Under the presidency of George W. Bush, the interests of the business community often superseded those of consumers. And time after time, scandals such as the Enron energy debacle and the sub-prime mortgage crisis, flashed across the front pages of American newspapers.
What public policies are needed to get the federal government back on track so it’s working for consumers rather than special interest groups?
Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group, wants President-Elect Barack Obama to restore the role of citizens in government. It calls on Obama and Congress to:
- Govern the financial bailout to ensure that homeowners receive some benefits, that financial companies don’t take advantage of the taxpayers’ largesse, and that the financial markets are reregulated.
- Ensure that the regulatory agencies make health, safety, and the environment the No. 1 priority, instead of corporate profits.
- Repeal the subsidies that Congress lavished on the fossil fuel and nuclear industries and instead invest in alternative and renewable energy and mass transit.
- Ensure that the next elections for president and Congress will be publicly financed, so we can rid the government of the corrupting influence of money.
- Reverse the dangerous trend to curbing citizen access to the courts through preemption and mandatory arbitration clauses.
- Repeal the Prescription Drug User Fee Act, wherein drug companies pay more than $500 million directly to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to fund drug review and other programs related to prescription drugs, creating a direct conflict.
- Change the status-quo model of globalization and the “trade” agreements now implementing it; ensure that the Colombia, Korea, and Panama agreements aren’t implemented and that future agreements meet basic criteria designed to promote the public interest.
"One of the worst outcomes of the past eight years has been the erosion of democracy and the phasing out of the people's voice in the government," said Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen, in a statement the day after the 2008 presidential election. "It is imperative that this be reversed."
Under the Bush administration, Claybrook said Americans saw:
- An emergency management agency that couldn’t provide needed aid after a devastating hurricane.
- A mine safety agency that coddled mining companies at the expense of worker safety.
- The dominance of politics over science at the Environmental Protection Agency and the FDA.
- An energy policy written by and for the fossil fuel industry.
- An economic meltdown after the deregulation of the financial services industry.
President-Elect Obama has a unique opportunity to improve the lives of consumers in America. I look forward to seeing Obama put together a team and begin working for policies to support the public interest.