Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Jesse Jackson - Obama's legacy: defining the course forward

Obama’s legacy: defining the course forward

November 10, 2014

The president has paid his courtesies to the Republican leaders who now control the Congress. Mitch McConnell has indicated that he’s prepared to cooperate with the president, if he’s prepared to capitulate. Others, like Sen. Ted Cruz, have declared that the scorched earth obstruction will continue.

The real question is how President Barack Obama acts. Many talking heads urge him to find common ground — on fast track trade authority, on tax breaks for multinationals, on various “reforms” of Obamacare, on lifting restrictions on exporting natural gas. He can, he’s told, consolidate his “legacy” by getting things done.

But these accomplishments take the country in the wrong direction. They deal with none of the true challenges facing the country. Why tax breaks for corporations that already capture a record percentage of the national income? Why more corporate trade treaties that ship good jobs abroad? Why join in denying the reality of catastrophic climate change?

Instead, the president can and should make his legacy clear by defining what his presidency stands for. He needs to address the pressing challenges facing this country — and contrast that starkly with the wrong-headed corporate and special interest agenda of Republicans. Here are five ways he can help secure a true legacy that points the way forward:

In foreign policy, he can open a new chapter with neighbors in our own hemisphere. A bold first step would be to issue executive orders doing what he can to ease the boycott, open up travel and normalize relations with Cuba. Our failed policy toward Cuba now isolates the U.S. in its own hemisphere. An opening to Cuba could be the dramatic step needed to open real cooperation on economic development, drug trafficking, public health and immigration.

In economic policy he should, as promised, push as far as possible toward immigration reform. It is vital that the millions now locked in the shadow economy be liberated from the exploitation that allows. That is not only humane; it lifts the bottom of the economy helping all. Republicans argue that if he acts unilaterally, they will never pass comprehensive reform, but they have already made it clear that sensible reforms will never pass this Republican Congress.

On basic justice, the president can use his bully pulpit and his pen to accelerate the attorney general’s efforts to reform our racially troubled criminal justice system from police practices to judicial sentencing. He can ensure that the events in Ferguson — too frequently mirrored in communities across the country — help crystallize a bold agenda for reform. He can convene governors, mayors, public safety officials and civil rights and citizen leaders to drive that reform.

On inequality, the president likely will have to wield his veto pen to counter Republican efforts to offer more tax breaks for the rich while cutting basic investment in support for the vulnerable. One effort the president can make on his own is to issue a Good Jobs Executive Order. Now he should put government on the side of good employers, giving preference to employers who pay their employees well, don’t allow excessive CEO pay, respect workplace laws and allow their employees the right to organize. We will never rebuild the middle class unless workers regain the right to negotiate for a fair share of the profits and productivity that they help to produce.

On national security, the president should turn our attention to the real security threats that have no military response. In addition to issuing new regulations on carbon emissions from power plants, he could describe the extreme crisis we now face from climate change, and detail how meeting that challenge can be a source of good jobs, better foods, better transport and healthier communities. He should lay out a bold agenda to capture the lead in the green industrial revolution that must sweep the world — and make it clear who is standing in the way.

The president still has the best pulpit in the land. He can still help Americans understand the challenges that can no longer be ducked and the bold steps needed to meet them. His proposals will be dead on arrival in the Republican Congress. His words will be mocked by conservative hawks. But he can define the choice, and that may be the most important legacy of all.

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