The Obama Watch

Is Obama Administration the Most Anti-Business in Recent Memory?

It's what's known as a rhetorical question.

By 10.12.11

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Is the Obama Administration the most anti-business administration in our lifetime? Recently, I was invited to CNBC's Kudlow Report where I had the joy of debating former Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean and BET founder Robert Johnson on that very question.

During the course of that interview, Dean -- naturally -- argued that in fact Americans' animosity was directed primarily at business these days, which is about as absurd and counter-factual a position as one can take. However, I was pleasantly surprised when Johnson, an Obama supporter and also a business owner, generally agreed with my views on the current administration.

Johnson is only seeing the obvious, as was I when I said the Obama administration is the most anti-business in my lifetime. Which others come close? Presidents Kennedy and Johnson dealt with big issues but viewed business as partners. President Nixon saw business as an ally, despite his missteps on wage and price controls and leaving the gold standard. President Ford understood that business created jobs and had little opportunity to hurt business. 

While generally remembered as unfriendly to business, President Carter was a businessman and his "malaise" and oil cartel challenges were not anti-business. The first President Bush was good for business as was President Clinton, whose main defects were moral. President George W. Bush made some whopper mistakes -- but could hardly be called bad for business.

But in just under three years, the Obama Administration has hurt American business more than all these Administrations put together.

Let's see: Obama appointees at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) have not only blocked Boeing from making planes in South Carolina, but they have greased the speed of union elections, made decertification votes impossible, changed the requirement that a majority of workers vote for a union, and required almost every workplace in America to put posters up advising workers of their unionization rights.

The Obama Administration claims to want to double exports and support free trade, but it took it nearly three years to send the pending trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea to Congress. Which means that in all this time American companies have been paying higher tariffs for exports.

The Obama Administration has proposed 219 new rules affecting industries, each of which will cost at least $100 million to comply. While the Washington legal business is growing, every industry and business is affected, scared, and confused by the massive new proposals. Small businesses are especially overwhelmed and must hire lawyers to understand and comply with the massive amount of new regulation.

The Obama crown-jewel "achievements" of the new health care and Dodd-Frank financial laws adversely affect almost every American business, totaled almost 3,000 pages of statutory language, and will result in huge costs on employers.

I believe President Obama is not anti-business. Nor is he pro-business. He doesn't have the experience to be either. I think he wants more American jobs but he has hired hordes of bright, passionate, and aggressive political appointees primarily committed to various causes. The causes sadly have little to do with jobs or business and more often focus on the environment, social justice, and union rights. More important, Obama's politically appointed officials generally lack any significant business experience.

What else makes this Administration anti-business? It has proposed rules for government employees restricting their ability to help host and participate in major trade events like our International CES, which is held each January in Las Vegas. So while we host 30,000 international government officials and trade visitors, U.S. government employees would not be able to attend. By comparison, our competitor in Germany has its chancellor, Angela Merkel, attending and hosting a welcome dinner every year. We can't even get a welcome letter out of the White House. So let's make our smallest companies travel abroad if they hope to export.

And if all this isn't enough, what about the president's class warfare rhetoric? "Corporations" and "greed" seem to go together in every Obama address. "Spread the wealth around" and all forms of higher taxes on successful entrepreneurs are part of the president's reelection platform. I don't recall a President benefiting from so much American innovative business success (Facebook, Google, Twitter, Groupon and scores more) who is so hostile to the concept of the American Dream.

So is this Administration the most anti-business in recent memory?

Yes. No one else even comes close. 

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About the Author

Gary Shapiro is president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), the U.S. trade association representing more than 2,000 consumer electronics companies, and author of the New York Times best-selling books, Ninja Innovation: The Ten Killer Strategies of the World's Most Successful Businesses and The Comeback: How Innovation Will Restore the American Dream. His views are his own.