Think back a long time ago.
Stretch your mind, and go all the way back to January 21st, 2011.
On that day, the President of the United States spoke to an audience at a General Electric plant in Schenectady, NY and said, among other things:
"We're going back to Thomas Edison's principles… We're going to build stuff and invent stuff..(thunderous applause)."
Yes, President Barack Obama said that. And never mind that one of Thomas Edison’s most profound inventions, the light bulb, is about to be outlawed by the Obama Administration. In a rather uncharacteristic moment of enthusiasm and support of for-profit American enterprise, the President made an appeal to American ingenuity and ambition and seemed to conclude that right now we need more of both.
But fast-forward a bit to last Monday, February 7th. That’s when the President addressed an audience of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (again) and had a rather different attitude towards American success.
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…”
“Share the profits” in 2011 sounds eerily like “spread the wealth around,” circa 2008. In both cases, the President was speaking the language of economic collectivism – “socialism” being the more loosely defined term of choice for this type of rhetoric – and it should be disturbing to every American.
Barack Obama is, of course, facing enormous pressure from the American electorate over the high unemployment rate. After all he’s done to try and “fix” the economy – an $800 billion economic “stimulus” bill, the “Making Home Affordable” mortgage fix, a credit card “reform” law, and of course his landmark healthcare “reform” law – unemployment still remains unacceptably high, even by his own assessment.
The President’s frustration with unemployment is understandable. But his contemptuous tone for American businesses is counterproductive, even for his own pursuits. “Start hiring, or else” is not the way to incentivize businesses to assume financial risks and liabilities (and hiring new workers entails risks and liabilities). It doesn’t incentivize anybody to “build stuff and invent stuff” either, yet President Obama seems not to understand this.
But even if one does not try to see things from the business owner’s vantage point, consider how different the President’s language is in this instance, from the common language of the marketplace. For the record, American workers generally don’t just “get some of the profits” from their employer. Workers perform certain tasks for an employer, and in return workers receive a wage. Employers benefit from the labor of a worker, and in return pay the wage. And investors, those who freely choose to take risks with their money to allow a business to try and grow wealth with it, are paid a dividend if and when the company is profitable.
Historically, Americans have celebrated the fact that in our economic system one can “move up.” If you work hard and produce for your employer, it is likely that you can garner opportunities to earn more (either that or take your skills and talents to another place of business that can offer you a “better deal”).
President Obama, however, seems to assume that those at the top of a business enterprise - the managers, the executives, the owners- have necessarily achieved their position of authority by unjust means and they need to be punished for their achievement. This, by the way, is very similar to the economic views of our President’s father, Barack Hussein Obama Senior, who while working in the communist government of Kenya once proposed a 100% taxation rate for the “richest” in his country.
But his “share your profits” and “start hiring or else” moment aside, just days before his speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce our President took the hostility towards business owners to an entirely new level. In what has been described as an “unprecedented” and “controversial” maneuver, the White House set up a program earlier this month with the U.S. Department of Labor and the American Bar Association, wherein workers who feel they have been treated wrongly by their employer can call a toll-free number, and get 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, yet to believe this one must assume that every “complaint” against an employer is legitimate. Interestingly, the Obama Administration does not appear prepared to offer this same kind of “free legal help” to business owners- which again takes us back to the President’s very hostile assumptions about business owners and leaders in the first place.
“Share your profits” and “sue your boss” are not policies for economic growth. As long as this kind of hostility continues to emanate from the White House, the President’s need for more hiring will likely go unfulfilled.