President Obama traveled to Milwaukee Wednesday to praise security company Master Lock for setting an example of “insourcing” and promising business leaders who re-create jobs in America that “your country will do everything we can to help you succeed.” He was jazzed about the roughly 100 union positions the Wisconsin lock-maker created in its flagship factory after shutting down some manufacturing in China.
Mr. Obama’s amnesia about job creation is astonishing. Only 28 days ago, his State Department put the kibosh on the Keystone XL pipeline project and its estimated 20,000 American jobs. That’s 19,900 more than the paltry 100 that prompted the Wisconsin presidential visit - but calculation is clearly not this administration’s strong suit.
Imposing bureaucratic hurdles to pander to leftist environmental groups in an election year is exactly the opposite of Mr. Obama’s promise to help businesses succeed. If only it was an aberration. With the finalization of a methylmercury rule requiring coal-fired plants to retrofit their operations with air-cleaning equipment, his administration is responsible for the most expensive regulation in history. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates it will cost companies $9.6 billion to comply, but industry puts the price tag at $70-100 billion.
The Obama administration’s favoritism for cronies is another drag on the business climate, such as taxpayer funds bankrupt Solyndra took from competitive firms. “Washington spends about $92 billion each year on corporate welfare,” Ryan Young of the Competitive Enterprise Institute told The Washington Times. “Imagine if that money was left in the economy instead of squandered on companies that couldn’t make it in the marketplace.”
At the core of the inconsistency between Mr. Obama’s words and deeds is his willful ignorance of how businesses operate and - by extension - succeed. Mr. Obama is not a businessman. His resume displays positions for which trafficking in ideology is the primary qualification, so he misses the fact that business responds to attractive environments: those most suited to making money. This disconnect was illustrated by an explanation of U.S. job migration furnished by his former chief economist at the Labor Department. “Companies once felt an obligation to support American workers, even when it wasn’t the best financial choice,” Betsey Stevenson told the New York Times. “That’s disappeared. Profits and efficiency have trumped generosity.”
The Master Lock jobs were “brought back” because of changes in market conditions in China. Labor shortages and minimum-wage increases combined with a spike in the price of shipping made it more cost-effective for Master Lock to repatriate this work. It wasn’t benevolence that prompted the move Mr. Obama is panting over. “Master Lock would like to bring more jobs back from overseas should the underlying economics support [it],” a statement from CEO John Heppner said.
Mr. Obama’s business strategy is based on crossing his fingers and hoping market conditions overseas deteriorate rather than cutting business-strangling regulations and taxes here at home. It also depends on pleading with businesses to make decisions at odds with what is good for the bottom line. This policy isn’t only naive, it’s fatal.
Anneke E. Green is Assistant Editorial Page Editor for The Washington Times. Follow her on Twitter: @AnnekeEGreen