Saturday, November 06, 2010

An American president

Wall Street Journal:

President Obama, in a news conference Wednesday, took responsibility for the deterioration in his administration's relationship with corporate America. Mr. Obama said he needed to "make clear to the business community, as well as to the country, that the most important thing we can do is to boost and encourage our business sector and make sure that they're hiring."

As a down payment on his effort to rebuild ties to business, Mr. Obama said he would bring a group of corporate leaders with him to Asia this week to demonstrate his commitment to multinational companies, which he often slammed during the midterm election campaign.

"The whole focus is on how are we going to open up markets so that American businesses can prosper," Mr. Obama said.

It isn't clear how far any moves by Mr. Obama or the new Congress would go in encouraging U.S. businesses to unleash the $2 trillion in capital they are holding amid uncertainty about U.S. policy and the economy.

One of the reasons I don't bash Obama reflexively on domestic issues owes to a reluctance on his part to "demonstrate his commitment to multinational companies" as "the most important thing." He is grappling with how the system works: either you do such things, or you lose; and you lose on the basis of those economic decisions you don't control, like what gets invested, what gets produced, and how it is distributed. The politician's role is to sell it to the public in a way that the business executive can't, as a national achievement. Otherwise you are smeared in the press that he owns.


Anonymous said...

I beg to differ -- to the extent you are serious and not being arch when you say that Obama is grappling with the reality of corporate power controlling federal government.

That idea sets up an interesting conundrum. I believe that his CV suggests a man of extraordinary intellectual talent and accomplishment, by American society's standards. This, in turn, suggests that he would be in the very narrowest upper portion of Americans in his mind's ability to appraise power and its workings.

He went to our nation's most "elite" schools, and taught constitutional law. By those two points alone he would know precisely how corporate power works in American federal government.

Now add many years of service to corporate interests, both in the private sector and as an elected person who is, again, serving corporations in a dynamic that requires weighing the personal against the corporate in every aspect of governmental authority.

And so, on this background, to say he is still grappling with how it works, still occasionally mystified by it, and therefore still innocent of "competence" questions in the role of the POTUS?

I disagree.

what the Tee Vee taught said...

I agree with Sir Charles, but I think JRB has deftly described the President's function.

The President — fundamentally, historically, undeniably — is the plutocrats figurehead. Of course, the President plays other roles too, but they don't pay as well.

Brian M said...

Yet...given the conflicts and inherent incoherence within the workings of "capital" if there is such a monolithic "thing" as "Capital" with capital C...confusion and learning the ropes and mystification are not completely unexpected, no?

JRB said...

Yeah, I would say that biographical profiles and "what the plutocrats want" aren't the only evidence at hand to evaluate what is happening.

For example, there is a relationship between what the plutocrats want and what the plutocrats are getting, and if this relationship is not harmonious, we have to account for why that is.

It could be the plutocrats are being unrealistic; it could be Obama is incompetent; it could be that Obama is managing numerous obligations, including those between different plutocrats and/or those between the working class and the plutocrats.

My reading of Obama, which includes an interpretation of his bio that also links him in important ways to working class concerns, is of someone who can only yield to ruling class preferences where there is consensus, but who will opt for working class-oriented policies where he can (as is the case when ruling/working class interests coincide). The point is that most of the time he can't, because the incorporated class is organized, while the rest of us are not. Whatever he learned in school, what he's likely learned in office is that this matters more than anything else.

That Obama hasn't made his commitment to multinational companies the most important thing is also suggested by the volume of accusations leveled against him by this constituency, as documented in their own publications.