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The pro-business White House

I've spent a fair portion of the day going through President Obama's new proposals to help the sagging economy. There's the one to give businesses billions of dollars in tax breaks for research and development. There's the one to give businesses billions of dollars in tax breaks for equipment investment. There's the one to give small businesses a $30 billion lending fund, and also reverse a provision of the health-care reform bill that would've forced them to spend a lot of time on 1099 tax compliance. There's the one to spend $50 billion paying private companies to rebuild our infrastructure.

I got at this in Wonkbook today, but it's worth thinking harder about the idea -- propagated by many on the right and some in the business community -- that this president is somehow anti-business. The health-care reform bill bends over backward to preserve each and every private industry currently overcharging us for our care. The Obama campaign publicly supported the bank bailout and then repelled the populist measures to really hammer banker pay when they got into office. The financial reform bill didn't break up the banks, set leverage requirements in statute or do any of a number of other things that would've really hurt the financial industry. The auto bailout was designed to preserve the existence of America's auto industry, and even the Economist has admitted that the Obama administration did everything in its power to "restore both firms to health and then get out as quickly as possible." The various stimulus measures have been designed to directly support businesses or indirectly support the people who those businesses rely on.

The point isn't that all of these policies were good. Some of them weren't. The point is that the constant accusation that this White House is somehow anti-business, or deaf to the corporate community's concerns, is a fiction of the Wall Street Journal editorial page. There's a good argument to be made, I think, that this White House is too focused on business, but it's annoying to have to frame it as a boldly counterintuitive point, rather than as an obvious conclusion based on their raft of policy initiatives meant to save, help or otherwise improve the position of corporate America.

By Ezra Klein  |  September 7, 2010; 6:00 PM ET
 
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Comments

I have to laugh at you liberals.

Claiming Obama is pro-business does not matter if business thinks Obama is anti-business.

Posted by: krazen1211 | September 7, 2010 6:30 PM | Report abuse

Sadly, krazen there is right. To paraphrase Gordon Gecko, "Fiction is good. Fiction works."

Posted by: bdballard | September 7, 2010 6:39 PM | Report abuse

Bush, Obama and Congress promoted the impression that bailouts and interest rate decreases would revive the economy. They knew that roughly $13 trillion purchasing power had been destroyed by the bank bubble blowers. Hiring stagnation is a demand side problem.

Job creation in America could only occur, if after tax profit could be made from new hires. That would happen, only if there was money-backed demand for goods and services.

Federal government Republicans and Democrats have connived for 40 years to subsidize neo cartels of giant corporations, “special interests” (banks, oil companies etc.) and to facilitate the real job killers: automation, merger and acquisition, and job export. Now, with workers impoverished, effective consumer demand, needed to fuel job creation, has failed. Republicans’ Voodoo Economics of tax and especially benefit cuts are actually harmful to anyone not rich. But Democrats are equally guilty connivers. They pretend they can’t abolish the filibuster rule. Mythical “bond vigilantes” allegedly threaten any more stimulus. Democrats have shirked every opportunity to lead genuine popular movements for change.

Where’s your bailout? Consumer debt could be re-structured to lower interest costs through federal borrowing and direct payoff of consumers’ debts. The consumer pays back the government at lower interest. Private wages could be subsidized much more heavily. Shared work: take the cap off Social Security income tax, raise benefits, encourage earlier, partial retirement, apprenticeship, cutting overtime, mandatory vacations are all possible.

Sleeping voters, Awake! Apply shock therapy: mass de-registration from both major parties. Replace leading Republicans and Blue Dog “Democrats” with Libertarians and Greens. They agree on getting completely, immediately out of “Iraqistan” and getting the Federal Reserve out of private bank control. Demand simple majority rule in the Senate and people – oriented stimulus.

Posted by: robertcogan | September 7, 2010 7:01 PM | Report abuse

Republicans know messaging. They play to win. Dems play to be "right" and not get attacked on Fox [har].

Posted by: AZProgressive | September 7, 2010 7:13 PM | Report abuse

@krazen and ballard, I hear that a lot from business but when asked what the anti-business policies are, I don't get any specifics. I hear about the "demonization" of Wall Street, but not much on policy. It may be that business feels like Obama is anti-business, but if that feeling isn't backed up by reality, what is that feeling actually worth?

Posted by: StokeyWan | September 7, 2010 7:18 PM | Report abuse

"There's a good argument to be made, I think, that this White House is too focused on business, but it's annoying to have to frame it as a boldly counterintuitive point, rather than as an obvious conclusion based on their raft of policy initiatives meant to save, help or otherwise improve the position of corporate America."

You don't have to frame it this way; you choose to, I guess because you work in the MSM where the Wall Street Journal's editorial page looms large. (Am I wrong to assume you're aware that in the reality-based progressive community -- no, not Daily Kos -- Obama's harmful pro-corporate bias is universally acknowledged?) Your writing would probably be stronger, or at least you wouldn't be "annoyed," if you simply told the truth.

The reactive posture is your choice.


Posted by: davidmizner | September 7, 2010 7:56 PM | Report abuse

The proposals may help longer term economic growth but whether viewed as pro-business or not, the proposals don't address the right here, right now economic problems like unemployment. The proposed incentives look like a Hail Mary (if you're into college football) or a shot from beyond the half court line (for the college b-ball crowd). They put the ball up knowing it will almost never put points on the board but they throw it up anyway. What the pluses were for waiting until the clock wound down to only a few seconds left, who knows.

Posted by: tuber | September 7, 2010 7:59 PM | Report abuse

Washington Post:

Small businesses feel squeezed by Obama policies 9/6/10

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/03/AR2010090305391_pf.html

"As small businesses try to plot their recovery, attention is turning to what many owners consider burdensome policies -- higher taxes, new accounting procedures and health-care mandates. Even as the government tries to help with an array of small-business initiatives, many owners say the intervention is as much a hindrance to hiring as the faltering economy."

Posted by: kevinadolph | September 7, 2010 8:00 PM | Report abuse

Ezra - You make a very lame attempt to argue that Obama is not anti-business.

But all your argument proves is that he is not as anti-business as you and your weather underground buddies can imagine he could be.....


If one has any doubts about whether Obama is anti-business is to listen to why he told reporters that there was no point in talking to the CEO at BP after the oil spill. The truth is Barrack Obama is more comfortable exchanging books with Hugo Chavez and writing letters to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad then providing any amount of respect to the go-getters that have steadfastly grow our capitalist economy.

And you know it.

Posted by: FastEddieO007 | September 7, 2010 9:41 PM | Report abuse

This a tax reduction policy that has been in place for several years. Simply extending these tax reductions would have no uncertainty attached to them whatsoever.....but Obama refuses to do anything that might actually help. He wants to seem like he is helping small business, but it seems he is as much hell-bent on making sure it doesn't actually work.

Cloward-Piven?

Posted by: FastEddieO007 | September 7, 2010 9:45 PM | Report abuse

Rev up the whine machine Mr. Klein ... you and your fellow liberals ( excuse me ... PROGRESSIVES ) will be using it quite frequently in the next two years.

Posted by: cunn9305 | September 7, 2010 10:26 PM | Report abuse

Standard procedure for implementing our nations economic policy. Because we are nearing an election, and parties need votes, we propose (and sometimes adopt) policies that stay with us for years. The problem is, there is no awareness (and agreement) of which of our currently implemented economic policies needs the most "tuning". And that's because the facts are not available and/or are not shared evenly. Why is it that we have no common awareness of our nations current sources and uses of funds? This could happen. The technology is available.

The Office of Management & Budget should be required to provide quarterly data on all sources and uses of funds by standardized categories. These should be available in COTS (Commercial Off The Shelf) database format. Such as SQL Server, Microsoft Access, Oracle, and DB2. Then they should be required to provide Spread Sheet routines (eg Excel) that will read that data and produce graphs that clearly show how these data relate to each other. The graphs should support "drilling down" thru categories from top to bottom. So, (for instance) you could find from the category of Defense Spending, how much is being spent on civilian contractors.

We have the right to know. The government has the responsibility to provide it.

Want a coherent Economic Policy that is not dictated by politicians and special interests? Start by disseminating the fundamental information we need to develop priorities and policies to a wide audience in a format that is consistent, accurate, and digestible.

Posted by: r49floyd | September 7, 2010 10:30 PM | Report abuse

r49floyd: I'm all for your idea. As a nation, we are so financially illerate when it comes to government budgets and spending. Maybe something like your idea, plus adding in all special financial favors, etc, from Congress, will help the people understand the nation's finances better.

Posted by: valkayec | September 7, 2010 11:19 PM | Report abuse

It's only a counterintuitive position if you are talking to the Chamber of Commerce. Out of the other side of their mouths, the Republicans have been telling the Tea Party how closely Obama is tied to Wall Street (and some how the unions simultaneously) for some time.

So much for "you can't be all things to all people"...

Posted by: brooklynpsu | September 8, 2010 12:20 AM | Report abuse

Of course! The Obamanites LOVE business. Unfortunately, they love it in the fascistic sense, allowing it to operate in private hands in name only, while dictating (regulating, for you Kleiniots) most of the chief parameters of said operation, all for the ostensible good of the general populace, but mainly serving to cement the safety and prosperity of the political elite and their suitably connected cohorts.

Posted by: msoja | September 8, 2010 12:58 AM | Report abuse

Ezra,

I'd like to propose that we take up a collection to buy you some smarter trolls.

The current crew just fills one with sadness.

Posted by: Patrick_M | September 8, 2010 2:10 AM | Report abuse

brooklynpsu - FYI!:

Yes - Obama is completely IN BED with the corrupt cronies that run Goldman-Sachs, and for that matter BP.

But despite this, Obama is anti-business!

Try fitting two ideas in your head. What is good for Goldman-Sachs is not good for all those good honest small business who do not yet reside under the thumb of the rich fat cats who are in bed with Obama and his mafiaso bosses.


Why was the family bank run by Democratic Senatorial Candidate running for Obama's old Senate seat shut down? Could it be that every single Democrat that comes out of Illinoise if a plain-simple mafia crony.

Posted by: FastEddieO007 | September 8, 2010 6:34 AM | Report abuse

What is good for Ezra Klein's MArxist revolution is NOT good for those of us who appreciate the dignity of human freedom.

What is good for the thugs that run Chicago and their murderous corrupt rotting government that watches generations of families suffer under blue state policies and cares nothing about anything except holding on to power at all costs is not good for main street America.

Sorry. Obama is the most anti-business President this country has ever seen zra Klein pathetic defense actually makes it seem so obvious!!!

The suddeen increase in political power by UNIONS, TRIAL LAWYERS, and ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVISTS have led to a great climate of economic uncertainty and is triggering the worst double-dip recession we have ever seen. There is only one remedy and it is 6 years of severe losses for these corrupt special interests that completely dominate the agenda of the Democratic party.

Posted by: FastEddieO007 | September 8, 2010 6:39 AM | Report abuse

"@krazen and ballard, I hear that a lot from business but when asked what the anti-business policies are, I don't get any specifics. I hear about the "demonization" of Wall Street, but not much on policy. It may be that business feels like Obama is anti-business, but if that feeling isn't backed up by reality, what is that feeling actually worth?"

Perhaps everything, or perhaps nothing. But that feeling is what dictates how business believes.

Posted by: krazen1211 | September 8, 2010 8:39 AM | Report abuse

"@krazen and ballard, I hear that a lot from business but when asked what the anti-business policies are, I don't get any specifics. I hear about the "demonization" of Wall Street, but not much on policy. It may be that business feels like Obama is anti-business, but if that feeling isn't backed up by reality, what is that feeling actually worth?"

Perhaps everything, or perhaps nothing. But that feeling is what dictates how business believes.

Posted by: krazen1211 | September 8, 2010 8:39 AM | Report abuse

If Obama is truly pro-business, ron Paul must be lobbying to become Secretary General of the UN.

The business world perceives him as anti-business, so long as you logically exclude thise businesses in his favored industries. The unions think of him as pro-business, because he favors conditions that promote their interests. The amazing thing about this president is that despite favoring such a small segment of "business" that he defines as "good business" is that he got so much traction in 2008. Well it is 2010, and the fact is he promotes an agenda that has precious few beneficiaries...........and the rest of us are on to him and his enablers.

Most of the country perceive Obama to be anti-business because that's what he is. That is what his messaging preaches. That is what his policies demonstrate. What they are demonstrating to Ezra Klein is a matter for his therapist. Delusional behavior is hard to correct.

Posted by: buggerianpaisley1 | September 8, 2010 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Shorter FastEddie:

GRRZZYYYAAARRAAAGH!!! I M HATEZ HIPEEZZZ!!!

Posted by: KBfromNC | September 8, 2010 11:21 AM | Report abuse

"That is what his messaging preaches. That is what his policies demonstrate."

Examples please? Just saying things are true is not an argument. You'll notice that Ezra listed a number of factual examples to support his argument. Yours relies on the construction of "I think X is true, therefore X must be true."

I realize Rush tells you that you shouldn't let facts interfere with your visceral tribal anger, but as John Adams said, "facts are stubborn things."

If you hate Obama, that's your prerogative. This is a democracy and you're entitled to your opinions. But deciding that you don't like the President, therefore the President must by the transitive property be objectively against things you do like is not a reasonable argument in support of your position.

So that raises the question: What is the real reason for your disdain of the President?

Posted by: KBfromNC | September 8, 2010 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Obama is the most anti-business president we have ever had. They set the tone with anti-business rhetoric right from the get go. As a strategy to pass Obamacare we were told to hate the insurance and pharmaceutical companies While Reid and Pelosi bashed insurance profits just as you did. We were also told to hate wall street as Obama called them fat cats and to hate big banks. They even blamed the big banks for the melt down which is not entirely true considering Barney Franks and Chis Dodd encourage banks to make loans to unqualified borrowers. Blame the banks was part of the PR to pass financial regulation. We have also been told to hate big oil. Obama, Reid and Pelosi regularly talk about obsene profits and Obama took the automobile bondholder rights away and give that to union. He is also trying to pass card check. Your discussion that Obama is pro business is totally wrong. You would not know pro-business if you saw it.

Posted by: hfarmer2 | September 8, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

re r49floyd's proposal: great idea; a first step in regaining control of budgeting/spending/taxation; second step might be asking 'what is the purpose of each money stream?'

Posted by: joelgingery1 | September 8, 2010 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Here is why Obama is seen as anti business

1) Corporations are cast as villains in almost all speeches until they are taken over.
2) The taxes on business increase Jan 1 2011
3) the health care reform package taxes businesses that provide health care, pharmacies and insurance companies, and those taxes will be passed on to consumers
4) the reforms and business policies put in place are anti business by creating excessive paperwork and reporting
5) the stimulus money spent so far never went to main street business - it went to state governments which spent it on state employees
6) the teacher bailout stimulus was not for private sector - it went to state union workers
7) the proposed infrastructure spending is primarily to benefit federally subsidized services, state governments and large union corporations. Main street U S A sees nothing of this.

In 2 min. I just gave you 7 big reasons

the single biggest is # 1

Almost every speech he gives has a corporation or a private sector as the villain - so it's because he says so

January 1, 2011 you will find out he is also anti middle class

Posted by: JohnSpek | September 8, 2010 12:57 PM | Report abuse

The act you call pro-business are just political hail marys.

Posted by: hfarmer2 | September 8, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

One question Mr. Klein
How many of the corporations that you own are you planning expand?
Don't own or manage any businesses?
Well, that should not affect your credibility in describing today's economic marketplace.
I look forward to your published opinions about ovarian cancer in Polar bears.
Not knowing anything about that subject shouldn't prevent you from educating us about that subject.
Truly pathetic article by a person that acquired a great deal of formal education, but has zero recognition of what works in the reality world instead of the Liberal's fantasy world of "what if?"
You wouldn't last 30 minutes in the business world.
In fact, I would love to see you put all your assets at risk as collateral to get a loan to open a business....any business.

Posted by: jgsr | September 8, 2010 3:17 PM | Report abuse

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