The CEOs vs. Obama

Does big business have anything to complain about?

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When General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt sounded off against President Obama's economic policies earlier this month, it birthed a discussion about whether his administration is anti-business and whether that's affecting job growth. This weekend, the contentious claim was debated on Sunday talk shows and in political columns by the left and right:

  • Obama Is Anti-Business, writes Obama supporter and real estate billionaire Mort Zuckerman in U.S. News and World Report:

He has lost the confidence of much of the business community, whose worries over taxes, the dramatically increased costs of new regulation, and a general perception that the administration is hostile toward them and may take yet harsher steps, are holding back investment and growth. In the midst of a weak economy accompanied by levels of unemployment unprecedented since the Great Depression, it is critical that the government in Washington appreciate that confidence is an imperative if the business community is to invest, take risks with start-ups, and altogether get the economy going again to put the millions of unemployed back to productive work.

  • Give Me a Break, He's a Corporate Shrill writes Daniel Gross at Slate:

The CEO class exhibits an unseemly combination of myopia and ingratitude. This administration—like the Bush administration before it—continues to be remarkably solicitous of its needs. The White House had recently asked the Business Roundtable "to provide a detailed list of concerns about the administration's regulatory agenda," according to the Wall Street Journal. What's more, many of the policies recently put in place are quite friendly to big business...

The leaders of our largest corporations receive extraordinary assistance from the government and continually clamor for more. They gripe about regulations and rules yet constantly fight to tailor those rules and regulations to benefit their particular businesses. And they're the ones who are angry?

  • Both Criticisms Are Wrong, writes Jonathan Chait at The New Republic:

The central fallacy of all the critiques of Obama’s “corporatism,” both right and left, is that they mistake negotiation for collaboration. There is a difference between businesses jostling to minimize the damage of a reform they can’t stop and businesses crafting legislation they desperately want to enact. Since German metaphors seem to be in vogue, consider the difference between the Treaty of Versailles and the Hitler-Stalin pact. Both involved negotiations over territorial adjustments, but the dynamic could hardly have been more different.

Finally, the corporatist critique is simply at odds with reality. Some individual businesses may stand to gain from elements of Obama’s agenda. Others can accept the broad goals of the agenda in return for the chance to shape the details in the least damaging way. But the general disposition of the business lobby has been one of opposition. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has consistently opposed Obama’s proposals. The Business Roundtable, after initial conciliation, is now sounding similar notes. Even Obama’s financial regulatory bill, supposedly a corporate handout, draws the Roundtable’s ire.

  • Clarence Page and George Will Fight It Out  On ABC's This Week, the two pundits engage the subject 10-minutes into the video:

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