with the likes of a Joan Claybrook, former Public Citizen
leader, let’s say. But that’s exactly why Obama needs to re-establish
the post now.
The President was lucky to be in China last month when the special
inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program issued his
findings that Tim Giethner got rolled by Goldman Sachs into needlessly
throwing tens of billions of dollars taxpayer money at AIG.
In Mao’s China, the Treasury Secretary would’ve faced the firing
squad, forget rehabilitation. Obama needs to send a signal that
go-along-and-get-along insiders like Geithner aren’t the only ones
representing consumers in the White House.
If ever there was doubt that the White House needs a consumer voice
to balance out Treasury Secretary Geithner and Larry Summers, the
finding by TARP special inspector general Neil Barofsky should seal the
Barofsky revealed how Geithner was played by Goldman Sachs into
giving AIG backers, like Goldman, 100% on the dollar in government
relief. The New York Fed, "refused to use its considerable leverage,"
to force creditors to take less. The result was "tens of billions of
dollars of government money was funneled inexorably and directly to
Inside the Obama Administration months later, Geithner and Summers
were the twin voices defending big AIG bonuses until the President
himself backed them down. AIG officials are still threatening to walk
if they don’t cannot get big bonuses even though US taxpayers own 80%
Now more than ever, there needs to be a consumer advocate in the
White House balancing out the Goldman boys. It’s your chance to speak
up. Take a minute and whisper in the ear of the President at Barack and
Me or Facebook. May I suggest, "Jobs begin at home, Sir."