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Posted at 2:40 PM ET, 02/ 7/2011

AFL-CIO: We liked Obama's challenge to Chamber of Commerce

By Greg Sargent

I keep reading in various places that all those losers on the left are absolutely outraged that Obama sold them out by giving what's widely being described as an "olive branch" speech today to the Chamber of Commerce. But judging by the AFL-CIO's response, it seems some liberals actually are pleasantly surprised by how he handled it.

AFL-CIO spokesman Eddie Vale emails a list of the passages from Obama's speech the AFL-CIO liked, where Obama seemed to challenge the Chamber to live up to its responsibilities to America and the American worker:

Obama's reminder to business that they have a responsibility to America, that they can't just worry about shareholders and the bottom line:

"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."

Obama's reminder to business that there are important regulations:

"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."

His reminder to business that changes in the tax code need to benefit everyone:

"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."

My understanding is that labor officials expected Obama to repeat his insistence on more infrastructure spending -- which after all isn't that controversial, since the Chamber supports the idea in principle. But labor types didn't expect, and were cheered by, Obama's defense of government regulation, the emphasis on reforming the tax code so it benefits everyone, and the insistence that corporations need to ask themselves what they can do for America and its workers.

As Digby notes, the speech wasn't exactly FDR telling "organized money" that he "welcomes their hatred," but Obama did give folks on the left more than the media previews in the lead-up to the speech might have led you to expect.

By Greg Sargent  | February 7, 2011; 2:40 PM ET
Categories:  Labor  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: House GOPer: Leadership had to talk me into voting for repeal
Next: About the U.S. Chamber's opposition to Iran sanctions


Obama's speech was fine as far as it goes, but if he thinks he will be able to use moral suasion or otherwise "shame" American businesses into hiring more workers when it's uneconomical to do so, he's sadly mistaken.

He really should have Andy Grove over to the White House, or better yet have appointed him instead of Jeffrey Immelt from GE to head the Economic Advisory Panel. Of course, Obama didn't listen to the previous head of his panel, Paul Volker either so it may not matter.

How to Make an American Job Before It's Too Late: Andy Grove

Posted by: jnc4p | February 7, 2011 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Meanwhile, the Chamber of Commerce opposes sanctioning Iran, and apparently wrote a letter to them saying so.

Posted by: suekzoo1 | February 7, 2011 2:55 PM | Report abuse

the Chamber of Commerce has no compunction about undermining US foreign policy and kissing the butts of dictators.

Posted by: fiona5 | February 7, 2011 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Malkin reminds us:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is one of the staunchest promoters of amnesty and joined with the AFL-CIO/ACLU to oppose immigration enforcement measures. They oppose E-verify and sued Arizona over its employer sanctions law.

The Chamber supported TARP, the auto bailout, and the stimulus.

The Chamber is supporting a pro-Obamacare, pro-TARP, pro-card check, pro-stimulus, pro-amnesty Democrat in Arizona over his free-market GOP challenger.

And the Chamber is now playing footsie with the AFL-CIO on a joint campaign to support increased government infrastructure spending — despite the massive Big Labor pay-offs embedded in these new pork-lined projects. (Refresher: Obama signed E.O. 13502, a union-friendly executive order in his first weeks in office, which essentially forces contractors who bid on large-scale public construction projects worth $25 million or more to submit to union representation for its employees. More here.)

While the White House pushes for a bonanza of new “public-private partnerships,” let me refresh your memories of some of the Democrats’ great ideas of “public-private partnerships”…

…taxpayer-funded black hole FANNIE MAE;

…Chicago’s shady Shorebank and its crony-supported successor, Urban Partnership Bank;

…the failed Chicago Olympics wealth distribution boondoggle;

…and the failed Richard Daley/Valerie Jarrett Chicago low-income housing boondoggle.

This isn’t about letting the best ideas and businesses thrive. It’s about picking winners and losers. It’s about “managing” competition and engineering political outcomes under the guise of stimulating the economy. As I noted last April when the command-and-controller-in-chief lectured businesses that “at some point you have made enough money,” we are dealing with a president who presumes to know when you have earned “enough,” who believes that only those who provide what he deems “good” products and services should “keep on making it,” and who has determined that the role of American entrepreneurs is not to pursue their own self-interest, but to fulfill their “core” responsibility as dutiful growers of the collective economy.

What’s in it for the statist businesses that go along for the ride with Obama and his team of corruptocrats?

Like they say in the Windy City: *It’s all about the boodle.*

Posted by: KaddafiDelendaEst | February 7, 2011 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Chamber folks have a responsibility to the planet as well to stop their deplorable climate change denial tactics and support efforts to make the future liveable. Obama was very smart to get people like Jeff Immelt of GE on his team who understand climate change. The Chamber has become a flack for big oil and big coal, who seem determined to do us all in. They are hemmorhaging members who agree that climate change is a real threat. Did Obama challenge the Chamber on this issue?

Posted by: Mimikatz | February 7, 2011 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Still waiting for the speech to the unions, that they should stop spending money on politics, and start shoring up their health care and retirement funds. Then they would not need the waivers to opt. out of the health care bill.

Posted by: tateofpa | February 7, 2011 3:04 PM | Report abuse

Shrink, speaking of unions, what would you think if Ryan offered the old HAA [Wyden's plan, most recently co-sponsored by Rs Alexander, Graham, and Crapo, as well as the departed Bennett] as the R alternative to ACA?
You think 4-5, individual mandate loses. I think 7-2, it wins.

What does Vegas say?

Posted by: mark_in_austin | February 7, 2011 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Obama loves doing this sort of thing. Go and talk in front of a group, be they friend or foe, and remind them of their responsibilities. This speech will be mentioned many times during the 2012 election campaign season.

It seems like I'm always left wanting more yang and less yin from Obama but he is what he is and this sort of thing is good. We should stop being surprised by it sooner or later.

Posted by: matt_ahrens | February 7, 2011 3:45 PM | Report abuse

I didn't see it as an olive branch at all - it seemed to me to be a lecture.

Posted by: sold2u | February 7, 2011 3:51 PM | Report abuse

@ mark -- here's the intrade predictions for the SCOTUS ruling and the mandate

Posted by: NoVAHockey | February 7, 2011 3:57 PM | Report abuse

"what would you think if Ryan offered the old HAA [Wyden's plan, most recently co-sponsored by Rs Alexander, Graham, and Crapo, as well as the departed Bennett] as the R alternative to ACA?"

I would support that very much.

Posted by: shrink2 | February 7, 2011 3:59 PM | Report abuse

@sue - was just going to post that awkward little detail of the C of C writing a cozy little "we support you" letter to the Iranian regime. Hannity, Coulter, Limbaugh and crowd will not stand for this sort of treasonous behavior and will devote several days, weeks or months to taking the C of C to task. The christian right too will be very upset. And the neoconservatives - imagine what they'll have to say!

Posted by: bernielatham | February 7, 2011 3:59 PM | Report abuse

I'd like to see the room full of CofC people with little thought balloons over their heads to show us what they were thinking when Obama was appealing to their sense of unity of purpose or responsibility. After spending the last year and a half listening to the conservative/libertarians on this board, I can certainly imagine, but I'd sure like to see it in writing. Actually, I'm surprised they didn't erupt into laughter.

And I agree with shrink, the individual mandate goes down.

Also, if anyone hasn't read it yet here's a great piece from Frank Rich on Saturday regarding America and our lack of knowledge about the ME and why it's NOT a social media revolution occurring in Egypt.

""Unable to watch Al Jazeera English, and ravenous for comprehensive and sophisticated 24/7 television coverage of the Middle East otherwise unavailable on television, millions of Americans last week tracked down the network’s Internet stream on their computers. Such was the work-around required by the censorship practiced by America’s corporate gatekeepers. You’d almost think these news-starved Americans were Iron Curtain citizens clandestinely trying to pull in the jammed Voice of America signal in the 1950s — or Egyptians desperately seeking Al Jazeera after Mubarak disrupted its signal last week.

The consequence of a decade’s worth of indiscriminate demonization of Arabs in America — and of the low quotient of comprehensive adult news coverage that might have helped counter it — is the steady rise in Islamophobia. The “Ground Zero” mosque melee has given way to battles over mosques as far removed from Lower Manhattan as California. Soon to come is a national witch hunt — Congressional hearings called by Representative Peter King of New York — into the “radicalization of the American Muslim community.” Given the disconnect between America and the Arab world, it’s no wonder that Americans are invested in the fights for freedom in Egypt and its neighboring dictatorships only up to a point. We’ve been inculcated to assume that whoever comes out on top is ipso facto a jihadist.

This week brings the release of Donald Rumsfeld’s memoir. The eighth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq is to follow. As we took in last week’s fiery video from Cairo — mesmerizing and yet populated by mostly anonymous extras we don’t understand and don’t know — it was hard not to flash back to those glory days of “Shock and Awe.” Those bombardments too were spectacular to watch from a safe distance — no Iraqi faces, voices or bodies cluttered up the shots. We lulled ourselves into believing that democracy and other good things were soon to come. It took months, even years, for us to learn the hard way that in truth we really had no idea what was going on.""

Posted by: lmsinca | February 7, 2011 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Here's a quote from Ronald Reagan:
a business that gets into bed with the government is likely to get more than a good night's sleep.

We're staring at the worst of all possible worlds, crony socialism.

Obama lectures others about proper behavior while running roughshod over the rule of law and the American free enterprise system.

it is small wonder that Mr Immelt is part of the Obama team now, a better crony that GE can scarcely be imagined.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | February 7, 2011 4:00 PM | Report abuse

All, it looks like that whole Iran sanctions/ Chamber story is bogus

Posted by: Greg Sargent | February 7, 2011 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Apparently some people on this blog believe that their offenses have been so great that they are going to be banned once the new softward comes in.

Among those: 12BarBluesAgain, who brought Cao to this blog, knowing full well what he would be like. She did this with a destructive intent, and she has admitted as such.

So, thinking she is smart, has created a new name for herself and is attempting to hide when the new software comes in.

Nice try, but we ALL see you in the open.


Part of the problem here is the moderation policies are not spelled out - guidance has to be given.

There needs to be an "active warning system" to guide people when they have crossed the line. People don't get warnings, or even comments back stating clearly they have crossed the line.

The result has been that all the bad behavior has become the de facto guidance as to what is acceptable and what is not.

Also, moderation policy can not be influenced by political beliefs. There simply can not be the impression that liberals or conservatives are getting away with things that are enforced against the other side.

GUIDANCE - one easy way to do the "active warning system" would be to require all posters to stick to the issues - and avoid making personal nasty comments. These personal attacks have flared up recently. For me, I try to state my my opinions and CUT through the personal "ad hominem" attacks. People complain about that - however that is how I have dealt with the insanity here.


If there are to be rules

1) The rules must be clearly defined

2) If the liberals break the rules, they get punished too.

3) You can't enforce rules ONLY against people whose views you don't like - that starts nasty lawsuits and ends careers.


GUIDANCE - one easy way to do the "active warning system" would be to require all posters to stick to the issues - and avoid making personal nasty comments. These personal attacks have flared up recently. For me, I try to state my my opinions and CUT through the personal "ad hominem" attacks. People complain about that - however that is how I have dealt with the insanity here.

WASHINGTON POST - really should do something about the Obama paid trolls. There should be some contact made between the paper and Axelrod as to the ground rules BECAUSE if the Obama paid trolls start to harass people again like they did in 2008 and 2009, there will be a response.


Posted by: RainForestRising | February 7, 2011 4:13 PM | Report abuse

"Here's a quote from Ronald Reagan: a business that gets into bed with the government is likely to get more than a good night's sleep." The American free enterprise system is long gone, but China agrees with Reagan and they have pitted their crony socialism against our crony capitalism. When will that bet appear on Intrade?

Posted by: shrink2 | February 7, 2011 4:13 PM | Report abuse

OT but this is good, from Conor Friedersdorf...

"It's sad indeed that conservatives like RSM doubt the ability of the right to compete in American politics without the Limbaughs, Becks, and Levins of the world. The way they talk you'd think conservatism never won a victory prior to the rise of talk radio, and that conservative and libertarian ideas are so weak that Americans will only go along with them if tricked by the most talented propagandists available. Where is their confidence? And what of their discernment? What's actually gone on in the United States since the year 2000? For almost eight years, the Bush Administration managed to keep the support of its base, despite pursuing all manner of idiotic policies. And they did so in large part by relying on sycophantic propagandists. Rush Limbaugh himself admitted to carrying water for Republicans during that era despite thinking they were taking the country in the wrong direction. And many pundits, especially on Fox News, behaved even worse. The way RSM talks, you'd think it was RINOs who were responsible for the idiocy of that administration. Was Tom Delay a RINO? How about Dick Cheney? Denny Hastert? The problem wasn't that DC turned people moderate – it turned them corrupt." (more at link)

Posted by: bernielatham | February 7, 2011 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Let's open bernie's dictionary:

Propaganda: any statment that disagrees with liberal theology.

sycophant: anyone who disagrees with liberal theology.

It seems to me that the American left is in full on whine mode. As conservatives use the media to communicate their positions the left refuses to come to terms with the fact that they no longer have virtual control over message content.

Gone are the days when a battle that the American military actually won is considered a defeat because Walter Cronkite said so.

Gone are the days when a handful of news readers at three TV stations exerted complete domination over the form, content and timing of the news.

Gone are the days when unions could legitimately spend millions to support their political candidates and corporations could not.

Weaklings like Andrew Sullivan can't handle the kind of competition that they now face. Further, they cannot accept the fact that folks like Limbaugh and Beck make a fortune because they are meeting a need that Americans have and are willing to spend on.

Let's compare the number of people who read little Andy's rant to the number of people who tuned to EIB today.

Life was better for Bernie and others when conservatism was a once a week appearance by Bill Buckley on PBS and nobody outside of a few stalwarts bothered to read national Review.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | February 7, 2011 4:51 PM | Report abuse

@Mark in Austin

7-2? You know these folks far better than me. I suspect given the thoroughness of your posts that you've thought this through.
Care to name the two who vote "UN"?
Forgive me for being a doubting Thomas. I mean no disrespect to you as I readily concede you have forgotten more about the Supremes, current and past than I'll ever know. And indeed I hope you're correct, not because of the ACA but because I just think it would be good for the nation if the court comes down 7-2 in either side.
People are really really sick of the partisan wrangling..and if they perceive it's also infected the highest court in the land that can't be a good thing.

@NoVa Thanks for the intrade link.
Now can you explain how to read it? Sorry for being such a dolt. LMAO

The charts remind me of a hybrid stock chart combined with Las Vegas odds. :-)

Posted by: rukidding7 | February 7, 2011 5:09 PM | Report abuse

"People are really really sick of the partisan wrangling..and if they perceive it's also infected the highest court in the land that can't be a good thing."

Let me offer a translation of this. What I hear you saying is this: Americans should condemn the conservatives for sticking to their principles. Instead of adhering to the notions that they cherish conservatives to compromise with the liberals.

It seems to me that the left only notices hyperpartisanship when it means that they don't get to advance their agenda.

The liberals didn't seem to think America was tired of partisan wrangling when they held unassailable majorities in congress.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | February 7, 2011 5:18 PM | Report abuse

Watch out ruk, knowing how it works makes you want to put your money where your mouth is, always a hazardous proposition...I mean aren't you sure Obama's chance of winning in 2012 is a lot better than 61%? So why not bet?

Posted by: shrink2 | February 7, 2011 5:21 PM | Report abuse


Very bad translation since I clearly stated that a 7-2 verdict in EITHER direction would be good as far as PR. It's the straight party line votes..whether Dem or R that make people wonder about the Supremes.

Posted by: rukidding7 | February 7, 2011 5:40 PM | Report abuse


Having lived in the Windy City (or its suburbs) for nearly 3 score years,
I can say, with complete confidence

PEOPLE HERE DO NOT SAY *It’s all about the boodle.*


Like they say in the Windy City: *It’s all about the boodle.*

Posted by: KaddafiDelendaEst | February 7, 2011 3:03 PM

Posted by: smd1234 | February 7, 2011 5:51 PM | Report abuse

@smd1234: Clearly you don't go to the Farrightwingnutistan embassy in Chicago, where they say "It’s all about the boodle" as a salutation..../snark

Posted by: srw3 | February 7, 2011 8:10 PM | Report abuse

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