Posted on May 5, 2010It was Lenin who said: "The Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them."
A Washington corollary might be: “The Capitalists will give us the campaign contributions from which we will hang them.”
The headline in one of the newspaper articles brought that thought to my mind: “Obama biggest recipient of BP campaign contributions.”
British Petroleum gave more money to Barack Obama than to any other candidate in the last election. Obama’s spokesman, Mr. Gibbs, said that the President is going to keep the Administration’s boot on the throat of BP, paraphrasing his Interior Secretary.
I didn’t realize that the Administration had a boot nor did I realize that BP had a throat. Sounds kind of kinky to me. But I digress.
Earlier this year, it was revealed that the Administration was filing criminal charges and civil charges against Goldman-Sachs, the erstwhile and formerly very powerful investment bank.
Goldman is charged with the high crime of making a lot of money at the expense of a lot of suckers. That they didn’t tell the suckers that they were suckers seems to be the chief of allegation against them.
Goldman also gave close to a million dollars in campaign contributions to Mr. Obama as he was running for President. That is not an inconsiderable sum. Without that million dollars of seed money, the President wouldn’t be President.
And now Goldman is being targeted for extinction by the same guy who they helped elect, through a million dollars in campaign contributions, to the White House.
The business community is notoriously flexible when it comes to defining what its own self-interests are. It is all for the free market as long as the free market serves their own interests. But if they can use the government to get a competitive advantage, by golly, they will use their political connections to secure that competitive advantage.
That is why so many multi-national corporations give so much money to guys like Barack Obama. They know Obama isn’t going to push a pro-business agenda. They know that he isn’t going to really be for expanding trade or limiting wasteful lawsuits or getting rid of stupid and counter-productive regulations or lowering the corporate tax rate. But they believe that if they have some real access, through big-time campaign contributions, maybe they can get a competitive advantage by having the President screw their competitors.
That is how many (but not all) in the business community play the game.
And now they have to deal with the fact that we have Barack Obama in the White House, a man who has said on many occasions, “we have to spread the wealth around a little.”
Republicans fell out of favor with some of these big companies because they fell out of power. Also, Republicans didn’t play the game as well as the Democrats. They actually believe in things like free trade, competition, and the free market. And some of the Republicans (especially the social conservatives) play up social issues in a way that many in the corporate boardroom find upsetting.
But the business community ought to wake up. Instead of pushing their own special interests, they should push for reform that puts all businesses on a level playing field. They should push not for special interest tax breaks, but for a tax code that lowers the corporate tax rate for all. They should get back candidates that appreciate the market place, appreciate the importance of international trade, and most importantly, appreciate how to make American companies more competitive.
And they should learn the lessons of BP and Goldman Sachs. They gave the money to Mr. Obama so that he could buy the rope.