Can an heiress represent working women?

With most of the cabinet-level positions in Washington now filled by men, including the new secretary of state, criticism has been leveled at the Obama administration for not appointing more women to some of these prestigious and powerful jobs. And rightfully so. It’s reported that a number of women are now being considered for these posts.

But who are these women? Here are some of the names and a brief description of their backgrounds and history.

Penny Pritzker is said to be under consideration to head the Commerce Department. Pritzker has been a major fundraiser for Obama. She is heir to the Hyatt hotel fortune. In fact, she is one of the richest women in the United States, with a fortune that Forbes estimated at $1.8 billion in 2012, up $100 million from the year before.  Lucky woman! That’s a lot of money to be squeezed out of low-paid workers, mostly women, in industries like hotels. Hyatt is being boycotted for wage cuts and injury-inducing speedups that force the women to do back-breaking work.

Pritzker must really want a government job. She’s been a major fundraiser for George W. Bush, Joe Lieberman, Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Al Gore, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton, too.

Sylvia Mathews Burwell is the leading candidate to become director of the Office of Management and Budget. (New York Times Business section, Feb. 8) Like Pritzker, she is on the board of the Council on Foreign Relations, a Rockefeller-funded and -founded think tank that has produced a dozen U.S. secretaries of state since the 1930s and a gaggle of presidents. She is also president of the Walmart Foundation, whose money and policies come from a low-wage, anti-union corporate giant that exploits mostly women.

Nominee who’s ‘good for Wall Street’

Mary Jo White has already been nominated head of the Securities and Exchange Commission. White is a Wall Street lawyer whose clients have included JPMorgan Chase, the global bank UBS, General Electric and Deloitte & Touche. Deloitte was fined $50 million by the SEC in 2005 because the auditing firm allowed one of its clients, Adelphia Communications Corp., to carry out “a massive fraud.” Deloitte bigwigs will be able to sleep better at night when one of their own becomes head of the SEC.

White is also the former prosecutor who handled the case against Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, jailed for alleged “seditious conspiracy” in the World Trade Center bombing of 1993. Rahman’s defense attorney was Lynne Stewart, who now sits in a Texas prison with advanced breast cancer after being convicted under the Patriot Act of aiding “terrorists” — by making a statement from her client available to news media.

Forbes analyst John Wasik thinks White will be “good for Wall Street.” Among the reasons he gives are: 1) “Her husband is an SEC insider — John White served as the commission’s director of corporate finance from 2006 to 2008. As a partner at the firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore, he co-authored an article in December noting that the implementation of new rules regulating derivatives ‘may be delayed.’” 2) “Lots of other Wall Street connections — She served on the board of directors for the Nasdaq stock exchange. In her current job as a partner at Debevoise & Plimpton, she defended former Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis on charges of civil security fraud.” (Forbes, Jan. 25)

Finally, on Feb. 6, President Obama nominated Sally Jewell to head the Interior Department. Jewell is CEO of Recreational Equipment Inc., whose sales exceeded $1.8 billion in 2009. She started out as an oil company engineer with Mobil and spent 19 years as a commercial banker. Her job will be to “reconcile” the opposing interests of the profit-hungry energy, mining and timber industries with protection of the environment. As growing climate disasters and extinction of species have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, capitalism is incompatible with protecting the planet.

Jewell’s real role is likely to put a public relations spin on more giveaways of public land to corporate investors while failing to put any meaningful curbs on polluting industries. Expect great photo ops of her hiking in the Rockies.

So this is the “diversity” that the liberal wing of the capitalist political apparatus has to offer women. Not one woman worker who knows what it is to juggle food, shelter and child care while working two or more low-wage jobs. Not one woman union organizer who has learned how to stand up to the corporate sharks.

Working-class women in the U.S., who are underpaid when they do find work, are getting laid off by the millions. Ruling-class women are not going to represent our interests, no matter how accomplished their careers have been in business, the law and/or investing their families’ fortunes.

We don’t need more Lucrezia Borgias or Marie Antoinettes.

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