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Our sensitive corporate overlords

I was pretty excited to read John Gapper's column on President Obama's demonstrated loathing of big business. A lot of the people I know have been asking why Obama hasn't been much more unfriendly to big business -- bailouts, tax breaks, loan guarantees and record profits hardly seem like punishment -- and I figured I'd now have something to say to them.

Sadly, no: Gapper's single example of Obama's mistrust of big business is that "one of his favourite jabs at Republicans is that they seek tax breaks for corporations 'to ship jobs overseas.' " That's it? That's what you need to be anti-big business these days? George W. Bush complained about outsourcing. Bill Clinton complained about outsourcing. Every president complains about outsourcing because the American people don't like outsourcing. But it's enough to get Gapper going on Obama's "Manichean world in which small business is worthy and big business suspicious." Yeesh.

The administration has been caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to corporate rhetoric. The country would love some anti-corporate populism, particularly when it comes to Wall Street. But the administration can't let things get out of hand, because when things get out of hand, the financial markets and the corporate titans get scared, and that makes the economy worse. On the other hand, if the administration simply ignores the public's anger, it both destroys itself and creates room for demagogues. We saw this during the AIG bonus fight, when the White House's relative absence created room for a bill regulating Wall Street bonuses to race through the House of Representatives.

So the White House has tried to walk the line between saying the bare minimum in populist applause lines and simultaneously pursuing an extremely pro-business policy agenda. That's why Gapper's column has a banal line on outsourcing and nothing in the way of anti-business policy. But corporations, like other actors in American life, tend to consider the policy wins they get as the bare minimum of what they're due, and to be happy they need to feel respected, honored and admired by the guy in the White House.

By Ezra Klein  | October 28, 2010; 10:21 AM ET
 
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Comments

Why are you liberals so delusional?

You are saddling business with higher dividend taxes, higher capital gains taxes, and the health care reform penalty, and your typical response was and is:

"It's not as anti-business as it should or could be".


Try repealing the PPACA and see how attitudes change.

Posted by: krazen1211 | October 28, 2010 10:45 AM | Report abuse

"George W. Bush complained about outsourcing. Bill Clinton complained about outsourcing. Every president complains about outsourcing because the American people don't like outsourcing."


Those guys have more credibility than Barack Obama, so they can say more things.

Posted by: krazen1211 | October 28, 2010 10:47 AM | Report abuse

"because when things get out of hand, the financial markets and the corporate titans get scared, and that makes the economy worse"

Nonsense. Corporations don't fear anything about government no matter how much they claim the contrary. They know any government can easily be brought to heel. Nor do they make investment decisions based on concern for this or that government policy. If a corporation thinks there's some profit potential in an activity they do it, regardless of the weather.

Claiming otherwise is a canard foisted on our media by the corporations and their lackeys in government as a means of justifying, well, anything.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | October 28, 2010 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Why do you keep repeating that line "if business gets scared that will make the economy worse." There is absolutely no evidence that it is true, or that anything the president or populist critics say would make it true. Business people claimed the same thing about FDR, about the "capital strike" in the New Deal, but it was just Chamber of Commerce drivel then, and it is now. So stop saying it as though it were a fact or show me some real evidence.

Posted by: groundedlogic | October 28, 2010 10:51 AM | Report abuse

I was talking to a family member who is pretty informed about politics and actually works fairly high in the corporate world. He's a Republican who actually voted for Obama in 2008. He made a similar argument to me.

He said that in the business world, people feel like Obama is disdainful of them. I asked him why they think that. He said it's not any substantive thing in particular, just the "language" that he uses and the fear that something more sinister is coming down the pike.

I don't know how you fix this, especially when the perception from most of the public is the opposite, if anything (Obama is too close to big business).

Corporations are just going to have to suck it up, get thicker skin, and console themselves with billions in profits they've realized under Obama. Life's hard I know.

Posted by: vvf2 | October 28, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

"Corporations are just going to have to suck it up, get thicker skin, and console themselves with billions in profits they've realized under Obama. Life's hard I know."

Or, take those billions, use the Citizens United Decision, and get Obama out of the White House.

Sounds better than sucking it up to me.

Posted by: krazen1211 | October 28, 2010 11:37 AM | Report abuse

krazen1211: Whether I like it or not, that's their prerogative. But I wouldn't expect friendlier talk from Obama in his second term should they fail to oust him.

Posted by: vvf2 | October 28, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

"But the administration can't let things get out of hand, because when things get out of hand, the financial markets and the corporate titans get scared, and that makes the economy worse."

Is this what administration types are telling you? If it is--if they really believe such drivel--then that goes a very long way towards explaining why the economy is stuck where it is, and thus why the Democrats are about to suffer a punishing electoral defeat.

If this is true then the Democrats deserve their defeat. Unfortunately, the country does not deserve the consequences of that defeat.

Posted by: amileoj | October 28, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse

I think this shows more of an indictment of the political media in general. The themes that are reported seem to stay basically the same, no matter the person in office or the policies that person actually pursues. The less honest and journalistic media types know that the average American really doesn't pay attention to politics beyond the occasional soundbite. So they replay the same arguments over and over, no matter the facts, and eventually enough people hear them and believe them. The GOP has figured this out a long time ago and go right along with it.

Posted by: srm4m | October 28, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

The best pro-business action would be indicting the crooks and breaking up those corporations too big to fail.

Painful? We did it to ourselves and the pain will only get worse if we don't cut the cancer out.

Posted by: Over-n-Out | October 28, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

"Or, take those billions, use the Citizens United Decision, and get Obama out of the White House."

Oh, does this mean we've reached the point in which we can call Citizens United what it is, rather than pretending it has anything to do with the First Ammendment? FINALLY!

Posted by: owumd | October 28, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse

"Oh, does this mean we've reached the point in which we can call Citizens United what it is, rather than pretending it has anything to do with the First Ammendment? FINALLY!"

The 2 views are not inconsistent.

One must ask why business feels the need to speak out against obama so much.

Posted by: krazen1211 | October 28, 2010 7:44 PM | Report abuse

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