Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Patriotism of Protecting American Jobs

If you blinked you may have missed that President Obama this week questioned the patriotism of corporate America and Wall Street.

It is understandable that some of the coverage of President Obama's speech Monday to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce would be looked at through the prism of politics. Predictably there were two main focal points of the political coverage: Had Obama waded into enemy territory by addressing the Chamber? And was this part of a move to the center that Obama's liberal backers fear so much?

Progressives wrapped up in the politics may have missed an underlying message in Obama's talk with the big business lobby: That it is unpatriotic to pocket multi-million dollar bonuses while work forces are cut, and it is equally unAmerican to send U.S. jobs overseas to exploit cheap labor and weak government regulation.

"But as we work with you to make America a better place to do business, I’m hoping that all of you are thinking what you can do for America. Ask yourselves what you can do to hire more American workers, what you can do to support the American economy and invest in this nation," Obama lectured his audience.

Amid the loss of a documented 5 million U.S. manufacturing jobs and another 850,000 service sector jobs that moved overseas in this decade, Obama can boast of providing more tax cuts and incentives to keep jobs in the U.S. than any President in a generation.

No matter how much his detractors try to deny it, the fact is that more Americans, including the wealthy captains of industry and finance, have more tax relief under Obama than even President Ronald Reagan, the patron saint of the Grand old Party.

Now Obama is making the case that it is time for big business to live up to its part of the bargain and substitute a culture of greed with a culture of honor. That is not a move by Obama to the center, nor is it a position that only the left has staked out for itself. It is the American way to ensure that the Republic remains strong and that our friends and neighbors can enjoy a good quality of life.

"Together, I am confident we can win the competition for new jobs and industries. And I know you share my enthusiasm. Here’s one thing I know. For all the disagreements, (Chamber President) Tom (Donohue), that we may have sometimes on issues, I know you love this country.  I know you want America to succeed just as badly as I do," Obama said.

"So, yes, we’ll have some disagreements; and, yes, we’ll see things differently at times. But we’re all Americans. And that spirit of patriotism, and that sense of mutual regard and common obligation, that has carried us through far harder times than the ones we’ve just been through," Obama added.


  1. I think Prez O need to make his case more forcefully in regards to questioning the patriotism of groups like the chamber (and the interests they claim to represent).While they (chamber)and other have been beating this false meme that Pres is "anti business" profits and market have done nothing but go up up. This Washington lobby group Chamber does not represent small local biz but large multi nationals. Question and challenging their patriotism is valid, as they only seem beholden to the next dollar (yen, euro) in their pocket and not whats best for America.

  2. You're right....while of course there were things in the speech we disagreed with - Korea trade for example - there were some good themes from Obama.


    AFL-CIO: We liked Obama's challenge to Chamber of Commerce
    By Greg Sargent

    I keep reading in various places that all those losers on the left are absolutely outraged that Obama sold them out by giving what's widely being described as an "olive branch" speech today to the Chamber of Commerce. But judging by the AFL-CIO's response, it seems some liberals actually are pleasantly surprised by how he handled it.

    AFL-CIO spokesman Eddie Vale emails a list of the passages from Obama's speech the AFL-CIO liked, where Obama seemed to challenge the Chamber to live up to its responsibilities to America and the American worker:

    Obama's reminder to business that they have a responsibility to America, that they can't just worry about shareholders and the bottom line:

    "Ask yourselves what you can do for America. Ask yourselves what you can do to hire American workers, to support the American economy, and to invest in this nation."

    Obama's reminder to business that there are important regulations:

    "For example, even as we work to eliminate burdensome regulations, America's businesses have a responsibility to recognize that there are some safeguards and standards that are necessary to protect the American people from harm or exploitation."

    His reminder to business that changes in the tax code need to benefit everyone:

    "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 should be shared by American workers, who need to know that expanding trade and opening markets will lift their standard of living as well as your bottom line. We cannot go back to the kind of economy -- and culture -- we saw in the years leading up to the recession, where growth and gains in productivity just didn't translate into rising incomes and opportunity for the middle class."

    My understanding is that labor officials expected Obama to repeat his insistence on more infrastructure spending -- which after all isn't that controversial, since the Chamber supports the idea in principle. But labor types didn't expect, and were cheered by, Obama's defense of government regulation, the emphasis on reforming the tax code so it benefits everyone, and the insistence that corporations need to ask themselves what they can do for America and its workers.

    As Digby notes, the speech wasn't exactly FDR telling "organized money" that he "welcomes their hatred," but Obama did give folks on the left more than the media previews in the lead-up to the speech might have led you to expect.