Obama’s First 100 Days?–Shut Up!

Carlisle, Pa.

Let him alone already! Maybe he’ll need 165 days, maybe even 278. This mindless 100-day watch has to end [Tony Badger, “FDR’s 100 Days… and Obama’s,” Jan. 26]. Surely the sophisticated editorial board of The Nation can recognize that stuffing a jaunty cigarette holder in the mouth of Obama-cum-FDR does not change the facts: FDR was unique; 1933 is gone. Just because some keen wits managed to package much of FDR’s doings in a neat 100-day bundle should not have put such a time burden on Harry or Dwight or John or Lyndon or… you get my drift.


EFCA: With Friends Like These…

Oakland, Calif.

Thanks to Esther Kaplan for her excellent article “Can Labor Revive the American Dream?” [Jan. 26], which presents a compelling case that unionization and collective bargaining are essential to rebuilding living standards, that the NLRA has failed to provide a level playing field for workers to organize and must be reformed, and that the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) is an excellent proposal whose opponents are the usual enemies of labor. Unfortunately, by prominently featuring SEIU president Andy Stern in the lead paragraph, associating himself with progressives and describing the scale of the SEIU campaign for EFCA, and quoting SEIU secretary-treasurer Anna Burger, the article appears to legitimize Stern and Burger as visionary, progressive leaders, fighting for EFCA.

In fact, Stern and Burger are doing more to ensure the defeat of EFCA than any other players in the debate by living out the worst stereotype of the bad union boss. The Blagojevich matter is but the tip of the iceberg. Stern and Burger’s worst transgressions are against union democracy and SEIU members. The corrupt and antidemocratic practices that mark their union leadership are beyond the pale even by past SEIU standards. It’s no surprise that EFCA’s opponents have made Stern the poster child of their campaign. They may be evil, but they’re not fools. The sooner other union leaders and the progressive media confront, expose and condemn Stern’s behavior and the SEIU international executive board’s acquiescence in it, the better the odds will be for EFCA. Wouldn’t it be a tragedy for workers to be denied the opportunity EFCA represents because the bad acts of one highly visible leader provide cover for conservative and swing-district legislators under very heavy pressure from anti-EFCA forces?

SEIU, UHW retiree

Sugar Land, Tex.

I couldn’t be more pleased with Esther Kaplan’s article. As a registered nurse for more than thirty years I have strongly supported nurses unionizing. It’s been a long, hard road here organizing nurses. We’ve put up with a great deal of harassment and abuse from hospital administrations over the past two years. We have very few legal resources and no support from the local media. We are hoping Obama and the Senate don’t wimp out on us. They must pass EFCA. There is no other way to go. It was the unions that created the middle class in this country, and it’s through unionization that we will be a strong middle class again.



Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

It’s a cliché in movies when a couple, not obviously in love yet, kiss for the first time and–midway through the kiss–something changes and their kiss plunges deeper than either of them originally intended. At the end of it they back away, dizzy and swooning, and the audience knows exactly what happened. This is how I feel after reading JoAnn Wypijewski’s “The Kiss” [Jan 12/19]. I’m swooning. I’m dizzy. She’s left me breathless. It’s not often that someone can just nail it the way she did. Thank you!


Sorry–But Your Ideas Are Timid

Brooklyn, N.Y.

As a principal of a socially responsible investment firm, I was surprised that your economic “Ideas for a New Era” [Jan. 12/19] were so timid. While it is important to provide green jobs, improve our infrastructure, enact healthcare for all and begin to reverse our incredibly inequitable distribution of wealth, it is inadequate. We are not going to stimulate and spend our way out of this crisis. Nor is the answer to turn Chinese and Japanese workers into debt-ridden consumers by having them spend their savings to stimulate and drive the world economy. We would do far better to follow the Chinese example of building the new economic infrastructure alongside the old, inefficient state-owned industries. This approach strengthens domestic demand during the transformation. In our case, our goal should be to replace privately owned industries based on cheap hydrocarbons with new, sustainable enterprises.

This is a transformational moment. We must comprehend that we are moving from a world of abundance to one of scarcity. This is not the 1930s, with vast unexploited natural resources and a comparatively small global population. In this era, natural resources are being depleted and are vigorously contested through price and war. We must immediately retool our economy and our lives away from disposables and suburban sprawl. We must accept the true cost of energy, even if it means steep carbon taxes to shift our markets to renewables. We need a vision that builds sustainability into our new, smart infrastructure, green from the ground up. We must go way beyond what is being proposed to ensure the future of our children.


Pioneers of Black History

Washington, D.C.

Kim Phillips-Fein’s review of Wendell Pritchett’s Robert Clifton Weaver and the American City [“Living for the City,” Jan. 12/19] refers to President Johnson’s initial reluctance to appoint Weaver as the first housing and urban development secretary (and the first-ever black in the cabinet). Johnson may have been mindful of what happened to President Kennedy when he signaled that he would appoint Weaver to head his proposed Department of Urban Affairs. Many Southerners in Congress decided they didn’t need such a department, especially if it was to be headed by an African-American.

Those of us in the Housing and Home Finance Agency (HHFA) at the time of its transition to HUD had a different problem: how to pay Dr. Weaver. The HUD Act was signed September 9, 1965, and provided that officials of HHFA (of which Weaver had been the administrator) could serve up to sixty days, which expired November 8, 1965. Since President Johnson had not nominated a secretary for the new department, Weaver’s status was unclear. The General Counsel’s Office, always creative, came up with the idea that the HHFA was lapsing, and Weaver could continue to be paid as the administrator of the lapsing agency. Weaver was finally confirmed as HUD secretary January 18, 1966, probably not long before he would have submitted his prepared resignation.