A prominent businessman, Mort Zuckerman, recently said that Barack Obama’s administration was…”the most hostile administration to business…in decades.” I’ve known this man for quite a few years as a serious and thoughtful person. Why would he say something that is demonstrably false? He must have been trying to ingratiate himself with others in the business community. But, even so, it is a ridiculous statement.
After one of the most disastrous performances by the business community in decades, what did its members expect from the government? A tap on the wrist? A mild “don’t do it again” lecture? Some kind of presidential “you’re doing a heckofa job” compliment?
Extemely highly paid executives on Wall Street, in major investment banks, in peak financial circles did stupid and vastly greedy things. They did so under circumstances of relaxed government regulation. They weren’t interested in their shareholders and certainly not the health of the national economy. They were only interested in spectacularly bloated incomes and short term rewards. Somewhere along the way, when they were picking up their MBAs at Harvard, Yale, or Columbia, no one told them what the role of the US government was. Among many other things, under our Constitution it is to “regulate Commerce…among the several States.”
So accustomed to benign neglect under Reagan and the Bushes, suddenly these financial stars are confronted with a president who takes his oath of office seriously. The laws of the United States state that business people are not to cheat consumers, short-change their shareholders, falsify their tax returns, mislead investors, and a host of other fair play rules that help keep the marketplace fair and honest. The vast majority of business people, especially the small ones, are scrupulously honest. They are not the problem. But everytime the US government “deregulates”, that is relax its duties to protect the public, the high-rollers move in and take the rest of us to the cleaners.
What a travesty for someone who wishes to be taken seriously to say an administration is hostile to business when it is simply carrying out its statutory responsibilities to do its duty and protect the public interest.