As a candidate the previous two years and recently as president-elect, Joe Biden has been unfairly criticized by some in the conservative media as being on the wrong side of the capitalism vs. socialism economic debate.
Unfortunately, these pundits have misunderstood Biden's message. He does not want to adopt socialist economic policies, but rather is mindful that the private sector will thrive when its underlying political system is based on the rule of law with a functioning democracy.
One case in point. "It used to be that corporate America had a sense of responsibility beyond just CEO salaries and shareholders," Biden told the Wall Street Journal last month. "Corporate America has to change its ways. It's not going to require legislation. I'm not proposing any."
That statement is very much in line with the view of 181 chief executives of many of America's largest companies, who in 2018 overturned a 22-year policy statement that held a corporation's principal purpose was to maximize shareholder returns.
Acting on behalf of the Business Roundtable, an association of major corporations, they adopted a new "Statement of Purpose of a Corporation" declaring that companies should not only serve their shareholders but also deliver value to their customers, invest in employees, deal fairly with suppliers and support the communities in which they operate — and our country.
While this statement reflects support for a much-needed new approach to defining a corporation's purpose, it does not go far enough. I believe the president-elect's message is that there is a role — indeed a responsibility to our country — for the business community to take concrete steps to shore up a democracy that has been under continued assault for the past four years.
When too many of our political leaders fail to address the dangers to American democracy, then another group must step forward to safeguard it. The business community is a group with a major stake in having a healthy governing system. And so it should confront the reality that our public sector has become so polarized and dysfunctional that it's endangered both our democracy and the underpinning of our economy.
That's because, once confidence in our democracy is eroded, there's a very real possibility of losing our economic and commercial wellbeing.
I believe that if Biden would reach out to these business leaders he would have a welcoming and enthusiastic partner for the repairing of our democracy. Business leaders recognize the loss of trust in America by our allies. They have no doubt had to repeatedly apologize for the embarrassments of the Trump administration and understand our dysfunctional political system is not good for their business.
Politicians have their political base but so do business leaders. They are called shareholders. Shareholders recognize the returns on their investments ultimately depend on how well the nation's system of laws is functioning. If it becomes dysfunctional because of breaches of our constitutional and legal boundaries, then they will lose financially.
America's business leaders, working with the new Biden administration, could shore up the foundation of our capitalistic system, offering improvements where needed, but always mindful that both have an obligation to put our democracy back on track. Surely the corporate bosses join top government officials in recognizing that nations with dysfunctional governments and political systems are called banana republics for a reason.
They are not democracies. And they are not home to any corporate headquarters.
- Businesses step up funding for elections, despite objections - The ... ›
- Leadership Now channels millions for political reform groups - The ... ›
- Why corporate civic engagement is good for democracy - The Fulcrum ›
- Democracy's ills holding the U.S. back, Harvard study says - The ... ›
- Why a team of MBAs has formed an election integrity startup - The ... ›
When I was a teenager enduring Kansas City's summers, a highlight of the day was when Bill, our friendly mailman, arrived at the house. The attraction was not so much the few envelopes he might deliver — but rather the opportunity to chat with him for a few minutes over a glass of ice water.
I learned how he and his wife had adopted several children from different ethnic backgrounds, providing them a home and lots of love. He learned how my baseball team was doing. Then he would be off to finish his rounds — the sort of dedicated public servant, with the high ethical standards, we have come to associate with the Postal Service.
For me, those days of blistering heat would soon be filled with minimum wage jobs to earn spending money for high school and college. I saw Bill only occasionally, although 20 years later we did catch up one day when he dropped by my office on Capitol Hill.
My experience is not unique. Millions have had similar relationships with their mail carriers. That would account for why the USPS has the highest favorability rating of all government institutions: 91 percent (and the same share among Democrats and Republicans alike) according to the Pew Research Center.
Today postal workers like Bill are having their load significantly increased. The mail carrier's legendary creed — "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds" — is now more difficult to fulfill.
This year's hotly contested presidential election is being conducted during a pandemic sure to result in an unprecedented number of votes cast through the mail. But that's not all. The post office and its employees are under attack by President Trump and his newly handpicked postmaster general, Louis DeJoy.
This duo, with an enabling assist from the USPS Board of Governors, is setting the Postal Service up to fail for political reasons. Trump alleges, without proof, that voting by mail is so flawed that it will steal the election from him.
For his part, soon after arriving DeJoy made major changes in postal delivery capability that call into question whether millions of ballots will be returned in time to be counted. He reportedly has removed 671 high-speed machines capable of sorting over 21 million pieces of mail an hour, canceled employee overtime and removed hundreds of local mailboxes. His changes have resulted in slowing down the mail.
The actions by DeJoy and Trump seem to be designed to create so much confusion that voters will lose confidence in the eventual outcome of the election, or simply not vote.
With overwhelming approval from the public to be reckoned with, the USPS board would be wise to unwind these misguided efforts — rather than rely on a recent series of four firm but temporary federal court orders in response to lawsuits from almost half the states.
DeJoy's days as postmaster general should be numbered. He has recently become embroiled in defending himself in light of evidence he pressured his company's North Carolina employees to make political contributions to Republican candidates and then reimbursed the workers. If true, it would be a criminal violation of federal and state campaign finance laws. He may have also committed perjury by lying about it under oath to Congress.
Then there's Kentuckian Robert Duncan, who is chairman of the USPS Board of Governors and also reportedly a director of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's so-called super PAC — a clear conflict of interest.
Secretary Michael Elston is the board member responsible for carrying out compliance with all statutory requirements and also the Postal Service's chief compliance officer, making him responsible for his colleagues' following the USPS code of ethics.
"All employees are required to place loyalty to the Constitution, the laws and ethical principles above private gain," it says. "To ensure that every citizen can have complete confidence in the integrity" or the government, it goes on, "each postal employee must respect and adhere to the principles of ethical conduct."
What's been happening at the Postal Service reflects nothing less than an attempt to undermine our Constitution and the free and fair elections it envisions. Therefore, Elston should immediately open investigations of DeJoy and Duncan for possibly violating Postal Service conduct and ethics breeches. During such an inquiry, the two should be barred from casting any votes on the Board of Governors.
The USPS says its governors are "comparable to the board of directors of a publicly held corporation." For 18 years now, boards of such businesses have been governed by a law setting standards of corporate governance. The USPS, by embracing that statute, has assumed accountability not to shareholders but to its principal stakeholders — the American people.
The postal board, therefore, has a fiduciary duty to the public and must govern with loyalty to the mission of the USPS. Its loyalty is not to the president and certainly not to its own financial or political self-interest.
Board members must follow the USPS codes of conduct and ethical behavior prescriptions — and, most importantly, be loyal to the Constitution they swore to uphold. Doing all that means immediately reversing the harmful decisions DeJoy has implemented, restoring the equipment necessary to handle the onslaught of mailed ballots and paying those who will have to work overtime on election mail.
Having accomplished this, they will have done their part in assuring Americans will have a free and fair election, the basis of our constitutional democracy.
- USPS gets more blame than it deserves for ballot woes - The Fulcrum ›
- DeJoy says he's curbing USPS changes until after election - The ... ›
- Pairing business case with civics case for a USPS rescue - The ... ›
- Fact-checking claims about vote-by-mail turnaround times - The ... ›
- Postal Service gets good news in new international ratings - The Fulcrum ›
- USPS crisis: Why mail is delayed, what that means for the election ... ›
- Postal Service Watchdog Outlines 'Concerns' Surrounding Election ... ›
- USPS warns 46 states, DC that delayed mail-in ballots could ... ›
- Why is the US Postal Service's role in November's election under ... ›
- U.S. Postal Service Provides Recommendations for Successful 2020 ... ›
Coleman was an assistant Missouri attorney general and Republican congressman from 1976 to 1993. Now retired as a lobbyist, he is an advisor to Protect Democracy, an anti-authoritarian watchdog group.
One of American democracy's bedrock precepts is that no one, not even the president of the United States, is above the law. The principle was confirmed this month by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, when it reversed a lower federal court's ruling and said Congress has the authority to go to court to enforce subpoenas of executive branch officials.
Unfortunately, from a practical standpoint, the long and time-consuming road of judicial decision-making may have rendered the matter moot — allowing President Trump to run out the clock beyond the election.
The clock started running a seeming eternity ago, in March 2019, when the House Judiciary Committee began an investigation into alleged misconduct by Trump and his close advisors. The investigation followed up on special counsel Robert Mueller's report on the investigation into Russian interference in the last presidential election.
During the investigation, Mueller interviewed Donald McGahn, who was then serving as White House counsel. The Mueller report concluded that impeachment was the mechanism to address whether Trump impermissibly coordinated with the Russian government in connection with the election or obstructed justice in the course of the special counsel's investigation.
When McGahn refused the Judiciary Committee's invitation to testify, the panel issued a subpoena in April ordering McGahn to appear one month later, to testify and produce documents. Trump directed McGahn not to appear, claiming presidential advisors were "absolutely immune from compelled congressional testimony." After all attempts to negotiate McGahn's appearance failed, the House filed a lawsuit in federal court last August to enforce its subpoena.
Here's how the litigation proceeded, in four steps:
The District Court rejected McGahn's claim, directing him to appear before the committee. Then McGahn appealed that decision to the D.C. Circuit, where a divided three-judge panel found that he did not have to testify.
At that point, the appeals court granted the Judiciary Committee's petition to have all the judges on the court review the case. Then the full D.C. Circuit heard oral arguments and ruled 7-2 that the legislative branch has the legal standing to try to use the judicial branch to force the executive bench to comply with subpoenas.
That's where things stand now: Seventeen months after the initial request for testimony — six of those months after Trump was acquitted at the Senate trial that resulted from articles of impeachment drafted in the House Judiciary Committee — one more step of litigation, an appeal to the Supreme Court, is still possible.
The McGahn case is just the freshest illustration of how time consuming interbranch litigation can be, often resulting in a final resolution many months or even years after the dispute started — with the political and governing process continuing all the while. Any wrongdoing by a president and his aides is allowed to continue unabated. A Congress lasts only two years, making it likely this one will conclude in early January before the House can obtain judicial enforcement of its subpoena.
Trump's categorical direction to members of his administration — that no member of the executive branch shall cooperate with the impeachment investigation — not only assured litigation, but more importantly was also an effective stalling tactic.
The flagrant abuse of a constitutionally prescribed process must be addressed by Congress to assure that, in future litigation between the branches, the judicial system will not allow another bedrock principle of American democracy to become lost in the process: Justice Delayed is Justice Denied.
It is wrong to require Congress to repeatedly undertake a patently flawed judicial process to assure our constitutional checks and balances are not rendered obsolete. The current system produces a no-win situation for the rule of law. That's why Congress should pass legislation creating a new type of federal court — one with exclusive jurisdiction over, and focused solely on, disputes between the federal government's branches.
This special court is especially needed to handle future instances of Congress pursuing an impeachment.
The legislation should expedite the litigation process in such cases, allowing direct appeal of the court's ruling to the Supreme Court, and set special rules of procedure. It should also give consideration to spelling out when it's appropriate for the new court to abandon the general rule that so-called "political questions" are beyond the purview of the federal courts.
Failure to adopt meaningful changes in this process will only invite more non-compliance by a president faced with lawful inquiries by Congress. To condone an administration's wrongdoing is to encourage more of it and to give up on the rule of law and our democracy.
- Tom Coleman ›
- Do the laws still apply to everyone, the president included? - The ... ›
- Impeachment battle could determine who holds real influence - The ... ›