In which I agree with a leftoid, sort of
Jackie Calmes at the New York Times notes:
President Obama will host a roundtable with about 20 corporate chiefs on Wednesday, according to the White House, part of an attempt to ease strained relations with business.
Expected for the session at the Blair House, across the street from the White House, are executives from a range of industries, including American Express, Cisco Systems, Dow Chemical, Google, Motorola, Intel, UPS and PepsiCo, according to people involved in the planning. But the White House said it would not divulge attendees until the meeting.
We can, perhaps, pass briefly over the fact that, in past meetings of this type, Mr. Obama’s procedure has been less of “fact finding” and more in the nature of “harangue”, in which he explains to his captive audience how the One True Way must be followed. It’s rather more notable that the announcement hasn’t generated much interest, and that Ms. Calmes’s piece, if anything, considers the notion with warm approval — compare and contrast the reaction to Bush & Cheney’s meetings with energy producers.
Obama is meeting with these hot shots as “an attempt to ease strained relations with business.” Huh? Hasn’t their golden boy attended to every request these contributors of big money have had? Oops, I am sorry, Obama has bent over backwards for the big money banks and the big money insurance companies…. I guess big business is next.
Well, yes, Minx. Tell me, what was your first Clew? Was it, perhaps, the fact that all the companies cited are vast international conglomerates, having at their fingertips the ability to shift operations, manufacturing, and finance around the world on a minute’s notice? There is, of course, no chance whatever that you will draw any conclusions from it, beyond your feeling of betrayal. It is, of course, not a “betrayal” at all, but a natural consequence of the policies you demand be enforced.
Big international companies are, to a close first approximation, indifferent to tax and regulatory policy as regards their own operations. They already have armies of bureaucrats capable of working their way through the intricacies of law and regulation looking for advantage; they already have lobbyists, “campaign contributions”, and other tentacles into the workings of Government, striving for intricacies that can be turned to advantage; and they can, with a few mouse-clicks, move anything and everything “offshore”, out of the reach of any burden they find too troublesome.
Others aren’t so lucky. If Mr. Obama were to meet with twenty CEOs of companies you never heard of, small and medium-sized manufacturers and entrepreneurs emblematic of the actual sources of American employment and wealth generation, and actually listen to what they say rather than concentrating on declaiming the Word to the heathen, he might actually learn something that could be translated into policy that would make things better. Such a meeting would inevitably create four lines of references in memeorandum, with every leftoid blog and pundit emphasizing that all such people are “rich”, and therefore are to be punished by micromanaging their every effort and fleecing them to the maximum extent possible for fairness and the children.
The internationals do have one interest in tax and regulatory policy: squashing competitors. Burdening upstarts with taxes, environmental and work-safety regulations, and confiscatory tax policies coupled with complex tax provisions, increases the costs of small and medium-sized firms without significantly affecting the fatcats — but these are precisely the policies demanded by American leftoids. A megacorp is, above all else, a bureaucracy. Bureaucrats have much in common with other bureaucrats, and setting a bureaucracy to deal with a bureaucracy results in an ad hoc merger rather than a countervailing force. The result is that it becomes ever more difficult to tell where “Government” ends and “Business” begins, as small competitors are squeezed out by the Government bureaucracy and policy and the (putative) “Business” bureaucracy becomes more and more entwined with its nominal monitors and keepers in Government.
Leftoid critics are of course correct in some of their dark suspicions. If the megacorps can get tax and regulatory relief for themselves while keeping the burden on their erstwhile competitors, and in addition score actual subsidies for their own operations, it constitutes a big win for them. They aren’t immune to the costs, only indifferent.
If Mr. Obama genuinely wanted to increase employment and allow wealth creation, he would meet with a very different group of people than those listed. His choice of interlocutors reveals that his real purpose is nothing of the kind; and whether he means to Preach the Word or enlist the megacorps as de facto instruments of Government control, the result can only be the latter. It is what the leftoids want — or, more precisely, it is a consequence of what the leftoids want. It is becoming more and more difficult to characterize the consequences of such policies as “unintended”. Igor’s Rule is if you don’t want the monster, don’t throw the switch. Since the leftoids loudly insist that the switch be thrown, it is becoming impossible to believe that the monster is an unintended consequence.