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Posted at 2:25 PM ET, 02/ 7/2011

Why Obama and the chamber are getting friendlier

By Ezra Klein

obamaatchamber.JPG

There was a lot of hype surrounding Barack Obama's speech at the Chamber of Commerce today, but not much reason for it. The speech was an articulation of the agenda that the White House has already laid out. Indeed, Obama previewed as much at the beginning of the address. "I’m here in the interest of being more neighborly," he said. Not in the interest of announcing a new policy, or telling some tough truths, or cutting a deal. In the interest of being neighborly. "Maybe we would have gotten off on a better foot if I had brought over a fruitcake when we first moved in."

So far as the address had a special message for the chamber, it's that the White House wanted to work with chamber members on the recovery, but that they haven't held up their end of the bargain. "As we work with you to make America a better place to do business," he said, paraphrasing John F. Kennedy, "ask yourselves what you can do for America. Ask yourselves what you can do to hire American workers, to support the American economy, and to invest in this nation." This is the sort of neighborly where someone knocks on your door and says he's happy to have you on the block, but please, for the love of God, stop playing your music so loudly.

But the Chamber of Commerce doesn't need a new neighbor, nor does the Obama administration. The reality is that the Obama administration's agenda has been, and continues to be, quite pro-business. He presided over TARP, the rescue of the American auto industry and a stimulus bill that the Chamber of Commerce endorsed. The administration passed a health-care law the chamber hated but that won official neutrality or support from the insurers, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, doctors, and even the Business Roundtable, and disappointed liberals who sought a public option or a single-payer program. And as we know, corporate profits and stock prices have been the first part of the economy to return to health.

At the same time, the Chamber of Commerce tilts toward the Republicans, and its staunchest allies are congressional Republicans. So it made a big push to elect more congressional Republicans in the last election, as that would mean the chamber has more power going forward. That push worked, and as a result, the Obama administration's agenda is over the next two years is going to be even more chamber-friendly than it was over the past two years. It will emphasize infrastructure investment, which the Chamber of Commerce supports, corporate tax reform, deficit reduction, education reform and some free trade agreements. No obvious points of contention there. The administration also just hired Bill Daley as chief of staff, a move the Chamber of Commerce applauded.

Which is all to say that it's not clear how much a speech matters. It's not even clear how much being neighborly matters. The Chamber of Commerce is pretty good at deciding when it wants to cooperate with the Obama administration and when it doesn't. The Obama administration has similarly been able to decide when it wants to push items that the Chamber of Commerce might support and when it wants to go another way. Relations between the two sides will be better over the next two years, but that's not because Obama is more neighborly, but because the Republican House makes it impossible for the Obama administration to pass major bills that don't command broad consensus and because the Chamber of Commerce is influential among Republicans who now hold more power. Being "neighborly" is, in this context, just another word for being realistic. Anyway, the full speech follows the fold:

Thank you, Tom, for your introduction. It’s good to be here today at the Chamber of Commerce. I’m here in the interest of being more neighborly. Maybe we would have gotten off on a better foot if I had brought over a fruitcake when we first moved in.

The truth is, this isn’t the first time I’ve been to the Chamber, or the first time we’ve exchanged ideas. Over the last two years, I’ve sought advice from many of you as we were grappling with the worst recession most of us have ever known. It’s a recession that led to some very difficult decisions. For many of you, that meant restructuring and branch closings and layoffs that were painful to make. For my administration, it meant a series of emergency measures I wouldn’t have taken under normal circumstances, but that were necessary to stop our economy from falling off the cliff.

Now, on some issues, like the Recovery Act, we’ve found common cause. On other issues, we’ve had some pretty strong disagreements. But I’m here today because I’m convinced we can and must work together. Whatever differences we may have, I know that all of us share a deep belief in this country, our people, and the principles that have made America’s economy the envy of the world.

America’s success didn’t happen by accident. It happened because of the freedom that has allowed good ideas to flourish, and capitalism to thrive. It happened because of the conviction that in this country, hard work should be rewarded; that opportunity should be there for anyone willing to reach for it. And it happened because at every juncture in history, we came together as one nation and did what was necessary to win the future.

That is our challenge today.

We still have, by far, the world’s largest and most vibrant economy. We have the most productive workers, the finest universities and the freest markets. The men and women in this room are living testimony that American industry is still the source of the most dynamic companies, and the most ingenious entrepreneurs.

But we also know that with the march of technology over the last few decades, the competition for jobs and businesses has grown fierce. The globalization of our economy means that businesses can now open up shop, employ workers and produce their goods wherever there is internet connection. Tasks that were once done by 1,000 workers can now be done by 100, or even 10. And the truth is, as countries like China and India grow and develop larger middle classes, it’s profitable for global companies to aggressively pursue these markets and, at times, to set up facilities in these countries.

These forces are as unstoppable as they are powerful. But combined with a brutal and devastating recession, they have also shaken the faith of the American people – in the institutions of business and government. They see a widening chasm of wealth and opportunity in this country, and they wonder if the American Dream is slipping away.

We cannot ignore these concerns. We have to renew people’s faith in the promise of this country – that this is a place where you can make it if you try. And we have to do this together: business and government; workers and CEOs; Democrats and Republicans.

We know what it will take for America to win the future. We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build our competitors. We need an economy that’s based not on what we consume and borrow from other nations, but what we make and sell around the world. We need to make America the best place on earth to do business.

And this is a job for all of us. As a government, we will help lay the foundation for you to grow and innovate. We will upgrade our transportation and communications networks so you can move goods and information more quickly and cheaply. We will invest in education so that you can hire the most skilled, talented workers in the world. And we’ll knock down barriers that make it harder for you to compete, from the tax code to the regulatory system.

But I want to be clear: even as we make America the best place on earth to do business, businesses also have a responsibility to America.

Now, I understand the challenges you face. I understand that you’re under incredible pressure to cut costs and keep your margins up. I understand the significance of your obligations to your shareholders. I get it. But as we work with you to make America a better place to do business, ask yourselves what you can do for America. Ask yourselves what you can do to hire American workers, to support the American economy, and to invest in this nation. That’s what I want to talk about today – the responsibilities we all have to secure the future we all share.

As a country, we have a responsibility to encourage American innovation. Companies like yours have always driven the discovery of new ideas and new products. But, as you know, it’s not always profitable in the short-term for you to invest in basic research. That’s why government has traditionally helped invest in this kind of science, planting the seeds that ultimately grew into technologies from computer chips to the internet.

And that’s why we’re making investments today in the next generation of big ideas – in biotechnology, information technology, and clean energy technology. We’re reforming our patent system so innovations can move more quickly to market. Steve Case is heading up a new partnership called Startup America to help entrepreneurs turn new ideas into new businesses and new jobs. And I’ve also proposed a bigger, permanent tax credit for all the research and development your companies do in this country.

We also have a responsibility as a nation to provide our people and our businesses with the fastest, most reliable way to move goods and information. The costs to business from the outdated and inadequate infrastructure we currently have are enormous. That’s why I want to put more people to work rebuilding crumbling roads and bridges. And that’s why I’ve proposed connecting 80 percent of the country to high-speed rail, and making it possible for companies to put high-speed internet coverage in reach of virtually all Americans.

You understand the importance of this. The fact is, the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO don’t agree on a whole lot. Tom Donohue and Richard Trumka aren’t exactly Facebook friends. But they agree on the need to build a 21st century infrastructure. And I want to thank the Chamber for pushing Congress to make more infrastructure investments, and to do so in the most cost-effective way possible: with tax dollars that leverage private capital, and with projects determined not by politics, but by what’s best for our economy.

The third responsibility we have as a nation is to invest in the skills and education of our people. If we expect companies to do business and hire in America, America needs a pool of trained, talented workers that can out-compete anyone in the world. That’s why we’re reforming K-12 education and training 100,000 new math and science teachers. That’s why we’re making college more affordable, and revitalizing community colleges.

Recently, I visited GE in Schenectady, New York, which has partnered with a local community college. While students train for jobs available at the nearby GE plant, they earn a paycheck and have their tuition covered. As a result, young people can find work. GE can fill high-skilled positions. And the entire region has become more attractive to businesses. It’s win-win for everyone, and something we’re trying to replicate across the country.

To make room for these investments in education, innovation, and infrastructure, government also has a responsibility to cut the spending that we just can’t afford. That’s why I’ve promised to veto any bill larded up with earmarks. And that’s why I’ve proposed that we freeze annual domestic spending for the next five years, which would reduce the deficit by more than $400 billion over the next decade, and bring this spending down to the lowest share of our economy since Eisenhower was president. And I am eager to work with both parties to take additional steps across the budget to put our nation on sounder fiscal footing.

In addition to making government more affordable, we’re also making it more effective and customer-friendly. We’re trying to run the government more like you run your businesses – with better technology and faster services. In the coming months, my administration will develop a proposal to merge, consolidate, and reorganize the federal government in a way that best serves the goal of a more competitive America. And we want to start with the twelve different agencies that deal with America’s exports. If we hope to help our businesses sell more goods around the world, we should ensure we are all pulling in the same direction.

This brings me to the final responsibility of government: breaking down barriers that stand in the way of your success. As far as exports are concerned, that means seeking new opportunities and opening new markets for your goods. I’ll go anywhere to be a booster for American businesses, American workers, and American products. We recently signed export deals with India and China that will support more than 250,000 jobs here in the United States. And we finalized a trade agreement with South Korea that will support at least 70,000 American jobs – a deal that has unprecedented support from business and labor; Democrats and Republicans. That’s the kind of deal I’ll be looking for as we pursue trade agreements with Panama and Columbia and work to bring Russia into the international trading system.

Another barrier government can remove is a burdensome corporate tax code with one of the highest rates in the world. You know how it goes: because of various loopholes and carve-outs that have built up over the years, some industries pay an average rate that is four or five times higher than others. Companies are taxed heavily for making investments with equity; yet the tax code actually pays companies to invest using leverage. As a result, too many businesses end up making decisions based on what their tax director says instead of what their engineer designs or what their factory produces. This puts our entire economy at a disadvantage. That’s why I want to lower the corporate rate and eliminate these loopholes to pay for it, so that it doesn’t add a dime to our deficit. And I am asking for your help in this fight.

The last barriers we’re trying to remove are outdated and unnecessary regulations. I’ve ordered a government-wide review, and if there are rules on the books that are needlessly stifling job creation and economic growth, we will fix them. Already we’re dramatically cutting down on the paperwork that saddles businesses with huge administrative costs. We’re improving the way FDA evaluates things like medical devices, to get innovative and life-saving treatments to market faster. And the EPA, based on the need for further scientific analysis, delayed the greenhouse gas permitting rules for biomass. I’ve also ordered agencies to find ways to make regulations more flexible for small businesses. And we’ve turned a tangle of fuel economy regulations and pending lawsuits into a single standard that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil, save consumers money at the pump, and give car companies the certainty they need.

But ultimately, winning the future is not just about what the government can do to help you succeed. It’s about what you can do to help America succeed.

For example, even as we work to eliminate burdensome regulations, America’s businesses have a responsibility to recognize that there are some safeguards and standards that are necessary to protect the American people from harm or exploitation.

Few of us would want to live in a society without the rules that keep our air and water clean; that give consumers the confidence to do everything from investing in financial markets to buying groceries. Yet when standards like these have been proposed, opponents have often warned that they would be an assault on business and free enterprise. Early drug companies argued that the bill creating the FDA would “practically destroy the sale of … remedies in the United States.” Auto executives predicted that having to install seatbelts would bring the downfall of their industry. The President of the American Bar Association denounced child labor laws as “a communistic effort to nationalize children.”

Of course, none of this has come to pass. In fact, companies adapt and standards often spark competition and innovation. Look at refrigerators. The government set modest targets to increase efficiency over time. Companies competed to hit these markers. And as a result, a typical fridge now costs half as much and uses a quarter of the energy it once did, saving families and businesses billions of dollars.

Moreover, the perils of too much regulation are matched by the dangers of too little. We saw that in the financial crisis, where the absence of sound rules of the road was hardly good for business. That’s why, with the help of Paul Volcker who is here today, we passed a set of commonsense reforms. The same can be said of health insurance reform. We simply could not continue to accept a status quo that’s made our entire economy less competitive, as we’ve paid more per person for health care than any other nation on earth. And we could not accept a broken system where insurance companies could drop people because they got sick, or families went bankrupt because of medical bills.

I know you have concerns about this law. But the non-partisan congressional watchdogs at the CBO estimate that health care tax credits will be worth nearly $40 billion for small businesses over the next decade. And experts – not just from the government, but also those commissioned by the Business Roundtable – suggest that health insurance reform could ultimately save large employers anywhere from $2,000 to $3,000 per family. I’m also willing to look at other ideas to improve the law, including incentives to improve patient safety and medical malpractice reforms. And as I said in the State of the Union, I want to correct a flaw that has placed an unnecessary bookkeeping burden on small businesses, and I appreciate the Chamber’s help in doing that.

Of course, your responsibility goes beyond recognizing the need for certain standards and safeguards. If we’re fighting to reform the tax code and increase exports to help you compete, the benefits can’t just translate into greater profits and bonuses for those at the top. They should be shared by American workers, who need to know that expanding trade and opening markets will lift their standard of living as well as your bottom line. We cannot go back to the kind of economy – and culture – we saw in the years leading up to the recession, where growth and gains in productivity just didn’t translate into rising incomes and opportunity for the middle class.

And if we as a nation are going to invest in innovation, that innovation should lead to new jobs and manufacturing on our shores. The end result of tax breaks and investments cannot simply be that new breakthroughs and technologies are discovered in America, but manufactured overseas.

The key to our success has never been just developing new ideas; it’s also been making new products. Intel pioneers the microchip, and puts thousands to work building them in Silicon Valley. Henry Ford perfects the assembly line, and puts a generation to work in the factories of Detroit. This is how we built the largest middle-class in the world. And this is how we’ll create the base of knowledge and skills that propel the next invention, the next idea.

Right now, businesses across this country are proving that America can compete. Caterpillar is opening a new plant to build excavators in Texas that used to be shipped from Japan. In Tennessee, Whirlpool is opening their first new US factory in more than a decade. Dow is building a new plant in Michigan to manufacture batteries for electric vehicles. A company called Geomagic, a software maker, decided to close down its overseas centers in China and Europe and move their R&D to the United States. These are companies bringing jobs back to our shores.

Now is the time to invest in America. Today, American companies have nearly $2 trillion sitting on their balance sheets. I know that many of you have told me that you are waiting for demand to rise before you get off the sidelines and expand, and that with millions of Americans out of work, demand has risen more slowly than any of us would like.

But many of your own economists and salespeople are now forecasting a healthy increase in demand. So I want to encourage you to get in the game. And part of the bipartisan tax deal we negotiated, businesses can immediately expense 100 percent of their capital investments. As you all know, it’s investments made now that will pay off as the economy rebounds. And as you hire, you know that more Americans working means more sales, greater demand, and higher profits for your companies. We can create a virtuous cycle.

And if there is a reason you don’t share my confidence, if there is a reason you don’t believe that this is the time to get off the sidelines – to hire and invest – I want to know about it. I want to fix it. That’s why I’ve asked Jeff Immelt of GE to lead a new council of business leaders and outside experts so that we’re getting the best advice on what you’re facing out there – and we’ll be holding our first meeting two weeks from now, on the 24th. Together, I am confident that we can win the competition for new jobs and industries. And I know you share my enthusiasm; I know you love this country and want America to succeed just as badly as I do.

Yes, we’ll have disagreements; yes we will see things differently at times. But we are all Americans. And that spirit of patriotism, that sense of mutual regard and common obligation has carried us through times far harder than these.

Toward the end of the 1930s, amidst depression and the looming prospect of war, President Roosevelt realized he would need to form a new partnership with business if we were going to become what he would call the “arsenal of democracy.” As you could imagine, the relationship between the president and business leaders had grown somewhat fractured over the New Deal. So Roosevelt reached out to businesses; and business leaders answered the call to serve their country. After years of fighting each other, the result was one of the most productive collaborations between the public and private sectors in American history.

Some, like the head of GM, hadn’t previously known the president. If anything, he had been an adversary. But he gathered his family and explained that he was going to head up what would become the War Production Board.

“This country has been good to me,” he said. “I want to pay it back.”

In the years that followed, automobile factories converted to making planes and tanks. Corset factories made grenade belts. A toy company made compasses. A pinball machine maker turned out shells. 1941 would see the greatest expansion of manufacturing in the nation’s history. And not only did this help us win the war. It led to millions of new jobs and helped produce the great American middle class.

We have faced hard times before. We have faced moments of tumult and change before. We know what to do. We know how to succeed. We are Americans. And as we have throughout our history, I have every confidence that will rise to this occasion; that we can come together, that we can adapt and thrive in a changing economy. And we need look no further than the innovative companies in this room. If we can harness your potential and the potential of the people all across our country, there will be no stopping us.

Thank you. God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.

Photo credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

By Ezra Klein  | February 7, 2011; 2:25 PM ET
 
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Comments

These State run journolists don't really believe the crap they're ordered to regurgitate, do they?

Posted by: wewintheylose1 | February 7, 2011 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Obama: "We have to renew people’s faith in the promise of this country – that this is a place where you can make it if you try."

He says that same thing repeatedly, and it's nonsense. There is more to "making it" than trying. He's pandering to the notion of guaranteed outcomes, the root gibberish at the bottom of modern liberalism, and it tells you exactly what a noxious fraud Obama is.

Posted by: msoja | February 7, 2011 2:50 PM | Report abuse

"He presided over TARP, the rescue of the American auto industry and a stimulus bill that the Chamber of Commerce endorsed."

Ezra, come on. He also endorsed a health care bill that had a 1099 requirement that made small business owners criminals until it's repeal last week, propped up GMAC for a union payoff and generally ignored all small business people in the country to favor his big money DNC donors. Screw the Chamber, they are muli-national hacks who also game the system with money.

Posted by: Gooddogs | February 7, 2011 3:18 PM | Report abuse

So if Obama is going to be more pro business then why did he appoint Jeff Immelt to help him? Where are all the green energy bulbs being made for GE not here but CHINA some leader he is.Just another buddy of the liar in charge.How many jobs has GE Co. sent over seas while Jeff has been their? Maybe the former employees who's jobs were sent to CHINA would care to comment on what they think of Immelt?

Posted by: freedon | February 7, 2011 3:27 PM | Report abuse

If the current administration, with the sick care fiasco law and the screwed up tax laws, is considered pro-business, what the heck is anti-business?

Posted by: scott16 | February 7, 2011 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Claiming Obama is pro-business is just as absurdly wrong as the idea that he is channeling Ronald Reagan.

The only businesses Obama is friendly toward are the very big businesses that are susceptible to government control.

The only capitalists Obama likes are crony capitalists... certainly not real capitalists.

Posted by: JBaustian | February 7, 2011 4:32 PM | Report abuse

Where's the part where they work togther to SHOVE 20 Million Illegal Aliens down our throats ???

Posted by: catinhat83510496 | February 7, 2011 4:36 PM | Report abuse

"The reality is that the Obama administration's agenda has been, and continues to be, quite pro-business."

I had to stop reading after this sentence, because I almost fell off my chair - no need to leave the office with a stiff neck today.

Posted by: murphopolis | February 7, 2011 4:43 PM | Report abuse

"The reality is that the Obama administration's agenda has been, and continues to be, quite pro-business."

I had to stop reading after this sentence, because I almost fell off my chair - no need to leave the office with a stiff neck today.

Posted by: murphopolis | February 7, 2011 4:44 PM | Report abuse

Did I hear him say he should have brought some FRUITCAKE? Last time I ate fruitcake,JFK was long gone. Next time I hope he brings some canned foods,like ham, soup, pineapple, chicken, olives, tomatoes, sweet corn, and cans of mixed nuts, oh, and don't forget the key lime pie filling.

Posted by: electress | February 7, 2011 4:50 PM | Report abuse

"These State run journolists don't really believe the crap they're ordered to regurgitate, do they?"

This from one of the army of conservatives hired by the Koch brothers to disrupt discussions on liberal blogs by posting anti-Obama vitriol.

Posted by: DavidinCambridge | February 7, 2011 4:55 PM | Report abuse

What happens to the veracity of President Obama's accusation that the dastardly chamber illegally contributed foreign money to Republican candidates?
From the mouth of the chief executive, what happen to the laws of this country ? Do not nail them, after a serious accusation, but making up to them? Truth please, Mr Klein!

Posted by: sun127 | February 7, 2011 4:55 PM | Report abuse

"The reality is that the Obama administration's agenda has been, and continues to be, quite pro-business." This statement is from fantasyland. It supposes that "business" is a single entity - not millions of shareholders who put their lifes savings at risk to invest in a company. AND, that BHO did not nationalize GM/Chryser, banks,etc and give those shareholders money to the unions. Obama pro-business!?!?! Smokin' dope!

Posted by: IQ168 | February 7, 2011 4:57 PM | Report abuse

EK writes: "Why Obama and the chamber are getting friendlier"

The cynical view: with corporations being able to spend unlimited amounts of money after the recent Supreme Court ruling, it's time to ditch the $5 and $10 contributors and cozy up to the really big corporate money.

Posted by: tuber | February 7, 2011 5:09 PM | Report abuse

You know, if I were a crass like some liberals.vapid left-wingers these days, you know the ones that want to lynch Clarence Thomas, or hope Rush Limbaugh's kidneys fail, I'd say something like, "Gee Ezra, how does Obama's sphincter taste and feel? It is all gooey and moist and delicious?"

But, nah, not gonna do it.

Posted by: karl-keller | February 7, 2011 5:10 PM | Report abuse

The 1099 requirement isn't pro-business, that's true, but Ezra is right about Obama and business. He has been pro-business in the sense that he has provided hundreds of billions of dollars to businesses large and small to stay afloat during the recession. You could argue that FinReg is anti-business, but then you'd also have to explain how deregulation that results in boom and bust cycles is pro-business in light of how many thousands of businesses are lost due to the cycle. The idea that Obama is anti-business has been repeated ad nauseum, but the ACA is probably the biggest example of net pro-business legislation. The legislation gives businesses a way to get rid of the single fastest growing cost on their balance sheet--health insurance costs. I don't know why the Chamber didn't applaud the legislation.

Posted by: StokeyWan | February 7, 2011 5:12 PM | Report abuse

You know, if I were like some of the enlightened humane lefties out there, you know, the ones that would like Clarence Thomas lynched, or Rush Limbaugh's kidneys to fail, I might consider asking...

"Gee Ezra, how DOES Obama's sphincter taste and feel? Is it all gooey and moist and delicious?"

But, nah, not gonna do it.

Posted by: karl-keller | February 7, 2011 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Interesting notion about companies feeling compelled to spread the wealth when they make more money; what about when they lose money? Does anyone believe that they should automatically cut everyone's salaries?

Posted by: DrMan | February 7, 2011 5:14 PM | Report abuse

Obama's agenda has been "Chamber friendly"? Wow. But back to reality: the fundamental problem with this administration's relations with business is that the President and most of his staff have not an iota of experience in the private sector. To paraphrase Ross Perot, they don't know enough about running a business to handle the "second shift at a Dairy Queen".

Posted by: bubba31138 | February 7, 2011 5:15 PM | Report abuse

Bill Clinton worked with the Chamber of Commerce when he was President, but Obama left the Chamber out of the Jobs Summit and vilified them for two years. Obama took his advice from SEIU President Andy Stern and a White House cadre of advisors with little or none private sector experience. It is no surprise that the Obama administration has produced a jobless recovery.

Posted by: Johnstone23 | February 7, 2011 5:16 PM | Report abuse

Good God it was like a morgue today - in 35 minutes the crowd only applauded twice. It is very clear those in the room did not trust Obama, and when he re-stated his belief in income re-distribution, you could have heard a pin drop. It was clear from today, Obama the socialist has not changed his stripes.

Posted by: Realist201 | February 7, 2011 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Why Obama and the chamber are getting friendlier ?

Oh please ! Ezra. Its called crony capitalism.

Big businesses are ALL looking to feed at the trough of BIG Government - think bailouts (banks, autos), think health care (drug and insurance) think tax exemptions (GE, Wall Street), think subsidies (Green tech, GE, BIG Agri-biz) think Health Care Exemptions (700 mostly big Union companies)

Crony Capitalism is all about being a Corporate donor and friend of corrupt Democrats.

Shameful promotion of Chicago-style politics by Ezra Klein.

Posted by: pvilso24 | February 7, 2011 5:21 PM | Report abuse

"He presided over TARP, the rescue of the American auto industry and a stimulus bill that the Chamber of Commerce endorsed."

Ezra,
Clearly you did not have stock in GM, which his buyout took to zero
Unfortunately, many retirement plans offered by medium businesses to keep employees did.

Clearly you also do not know anyone who ran a loan business, who was forced out of business

You also do not understand the health care coverage service, where over 70% of the agents and the staff are looking at a possible end to business and closure. Perhaps you like dealing directly with the insurance company on claims, with zero leverage.

Then there is the 1099 fiasco

Let's not forget the shut down of the U S mining industry and the shut down of the u S drilling industry.

You will see that soon enough, since oil just keeps going up.

Imported coal to run your electric system is not going to be any cheaper either.

All of those are places where business is tacking it on the chin, and soon you will see cooling costs, farming costs, and fuel costs climb to levels that make inflation look second rate

yea - he's as pro business as I am pro taxation

do you at least get mouthwash after regurgitating such bile?

Posted by: JohnSpek | February 7, 2011 5:23 PM | Report abuse

I don't know what Ezra is talking about here. But he is so cute I don't care. I love him.

Posted by: WCGirl | February 7, 2011 5:23 PM | Report abuse

DavidinCambridge must be right, looks like the Koch brothers propaganda machine paid to spend the day spewing rightwing hatred on blog comments. Keep pining away for an American Mussolini, not going to happen.

Posted by: gschwartz1 | February 7, 2011 5:25 PM | Report abuse

Roosevelt is portrayed as someone who understood how to build a successful economy. The real reason America was so successful during the latter part of his administration was that the economies and productive capacities of the rest of the world had been destroyed as a result of World War II. America had the only economy left standing.
America would be like another Egypt if it were not for the dynamics of what free enterprise capacity we have left. Perhaps Obama has begun to realize that government can be no stronger than the free enterprise system that supports it.

Posted by: cosciousness | February 7, 2011 5:25 PM | Report abuse

I think Ezra Klein is a tremendous talent, he is very smart, and it is always fascinating to hear his thoughts, but I think he has become more of an "opinionator" than a reporter. Ezra has become quite lazy sitting behind his computer, doesn't think it is necessary to put on his galoshes and raincoat and do old fashioned reporting. Frankly, I could have written this piece myself and I have zero talent. Come on Ezra, you work for the Post which brought us Woodward and Bernstein. You are capable of so much more than this. This might be interesting conversation at lunch, but this is terrible journalism.

Posted by: nyc98765 | February 7, 2011 5:27 PM | Report abuse

Crony capitalism is the answer.

Ezra Klein ? Think crony journalism !

Posted by: pvilso24 | February 7, 2011 5:34 PM | Report abuse

Obama is less and less different from GWB. He has a sweey tongue his predecessor didn't have.
Roland Berger

Posted by: rolandberger | February 7, 2011 5:34 PM | Report abuse

Considering that everything that I was going to say except one has already been said, I'm restricted to mentioning that Ezra Klein is just another of the leftist media's useful idiots.

Posted by: gfafblifr | February 7, 2011 5:34 PM | Report abuse

The GOP has no solutions, just talking heads who keep trying to apply failed tax cuts for the rich policy to our current untenable financial position, made more precarious, by their insistent dependence on fossil fuel, as those suppliers are their source of contributions, denial of global warming issues, and alternative sources of power. As George W. Bush once said, "it is only a theory". Pretty potent theory, considering the changing weather patterns, a direct result of ocean temperatures going up.


Nowhere do you see discussions of the shrinking middle class, the fact that the working poor can't afford health care,($1050 a month for a 60 year old man taking home $1895 a month. Then consider the fact that the current Federal minimum wage is now the equivalent of $2.00 an hour less than it was in 1965. ( in 2011 dollars).


Then of course, consider the effects of tax cuts over the years for the very rich, the top 2% of the American public now owns 28% of the assets of this country, up from 8% years ago.


The GOP plan for America is all smoke and mirrors, and is geared towards sustaining them in power, rewarding their supporters, the very rich. If the trends continue, the US will become the worlds larges Banana Republic, a very rich upper class, a very small middle class, and a very large class of working poor, and paupers.


Consider the major item on the GOP agenda following the election, repeal health care without even coming up with a better plan of their own, , not work to create jobs, rebuild manufacturing, nor even to plug the leaks of untaxed corporate income, remaining off shore.


Instead, they grant continued tax cuts to those who have accumulated excessive wealth with those long term tax cuts, instead of creating jobs as represented as the basis for such cuts.


It is much easier to take from those who have no political power, through cuts which affect them, than to risk offending the very rich, and losing their contributions.


.

Posted by: DrainYou | February 7, 2011 5:36 PM | Report abuse

Ezra Klein: Regime Media propagandist.

Ezra's preposterous tale is laughable. For starters, Obama's lips are moving.

Posted by: drsodaro | February 7, 2011 5:36 PM | Report abuse

"The reality is that the Obama administration's agenda has been, and continues to be, quite pro-business."

...Since the 'shellacking' MAYBE (time will tell) - prior to that? Far from it.

...But then again you're not exactly an objective journalist are you Mr. Klien? That you're even employed by an ostensibly objective news outlet after the JournOlist disgrace is pretty stunning...I for one would read this paper more often if it weren't for the biased reporting from people like you.

Posted by: thesnowman23 | February 7, 2011 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Wow. The trolls out in force today. There is more ad hominem in this comment string than I've seen in a long time.

Posted by: StokeyWan | February 7, 2011 5:44 PM | Report abuse

Wow. The trolls are out in force today. There is more ad hominem in this comment string than I've seen in a long time.

Posted by: StokeyWan | February 7, 2011 5:44 PM | Report abuse

Aside from their ridiculous solar misadventures, Obama and the Democrats are frightened by entreprenuerial startups and growth companies which provide most of our new jobs. Conversely, like the democrat socialists of western Europe, they are simpatico with the risk-averse senior management of the large companies which both co-opt government and rationalize US employment with brutal efficiency. State socialism rewards politicians and big company executives - just ask Barack Obama and Bill Daley!

Posted by: mvd78209 | February 7, 2011 5:45 PM | Report abuse

I guess being Republican is fashionable again for the wannabes that comment on this page. Free Market does not truly exist because it is fueled by greed (which is OK since a component of greed is ambition). However w/o adequate enforcement of rules greed from the well connected and powerful can slowly erode the true purpose of capitalism (see Enron, Madoff, sub-prime mortgage backed securities, GM). As someone that probably makes more money than anyone that has commented on this article, I hope Obama is successful because it helps my business. The GOP does not want any type of strong economic recovery since it would get Obama re-elected in a landslide. The GOP would love to take credit for the full blown recovery we'll most likely have in 2012-2016 even though the tough decisions were made to save this economy in 2008-2012. As a businessman that is responsible for 93 employess, I have to judge things from the perspective of my business' long-term interests. I don't want any special favors just a bank that won't pull my credit line, reasonable taxes and maybe some support for trying to develop customers in the emerging markets.

Posted by: dbryan01 | February 7, 2011 5:49 PM | Report abuse

Obama pro-business? Only if you were a major contributor to his campaign or proclaimed ignorant support for junk climate change science.

Posted by: Cryos | February 7, 2011 5:51 PM | Report abuse

Were you in attendance ?

The good news for President Obama: The Chamber of Commerce broke into applause twice during his speech Monday morning to welcome his ideas.

The bad news: They clapped just twice, in a 35-minute address.

I guess even crony capitalism is not that popular.

Posted by: pvilso24 | February 7, 2011 6:00 PM | Report abuse

Yea, sure, pro business PO's way.
GET REAL!

Posted by: rteske | February 7, 2011 6:00 PM | Report abuse

Ezra; how is that Constitution 101 class coming along?

Posted by: Nobama11 | February 7, 2011 6:00 PM | Report abuse


Barry the incompetent boob Obama characterized the Chamber of Commerce as an enemy of the people during the elections. Now, after the Dims got slaughtered and lost 63 seats in Congress, Barry wants to kiss and pretend to make up. Not going to happen.

Posted by: screwjob23 | February 7, 2011 6:02 PM | Report abuse

America will not stand by and let Obama add six[6] million more jobs to the federal government, even thought hat is what he wants; Private businesses are the BIG HIRERS, HE KNOWS he has to get uneMployment below 7% by 2012 or he is OUT. Let's hope that the people are not influenced by the phony accounting he does.

Posted by: Nobama11 | February 7, 2011 6:05 PM | Report abuse

--*However w/o adequate enforcement of rules greed from the well connected and powerful can slowly erode the true purpose of capitalism (see Enron, Madoff, sub-prime mortgage backed securities, GM).*--

Enron is gone. Madoff is in jail. The sub-prime market collapsed but its protagonists evaded punishment to the extent that the government stepped in. Likewise, General Motors would have ceased to exist, with its assets absorbed and put to use by its competitors, except for government intervention. The market handles failure efficiently, while the government perpetuates it. It's the government that breaks the "rules" of the free market, that corrupts it.

Posted by: msoja | February 7, 2011 6:25 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Klein spent a lot time and digital ink in trying to answer the question of why Mr. Obama is making up with the Chamber of Commerce. Yet, he missed the obvious. The 2012 election will be so expensive that Mr. Obama and the Democrats need political contributions from corporate interests.

Posted by: BBear1 | February 7, 2011 6:43 PM | Report abuse

There must have been a link to this posting from Breitbart or Redstate. The only time dittoheads comment here is when their masters tell them to.

Posted by: nickthap | February 7, 2011 6:44 PM | Report abuse

The reality is, Ezra is delusional. Obama is a failure because socialists should not preside over a capitalist country. FAIL.

Posted by: kingtroll3 | February 7, 2011 6:48 PM | Report abuse

Corporate profits reached record levels in 2010, the DJIA is above 12,000 (up from 7,000 when Bush left office) and the trolls here are still convinced that Obama is a Marxist Communist Al Qaeda operative that is trying to overthrow Our Way of Life. Oh brother.

Oh, by the way, this is a blog, but I guess dittoheads log ago lost the ability to distinguish news reporting from opinion journalism.

Posted by: nickthap | February 7, 2011 6:57 PM | Report abuse

I believe if you let the agencies study themselves they will make very minor
adjustments and you won’t get to the several hundred thousand civil servant
reductions accomplished under POTUS Clinton. I think you should set up very
aggressive straw man proposals and force the agencies concerned to develop two
courses of action, one being an implementation plan for your aggressive straw
man proposal and the other a counter-proposal of their choosing that saves the
same amount. I recommend your aggressive proposal be to eliminate at least 5 of
the 15 Executive Departments by merging them into another while at the same time
reducing the size of the Dept being absorbed by 50%.

Dept of Treasury absorbs Dept of Commerce

Dept of Labor absorbs Dept of Education and Dept of Transportation

Dept of HHS absorbs Dept of HUD

Dept of Interior absorbs Dept of Agriculture

While not executive departments, you could also merge Dept of Army and Dept of
Air Force into a single Dept similar to Dept of Navy handling Navy and Marine
Corps.

If you don’t lay out huge ideas like this so they at least know the target is
big, not small, you will get very marginal salami slice proposals. I believe
once you define what is truly a federal function and what can be returned to the
states, you will find that the federal portfolio of some departments can be
handled by an undersecretary or assistant secretary. Even if you only have
success on one or two of the above it would be great.

I do not underestimate the scope of the challenge. While one would hope merging
departments would eliminate multiple HQ positions (protocol, comptroller, EEO,
etc) look at this on last week’s USAJobs: SES Vacancy for Associate
Administrator for Civil Rights, Federal Highway Administration, Department Of
Transportation
$119,554.00 - $179,700.00 /year. A small office well below Exec Dept level is
hiring an EEO coordinator that will earn more than a U.S. Senator.

Posted by: Just_the_Facts2 | February 7, 2011 7:01 PM | Report abuse

--*There must have been a link to this posting from Breitbart or Redstate. The only time dittoheads comment here is when their masters tell them to.*--

So, which are you from: Workers World, or the World Socialist Web Site, or maybe A.N.S.W.E.R., or Code Pink?

Posted by: msoja | February 7, 2011 7:13 PM | Report abuse

--*Dept of Treasury absorbs Dept of Commerce
Dept of Labor absorbs Dept of Education and Dept of Transportation
Dept of HHS absorbs Dept of HUD
Dept of Interior absorbs Dept of Agriculture*--

How about keeping the Dept of Treasury, just for laughs, but jettison the rest? Unless you do that, you're still talking small potatoes, and still underwriting the usurpation of that which should be in the private domain.

Posted by: msoja | February 7, 2011 7:22 PM | Report abuse

The way to create jobs in America is to get rid of the unions, with their high pay, benefits, and retirement for union members they forced business to look elsewhere for cheaper labor, this was overseas in China, India, and many other countries.....the days of the sweatshops are over, so should be the unions run by the white collar mafia.........

Posted by: bstone1931 | February 7, 2011 7:38 PM | Report abuse

WTF? (win the future).

Does he forget what he did to the individuals represented by this group? A flip-flop is not allowed, you fouled the environment in which these folks have to survive, and they happen to employ people in the process of transacting commerce. That is something no government can do. Apologies to Ed Rendell who still thinks state run liquor stores are justifiable. Sorry about the misses, Eddy.

Posted by: ascpgh1 | February 7, 2011 7:52 PM | Report abuse

Money rules, in politics. It elected the Tea Party radicals, last time out. The people with the money are out to screw the workers, and the American public. They are very successful at doing so, and have been so ever since 1789. They have roped in and tamed Obama. Expect him to be re-elected. Do not expect any benefits to the American public to result from that.

Posted by: samsara15 | February 7, 2011 7:53 PM | Report abuse

Odumbo provided nothing to the Chamber. He's two years late. Still doesn't have a clue, and neither does Klein, who apparently is an ardent admirer of the B.S. that Odumbo shovels.

Posted by: LarryG62 | February 7, 2011 7:53 PM | Report abuse

So now is the time for Obama to solicit the Chamber’s support after two years of ignoring their efforts to promote business while he coddled unionization. Unions don’t give paychecks nor do they create jobs! He needs to take a junior college course in Economics 101. Newsflash: Documented liars have very little credibility, Obama!

Posted by: Templeton62 | February 7, 2011 7:58 PM | Report abuse

Blame Obama for everything. It wasn't Obama who made the ruling that it is ok for corporations to donate as much as they want. The Chamber of Commerce is beholding to all the foreign corporations who gave them money. They are no more for the US than Osama Bin Laden is.

Posted by: akcoins | February 7, 2011 8:06 PM | Report abuse

He was there to reiterate that he wants social justice and socialized sharing of the riches;; he is a communist prick.

Posted by: Nobama11 | February 7, 2011 8:07 PM | Report abuse

DO NOT LISTEN TO HIM AND THE MEDIABOTS AS THEY SPIN EVERYTHING IN THE NEXT 24 MONTHS;; REMEMBER HE IS A MARXIST; VOTE NO TO BHO in 2012.

Posted by: Nobama11 | February 7, 2011 8:13 PM | Report abuse

Dittoheads: anyone that disagrees with me is a communist gay al qaeda operative that eats christin children.

And I'm also bitter because I've missed out on the historic bull market that has been in effect since Obama was elected, missing out on historic, once in a lifetime gains for my 401K or IRA because I am too blinded by ideology to make good financial decisions. But I'm sure your children or your spouse will understand why you have only social security to rely on when you retire.

Posted by: nickthap | February 7, 2011 8:30 PM | Report abuse

"The reality is that the Obama administration's agenda has been, and continues to be, quite pro-business -- and it's likely to become even more Chamber-friendly." This sounds like a scam from the Journolistas. Could I get a six-pack of whatever Ezra or his editor has been smoking?

"Pro-business Obama" is like military intelligence, fiscally responsible Democrat and Republican with a social conscience: all listed as oxymorons in the dictionary. I suppose Castro was pro-business too?

Posted by: stvcar | February 7, 2011 9:34 PM | Report abuse

Gee stvcar, way to stick to stereotypes. Ever had an original thought?

Posted by: nickthap | February 7, 2011 11:11 PM | Report abuse

If every citizen in this country is an entrepreneur then who is going to be their employees? Oh, I forgot we have the illegals here to take the jobs, no matter that we are running out of resources and literally we will run out of land to live on.

Posted by: beagles5 | February 8, 2011 12:36 AM | Report abuse

BHO hits the right note when he calls for innovation; prosperity is propelled by innovation. Innovation is why one finds 30 different types of shrimp and 10 different choices of dog food in the supermarket. But BHO's call for innovation will not do it, the free market - capitalism - will.

The "free market" is simply the liberty of citizens to trade property for value; it is called capitalism. The more it is restricted, the less prosperity. BHO is blinded by his philosophy of proactive Big Government. His ideology is creating a culture of "corpophobia;" it permeates his rhetoric. Yet he curries the corporate favor, an antithetical.

Innovation is the result of competition for incentive - profit. But BHO's "share the wealth" ideology hates profit and so his words are merely balm for the sting. On one hand he "asks" for innovation, but with the other hammerlocks incentives? The small entrepreneur encounters the regulations and the "levies;" then he finds out what it takes to hire his first employee.

I am the corporation (subchapter S); I say fear not the corporation that is unarmed, that must persuade; fear the government that backs every coercion with real and awesome force.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qvMrOC5zK7A

Posted by: corneliusvansant | February 8, 2011 10:28 AM | Report abuse

You had to see the speech to realize that the scolding, sanctimonious tone has gotten far worse over these past months. He is constantly taking the listener to the woodshed. This claiming of the moral high ground is unseemly, given his own admissions about his background in his autobiography.

Posted by: truck1 | February 8, 2011 10:47 PM | Report abuse

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