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Business Roundtable Gunning for Obama, But Reports Show Better Business Climate

The CEO of Verizon, a big Republican donor from way back, criticized the President for “micromanaging the economy.” I must have missed the micromanaging part. Here are the specific grievances:

Increased taxes on foreign earnings
Stalled free-trade agreements
Shareholder rights to nominate directors
End to secret ballots in union elections
Expanded damages for pay discrimination
EPA regulation of greenhouse gases
Restrictions on drilling

US corporations mostly paid no taxes for the last several years. They have gotten away with paying women less than men for decades. They wrote free trade agreements through two Administrations – actually three, Hillary Clinton came out for the Colombia FTA this month. The Employee Free Choice Act is dead and buried. Any responsible individual would restrict the activities that have spewed millions of gallons into a major body of water and destroyed, perhaps permanently, an American coastline. Ivan Seidenberg of Verizon seems more upset that they only control 95% of the federal government instead of 100% nowadays. The rest of this is a big whine-fest.

This is supposed to be important because Seidenberg heads up the Business Roundtable, which has advised the White House on multiple topics. This represents a break with that access and friendliness. But Seidenberg doesn’t seem to be reading the Business Roundtable’s own reports. One of them out just today shows that CEO’s are generally happy with the state of the economy, and more plan to hire than at any time in the past four years:

U.S. chief executive officers’ view of the economy reached a four-year high in the second quarter, with more planning to add jobs over the next six months, according to a Business Roundtable survey […]

Some 39 percent of corporate chiefs expect to increase their companies’ U.S. head count over the rest of this year, more than the 17 percent who plan to cut it […] The group’s index of CEO confidence rose to 94.6 in the second quarter, up from 88.9 three months ago and the highest since the second quarter of 2006, when it stood at 98.6. Any reading above 50 represents a growth forecast.

This is not to day that the job environment is totally pleasant these days, but it would actually be improved if businesses stopped sitting on their capital reserves. This, we are told, is being done out of caution over the economy. I would suggest that caution over getting their priorities passed and becoming kings of the world again is the greater goal. The hissy fit from Seidenberg doesn’t match reality.

UPDATE: None of this is to suggest a bright day for the economy. The Federal Reserve just downgraded their optimism. My point is mainly about the disconnect between Business Roundtable members’ differing statements.

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David Dayen

David Dayen