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Inequality and the Common Good » Article / Magazine Article

Secretary of Commerce: Margot Dorfman; Secretary of State: Jim McDermott

September 26, 2008 ·

Our Picks for an Obama Cabinet: Parts 1 & 2.

(These short essays by the Institute's staff appeared in a longer article that recommended 22 appointments for Barack Obama.)

For decades, the Department of Commerce has represented the interests of the U.S. global business elite to the detriment of healthy and sustainable commerce.

Since the ’80s, the department has done little 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.

A prospective Obama administration should nominate Margot Dorfman for secretary of commerce. Dorfman would advocate for Main Street, not Wall Street, and for business owners and employees, not absentee shareholders. She would support high-road enterprise that encourages real investment and healthy growth, not speculation, outsourcing and exploitation.

As CEO of the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce, Dorfman has supported sustainable business development, durable economic policies, community entrepreneurship, worker education, and small business development for women and people of color. Prior to that, Dorfman worked for General Mills and several small enterprises.

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 has been a leading voice with Business for Shared Prosperity, a national network of forward-thinking business leaders.

Sub-appointments: Van Jones, of the Ella Baker Center, to direct the Commerce Department’s new “green jobs initiative,” and John Arensmeyer, of Small Business Majority, to oversee the economic development administration.

—Chuck Collins

Secretary of state has two major tasks: To define and represent U.S. interests in the world, and to bring the rest of the world’s interests to the United States. Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) — a 10-term member of Congress and a Progressive Caucus stalwart — would do both.

McDermott has been a consistent voice for single-payer healthcare, for increased funding for the U.S. and global HIV/AIDS crisis, and for maintaining the estate tax. And he has stated unequivocally that Big Oil and the Iraq War are causing skyrocketing oil prices.

Like any U.S. politician, his record isn’t perfect, particularly on trade. But unlike most of his colleagues, McDermott is independent and willing to think and act outside the Washington box.

McDermott actively opposes U.S. threats of war against Iran, and he has challenged Israel directly, saying it’s “both appropriate and urgent for the U.S. to raise questions about [Israel’s] intentions” toward Iran.

Secretary McDermott would not only call for redeploying combat troops out of Iraq, he would also press for bringing home all U.S. troops and mercenaries. He would enforce ignored laws prohibiting U.S. bases there. And he would immediately renounce U.S. efforts to control Iraq’s oil. In fact, he read into the Congressional Record the full text of the 1930 Anglo-Iraqi treaty, which set the same terms for British control of oil that the Bush administration is trying to impose on Iraq today.

Secretary of State Jim McDermott would reclaim the primacy of diplomacy in U.S. foreign policy.

—Phyllis Bennis