- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 20, 2010


The Obama administration wants Americans to think it is pro-business. Top aides to the president have made the case on television and elsewhere that major corporations are better off now because Obama policies saved the economy from a complete meltdown and that pro-trade policies going forward will keep things afloat.

No one can doubt that the combined policies of Presidents George W. Bush and Obama saved the day over the past couple of years. But any notion that Mr. Obama is a corporate advocate beyond that is ludicrous. Even the Business Roundtable - the most mild-mannered of Washington’s corporate lobbies - recently wrote a letter that made clear at great length that the president is no friend of business.

The impact of new federal regulations on the economy “is enormous, and often harmful,” the Roundtable wrote. In addition, it said, Obama proposals to increase taxes on multinational corporations would kill thousands of jobs here at home.

In addition, Obama aides may be the only people in the capital who think the administration’s trade policies are opening barriers anywhere. “The administration’s failure to move forward on pending free trade agreements and a more expansive presidential trade negotiating authority has emboldened foreign competitors while hurting our economic, global competitiveness and job creation,” the Roundtable wrote.

In short, the Obama administration has been less business friendly than any administration in memory and is likely to become even less friendly as the months and years move along.

Sure, a few industry segments have been able to cut deals to protect themselves in the short run. Drug companies limited the damage that they could have suffered in the health reform law by compromising early and paying back the Obama folks by advertising mightily for the legislation. The same could be said in the Wall Street reform bill for small- to medium-sized banks, which were spared some of the strictest new costs and regulations.

But these are minor and temporary concessions. The overall thrust of the Obama administration is clearly hostile to profit-making ventures. Every once in a while, administration officials elaborately deny this, but the evidence strongly contradicts their view.

For example, the administration will try soon to make good on its unfulfilled promises to the organized labor movement. It has put off pushing the Employee Free Choice Act (also known as “card check”) for a while, but that reticence will not last. Labor has poured hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years into trying to elect Democrats and will pay tens of millions this year for the same purpose. Card check will not languish on the back burner for much longer.

More to the point, the White House’s Middle Class Task Force, led by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., is about to unleash a series of anti-business broadsides that, if enacted, will vastly increase the cost of doing business with government.

For instance, the task force, essentially a front for labor interests, is expected to demand that federal contracts go only to companies that “provide living wage, health care, retirement and paid sick leave” to their employees, according to the Roundtable. Government contractors also would have to be much friendlier to unions and unionization than they are now - a potentially enormous cost to companies and a boon to the labor movement.

The task force is even said to be considering mandating Davis-Bacon wage requirements and labor-union pacts for all federal construction projects - even from companies that are nonunion. That would be a power shift of epic proportions.

The Obama administration has already signaled its disdain for the oil and gas industry and surely will expand that line of attack. The White House would like to do away with subsidies, increase taxes and restrict drilling - just as a start. In addition, smokestack industries ranging from manufacturers to utilities are about to be socked with “cap-and-trade” restrictions that would increase their costs extravagantly.

If Congress doesn’t get around to imposing some of these environmental changes, the Environmental Protection Agency is poised to do so on its own.

Another way to look at this is that the Obama administration has picked favorites among businesses. It likes the ones it can classify as green or, occasionally, small and dislikes almost all the others.

None of this can be categorized as pro-business in any meaningful sense. The small-business lobby, for example, is not much of an Obama fan.

A pro-business president would support lower taxes, not the higher ones Mr. Obama surely will propose soon. A pro-business chief executive would want to keep capital gains taxes low, but that is not likely to be Mr. Obama’s position. The list goes on and on.

The Obama administration is not pro-business. Period.

Jeffrey H. Birnbaum is a Washington Times columnist, a Fox News contributor and president of BGR Public Relations. His firm represents a variety of corporations.

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