CAF Urges President Obama to “Keep On Steppin'” With Executive Actions

CAF Co-Director Robert Borosage Calls On Obama To Take Action In Five Key Areas Beyond Immigration Reform

President Obama “would be wise to keep on steppin’” and ignore the protests from critics of his executive order last week on deportations of undocumented immigrants, Robert Borosage, co-director of the Campaign for America’s Future, wrote in a column this morning on OurFuture.org.

“President Obama has already shown the way not only on immigration but with the historic agreement on climate with the Chinese (scorned as a ‘war on coal’ by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell) and his firm support for net neutrality,” Borosage wrote. Beyond immigration, he continues, “there are many critical areas where action is long overdue.”

Borosage lists five: restoring the right to vote to 3.9 million people who have served their time for felony convictions; signing a “good jobs executive order” that would favor living-wage employers in federal contracts; create “a bold Tennessee Valley Authority-sized jobs and green energy program for ‘coal country'”; normalize relations with Cuba; and prosecute at least one bank executive for continuing to engage in the kind of risky and fraudulent behavior that led to the 2008 financial crash.

“No doubt, they will elicit more outrage, wringing of hands, waving of fists from the Congress and the wingnuts,” Borosage wrote. “But as the president has already discovered with the China agreement and immigration orders, action frames the debate – and on these and many other issues, the majority of Americans agree with the president – and the base of his voters will be roused by his courage.”

The full statement, published on OurFuture.org, is below.

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The President’s historic executive action on immigration has been greeted with scripted Republican outrage, from threats to close the government (again), block all presidential appointees (what’s new?), and riots in the streets (see #coburnriots on twitter for gripping hour by hour reporting of the carnage). But threats of more obstruction are pretty empty from a Republican leadership that has waged a relentless scorched earth opposition to all things Obama from the start of his administration.

Instead of suing for peace, the president would be wise to keep on steppin’. President Obama has already shown the way not only on immigration but with the historic agreement on climate with the Chinese (scorned as a “war on coal” by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell) and his firm support for net neutrality. Writing in The Nation before the immigration action, publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel urged the president to “double down” and act boldly, both to make some progress and to frame debates that the country must have. The president has, as he said, has his pen and his phone, as well as the national microphone. There are many critical areas where action is long overdue. Here are some suggestions:

Restore the Vote: 3.9 million Americans are disenfranchised from felony convictions – mostly for non-violent drug offenses – even though they have paid their debt to society. A staggering 13 percent of all African-American men are prohibited from voting. Led by Attorney General Eric Holder, the administration has already taken long overdue measures to reduce sentences for drug offenders and to begin offering clemency to those sentenced to ridiculous terms. The president should issue a pardon to all those non-violent offenders who have served their sentences, removing their offense from the books. He should combine this with a call on all states to join in ending disenfranchisement for ex-offenders who have paid their debt to society. America is a nation of second chances. It is hard to believe that disenfranchisement would exist at all were it not for its racially disproportionate effects on people of color.

Reward Good Employers and Their Workers: The president should issue a Good Jobs Executive Order to leverage the $1 trillion in federal procurement to reward good employers. Give procurement preference to employers that pay a living wage, provide good benefits and allow their workers to organize and bargain collectively. Reward employers like Costco rather than Walmart that pays its workers so little that taxpayers are stuck with subsidizing their wages. The president has already acted to lift the minimum wage on federal contract workers. He should take the next step – which Demos estimates could put 21 million on the road to the middle class – and urge governors and mayors to follow in his course. At a time of record inequality and a declining middle class, it is long past time to put government on the side of workers and good employers rather than the exploiters.

Demand Action on Green Jobs: With the China deal on climate, the forthcoming Environmental Protection Agency action on carbon emissions, and his underappreciated fuel efficiency standards, the president has acted against the unsustainable fossil fuel economy. Now he should act boldly to demand action to embrace the jobs and growth that will come from leading the transition to renewable energy and the green industrial revolution. He should make green jobs the centerpiece of his State of the Union address. He should call for action for a bold Tennessee Valley Authority-sized jobs and green energy program for “coal country.” McConnell charges that the president is waging war on coal. The president should make it clear this is a choice between the unsustainable, dying economy of the past and a future that offers good jobs and new opportunities. He should complement this by convening mayors from both coasts to map out steps to meet the already rising seas and increasing superstorms. As Hurricane Sandy demonstrated, our decrepit and decaying infrastructure is in dire need of modernization.

Normalize Relations with Cuba: Foreign policy offers many opportunities for presidential action – cutting the deal with Iran to stem nuclear proliferation, acting boldly with Russia to guarantee Ukraine’s independence and unity and avoid a new Cold War, bringing the nation’s longest war in Afghanistan to an end. But there is no longer-lasting American folly than the failed, half-century long economic boycott and effort to isolate Cuba. The boycott has damaged the Cuban economy, but has bolstered support for the regime. It has damaged relations with our neighbors throughout Latin America, to the point where we are isolating ourselves. Congress has limited the president’s ability simply to end the boycott, but he can act to restore normal diplomatic relations, expand travel opportunities, lift private investment restrictions, and end the cap on remittances from Cuban Americans living in the states. He should hail Cuba for its courageous action against Ebola, and remove it from the State Department’s terrorist list. In April, the Seventh Summit of the America’s has insisted on Cuban attendance. The President should go to that meeting, having acted boldly to end a half century of folly.

Hold At Least One Bankster Accountable: Justice delayed is justice denied, and it is too late to prosecute many of the banksters whose excesses blew up the economy. But the president should use the occasion of Attorney General Eric Holder’s departure to put together a real task force to investigate and prosecute bankers who are recidivists, like those at Standard Chartered whose leaders apparently violated the settlement made with the Justice Department as it was signed. It is apparent that little has changed on Wall Street, and that agreements made with the Justice Department are being ignored in the greed for profit. The Justice Department should put all on notice: Violations of signed settlements will lead to prosecution not of the bank but of the bankers, and fines levied not against shareholders but against bankers’ personal fortunes. Just one perp walk would do much to sober up these serial offenders.

These represent only some of the actions the president should take. No doubt, they will elicit more outrage, wringing of hands, waving of fists from the Congress and the wingnuts. But as the president has already discovered with the China agreement and immigration orders, action frames the debate – and on these and many other issues, the majority of Americans agree with the president – and the base of his voters will be roused by his courage. Republican control of the Congress insures unending fights to stop bad things from happening. The president should act independently to move good things forward. Keep on steppin’, Mr. President.

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CAF Heralds President Obama’s Executive Action on Immigration

The Campaign for America’s Future fully supports the executive action on immigration that President Obama announced Thursday night, its co-directors, Robert Borosage and Roger Hickey, said in a joint statement.

Here is their full statement:

“President Barack Obama’s decision to waive the threat of deportation to upwards of five million undocumented immigrants and their families is a historic moment that moves America closer to its ideal of equal opportunity for all.

“Our inequality crisis is worsened by the exploitation of immigrant workers who toil without equal rights and fair compensation. The American economy will grow stronger, from the bottom up, once we end our two-tiered economic system and ensure that all workers have the same rights. Providing immigrant workers with legal status will boost their compensation and increase economic demand, growth which will even reduce long-term budget deficits. While comprehensive immigration reform legislation is still needed to fully address these persistent problems, today’s executive action is a major step forward that Republicans would be foolish to even try to roll back.

“The president is well within his legitimate authority to set deportation priorities with limited resources when implementing our immigration laws. If Republicans disagree with his policy, they can render the procedural dispute moot by passing their own legislation that lifts the 11 million undocumented immigrants out of the shadows, grants them a path to citizenship and allows them to fully participate in and grow the American economy. Last year, the Senate passed a similar measure with bipartisan support. Republicans now have the power and the responsibility to govern, not simply to complain. They should get about doing so.

“For years, Republicans put off doing what it is right for the immigrant community and the American economy, in order to pander to the anti-immigrant bigots who sully the conservative movement.

“Now, Republicans can step up to the challenge of governing, and stand up to the bigotry in their ranks. Or they can prove to immigrant families, which include millions of legal voters, that Republicans want them locked in a shadow economy rather than accord them the rights and respect they deserve.”

CAF Endorses Warren Bill Easing Tuition Burden On Students

Washington—The Campaign for America’s Future has thrown its support behind the student loan relief bill introduced on Tuesday by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)

CAF co-director Robert L. Borosage released the following statement:

“There are nearly 40 million Americans with outstanding student loan debt, which now averages $29,400 per graduate. That total increases with the rising costs of tuition, even at public colleges and universities, and by the failure of our own government to address college affordability.”

“These cruel debts are forcing a generation to put off saving, purchasing a home and even beginning a family. All agree that college education is a necessity, not a luxury in the modern world. It is a disgrace that in the U.S. it is becoming less and less affordable as it becomes more necessary. That is why we are enthusiastically endorsing Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s bill, which would allow borrowers with existing student loan debt to refinance at the same rate current undergraduates receive, currently 3.86 percent.”

“Homeowners can refinance their homes. A car loan can be had for under 3 percent. Yet college graduates are paying interest rates of nearly 7 percent or higher on existing undergraduate loans, and are unable to refinance.”

“We hope her colleagues in the Senate and the members of the House see how Senator Warren’s bill will brighten the future of millions of borrowers while at the same time energizing the U.S. economy.”

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