Yet More Proof Big Business Is Unamerican

The WaPo notes with some curiosity that the business community did almost nothing to get the debt ceiling passed. It’s a remarkable story: perhaps unintentionally noting that while our banana republic status was being confirmed, the Chamber of Commerce was lobbying not to prevent that, but to get a Panama trade deal; describing a betrayed Third Way executive pissed that business had not done more; describing two centrist Dems and Obama’s Chief of Staff imploring the business community to do more.

With the U.S. government on the verge of a historic default, the country’s largest business lobbying group took to the halls of Congress last week to press lawmakers to support the Panama Free-Trade Agreement.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce sponsored a “door knock,” with 80 members handing out Panama hats to tout a trade deal with a country that has a smaller economy than Akron, Ohio. To critics, the Chamber event illustrates what has been a deafening silence from U.S. executive suites on the gridlock in Washington over raising the country’s $14.3 trillion debt ceiling.

“They haven’t done nearly enough to sound the alarm,” said Jim Kessler, vice president for policy at Third Way, a Washington research group that describes itself as advocating “moderate policy” and has executives from Morgan Stanley (MS) and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) on its board. Executives “think this is all Washington theater, and it will all get done in the end.”


At a closed-door meeting with Chamber lobbyist Bruce Josten last month, Democratic Senators Mark Begich of Alaska and Mark Warner of Virginia upbraided the group and its member companies for not twisting arms hard enough to get a compromise package worked out, according to two people familiar with the discussion whospoke on condition of anonymity because the meeting was private.


“It’s unfortunate that the business interests have not stepped forward as loudly as they should have,” Bill Daley, the White House chief of staff, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television July 26. “You’ve had a silence from the business community to the political establishment over the last number of years that’s been unfortunate.”

The article later offers the opinion of just one business professor, which attributed the inaction of businessmen to embarrassment that their party, the Republicans, were doing what they were doing, to explain the business community’s inaction on the debt ceiling.

“They’re caught,” [business professor Warren] Bennis said in an interview July 29. “They tend to be Republican and they are embarrassed by what they see from Republicans,” Bennis said. “It’s a real stalemate and CEOs want to stay clear of it.”

Yet nowhere does the article–or people like Kessler, Begich, Warner, or Daley–consider the possibility that the business community got just what it wanted with this debt fiasco.
They never consider the possibility that the business community might be thrilled with inane cuts to the federal government–probably, ultimately, targeted at the social safety net. They never consider the possibility that they business community might benefit from the chaos and uncertainty that this debate generated. They never consider the possibility that the business community might like how this legislative fight made our country even more of a banana republic.

I’d suggest it’s worth considering more seriously. After all, the business community has embraced (you could say, returned to) a model that relies on the insecurity of workers to demand compliance and cheap labor. The cuts this deal will ultimately bring about add to worker insecurity.

And just as importantly, most of these multinationals don’t much care for the US, except insofar as it has a big military to defend “US” business interests overseas. The ones describes that did lobby for a debt ceiling–banksters like JP Morgan or health care companies like Blue Cross or Pfizer–have been beneficiaries of big help from the federal government in recent years. They’re not done looting it yet! But the others are multinational companies; the US is just a convenient place to incorporate.

Moreover, businesses have been pushing an ideology for the last 30 years that the government is dysfunctional and therefore society must cede more control to businesses. Even as businessmen like Rick Snyder and Rick Scott prove failures at governance, the follies in DC still, at least, provide evidence that government is worse.

Of course these businessmen didn’t lobby for a reasonable solution to this false crisis. They liked the false crisis.

34 replies
  1. Bob Schacht says:

    Thanks, EW, for looking into this puzzle for us. We’ll see what the market does today, but most of what I’ve heard predicts a *rally* today, I guess amounting to cheers of relief (assuming that the deal goes through, as planned).

    What a strange country we live in.

    Bob in AZ

  2. Gitcheegumee says:

    This is a great post,Marcy.

    And if I may proffer an observation,i.e.:

    “Moreover, businesses have been pushing an ideology for the last 30 years that the government is dysfunctional and therefore society must cede more control to businesses.”..ew

    Is it mere coincidence that this thirty year time period of ceding more control to corporations perfectly aligns itself with the insidious undermining of(and negative CoC propaganda about)labor unions?

  3. PeasantParty says:

    A most excellent story, EW!

    This debt/deficit crisis with business staying out of the dealings is more than telling to me. Take the fact that neither the Dems or Repugs can claim a win on this. The real winners will always be big biz and TBTF. I said last night over at FDL that I would not be one bit surprised if Obama thru in the Trade Deals he has been itching to get passed in the Debt ceiling solution.

    Bam! You have covered both big biz and TBTF in one huge swoop. They didn’t need to make a scene because they already knew it was in the bag.

  4. GulfCoastPirate says:

    Then what good is Bill Daley in that position? Thought he was supposed to be the mouthpiece to the business community.

  5. Gitcheegumee says:

    If one uses their search engine using the terms Carlyle Group and Panama,some most interesting links are found.
    Of particular note,imho,is one referring to the hundreds of millions of $$$ that the Carlyle Group is currently investing in Chinese shipbuilding,not American shipbuilders.Here’s an excerpt:

    Massive order placed for “New Panamax” ships

    Mar 28th, 2011
    by The Bulletin.

    Containership owner and charterer Seaspan has placed a $2 billion order for 22 newbuildings with a Chinese shipbuilder.The so-called “New Panamax” 10,000teu vessels will cost around $98 million each from Yangzijiang Shipbuilding, and will be up to 30% more fuel-efficient than previous panamax designs.

    The order was made as one of the world’s largest private equity firms, Carlyle Group, announced it would set up a new containership investment venture involving Seaspan.The group will invest up to $5 billion to buy dozens of containerships and tankers in a joint-venture with three of the biggest players in the Asian maritime market, Dennis Washington, Gerry Wang and Graham Porter.Seaspan has agreed to invest up to $100 million of equity while Carlyle Group is providing $750 million, with the rest coming from the other shareholders.

    The “New Panamax” vessels will be made available to the new venture, said Seaspan.“The company will primarily focus on bringing together Chinese shipbuilders, lenders and state-owned companies to support China’s desire to increase the amount of cargo it controls,” said a statement from Carlyle.

  6. Gitcheegumee says:

    Carlyle Group Debuts New DIFC Funds Regime – LCG – CachedJun 1, 2011 – Panama. BVI. Seychellen. Bahamas … The Dubai International Financial Centre ( DIFC) has announced that the Carlyle Group, …

    Massive order placed for “New Panamax” ships | The Bulletin“new-panamax”-s… – CachedMar 28, 2011 – The Bulletin Panama. Bi-Lingual Newspaper which focuses on Logistic … as one of the world’s largest private equity firms, Carlyle Group, …

    NOTE: It would be well to note that the operator of the Panama Port is Hutchison Whampoa,owned by Li Ka Shing.

  7. radiofreewill says:

    What percentage of the Tea Party earns, or will always earn, under $106,500?


    So, 95% of the Tea Party will pay Social Security taxes for their entire earnings career on Every Dime they make.

    But, not the richest 5% – they get to keep Trillions just for them.

    What percentage of the Tea Party is Retired? Double-dipping in Retirement? Already drawing Social Security and Government Health Care?

    Very high percentage, maybe 70% – and yet they are blindly voting against their own self-interests…

    What percentage of the Tea Party benefits from the Bush Tax Cuts?


    So, 95% of the Tea Party is voting to give $4T to the richest 5% – at the expense of Jobs Programs – and at great cost to the Social Safety Net that they themselves are already dependent on…

    Why would they do that?

    Because, just like for the Rich, the ‘cuts’ don’t really hurt them, either – they enjoy the protected status of being ‘grandfathered’ into the programs under the original terms.

    So, what everyone should be waking-up to this morning is the realization that 29% of US have manipulated ‘the system’ to screw the other 71% of US – and that it’s Obama and the Weakling Dems who’ve made it happen for them, too.

  8. Gitcheegumee says:

    Gitcheegumee @ 10:24 am:

    WikiLeaks Reveals that China Already Knows What WikiLeaks Reveals …
    Apr 14, 2011 – National Corruption Index :: Li Ka-shing. May 1, 2008 …

    Li has also financed satellite deals between American company Hughes Network … and ……/wikileaks-reveals-that-china-already-knows-what-wikileaks-reveals/

    Russell Tice Confirms Everything We’ve Surmised About Bush’s …

    Jan 21, 2009 – In 1989, Kwok helped CITIC and Li Ka- Shing raise $120 million to buy a …… Li Ka-shing plans to buy a controlling interest in the now ……/russell-tice-confirms-everything-weve-surmised-about-bushs-illegal-wiretap-program/

  9. Gitcheegumee says:

    From the above thread “Wikileaks Reveals that China Already Knows….”:

    Port lease deal sinks(*)

    The Carlyle Group, a private equity firm, and Hutchison Port Holdings, which operates more than 50 ports in 25 countries and handles as much as 15 percent …Daily News – Galveston County – 3 related articles

    Hutchison Whampoa – Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaOn March 2011, Hutchison Port Holdings Trust (HPHT) announced that the company will IPO through Singapore Exchange for about $5.4 billion. … – Cached – Similar

    Port lease deal sinks(*)

    By Michael A. Smith
    The Daily News
    Published April 14, 2011

    GALVESTON — Efforts to float a master lease agreement between the Port of Galveston and a private joint venture ran aground Wednesday when marine terminal operator Hutchison Port Holdings suddenly and without explanation pulled out of the deal, port officials said.

    Hutchison’s departure prompted The Carlyle Group, which had been the money behind the joint venture, to withdraw as well, according to the port’s financial advisers, Bank of Montreal Capital Markets.

    Officials at Bank of Montreal told port officials they would contact other firms that had expressed interest in Galveston’s public docks. They also warned that only the Carlyle-Hutchison venture had offered a sweeping deal that could have transformed the island’s entire aging, underused harbor.

    The Carlyle Group, a private equity firm, and Hutchison Port Holdings, which operates more than 50 ports in 25 countries and handles as much as 15 percent of the world’s containerized cargo, in a joint venture were the lone bidders.Galveston’s proximity both to deep water and the Panama Canal, which is being enlarged to accommodate a new generation of very large container ships by 2014, made it attractive to the bidders.

    NOTE: Hutchison Whampoa-owned by Li Ka Shing-controls the Panamanian Port,btw.

  10. prostratedragon says:

    It is a great post, isn’t it?

    Regarding business and its changing agendas, consider the possibility that the earlier era, in which unions and other institutions of the mass of people had power that had to be respected, was in part also an era in which the major (U.S.) business class’s own best interests argued for a sort managed co-operation with labor, because its best assets needed consumers. A slice of evidence:

    Mass production is profitable only if its rhythm can be maintained—that is, if it can continue to sell its product in steady or increasing quantity. The result is that while, under the handicraft o[r] small-unit system of production […] typical of a century ago, demand created the supply, today supply must actively seek to create its corresponding demand. A single factory, potentially capable of supplying a whole continent with its particular product, cannot afford to wait until the public asks for its product; it must maintain constant touch, through advertising and propaganda, with the vast public in order to assure itself the continuous demand which alone will make its costly plant profitable. This entails a vastly more complex system of distribution than formerly. To make customers is the new problem. One must understand not only his own business—the manufacture of a particular product—but also the structure, the personality, the prejudices of a potentially universal public. —Edward Bernays, Propaganda (1928), chapter 5

    Incidentally, one certainly can hear the “master of the universe” meme forming in this passage, can’t one? Also, how we became saddled with the “advertising,” i.e. propaganda, culture. But mainly I just wanted to suggest that the top business class might see its interests lying in the opposite direction than that of 1920, but might be no less single-minded than their predecessors in pursuing the agenda that they think will “work.”

    Another fun note: Bernays was the uncle of Matthew Freud, the public relations counsellor, who is also married to Elisabeth Murdoch. Freud has done some work for branches of News Corp., though he is not of record in that company’s current, new, Save-Our-Ass campaigns.

  11. radiofreewill says:


    You’re probably right, thanks for pointing it out.

    According to the Census Bureau, as of 2008, only 6.24% of all Americans earn over $100,000 – so, if all the $100k earners were in the Tea Party, and the Tea Party is about a third of the electorate, then the percentage would be about 18%, but I would think a more reasonable upper bound, taking into account high-earners who are Dems, would be 10%.

  12. Gitcheegumee says:


    Well, perhaps Carlyle and Ka Shing can tell us where are all the new clientele supposed to come from?
    What exactly will the cargo be in all those new Pananmax vessels?
    To wit:

    Global Manufacturing Collapses To Worst Levels Since Mid-2009
    Submitted by Tyler Durden on 08/01/2011 07:02 -0400

    News from last night out of China, coupled with early morning news from Europe confirmed what many speculated: namely that global manufacturing is now in a toxic spiral and absent another stimulus kick from various monetary and fiscal authorities there is no catalyst on the horizon to put the global economy into second gear.
    As Reuters observes, factories in Asia and Europe all but stagnated in July, according to business surveys that showed the weakest rates of growth since major industrial powers were struggling through the 2009 recession.—-Zero Hedge

  13. Gitcheegumee says:


    One must understand not only his own business—the manufacture of a particular product—but also the structure, the personality, the prejudices of a potentially universal public. —Edward Bernays, Propaganda (1928), chapter 5

    NOTE: That statement could apply to the manufacture of war.

  14. GulfCoastPirate says:


    If factories are stagnating overseas that’s a good thing. One reason for Bernanke’s QE’s was to get a drop in the value of the dollar. That makes imports more expensive and helps with the balance of payments problem we have which is more serious than the deficit problem. Apparently, US customers are consuming less – either because of the recession or due to price increases from dollar fluctuations. We need those factories brought back so we can put our people to work. If the Asians want to increase output let them do it by expanding their internal economies.

  15. Gitcheegumee says:


    Customers in the US are consuming less because there’s less and less jobs. Even the corporate welfare king,WalMart is complaining that their customers are running out of money..and WM is one of China’s biggest (if not THE largest)customer.

    I’d LIKE to think that the contraction in overseas factory production means an expansion in manufacturing here,once again. But I am hesitant to be overly optimistic about this.

    Did you see the article where robots are now replacing human employees in the Asian tech factories??

  16. Gitcheegumee says:

    China’s Answer To Inflation: SkyNet – Foxconn Plans To Replace Workers With Millions Of Robots

    SkyNet has taken over the market, it now appears poised to make labor and wages redundant .
    The world’s biggest non-debt based slave-driver, Taiwanese technology giant Foxconn, also known as the place where all of your iPhones, Pads, etc, are made, has just announced that it will deal with rising wages by doing what US-based quants have figured out years ago: outsource it all to robots. About a million of them.
    Per Xinhua: “Taiwanese technology giant Foxconn will replace some of its workers with 1 million robots in three years to cut rising labor expenses and improve efficiency, said Terry Gou, founder and chairman of the company, late Friday. The robots will be used to do simple and routine work such as spraying, welding and assembling which are now mainly conducted by workers, said Gou….”
    As a reminder, with over 1 million workers, Foxconn has enough people on its payroll that if mobilized would be the 5th largest army in the world, and just after WalMart in total number of employees, albeit instead of spread out around the world, are all concentrated in one small space.

    Submitted by Tyler Durden on 07/31/2011 20:13 -0400-Zero hedge

  17. GulfCoastPirate says:


    It’s not going to happen overnight. Ideally, we’d tell a lot of countries to go frak themselves and put up some hellacious tariffs but that isn’t going to happen in this political environment.

    Yea, I know there is a decline in aggregate demand. That was predictable from the day Reagan came into office and began zeroing in on the unions in order to reduce overall wage rates. No president who followed, including Clinton, did anything to stop the decline – in fact they fostered it further. The math is very clear and all this was easily predictable.

    Not surprised at the robots. I built a couple crude ones myself many years ago. These days it’s mostly a software problem.

  18. Gitcheegumee says:


    Imho, once the MOTUS have legislation in place that makes labor unions illegal,manufacturing will then return to the US.

  19. GulfCoastPirate says:


    C’mon now. Cheer up. They’re laying off police left and right all over the country. When people get pissed off enough to do something about it they’ll be easily found. :)

  20. Gitcheegumee says:

    GulfCoastPirate 1:27 pm

    The synchronicity of great minds..*G*..I pretty much said the same thing upthread @ comment

  21. prostratedragon says:

    If the assets of manufacturing are not on their books, they don’t care where the market comes from.

    Mind, this is all very transitional, and war might indeed come to have its role to play. But the objective, or the desired end state, is different from the kind of thing we’ve been used to assuming under the “old world order.”

    (Remember, Bernays was speaking in 1928, and rather presciently I dare say. I’m just suggesting that the economic background as it is seen by those holding the economic balance of power is in crucial ways the opposite of what it was then, but as the cohort found a solution to its shared problem in the early years of this century that involved the co-ordinated deployment of a great many resources and the skills of numerous professionals in novel, indeed revolutionary ways —and that little snippet is just one of many with the same import— so we should consider that a change in circumstances might be met in a similarly co-ordinated fashion.

    A leading present-day scholar on the history of propaganda, if I may call it that, is Stuart Ewen, whose first book was Captains of Consciousness. He was one who dredged up enough of the early history of business objectives to, paraphrasing his words, have his mind blown by how frank and explicit many of them were. He is also one of the main interlocutors in the documentary Century of the Self; the link is to the first part out of 4.

  22. Gitcheegumee says:


    For a mid 20th century take on corporate PR may I heartily recommend “Life In the Crystal Palace ” by Alan Harrington? Excellent.

    (Upon leaving his crystal palace-his seductive corporate chrysalis-he recevied a grant from the Nation magazine to write about his experiences there.)

    Life in the Crystal Palace, by Alan Harrington – The Neglected … – CachedSimilar-

    Apr 13, 2009 – Cover of first U.S. edition of ‘Life in the Crystal Palace’ Life in the Crystal Palace may, one day, come to seem a little like one of those …
    ► Life in the Crystal Palace (9789997501134): Alan ……/dp/9997501136 – CachedSimilar
    Thousands of men enter the crystal palace yearly. In time they must make a choice: accept the numbing security of big corporation life or revolt against …

  23. Gitcheegumee says:

    Gitcheegumee to pd:

    And not to put too fine a point on it, but the thread here “Addington’s Useful Idiots” contains some references to the ’70’s SRI study “Changing Images of Man”,with whom Joseph Campbell was affiliated.

    Well worth a look from the standpoint of the role of propaganda and PR as a prerequisite to shape future society .

  24. Richard Hoefer / Howard Dean Progressive says:


    (( Actually, Tea Party skews higher income than average in America, )))

    eeeuuuuuuuuuuuuuu !

    grosssssssss !

    I have taken to using childish language since adult language carries no weight in America.

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