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Posted at 2:14 PM ET, 01/ 4/2011

The business community wants policy, not people

By Ezra Klein


In addition to opposing health-care reform, it looks like Bill Daley also opposed the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. And this report he co-chaired for the Chamber of Commerce in 2007, which primarily concerns itself with loosening the post-Enron rules on accounting and audits and getting the SEC to do less rulemaking and more "providing informal guidance" to financial players, is also raising eyebrows.

This speaks, I think, to Daley's presumed qualifications for the job, which is that his presence in the White House "would almost certainly improve icy relations between the Obama administration and business leaders." It's frankly slightly insulting to business leaders to say that their relationship with the White House relies on how many close personal friends they have in the building. It's not that that stuff doesn't matter, but what really matters, as you'd expect, are actual policy decisions. And the reason Daley is well liked by business, at least right now, is that he has been siding with them on major disputes. If he gets to the White House and stops doing that, he won't be as well liked among them.

If the administration wants more support from the business community, that's going to mean giving the business community more things that it wants, or at least fewer things that it doesn't want. So far, that's not happened because the administration has thought that good policy meant pushing some high-profile changes -- such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau -- that the business community really didn't like. If the administration decided it was wrong about that, and has resolved to not do things business doesn't like going forward, it can build a better relationship with the business community even without Daley. Conversely, if the administration plans to keep pushing policy it likes even if business doesn't like it, then relations with corporate America will be icy even if Daley is working the phones morning, noon and night.

You know the old saying, "nothing personal, this is just business"? Well, the business community knows it, too.

Photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images.

By Ezra Klein  | January 4, 2011; 2:14 PM ET
Categories:  Obama administration  
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The business community isn't rational. You've linked before to a story about how some CEOs were upset they weren't invited to some White House gathering. Also you have blogged before about how White House policy is actually pro-business, is not radical, and helps business, with business earning record profits, but business still acts like Obama is a socialist. So no, it could be personal, not just policy.

Posted by: jfung79 | January 4, 2011 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Yes, but tone matters. The moderates and liberals in the business community are annoyed with the WH not because of policy but because of tone.

Posted by: wswest | January 4, 2011 3:18 PM | Report abuse

I too disagree slightly with Ezra. I think having someone that the business community likes makes it easier to sell some things they wouldn't normally like. "Business" may not care about personal relationships, but businesses are run by people, and personal friendships with people in the business community may make it easier to get them to swallow a bitter pill, or at least accept it if it's paired with some small policy that they like.

I'm not saying it's everything, and I don't think any administration that does lots of things businesses don't like is going to be super popular, but it can't hurt.

I also think that, as with lots of issues, 2011 is going to be a pivot point for the Administration with business. The financial collapse required a lot of lashing out at the business community, but now that we're evidently in recovery (who knew?!) I expect a lot less unfriendly talk out of the Whitehouse.

Posted by: MosBen | January 4, 2011 3:57 PM | Report abuse

The Chamber of Commerce is a subversive organization known for money laundering to protect their clients who do not want the public to know what they are doing. If Obama adds the Chamber of Commerce, Monsanto and Wellpoint executives to his White House Staff, has their oligarchy taken control? Maybe he thought Lincoln kept his enemies close, but I'm not buying that Obama is a man of the people with these corporate shills in the White House.

Posted by: LillithMc | January 4, 2011 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Why the awe and reverence for the "Business Community" anyway?

One business goes away, another will take its place.
If Company A quits because it cannot make an outsize profit, Company B will take the work or make the product.

Is it that they have so much money around that the politician have only fear for them?

Are Americans so indoctrinated they really think our Crony Capitalism is Real Capitalism?
(Well, I know the Right Wing is, but I mean everyone else)

Posted by: grat_is | January 4, 2011 5:09 PM | Report abuse

"What the business community cares about is policy." This is basically just wrong isn't it, Ezra? In terms of policy the Obama Administration has been very favorable to business. They gave the go-ahead for TARP, they passed the stimulus bill, they bailed out the auto companies and set up the cash for clunkers program, they passed a fairly tepid financial reform package even after one of the worst economic crashes in history was mainly caused by the financial industry (and the White House supported an even milder bill than the one that got passed). Obama just extended the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and passed a generous inheritance tax measure as well. They haven't passed card check or other major union legislation and while they may have wanted to, they didn't actually pass cap and trade (and even then Obama was willing to give up goodies like expanding off shore drilling in return).

In terms of policy the White House has been pretty pro-business. And yet apparently business leaders are absolutely apoplectic about the way he's treated them. That's simply not a response that can have been brought about by his policies.

Posted by: bigmandave | January 4, 2011 6:20 PM | Report abuse

Obama is unpopular with the business community, of course, because has only given it 90% of what it wanted, as opposed to the 99% to which it has grown accustomed.

Posted by: dpurp | January 4, 2011 10:08 PM | Report abuse

Profits were terrible in 2010, right?

“A 62 percent increase in profits over two years is not what you expect from a business-hostile set of policies,” Summers said in June 2010.

Record profits for US businesses. But no job growth.

Posted by: boscobobb | January 4, 2011 11:13 PM | Report abuse

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