There is much commentary in recent days about a change in the Obama Administration's policies toward the "business" world. The brief summary of this "change" is that the President has adopted a "pro-business" attitude, in the expectation that it will spur businesses to resume hiring workers, in the hope that such changes will decrease unemployment totals and (eventually) increase federal income tax revenues. I hope that's right.
The primary points in evidence of this change to a pro-business attitude are:
1. A column the President contributed last week to the Wall Street Journal, in which he offered this tepid encouragement to businesses:
"Our economy is not a zero-sum game. Regulations do have costs; often,
as a country, we have to make tough decisions about whether those costs
are necessary. But what is clear is that we can strike the right
balance. We can make our economy stronger and more competitive, while
meeting our fundamental responsibilities to one another."
2. The recruitment of two big business big shots into his circle of confidants — former banker and telecom exec William M. Daley, who will be his chief of staff; and General Electric chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt, who will be the chairman of the "Council on Jobs and Competitiveness."
These are two obviously successful and able men, and I am sure they have much to offer that will inform the President well.
But, let us remember that being "pro-business" is, at best, an ethically neutral quality: it means that someone is not "anti-business." I can reasonably argue that the totalitarian regime in China is "pro-business," and that would not be a compliment to anyone involved.
What those of us who have been critical of the Adminstation's approach to the business world over the past two years have argued is that it should be "pro-market" or "pro-growth": We're not anxious for the government to do more deals with businesses; we're anxious to see it stand clear of the choices that businesses (and individuals) might make, which would multiply opportunities for everyone to prosper.