Obama, the business lobby, and the jobless recovery 

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is blaming the White House for the lack of hiring. The White House’s allies have fired back angrily, and not always coherently — Steve Pearlstein in the Washington Post appears to attack to Chamber for its lobbying agenda while praising the White House for its bailouts and stimulus, which, of course, the Chamber aggressively backed.

Today, Ezra Klein in the Post has a more measured and more informative take on the same subject. Klein’s piece is worth a read, but here I want to take issue with two tricks I think he pulls that are unfair.

Basically, Klein cites one conservative critique of Obama, calls it wrongheaded, but never gives the substance behind the critique. Then he cites Obama’s rhetorical attack on business, offers the justification, but never addresses whether it’s valid.

Klein begins the article:

This White House has “vilified industries,” complains the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. America is burdened with “an anti-business president,” moans the Weekly Standard.

I don’t agree with the Chamber or the Standard (I often don’t), but since Klein brings up these complaints to set up a discussion on corporate profits and jobs, he owes it to the Chamber to address — or at least mention — the substance of their complaint. Specifically, folks at the Chamber argue that Obama’s threats to boost regulations and taxes, and his tendency to rewrite the rules as he goes along (think Chrysler, and the special BP fund) creates uncertainty the discourages investment. This argument might not really explain the lack of hiring, but it’s a legitimate argument that deserves airing.

But then Klein goes ahead and cites this lack of hiring to justify they anti-business rhetoric from Obama:

The populist tone that conservative magazines and business groups decry is partly in reaction to this: As corporate America’s position is getting better and better, the recovery is looking shakier and shakier.

So, business and conservatives blame Obama-induced uncertainty for lack of hiring; Obama blames business greed for lack of hiring who’s right?

Klein actually suggests neither are:

Recently, it has been popular to blame the tension between skyrocketing corporate profits and weak job growth on the White House and the Hill — hence the Chamber of Commerce and Weekly Standard quotes. Something must have gone wrong, right? And it’s probably Washington’s fault.

In fact, no: A look at the history of financial crises shows that our slow, halting recovery is right on schedule and the business community’s caution is predictable.

But Klein only calls out the Chamber, while never saying “the White House is also wrong, because….”

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Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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