Obama Means Business

Posted on January 22, 2011 by

Is Barack Obama “reaching out to the business community” or “caving in to corporate interests” and what’s the difference?

Many mainstream commentators are praising the president’s recent initiatives – naming GE’s CEO as a key economic advisor and promoting regulatory reform - as politically smart by appealing to independent voters and an important step toward economic recovery. 

In other words, playing ball with business elites will drive down unemployment and cut the path for Obama’s re-election.

Some of us think this white house has already been pretty cozy with corporate America and are skeptical about the private sector’s commitment to domestic job growth.

Even if Obama sincerely believes that taking these steps will boost employment, there’s something about this president’s behavior which forces the impression that he’s deliberately insulting his base.

General Electric is notorious for off-shoring jobs and – by the way – did you happen to catch Michelle Obama’s lovefest with Walmart honchos?

So maybe the administration is just trying to strike the right balance between paying attention to the needs of business while satisfying other democratic party constituencies such as the labor movement.

You could look at some improvement in the National Labor Relations Board, for example.

But I’m afraid that a few decent appointments to the NLRB do not balance the books.  Most progressives see Mr. Obama’s business outreach strategy as just another case of a president too eager to please the big shots.

Comments (9)


  1. Jon Joyce says:

    Hey Lou, He’s not caving in. He’s building consensus. As far as I’m concerned, Obama is the only viable Dem in the picture. Let’s stay in touch and try to envision a moderate leader for another term, come 2012. No matter what liberals say about the Clinton presidency, it was way better than the Bush administration. Baby steps…

  2. Greg says:

    I’m not sure how creating jobs would be insulting his base. We have way too much time and way more scenarios to think out loud. To wonder, to worry, to conjecture. It doesn’t help. Our government is a three legged stool. It doesn’t work unless they all work together. And the democrats will never have both houses of congress and the presidency because Blue dogs are Democrats in name only. Consequently, liberalism in it’s purists form is always a losing proposition. And I’m just about as liberal as you can get. But I am also a pragmatist.

  3. Joe Uehlein says:

    First, the labor movement is not even on the strategy chart at the White House. Accept it and get used t it. So let’s stop talking about a balanced approach — balance isn’t even on the table.

    Second, you don’t “reach out” to those who own you. Wall St. and business interests own Barack Obama, and this is nothing new. Wall St. was his largest campaign contributor. His appointments across the board reflect this, and I’m not just talking about the most recent: Bill Daley, from Wall St., and Jeffrey Immelt, from Corporate America.

    Third, General Electric (GE) is largely a foreign corporation that happens to be headquartered in the United States. Two-thirds of its profits come from foreign operations. Not only has GE led the anti-union charge going back half a century, but GE also led the off-shoring of jobs. Immelt owes absolutely no allegiance to the United States of America. his appointment as the head of “Jobs and Competitiveness” is a joke and a slap in the face to working Americans and the unemployed.

    Finally, it’s not like we haven’t known for decades that the Democratic Party was owned by Corporate America and Wall Street. Together they have destroyed the private sector labor movement and now, hand-in-hand, they are coming after the public sector with the goal of completely eliminating labor from the equation. As this drama continues to unfold, labor, and its allies in the broad progressive movement continue to practice the old-style silo politics of coalition building, and I fear will continue to fail as a result. I hope I’m wrong.

    I believe the sustainability movement will do for the 21st Century what six great social movements did for the 20th Century (labor, civil rights, environment, women’s, equality, peace&freedom). And if done right, the sustainability movement will fundamentally define the 21st Century and complete the unfinished agendas of the great social movements of the 20th Century. My hope is that labor finds a way to become a part of the sustainability movement.

    For more on this check out the Labor Network for Sustainability at http://www.labor4sustainability.org, and in particular check out the article on the new politics of climate change for a look at our thinking on old-style silo politics and what we think might be useful as we move forward.

    • Lou says:

      It will be interesting to see how key figures in the labor movement react as President Obama lines up behind the corporate agenda.

    • Rey says:

      I agree with Mr. Uehlein…this reaching out and building consensus portrait of the President is an illusion. Even with all this perceived reaching out from him…it will only serve as another opportunity for grass roots common folks (liberal & conservative/demo & repubs) to say “see he is not governning for the common people”.

  4. Ernesto says:

    This appointment should not be a surpise given the folks that the President has decided to surround himself with. We should give up on the thought that we are going to influence the process from the oval office. Pick another advisor from the business sector and the middle class and workers are going to be better off?

    I am no econist but besides creating good jobs we also have to address the mortgage crisis. Until folks are able to modify their loans to the current market values we are not going to see money spent to stimulate more job growth and enhance the residential contruction sector.

    Lets face it, we are on our own and the leadership of the movement need to lead workers and raise the issues out in the jobsites, the union halls, the townhalls, etc. so that our members mobilize and organize. Until this happens we are going to continue to see the deterioration of worker power.

    • Rey says:

      Yes. Agreed. The FREE reset button was hit for the BIG FAT CATS…but the majority of common Americans are still expected to opearte under the old baggage…when do we get a FINANCED BAIL OUT for common folks…that alone would have such an impact on people’s mortgage situation and hence remove some of the paralysis currently in our economy.

  5. “Set backs and false starts, won’t defeat these ideals. The light of freedom, shines on us as our nation heals.
    We will rise or fall, as one nation, yes we can renew the spirit long after the celebration.” – The Mighty Majestics

  6. Dennis Dreith says:

    I have to agree with Jon on this. Us liberals really want Obama to be the standard bearer of our ideal….Great. But in the end will he be able to get anything through Congress with that approach? I don’t think so. Are we better off as Nation – both at home and in the eys of the rest of world than we were under Bush?? I for one certainly think the answer is univocally yes. And, are we not at least advancing our cause (albeit much slowe that we want). How much progress were we making under the Bush administration? And, I agree that Clinton may not have been the be all and end all of liberals, but we were also in much better shape then and were also heading in the right direction. Baby steps are so much better and regression.

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