The unrelenting narrative from the corporate media -- that Obama must mend fences with American business -- is disconnected from the reality of Obama's policies and appointments. It is inconsistent with the rise in the stock market, the record profits and the hordes of cash big businesses are sitting on.
There is no question that small businesses are still being choked by the unavailability of credit and that the lack of job creation is preventing a real economic recovery, but the businesses Obama spoke to when he visited the Chamber of Commerce are not in that category. In recent years, the national Chamber has evolved into a spokesperson for transnational corporations, not Main Street America's businesses. They have pushed U.S. job killing policies that send jobs overseas so transnational corporations can reap the biggest profits from the cheapest labor.
Rather than scolding the Chamber for killing American industry, Obama kow-towed to them. He seeks to raise $1 billion for his reelection campaign and neutralize opposition from concentrated corporate capital. As a result his promises to the Chamber were a policy agenda that will fail to ignite the U.S. economy but continue to grow the power of concentrated corporate interests, especially transnational corporations.
The business agenda Obama promised will be good for big business interests but bad for the U.S. economy, workers and small business interests. It included:
- A freeze on domestic spending for five years, excluding the military and national security. This McCain campaign promise opposed by Obama during his campaign, will result in austerity budgets for programs that attempt to meet the needs of Americans while the military and national security budgets continue to devour more and more federal spending. In fact, Obama failed to mention the urgent need to dramatically reduce the rapidly rising military and intelligence budgets, which make up more than half of federal discretionary spending, so as not to offend the Military Industrial Complex.
- Obama continued the falsehood that Social Security and Medicare are the driving force of deficit spending, when in fact both are contracts with American workers for essential health care and retirement services funded by payroll taxes. This contract, paid for by American workers, must be honored. Social Security in particular has built up over $2.5 trillion worth of Treasury Bonds at the end of fiscal 2009. These produce more than $100 billion annually in interest. Social Security will continue to remain solvent by merely raising the cap on the Social Security tax so the wealthy pay their share will ensure retirement security long into the future. To really control debt the U.S. must lower health care costs. The Obama reforms will not do this, only improving and expanding Medicare to cover all Americans will accomplish this objective. If you are concerned with deficit spending you should support single payer health care.
- Obama promised to reduce the corporate tax, another McCain campaign proposal that the Obama campaign called a "gift basket" for corporate America. In fact, 72 percent of foreign corporations and about 57 percent of U.S. companies doing business in the United States paid no federal income taxes for at least one year between 1998 and 2005. Revenue from the corporate income tax fell from between 5 and 6 percent of GDP in the early 1950s to 2.1 percent of GDP in 2008. At a time when corporations are seeing record profits and sitting on huge cash reserves, of 2 trillion, while failing to hire Americans, Obama gently urged them to get back into the economy was inadequate.
- Obama promised less regulation, pledging to reduce regulation without pointing out that the deregulation era that began with Reagan and continued with every president, Democrat and Republican, was a primary cause of the economic collapse, as even Alan Greenspan, the former libertarian-leaning Federal Reserve Chairman has admitted.
- Obama promised more corporate trade agreements with developing nations. These types of trade agreements have created a huge trade deficit and the net loss of 5.1 million manufacturing jobs and 43,000 factories since America started its experiment with the current trade model in the 1990s. The Korea pact which Obama trumpeted is projected to cost another 159,000 U.S. jobs.
The Chamber speech and Obama's recent appointments have the media claiming a new business agenda. His recent appointments of William Daley, a JP Morgan executive and former board member of the Chamber of Commerce as his chief of staff, Gene Sperling, formerly with Goldman Sachs, to head Obama's National Economic Council, and Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of General Electric to heat the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, are certainly pro-business. The latter selection is particularly obnoxious since GE has cut 10,000 jobs in the U.S. while creating 30,000 jobs in India in the last decade.
But these appointments are consistent with the appointments in his first two years. The previous chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, received more donations from Wall Street than any other member of Congress. His Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, was the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York where the failure to control Wall Street gambling was the chief cause of the economic collapse. Larry Summers was appointed head of the National Economic Council even though he played a large role in deregulating the derivatives market and repeal of Glass-Steagall, two major contributors to the economic collapse.
And, his policy prescriptions have also been in favor of concentrated businesses. His health reform gives hundreds of millions to the insurance industry in new annual tax subsidies and strengthens their grip on health care. His financial reform was inadequate, did not confront the causes of the collapse and was applauded by the financial industry. He has failed to deal with urgent environmental issues and did not even mention climate change in the State of the Union. Wars have escalated, expanding to a third front Pakistan, while escalating in Afghanistan and failing to truly get out of Iraq. Obama has produced record weapons and war budgets, record intelligence budgets and record arms sales.
While Obama is a brilliant communicator who suggests a progressive agenda rhetorically, his appointments and policy prescriptions have been consistently corporatist in nature favoring big business over the necessities of the American people.
The corporate media spin that Obama is now becoming business friendly is false. He has always been business friendly. Every prescription to critical issues facing the nation has consistently been to add to the profits of concentrated corporate power. What Obama is doing now, is laying out his continuing agenda for big business to position him with them for the next election.
Americans who hope that a different President Obama will appear if he is reelected need to keep the agenda laid out before the Chamber of Commerce in mind. These are the promises he is making to the big business community as he begins preparation for his reelection. The billion dollars he seeks for his reelection campaign will come primarily from concentrated corporate capital and they will not donate unless they are assured that their agenda is Obama's.
Kevin Zeese is executive director of Prosperity Agenda.