Obama to Business: Fruitcake Anyone?

Hey, that’s the kind of headline you might see on The Huffington Post. A little tease to get you to read the post and connected enough to the story that nobody is likely to spring from the seat in front of the computer shouting “liar, liar pants on fire.” And full disclosure: if AOL is looking to acquire content-generating blogs, how about this one? I’m in for it, at far less than $315 million.

Oh well. Since that is unlikely to not going to happen, I better get back to reality as I know it and try to knock out a few hundred words before heading to the gym and chasing the treadmill belt early a.m.

Prez O strolled across Lafayette Square from the White House yesterday to speak to a packed house of his neighbors, if not friends, at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Here’s from a WaPo article by Dana Milbank, “Obama makes corporate America his business“:

“I strolled over from across the street,” the president said of his trek from the White House across Lafayette Square to the Chamber’s H Street palace. “And look, maybe if we had brought over a fruitcake when I first moved in, we would have gotten off to a better start.”

When the laughter ended, Obama departed from his prepared text to add: “But I’m going to make up for it.”

He sure is – and if the list of goodies he read out Monday is any indication, he would have found it easier to deliver the fruitcake.

Obama told the business lobby about the executives who have important roles in his administration: J.P. Morgan Chase’s Bill Daley, GE’s Jeff Immelt and AOL’s Steve Case. “We need to make America the best place on Earth to do business,” the president promised.

Let’s get rid of those “outdated and unnecessary regulations,” the onetime corporate scold said, and remove that “burdensome corporate tax code with one of the highest rates in the world.”

The president boasted that his administration had slowed down environmental rulemaking and accelerated drug approvals. Rather than browbeat corporate America, as he did in his early days in office, he pleaded for more hiring with sports phrases such as “get off the sidelines” and “get in the game.”

Well, Obama needs to reach out to the business community. Businesses in the USA — big ones and more likely these days smaller ones — create and maintain decent jobs — the kind that are in scarce supply but big demand these days. I’m not sure that those inside the Obama administration — or those knowledge workers and adjunct policy makers Inside the Beltway where there never is a recession or housing crisis and so on — really understood that. Maybe they do now. Let’s hope.

So Obama said all the right words — but I’m not sure that he is going to spark business managers to swing into action and make the investments in facilities, technology and ultimately jobs in the USA that will enable us to grow our way out of this Great Recession and current jobless economic recovery.

Millbank reports:

The president also made a gentle appeal for companies to spend some of the “nearly $2 trillion sitting on their balance sheets” to hire people.

These weren’t commands but requests, appealing to the corporate leaders’ sense of patriotism. “Ask yourselves what you can do to hire more American workers,” he said.

Good luck with that.

Here’s from Robert Reich, “The Jobs Report, and America’s Two Economies“:

At a time when corporate profits are through the roof, the Dow is flirting with 12,000, Wall Street paychecks are fat again, and big corporations are sitting on more than $1 trillion in cash, you’d expect jobs be coming back. But you’d be wrong.

The U.S. economy added just 36,000 jobs in January, according to today’s report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Remember, 125,000 are needed just to keep up with the increase in the population of Americans wanting and needing work. And 300,000 a month are needed — continuously, for five years — if we’re to get back to anything like the employment we had before the Great Recession.

In other words, today’s employment report should be sending alarm bells all over official Washington. Granted, unusually bad weather may have accounted for some of the reluctance of employers to hire in January. But even considering the weather, the economy is still terribly sick. (Technical note: The official rate of unemployment fell to 9 percent from 9.4 percent, but that’s because more workers have left the labor market, too discouraged to continue looking for work. The official rate reflects how many people are actively looking for work.)

We have two economies. The first is in recovery. The second remains in a continuous depression.

The first is a professional, college-educated, high-wage economy centered in New York and Washington, that’s living well off of global corporate profits. Corporations continue to make money by selling abroad from their foreign operations while cutting costs (especially labor) here at home. Wall Street is making money by taking the Fed’s free money and speculating with it. The richest 10 percent of Americans, holding 90 percent of all financial assets, are riding the wave. And their upscale spending has given high-end retailers and producers a bounce.

The second is most of the rest of America, and it’s still struggling with a mountain of debt, declining home prices, and job losses. In coming months most Americans will also be contending with sharply rising prices of food and fuel.

Our representatives in Washington see and hear mostly the first economy. The business press reports mainly on the first economy. Corporate and Wall Street economists are concerned largely with the first economy.

Ah, fruitcakes anyone?





2 responses to “Obama to Business: Fruitcake Anyone?

  1. It is always annoying to see “Beltway” used in a way that gives no acknowledgment to what and whom besides politicians and pundits occupy the Washington “Beltway,” namely some of the most blighted real estate and degraded lives anywhere in the country. But so it goes.

    • Barry,

      You make an excellent point here. It is really misleading for pundits — including me — to say there is never a recession Inside the Beltway. In fact, there are actually two economies Inside the Beltway — one where people prosper and one where people really struggle.


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