All right. Today President Obama went over to the Chamber of Commerce to make nice with big business. Now, I think that`s a bad idea, and I want to explain to you why.
First of all, the Chamber of Commerce is, without a doubt, a right- wing organization. You shouldn`t feed the bear that wants to eat you for lunch. That`s a saying I just made up. What do you think?
All right. Now I`ll show you why.
Last year, the Chamber spent $33 million to defeat the Democrats in the midterms. That doesn`t look very friendly to me. That looks like they might be on the other side.
And in 2009, insurance companies gave the Chamber of Commerce more than $86 million to fight against President Obama`s health care law. What part of that is confusing?
President Obama, I got bad news for you. They are just not that into you.
Secondly, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has nothing to do with the U.S. Now, I`m going to get back to that in a second, but first, let`s take a look at the president`s speech.
Even though the Chamber has consistently worked against the president and his party, Obama still showed up with a message of appeasement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Which brings me to the final responsibility of government, breaking down some of the barriers that stand in the way of your success. As far as exports are concerned, that means seeking new opportunities and opening new markets for your goods. Now, another barrier government we can remove — and I hear a lot about this from many of you — is a burdensome corporate tax code with one of the highest rates in the world, which brings be to the last barriers we`re trying to remove, and those are outdated and unnecessary regulations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Oh! It`s so painful. He`s making every Republican talking point there. He`s talking about so-called free trade, he`s talking about high corporate tax rates, when they have got a million loopholes and they didn`t pay that money any way.
He`s talking about burdensome regulation? This is a Democratic president or a Republican president?
But the president, as usual, of course presented both sides. That`s what he does. Now, here he talks about the merits of regulation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I also have to point out the perils of too much regulation are also matched by the dangers of too little. And we saw that in the financial crisis, where the absence of sound rules of the road, that wasn`t good for business. Even if you weren`t in the financial sector it wasn`t good for business.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: All right. That`s true, and that sounds so much more reasonable. All right. You are getting both sides.
But the problem is, in effect, you do not get both sides. If you just had it the president`s way, it wouldn`t be that bad. You`d say, all right, look, a little too much regulation here, a little too regulation here.
But the right wing blocks all of the Democratic proposals. They get the Republicans to do that. And when the president agrees with them, and says, all right, I`m going to take away the regulation there, or I`m going to lower your taxes there, they`re like, fantastic.
So you get a one-sided view. That`s what I`m scared of.
Now, don`t get me wrong. The president did ask big business to support the little guy today in return for favorable treatment of big business. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: If we`re fighting to reform the tax code and increase exports to help you compete, the benefits can`t just translate into greater profits and bonuses for those at the top. They have to be shared by American workers, who need to know that expanding trade and opening markets will lift their standards of living, as well as your bottom line.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Again, if it worked that way, I would love it. That would be great. But these corporations` interests are global.
They are not in it for the American worker. And I`m not saying that as a bad thing. Let me give you an example.
Caterpillar, they`re based in Peoria, Illinois. Right? Their profits more than quadrupled in the fourth quarter of 2010 over the previous year because of a surge in overseas demand. That`s a good thing.
The company is thriving thanks to global commerce. Good thing.
In 2010, Caterpillar hired 19,000 people. Lovely. But only 7,500 were in America.
They also announced plans to build eight new facilities. Great! But only three of them are in the U.S.
Look, I`m not against Caterpillar if they make money abroad or if they even hire abroad. It`s OK. But giving our tax breaks to them, or lightening of their regulatory load, in the hopes against hope that they are going to create jobs here in America, it`s just misunderstanding the system, misunderstanding the process. That`s not how it works.
In the end, the president still tried to appeal to their patriotism at the Chamber of Commerce.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I know you love this country. I know you want America to succeed just as badly as I do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Wrong again. Look, I`m not saying they are bad people. And I`m not saying that they don`t America to succeed as individuals as you do, I do, as the president does. But they are part of a corporate machine.
By law, they`re not allowed to give a damn about America. If it costs two cents less to make something in China, they are going to make it in China and they`re going to hire in China. If they didn`t, they would get fired.
Pleading with the corporate machine to do the right thing is futile. I wish the president would at some point understand that.
All right. Joining me now is Robert Borosage. He`s the president of the Campaign for America`s Future.
Robert, do I have this right, or if the president just asks really nicely, maybe the Chamber of Commerce will change their minds and go, oh, my God, you`re right, I should hire in America?
ROBERT BOROSAGE, CAMPAIGN FOR AMERICA`S FUTURE: No, you`ve got it right. And we can see it in the recovery.
We`ve got record profits in corporations, and we have a massive job problem here at home. And largely, that`s because the big corporations are making more and more profits abroad and locating their plants there. And it will take a changed public policy to turn that around.
UYGUR: You know, I want to give you a quote by Leslie Margolin. She was with Anthem Blue Cross. She was in fact their president. Right?
But when she complained about a 39 percent tax — I`m sorry, a rate hike, what they did was they said, all right, thank you very much for working here, but your work is done. And her quote is, “I thought the rates were too high. I thought the impact on our membership was too significant.”
So the minute she said that, they showed her the door. So I`m not saying these people are evil, but isn`t the system set up in a way that they`re not allowed to be the good guys? If they are, they`re removed for the sake of profit.
BOROSAGE: Well, they have to make as much money as they can. And now, in recent years, we have seen them accumulate more and more of that money at the top, among the CEOs and the top executives.
I mean, when this economy was growing under Bush, the top one percent were capturing about two-thirds of all of the rewards of growth — we`ve never seen that before — while most families were losing income. And that`s, again, got to be changed by public policy.
It`s not going to be changed by the corporations themselves. Those executives have a quite personal stake in keeping the system as it`s working now.
UYGUR: So then let`s get into practical matters. What should the president do? Because, of course, his advisers, who, in my opinion, are center-right, to say the least, are like, oh, my God! You have to get to the Chamber of Commerce and please them! You have to make them happy!
Do they have a point? If not, well, then, what is the president supposed to do when he talks to the Chamber of Commerce?
BOROSAGE: Well, I don`t know that I would go talk to the Chamber of Commerce, which, as you said, is just a right-wing lobby group that makes its money raising money from big corporations that prey on American taxpayers. But I do think he has to make business comfortable. I don`t have a problem with that.
I do think we need though a policy for making things here in America. And that`s where we`ve gone wrong.
You know, Germany is a very high-wage producer, but it`s an export superpower. And the reason is it has an industrial policy that ensures that the companies keep high-quality jobs in Germany. And we`ve got to move to that, and that will take a very different set of policies than begging the Chamber of Commerce to be patriotic.
UYGUR: Well, Robert, that`s a great point, so let`s stay on that for a second, because a lot of people say, well, what can we do? The jobs are going to go to China, India, et cetera. But Germany has figured it out. They`ve figured out a way to keep the jobs.
How are they doing it?
BOROSAGE: Well, they do a combination of things. The workers have unions, and they have a stake in the company leadership. And so they make collective decisions.
They have long-term capital from their banks that`s not speculative. They make collective decisions about what kinds of plans they move abroad and what technology they`ll keep at home.
They have a middle level of corporations that are funded by municipally-located banks that are geographically located and very dynamic. And the combination makes them a superpower. And they also manage their trade with China and the like so that they don`t get overwhelmed by the Chinese mercantilist policies.
UYGUR: Yes. You know, I love the idea of Obama going to the Chamber of Commerce and saying, hey, I`m going to make you work with unions so that we keep the jobs here.
BOROSAGE: Well, you know, he said that workers have to share in the profits this time. But if we don`t change policy, we`ll go back to that old economy.
UYGUR: So this isn`t going to work. I mean, him reaching out and saying, all right, I`m going to cut some regulations if you promise to be good guys, it might be well intentioned, but let me ask you that as the last question.
Real quick here, do you think Obama thinks it`s actually going to work if I appeal to their patriotic duty, that they`ll put on a flag lapel pin and get out there and hire Americans? If he doesn`t think that, why is he doing it?
BOROSAGE: No, I don`t think he thinks that. I think he does think that he can get the Chamber of Commerce perhaps to be an ally in his quest to get money to invest in infrastructure and research and development and education and training, all of which would help business.
UYGUR: Right. Well, they`re like, oh, if you`re going to give us more money, yes, we`ll agree to that.
UYGUR: So that`s not much of a stretch. I don`t think he had to do a big speech to get them on board for that.
All right. Robert Borosage, thank you so much for your time this evening. We really appreciate it.
BOROSAGE: A pleasure. Take care.