Politico reports that the Obama Administration is set to launch a coordinated campaign aimed at pushing back the perception taking hold in corporate America and on Wall Street that the president may be promoting an anti-business agenda.
After passing a health care reform bill that puts insurers at a disadvantage and is expected to cost business dearly; after threatening the high tech sector with antitrust investigations in spite of it being nearly the only profitable and certainly the only free market left in America; after using BP's oil spill last April to impose an unlawful moratorium on deepwater drilling throughout the Gulf of Mexico and launch an attack on Big Oil altogether; and after hammering out a financial reform scheme that leaves the prime instigators of the recession, the semi-government entities Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac untouched at the cost of multibillion dollar tax hikes and regulation on the part of private banks, the White House is trying to assure businesses by saying---it could have been a lot worse.
Obama's chief of staff Rahm Emanuel urged business leaders on Thursday not to recoil against the president but be grateful for his support on at least half a dozen counts: his advocacy of international free trade for instance. (That is, of course, disregarding the protectionist nationalization of automakers.) Billions in his stimulus package benefit business owners moreover, according to Emanuel, while financial reform will provide greater stability.
Just last month, Obama's top advisor struck a rather different tone on ABC's This Week where he blamed the opposition for continuing to promote lower taxes and deregulation. "They think that the government's the problem," he complained about the Republicans then as though it were a preposterous assertion.
The administration is similarly disappointed with businessmen who just don't seem to realize how good government's been to them. Politico notes that, "in the White House view, some business leaders listen only to Obama speeches being tough on BP or on the excesses of Wall Street and assume Obama is hostile to business across the board." West Wing aides complain of them wining, as though the "sensible and comparatively modest ideas" the administration is pushing are something of an "intolerable burden." They're still making billions in profits after all, so what's the problem?
The White House may like to pretend that Obama's rhetoric is somehow divorced from reality but it was the president himself who, speaking to reporters at the G20 summit in Toronto, Canada two weeks ago, reminded listeners that he was simply doing what he said he'd do. Indeed, he urged people to "learn that lesson" about him for next year, he will "start presenting some very difficult choices to the country." Rest assured though, businesses have nothing to fear!
Originally published at the Atlantic Sentinel, July 20, 2010.