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Last Week's King Features Column

(Writer's note: By agreement with the syndicators, my columns appear here a week after their newspaper release)

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019

CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236

BOB FRANKEN

FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JAN. 18, 2011

CIVIL FIGHTS

BY BOB FRANKEN

The new concern about irresponsible political invective, temporary though it may be, obviously is overdue. It's worthwhile to put a lid on the vitriol, but, as we deal with those who have damaged our country, we also must differentiate between civil and servile.

President Barack Obama has embarked on a course of closer cooperation with business and financial giants. If he's not vigilant, they can roll over his administration as he cozies up to them. And I say that with all due respect.

Let us not forget for a moment that our economic disaster was inflicted on us largely by the free-market profiteers. They brought the country to its knees while those who were supposed to rein them in were afraid to rain on their parade from one quarterly report to the next.

Now, in an effort to steady the Obama presidency, the administration is making nice with the same corporate interests who spent massive amounts of money to finance his “shellacking.” They succeeded in discrediting his effort to bring some order to the frontier that's their home. Now he's responding by planning a speech in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce lion's den to reassure the fat cats that he will work with them to see to it their interests are protected. It's not as if they aren't already shielded by the pliant politicians who grovel for their campaign donations and their armies of lawyers who are expert at gaming the system and undermining enforcement of laws against abuse that are already too weak. And I say that with all due respect.


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Obama has named as his new White House chief of staff William Daley, described by the Chamber's president, Tom Donohue, as a “real pro.” When the Chamber gives such support, be wary. Be very wary.

Daley comes to government from JPMorgan Chase, one of the huge financial institutions. He is usually described as “pro business,” which can be a good thing as long as it's accompanied by “pro consumer” or, the way things often are these days, “pro sucker.”

Additionally, the new chairman of the National Economic Council is Gene Sperling. He left the Clinton administration -- in which Daley served too -- through the revolving door, spending time sharing the riches of Goldman Sachs.

During Obama's tenure, Sperling has worked as a counselor to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, considered by many to be Wall Street's mole.

Obviously, recovering from our economic disaster will take cooperation from all parties, including not just the many responsible corporate executives, but even the ones who got us into this mess.

The president, in Tucson, Ariz., spoke of cooperation and remembering “all the ways that our hopes and dreams are bound together.” He also needs to aggressively protect against those whose hopes and dreams are simply greedy.

Before being swayed by calls to lighten up on private enterprise, recall the track records of the petroleum industry, health insurance companies, big banks. The list goes on. The profits go up and up.

The Chamber's Donohue insists that those in big business will not be “intimidated.” The question is: Just who is the intimidator, and who is the intimidatee? The latter should not include the president.

If the Tucson shooting caused us to reflect at all about recklessly violent imagery, that's a positive. But we have some severe differences in this country that can't be glossed over with a phony politeness.

Absolutely, let's try to have civil debates about the relationship between government and the conglomerates. In the face of fierce resistance to reform, remember -- with all due respect, of course -- that civil does not mean shrivel.

© 2011 Bob Franken

Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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