Does Obama Feel CEO Pain?

President Obama is pivoting to embrace the private sector.  In the last few weeks, he has appointed Bill Daley as [...]

January 28 2011 by

President Obama is pivoting to embrace the private sector.  In the last few weeks, he has appointed Bill Daley as his new Chief of Staff, named GE’s Jeff Immelt to a high-profile advisory position, introduced initiatives to cut growth-strangling regulation and spoken out for lower corporate tax rates. 

Responding to criticism that his Cabinet and top advisors lacked private sector experience, the President tapped Bill Daley to replace departed White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.  Daley previously served as President of SBC Communications, on the Executive Committee of JPMorgan Chase and on the boards of Boeing and Merck.

The Daley appointment is not without political cost for Obama: it was denounced by and enraged other “leading progressive voices.”  Meanwhile, support for Daley came from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a frequent critic of Obama on a range of issues.

The President also brought Jeff Immelt into his tent to chair the new President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.  To the Left, there are perhaps few more powerful symbols of “Big Business” capitalism and the U.S. military-industrial complex than the CEO of GE.

Perhaps most significantly, President Obama used valuable prime-time air on Tuesday night to address the concerns of business leaders – with a sympathetic ear.  While his calls for national unity and bipartisanship were entirely expected, his declarations on lowering corporate taxes were anything but.

He loudly affirmed that corporate tax rates are too high overall, and announced that he will seek to lower the corporate rate overall and eliminate tax breaks for select industries such as oil and gas so that it will be revenue neutral.  He also cited our broken educational system that isn’t preparing enough of our younger generation with the technical skills of the future. 

Obama’s calls for additional government spending on R&D (particularly for clean energy alternatives) and infrastructure (e.g., a national high speed rail network and ubiquitous wireless internet) will be a boon to the “chosen” and invariably produce the Washington trough-feeding that infuriates free-marketers.

If unemployment remains stubbornly stuck around 9% and corporate profits remain strong, will the President maintain this new, pro-business posture—or will the executive-class again be excoriated?  While he may not feel CEO pain, at least the President is beginning to address private-sector concerns.