Who Is "Pro Business" In Washington?

Austin Hill
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Posted: Mar 06, 2011 12:01 AM
Who Is "Pro Business" In Washington?

Has the Obama Administration turned the corner, and become more “pro business?”

News about the economy and business growth has been getting better. Claims for unemployment benefits, and unemployment itself, seem to have dropped. And while unemployment and “under employment” figures remain painfully high, a look inside the latest data on American businesses suggests that many of them have mustered about as much productivity as they can with their current arrangements. Presumably, many of these American businesses will likely need to either begin hiring new employees, or at least begin deploying more independent contract laborers in the months ahead.

That’s all good news. And the fact that the American economy is showing signs of new growth after a near total collapse of the financial system less than three years ago is a testimony to the American work ethic, and American ingenuity.

If, however, America is to have a sustainably prosperous economy over the long haul, then America must demand a smarter government. It is always to be expected that Washington politicians (the President included) would have lots to say about “job creation,” and being “pro business,” and this is especially true given current conditions. But mere rhetoric is not enough.

In truth, the President and the Congress must always maintain a healthy dose of respect for what is entailed in both “job creation,” and “wealth creation.” Yet much of what emanates from Washington conveys not only a profound sense of disrespect, but completely cluelessness as well.

Some of the gravest signs of trouble with our President began long before he was elected. Back in 2008 while he was campaigning for the Presidency, candidate Obama made it a point to chastise American businesses nearly every time a robust earnings report was published. In the summer of that year, speaking to a stadium full of adoring followers, his disdain for the oil industry, in particular, became evident:

“First of all,” candidate Obama stated, “you’ve got oil companies making record profits…no… no companies in history have made the kind of profits the oil companies are makin’ right now…They..they…….one company, Exxon Mobil, made eleven billion dollars…billion, with a “b” ….last quarter….they made eleven billion dollars the quarter before that…makin’ money hand-over-fist…makin’ out like bandits…”

“Makin’ out like bandits” – that’s an amazing assessment of a successful business enterprise, to suggest that a company stole something in order to post “profits.” Of course at that moment in time, the early signs of a recession were appearing, and it was politically viable to send the message that “if we can’t all prosper right now, then none of us should prosper right now.”

Yet Mr. Obama’s disdain for business “profits” has continued throughout his presidency. Fast forward to February 7th of this year, when the President addressed an audience of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Speaking of the improving balance sheets at many American companies, President Obama stated: “The benefits can’t just translate into greater bonuses and profits for those at the top. They have to be shared by American workers, who need to know that expanding trade and opening markets will lift their standards of living, as well as your bottom line…”

The President seems not to understand that “profits” don’t’ simply benefit “those at the top.” Profits are necessary for employment, itself, to be sustained, and expanding profits are necessary for expanded job creation.

Yet President Obama also seems to ignore the fact that over half the American population is invested, in one fashion or another, in the stock market. Corporate profits, as distasteful as Mr. Obama may believe them to be, actually do create a “return” for investors – and that helps everybody.

But along with President Obama’s consistent disgust for people earning “profits,” his Administration’s contradictory policies towards business are equally as troubling. On the one hand, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner announced late last month that his department would be launching two new small business loan programs, to try and stimulate small business creation.

Yet at about the same time as Mr. Geithner’s announcement, a new “program” emerged from the Department of Labor that was immediately characterized “unprecedented” and “controversial.” The White House has now set up a venture with the American Bar Association, wherein workers who feel they have been “treated wrongly” by their employer can call a toll-free number, and get “free” assistance from an attorney who will represent them against their employer on a contingency basis.

Some people, including our President and Vice President, see this as a pathway to “justice” for middle class workers. If a worker feels that they have been “treated wrongly,” then it must be true – or so the line of reasoning goes.

Yet the Obama Administration seems not to realize that sometimes lawyers and plaintiffs make wrongful accusations, and using the force of government to empower these attorneys to go after businesses creates a very hostile environment for “job creation.”

Politicians can (and will) talk endlessly about being “pro business” and about “job creation.” But Americans need better leaders for our future.