Contributor Post Created with Sketch. The Big Fraud

 

The New Republic ran a remarkable piece by Noam Scheiber on Tuesday that ought to be required reading for every Independent and so-called moderate voter in America – a convincing exposé from the Left  of how Obama’s supposed “pivot to the center” – and particularly his warmer embrace of “business” –  is really nothing of the sort.  The central thesis is summed up neatly in paragraph two:  “Despite all the talk about Obama’s political reinvention as we head into the State of the Union, it’s become increasingly clear that Obama isn’t caving to business. He’s shrewdly co-opting it.”

Scheiber goes on to highlight three examples in support of his thesis:  First, the appointment of Bill Daley as chief of staff as “cover” for the appointment of the far more liberal Gene Sperling as head of Obama’s National Economic Council. At least 90% of the publicity went to the Daley appointment.  But Scheiber notes, “From conversations I’ve had with administration officials in recent weeks, it’s clearly Sperling and not Daley who’ll be the key policymaking force in this duo.”

Second, the much-hyped “review” of federal regulations, coupled with a promise to eliminate any that proved outdated or ineffective.  As in the case of the Daley appointment, the business community applauded.  But as Scheiber points out, “the real story was how little substantive ground Obama was giving….  [T]he review won’t touch regulations [the White House] supported during the health care and financial reform efforts.  The only regulations in play are likely to be quite trivial.”

Finally, Obama’s appointment of GE CEO Jeff Immelt to replace Paul Volcker as head of the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.  Once again the business community cheered.  “We thank President Obama for his excellent choice,” enthused John Engler, President of the Business Roundtable.  But the position, outside the Administration per se, and so part-time that Immelt isn’t even giving up his day job, was (moderately) influential before now only because of Volcker’s prestige and personal relationships with the President and some of his top aides.  Immelt, by contrast, is the head of a company that has lost 50-60% of its value since he assumed the top job, has been widely criticized for his company’s business dealings with Iran, is viewed in at least part of the business community as a “crony capitalist” and rent-seeker extraordinaire, and has no long-established relationships with Obama or any of his top team.  Can Immelt even approach the (moderate) level of influence exercised by Volcker?  Scheiber “certainly wouldn’t count on it.”

Remarkably, Scheiber goes on to paint a compelling picture of the strategy at work in the White House.  In effect, the White House viewed the business community as having problems of both substance and style with Obama.  The substantive issues were largely around the vast increases in regulation that have characterized Obama’s first term and his ineffectiveness to date in driving substantial economic growth.  The style issues were around the lack of business people among Obama’s top advisers, various public statements seen as critical of private enterprise and profit, and a general impression that he looked down on business, had few friends from the business world, and didn’t even seem to care to make an effort to schmooze with business leaders.

According to Scheiber, “The genius of the White House was to address this second concern—showering businessmen with love and attention—while mostly ignoring the first. And, because business leaders had merged the two criticisms in their own minds … they couldn’t immediately discern that Obama had conceded almost nothing of consequence.”

Substitute “independent and moderate voters” for “business people,” and you have a crystal-clear picture of the White House political strategy for the next two years: concede the barest minimum possible on substance, and look for every and any opportunity to score meaningless “style points” with independents and moderates.  Unfortunately, it may well succeed – but it is a big fraud nonetheless.

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  1. Profile Photo Member

    Why wouldn’t it succeed? The CEOs of today’s corporations aren’t the rough-and-tumble entrepreneurs of yesteryear who waged holy war with FDR and the New Dealers and stood fast with the Republicans. They likely are careful bureaucrats and politically neutral technocrats sensitized by the PC indoctrination that has shaped the culture since the 1970s and the rise of grievance groups and human resources departments. They would prefer to partner with government than clash with it. GE is a good example of how profitable that can be, not to mention Government Motors and Chrysler and the big Wall Street banks. As for the independent or low-information voter, they are as easily moved as pawns on the chessboard. Show them a little leg, start up the blue smoke and mirrors show and they’re yours.

    • #1
    • January 27, 2011, at 7:15 AM PST
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  2. Fred. C. Dobbs Reagan
    Fred. C. Dobbs Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Using appointments to cover policy was SOP for Obama in 2008. When his anti-business voting record was pointed out, he wouldn’t respond by defending or arguing the correctness of that record. Instead he would point to his advisers Volker and Buffet as a response. How could these two capitalist giants, we were then asked, back an anti business candidate? Post election, Volker was shocked when he was denied a cabinet-level position, and Buffet has been openly critical of the actions of Obama and the 111th Congress.

    Steve Manacek: Obama isn’t caving to business. He’s shrewdly co-opting it.”

    Wouldn’t this be a good description of how he treated Volker and Buffet, as well as how he got the Insurance industry to get on board for Health-care “reform?”

    • #2
    • January 27, 2011, at 7:22 AM PST
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  3. Paul A. Rahe Contributor

    Never underestimate the political stupidity of businessmen. As Lenin rightly put it, when the time comes for us to hang capitalism, the capitalist will sell us the rope.

    • #3
    • January 27, 2011, at 7:44 AM PST
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  4. Paul A. Rahe Contributor
    Your Grace: Why wouldn’t it succeed? The CEOs of today’s corporations aren’t the rough-and-tumble entrepreneurs of yesteryear who waged holy war with FDR and the New Dealers and stood fast with the Republicans. They likely are careful bureaucrats and politically neutral technocrats sensitized by the PC indoctrination that has shaped the culture since the 1970s and the rise of grievance groups and human resources departments. They would prefer to partner with government than clash with it. GE is a good example of how profitable that can be, not to mention Government Motors and Chrysler and the big Wall Street banks. As for the independent or low-information voter, they are as easily moved as pawns on the chessboard. Show them a little leg, start up the blue smoke and mirrors show and they’re yours. · Jan 27 at 6:15am

    It is good to remember that it was the modern Progressives who invented the business school and the MBA. Mitt Romney is the supreme contemporary example of what I call the managerial progressive.

    • #4
    • January 27, 2011, at 7:47 AM PST
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  5. Lockdowns are Precious Inactive
    Lockdowns are Precious Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    It is good to remember that it was the modern Progressives who invented the business school and the MBA. Mitt Romney is the supreme contemporary example of what I call the managerial progressive.

    Yes, and also please remember that the MBA was supposed to be a business finishing school for those who didn’t have business undergrads (engineers being the ideal group). I’ve run into too many people in my career who have a business undergrad and masters degree and it narrows them excessively.

    And as to political stupidity of businessmen I agree completely.

    • #5
    • January 27, 2011, at 8:18 AM PST
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  6. Steve MacDonald Inactive

    I think you could make equally strong cases that our President is socialist, national socialist, or crony capitalist a la third world (think Mahathir without the imagination/creativity/economic success). I don’t see how anyone could convince themselves that he could convert to a business friendly free marketer.

    However I agree with you all, that if anyone could convince themselves of a “viewpoint conversion,” it would be a significant portion of our business community.

    • #6
    • January 27, 2011, at 8:54 AM PST
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  7. Margaret Ball Inactive

    Of course it’s all about style over substance; what else did anyone expect? Remember, this is the great thinker who interpreted the midterms as a failure to get his message out to the American people.

    Reminds me of an idiot I used to work with. He’d make some statement and I’d say, “I don’t agree with you.”

    He’d say, “No, no, you don’t understand, let me explain,” and repeat the original statement.

    Obama is stuck in “let me explain” mode. Let me be clear. Make no mistake.

    This guy can’t recognize substance when it whacks him over the head.

    • #7
    • January 27, 2011, at 9:39 AM PST
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  8. genferei Member
    genferei Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Big business is not the same as business. Pro-big business is not the same thing as pro-business. In fact, it’s usually the opposite. Businesses have to compete and win to get big. But when you’re big, one way to stay big is to stop competition. Cozying up to government is good for that. Let the bureaucracies thrive – us big guys are the only ones who can afford the giant compliance departments and armies of regulatory lawyers. And soon enough there’ll be a revolving door between these bureaucracies and the executive suite. Everyone wins! Except business, the consumer, the taxpayer and the citizen.

    • #8
    • January 27, 2011, at 9:52 AM PST
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  9. Steve MacDonald Inactive

    geferei is 1,000,000% correct. the growth engine is small business and the entities that have the infrastructure and resource to deal with govt. is big business. E.G. The Dodd Frank bill should be re-named the To Big To Fail protection Bill.

    Small entrepeneurs on the other hand, are ill equipped to deal with huge regulation issues and never start/don’t expand as a result. Milton F. said that regulatory expense should be viewed as a tax – I agree, and given this base, the zillions of regs created by this admin. is a huge tax increase on the economy.

    • #9
    • January 27, 2011, at 11:47 AM PST
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  10. M1919A4 Member
    M1919A4 Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    Your Grace: . . . . The CEOs of today’s corporations aren’t the rough-and-tumble entrepreneurs of yesteryear who waged holy war with FDR and the New Dealers and stood fast with the Republicans. They likely are careful bureaucrats and politically neutral technocrats sensitized by the PC indoctrination that has shaped the culture since the 1970s and the rise of grievance groups and human resources departments. They would prefer to partner with government than clash with it. · Jan 27 at 6:15am

    That is the finest statement of the nature of the corporate bureaucrat that I have seen. My congratulations to you.

    Never look to big business to take the lead in anything significant; they are desperate for orders to follow. In their book In Search of Excellence, the authors report over and over about how such innovation as does occur within large corporations often happens in illicit “skunk works”.

    • #10
    • January 28, 2011, at 1:22 AM PST
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