What's Good for Business?

In recent months, President Obama launched a widely advertized "charm offensive" targeted at America's corporate and financial elites. He named Bill Daley, a former executive for JPMorgan Chase who oversaw corporate lobbying, as his chief of staff. He nominated General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt to chair a new Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. He held publicized meetings with CEOs in the White House.

The charm offensive bizarrely culminated with a trip across Lafayette Park to address the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which, under the cover of being a business association, runs a right-wing lobby operation selling services to entrenched corporate interests (health insurance companies, Big Oil, drug companies, multinationals) that prey on taxpayers. In his Chamber speech, Obama promised to reduce regulation, reform and lower corporate taxes, and pass corporate trade accords. And, of course, he turned his focus to deficit reduction, beginning with a five-year freeze on domestic discretionary spending, reducing it to a relative size not seen since the Eisenhower years.

In fairness, the president did also urge the Chamber to support his call for investment in infrastructure, education, and research. He defended his health-care and financial reforms, noting that they would save money for business. Perhaps most important, he voiced a central insight about this economy: "If we're fighting 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 ... 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."

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