Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Boston Herald Gets it Right, Obama Gets it Wrong

Today's Boston Herald editorial page has an excellent interpretation of President Obama's visit to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce yesterday.

It's a must-read for anyone trying to decipher where the current administration stands on economic policy:

Boston Herald Editorial: The 'new' Obama

President Obama actually had the nerve to go to the nation's business leaders yesterday and try out his best impersonation of President Kennedy. "Businesses," he said, "have a responsibility to America.... Ask yourselves what you can do for America."

This is the same mentality Massachusetts officials have used when dealing with Bay State businesses in recent years.

"We contend it is only fair for our largest companies to share responsibility for supporting public services they and their employees need and want."
- Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, March 5, 2008

In both cases, it's the wrong approach.

Every business is, at its core, an investment. People invest capital (money and labor) into a business with the expectation that the business will generate a greater return for them.

We acknowledge that government has a legitimate role to tax and regulate within the economy to keep the system prosperous. We also agree with basic notions of good corporate citizenship.

But, businesses already serve the public good just by virtue of being there in the first place and providing jobs and a commercial tax base. In many cases, good corporate citizenship is alive and well. We see examples every day in our own community where business leaders make up the lion's share of those involved in civic organizations and charitable groups.

We don't agree with President Obama that Uncle Sam should be able to consider himself as basically a majority shareholder in every U.S. corporation.

When government demands a seat at the table and makes businesses work to serve the public interest as much as the private interest of their investors, the whole system gets skewed. That's when profits dry up, factories close, and jobs move overseas.

If President Obama wants to get the nation's unemployment rate down and put America back to work, he needs to stop blaming businesses and get out of their way by reducing the regulations that are hindering their growth. Businesses are already walking a tightrope in this economy. Let's not burden them even more.

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