Can you guess who spoke the following words last week?
“We have become somewhat troubled by a growing disconnect between Washington and the business community that is harming our ability to expand the economy and grow private-sector jobs in the U.S. We see a host of laws, regulations and other policies being enacted that impose a government prescription of how individual industries ought to be structured, rather than produce an environment in which the private sector can innovate, invest and create jobs in this modern global economy. In our judgment, we have reached a point where the negative effects of these policies are simply too significant to ignore.”
Did you guess House Minority Leader John Boehner? The Wall Street Journal editorial page perhaps? Steve Forbes maybe? Certainly, such words would not be surprising coming from one of them. But the correct answer is none other than Ivan Seidenberg, chairman and CEO of Verizon. More importantly, he is also chairman of the Business Roundtable, heretofore President Barack Obama’s strongest ally in the corporate world.
The BRT is a Washington powerhouse because, as Seidenberg noted last week in an address to the Economics Club of Washington, its 170 members “generate more than $6 trillion in revenues and employ more than 12 million people. We account for 60 percent of all corporate taxes, 60 percent of all charitable contributions, and one-half of all private R&D spending in the U.S. Our market capitalization is one-third of the total value of the stock market, and we pay some $167 billion in dividends to individual investors, pension funds and retirement accounts.”
BRT’s support has allowed Obama to claim his unprecedented program of trillion-dollar stimulus packages, higher taxes, greatly increased bureaucratic regulation of the economy, and continuing bailouts and nationalizations of huge chunks of the private sector is merely an extension of accepted economic policy, not a product of radical leftist dogma as many of his critics claim.
It’s indeed encouraging that BRT has seen the light. But now that it wants to stop what Winston Churchill called “feeding the alligator hoping he will eat you last,” the question is whether Seidenberg and his colleagues will aggressively work to halt Obama’s dismantling of the free-enterprise system and replace his congressional allies in the November elections.
BRT member companies have multiple political action committees that funnel hundreds of millions of dollars to congressional incumbents and challengers. It’s time BRT leaders tell their PAC directors to stop playing Washington’s incumbent protection games and give only to candidates who pledge to oppose Obama and to enact policies that will let American free enterprise be free again.