Friday, May 25, 2012

Paging North Carolina

Representative Brad Miller has it right.

One day after attending in October what The Huffington Post termed "a general assembly meeting of Occupy Raleigh, the local offshoot of the national protest movement against Wall Street greed and abuse," the North Carolina Democrat  introduced the Freedom and Mobility in Consumer Banking Act.    The effort, Miller suggested, to "introduce real competition into banking," appears to have gone nowhere in the GOP-dominated House of Representatives. Occupy Raleigh emerged in part because, HuffPost reports

major banks employ a variety of tactics to make it difficult for consumers to walk away when they jack up fees, as Bank of America did recently by announcing a new $5 monthly debit fee, blaming Wall Street reform for necessitating the hike. Congress can pass legislation countering abusive fees, but without a real free market, banks are able to figure out new ways to wring money from customers. Instead of focusing on regulation, said Miller, the goal should be to create a true free market.

North Carolina is widely known as the "Wall Street of the South" and Charlotte, venue for the upcoming Democratic National Convention, is ground zero of the financial industry south of the Mason-Dixon line.   Recognizing that President Obama will be giving his acceptance speech at a podium at a field named for Bank of America, Miller believes it should be for his party "a moment of mild embarrassment.  There'll probably be a night of wincing.    One of the Obama administration's greatest vulnerabilities is that they have been seen, correctly, as too inclined to accommodate the banks."

North Carolina is a right-to-work state and there is no union hotel anywhere in the state.     Nevertheless, the Democratic National Committee (no doubt with the President's approval) selected Charlotte as its convention site.   More than twelve unions in the building and construction field courageously decided to boycott the event, though others are participating. One organizer remarked "We find it troubling that the party so closely associated with basic human rights would choose a state with the lowest unionization rate in the country."

It is only fitting, perhaps, that a governor who "has tangled with the public-sector unions since his election in 2010," has resisted sending union representatives to the convention. Demonstrating again that the apple falls far from the tree, Andrew Cuomo

had tried to keep the heads of four major New York state public sector unions off the list of Democratic National Committee at-large delegates, finally agreeing to add three of them late last night after a string of negotiations, multiple sources told POLITICO.

A top Cuomo aide insisted that the issue was the number of available slots, adding that there are set quotas allowed by national Democrats in terms of how many people from specific political groups can make it on. Cuomo ultimately picks the at-large delegates who will attend the North Carolina convention this summer. Another source insisted Cuomo never tried to block anyone.

"Everyone wants to be on and there are only so many slots," the aide said. "We worked it out where most of the public and private unions that wanted to go are on and everyone seems happy."

The happiness question remains an open one, according to several New York-based sources. But the additions to the list were made late Wednesday after wrangling and phone work to the governor, the sources said. The four were initially expected to be on the list, after months of haggling and pushback by Cuomoland sources said. But they were removed within the last few days.

On Hardball Thursday, Chuck Todd argued the selection of a site is "an organizing tool, not for that week that the convention is, for the five months leading up to it."       But choosing North Carolina, which Senator Obama carried by only .4% (his lowest margin anywhere) over John McCain, may have been a little presumptuous.     The latest poll out of the state has Romney up by 2% over the President, who does not need North Carolina to get to 270.       In Virginia, as Todd has noticed, Obama is ahead of Romney and is a favorite to carry its 13 electoral votes (interactive map, here).    North Carolina has 15 and is likely to come into play only if Obama loses Nevada, Florida, New Hampshire, Iowa, and Ohio.    And in that case, the incumbent will not carry North Carolina, which currently has a higher unemployment rate than four of those five states.

On its face, then, selection of Charlotte was a mistake for the Obama team.     Todd observed "Saint Louis, Minneapolis, Cleveland, those are all good if you wanted to worry about labor and making them happy."     But President Obama is not worried about labor and has virtually no interest in "making them happy," probably because they are a core Democratic constituency.    North Carolina is dominated by the interest group President Obama most adores- the financial industry- and hostile to one, organized labor,  which he generally has taken for granted.      Maybe Barack Obama is quite pleased, therefore, and the Governor of New York, rumored to be interested in the 2016 presidential nomination, will fit right in.

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