Obama's Jobs Summit: The Invisible Hand of SEIU and ACORN

As President Obama concludes his first jobs summit, almost a year into his presidency, the nature of the guest list hints at a deliberate initiative that’s been underway for over 15 years – and it’s not one of the obvious presumptions that most would make. Notice that of the list of leaders invited, the majority are labor union leaders, leaders of businesses with government contracts, or leaders of businesses that operate on partial public funding. There is a common element across most of the businesses represented: in one capacity or another, even if they are private sector businesses, most on the list benefit from some form of public money.

There is a legal precedent over 15 years old that is the pervasive push behind such a premise, one that was the product of ACORN and labor union coalitions. And judging by Change to Win / SEIU’s Anna Burger’s plan for today’s jobs summit, it’s evident that this precedent is in play as we speak.


It’s no coincidence that in the wake of America’s economic crisis, some lawmakers have been pushing for infusions of public funds into the private sector. No, we’re not just talking bank and insurance company bailouts. We’re talking about tax credit and incentive programs, health care reform proposals, green jobs programs, energy efficiency initiatives, and even real estate development companies. As the conservative accusations of socialism have begun to sink in with progressive leaders -especially with union leaders, who are especially sensitive to being perceived as public spenders – the language has been changing. Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand” doesn’t sound so scary when it’s wrapped in the glove of words like “co-ops” and “public-private partnerships” and “national service”, which are now quickly being mainstreamed into the rhetoric.

To the observant reader, one can look at the list of Jobs Summit invitees and know what the outcome will be, and why. The goal is not to create jobs. The goals are to create public-private partnerships and to create union membership opportunities.

In 1994, when ACORN and its community and labor union allies won the first Living Wage fight against Baltimore’s Inner Harbor development project, a national movement was underway. It was not only about Living Wage, but the premise itself opened up the door for a broader, more creative initiative.

The premise of Living Wage: any private business that benefits from public money can be controlled in part by government policy, and in this particular case, must pay their workers a living wage. While minimum wage is a standard national and state guideline across the board, living wage is different in that it calculates the income an adult with the average family of two must make in order to live comfortably in the middle class bracket for that geographic location.
The premise of today’s broader movement: create more opportunities for private businesses and individuals to benefit from public money, and the government can then intervene to dictate anything it wants – labor regulations, wages, health benefits, and much more.
As we see in SEIU’s campaigns to unionize home child care workers and UAW and AFSCME’s campaigns to do the same, any trickle of state or federal subsidies creates an opportunity for government and union entry, which drives up taxes and stresses the economy. And SEIU is applying the same logic to home care workers, nursing home workers, cafeteria workers, and the like.

We see this premise of control via public subsidy in action most obviously today with TARP and the bank bailouts. Conveniently for unions and community organizers, the bailouts outraged many – even constitutional conservatives. Hence, why SEIU especially seized upon the opportunity to channel that collective rage and turn it instead into a marketing tool to create anti-capitalist hype. (Note that SEIU selectively excludes the Automaker Bailouts from its manufactured rage). Bashing capitalism and the free enterprise system has become a favorite pastime for some. It seems just downright trendy these days to equate greed or corruption with capitalism and use it as a basis for throwing out an entire economic system, doesn’t it? When in your lifetime have you stood in line at the grocery store and overheard everyone from your postal carrier, to the elementary school’s janitor, to your neighbor’s college student son, all offering their theories on the evils of capitalism? You don’t even have to know anything about economic theory or the important role of Capitalism in the founding of America to participate in this latest fad. (After all, in a study of the Ability Of College Freshmen To Identify Adam Smith And Karl Marx, only 26.6 percent could identify Adam Smith as the “father of Capitalism”).

By the way, if you want to argue the positive aspects of Capitalism, just watch Steve Forbes put SEIU’s Andy Stern in his place on the issue in this video from the The Federalist Society, where it presented a panel discussion on Redistribution of Wealth at the 2009 National Lawyers Convention. (full panel video on C-Span)

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Keeping in mind the consequences facing banks that have received public funds, let’s look at all of the private sector areas in which SEIU and other labor and community organizing coalitions have been gaining unionizing strongholds, based on the same precedent initially set by the living wage laws 15 years ago:

  • Child care workers who have customers that receive public subsidies through welfare programs
  • Home care workers who serve patients who receive Medicare, Medicaid, or other public health care benefits
  • Using unionized workers to drive public weatherization and energy efficiency initiatives that receive public funds
  • Private schools and universities with students who receive public grants or loans
  • Private companies that do business with the government in any capacity
  • Private companies that have received public grants or loans
  • There’s even a push to regulate private companies that have received loans from any banks that have received public funds
  • The future focus no doubt will be on creating regulations related to anyone who receives public health care benefits

Unions have been unable to successfully grow membership in the private sector; therefore, SEIU has focused on growing its public sector opportunities by organizing typically private sector independent workers as mentioned above. In addition, it has focused on acquiring, often by force, other unions, and on creating political policy that will create public sector jobs in their realm of union membership, such as with health care. Lastly, the SEIU conducts repeated corporate campaign attacks on organizations that support free markets and that oppose forced unionism. Simply look at their attacks on non-unionized hospitals like this one and this one, and groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (which coincidentally was left off today’s jobs summit invite list).

In fact, just watch this Campaign for America’s Future video on C-Span, with panelists Anna Burger (Change to Win/SEIU) and Ilyse Hogue (MoveOn.org), especially at around minutes 57:00 and at 58:40 when Hogue mentions their joint campaign with SEIU against the US Chamber of Commerce to mobilize 22,000 small business leaders to oppose the Chamber of Commerce under the guise of saving the planet.

Given the observations of all of the above, now examine the highlights from Anna Burger’s plan for creating jobs at Thursday’s jobs summit:

  • Increase unemployment insurance and expand work sharing programs to provide unemployment benefits for reduced hours of work
  • Use TARP funds to increase credit for small businesses
  • Expand federal fiscal relief to states and local governments (to save an anticipated 900,000 jobs?)
  • Create jobs in child care, in-home services for the elderly and disabled, and other community services through a public jobs program
  • Leverage private investment with public dollars through a Green Bank that will promote energy-efficiency and renewables as a major source of job creation; Expand home retrofitting programs begun under the Recovery Act to commercial and public buildings
  • Rebuild schools, roads and bridge; create an Infrastructure Bank to foster public/private partnerships in developing regional and large scale projects
  • Passing health care reform will add “tens of millions of Americans to the healthcare rolls and create more than a million new and different jobs” in healthcare and related industries
  • Pass the Employee Free Choice Act
  • Expand worker training programs on a national scale

Every last one of Burger’s recommendations hinges entirely upon public dependency, both at the business level and the at the individual level. Aside from being one of the most powerful labor union leaders in the world, Burger is a primary participant in today’s summit, and she’s also on the President’s Economic Recovery Board of Advisers. As SEIU Secretary/Treasurer and chair of Change to Win, Burger’s organizations spend the union members’ dues on some of highest lobbying numbers on Capitol Hill for a multitude of self-serving policies.

Today’s jobs summit is not about creating jobs. It seems relatively clear that the goals will be more focused on establishing ways to propagate “public-private partnership opportunities” to all facets of the private sector. “Reformist”, “Social Capitalism”, “Market Socialism” – use whatever terms you want. Most of us know that Capitalism didn’t cause this crisis, because Capitalism isn’t really what we have anymore, which is why the free market needs to be restored. While we may hear what sounds like private sector rhetoric from President Obama, Progressives in Congress, and today’s jobs summit leaders, don’t be easily fooled – beware of Adam Smith’s infamous “Invisible Hand” in the form of the proverbial wolf disguised in sheep’s clothing.


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