THE BLOG
12/08/2006 09:16 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A "Grand Bargain"...For K Street

CongressDaily reports that at a news conference yesterday, incoming Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank reiterated his so-called "grand bargain" whereby he wants K Street lobbyists to accept Democrats efforts to raise the minimum wage and allow workers to unionize, in exchange for Democrats' help in pushing more deregulation and more corporate-written trade pacts that have no wage, environmental or human rights protections. Here's Frank's quote:

"I don't expect people on the left to be jubilant when I talk about working with the business community on some of the things they have been working for like more foreign trade and outsourcing. And I know that it's going to give a lot of people in the business community heartburn to talk about letting people join unions by card check."

This comment really shows how skewed the political debate is in Washington. Frank is saying we should accept Democrats working with corporate lobbyists on things like more free trade and more job outsourcing, but that we should feel OK about that because he is going to work to get corporate lobbyists to be OK with legislation that allows workers to unionize through a card check election, rather than through the ridiculous process required now. So, Democrats will help Corporate America destroy the U.S. job market and drive down American wages and environmental standards, in exchange for lobbyists not getting in the way of a bill that allows workers to unionize without thuggish interference from employers.

There is no doubt the card check legislation to make the democratic union election process easier is very important. But the concept that it is so hugely controversial as to require Democrats to help Big Money interests to continue laying waste to American wages and our job base is absolutely absurd. Card check legislation should be a given - it should be the absolute least Congress should do to protect people's very basic rights to organize. It shouldn't require any concessions at all, much less full Democratic complicity in screwing over ordinary people.

This says nothing of the fact that Democrats can offer all the "grand bargains" they want - corporate lobbyists will never ever in a million years help them pass bills cracking down on employer's anti-union behavior. It also doesn't address the fundamental contradiction here: there are no unions if there are no jobs. If we continue outsourcing the entire country, we can have laws making unions easy to form - but there won't be anyone to join them. Obviously, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but the point is clear: getting union protection laws in exchange for help in undermining the entire economy is not a good deal.

Of course, this is the kind of thing that seems "centrist" in a pay-to-play political culture like the one we have in Washington. As the New York Times reports today, lobbyists know "it's time to party" in the nation's capital - and they are shoveling money at Democrats to get deals like the one Frank has proposed. For the cameras, Democrats promise to crack down on the "culture of corruption," but as one corporate lobbyist told the Times, everyone knows "There will be some changes on the margins that will be relatively short-lived."

That's why we are getting this "grand bargain" - because it is a "grand bargain" for K Street.