What's very weird, even a bit "foreign," not unlike how self-declared communist leader Hugo Chavez in Venezuela regularly demonizes the business sector, is how President Obama seems to have decided that his best shot at reversing the grim election outlook for Democrats is by way of smearing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as being too "foreign."
With zero evidence, Obama is charging that the Chamber of Commerce, an American-as-apple-pie organization that represents 300,000 American businesses, is guilty of trying to "steal our democracy" by allegedly using donations from foreign contributors to fund their pro-business campaign activities.
In fact, nothing is more supportive of democracy than a strong and decentralized business sector, independent of the government, a commercial sector that's a countervailing power to centralized political and economic controls. It's exactly this pro-democracy model of individual sovereignty and economic freedom that's been consistently supported by the Chamber since its founding, without foreign money.
For Obama, personally stuck in a philosophy that denigrates the American traditions and ideals of limited government and free enterprise, to label the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as unAmerican and too foreign is the height of chutzpa, yet another demonstration of Obama's self-defined "audacity" — in this case, the audacity of unbelievable gall.
Beating the same drum, again with zero evidence, the Democratic National Committee, seeking to expand the magnitude and scariness of an alleged "foreign" bagman, is running TV ads claiming that former George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove and former GOP National Chairman Ed Gillespie "even take in secret foreign money to influence our elections."
In "War of Lies Against the Chamber," Investor's Business Daily charged that Obama is "at war with America's private sector" in a "propaganda" drive that is both anti-business and counter-productive, economically and politically: "It's hard to see how Team Obama can win by harassing the entire domestic private sector, and even harder to see why it should try. Obama's top political problem is joblessness, and it's the Chamber's members that are the job creators."
A key reason for the persistently high levels of U.S. unemployment is the uncertainty that has been created by the Obama administration with its failed health care legislation, unprecedented deficits, and unrelenting push for higher taxes, more regulations and more mandates, including legislative efforts that would directly increase the business sector's cost of energy and labor by way of cap-and-trade and card-check legislation.
The smear campaign against the U.S. Chamber simply adds to this level of uncertainty and to the assessment of Obama as anti-business, thereby holding down the levels of private sector investment, economic growth and job creation.
With "real unemployment" (calculated by adding to the official unemployment rate the uncounted jobless workers who've quit looking for work, plus the uncounted workers who are only marginally working) still growing, spiking at 17.1 percent in September, up from 16.7 percent in August, President Obama seems to think he can distract voters from his poor performance in job growth by attacking the Chamber of Commerce.
It's a flawed political strategy, as faulty and sure to fail as Obama's economic strategies. With voters saying that unemployment is their top issue in the upcoming election, it makes no sense, politically or economically, for Obama to operate in an anti-business manner that only increases the level of uncertainty among those who produce the bulk of the nation's new jobs.
Obama's problem? "Rather than vilify the rich," he lamented in his "The Audacity of Hope" memoir, "we hold them up as role models." Enough said.
--- Ralph R. Reiland, a columnist with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and the owner of Amel's Restaurant, is an associate professor of economics and the B. Kenneth Simon professor of free enterprise at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh.
Ralph R. Reiland
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