How About A Summit With The Unemployed

Dave Johnson

We had bailouts and bonuses for Wall Street but letdowns and layoffs for Main Street. We had a deficit commission but no jobs commission. We have tax cuts for the rich and budget cuts for the rest of We, the People. And this week the President is having a “summit” with the heads of giant corporations. So how about holding a summit with the unemployed?

President Obama is holding a “summit” with 20 or so CEOs Wednesday, “to ease strained relations with business.” NY Times: Obama to Meet With Executives,

President Obama will host a roundtable with about 20 corporate chiefs on Wednesday, according to the White House, part of an attempt to ease strained relations with business.

… With the mood for the meeting already lightened by his recent announcements of a trade deal with South Korea and a compromise on tax cuts with Congressional Republicans, Mr. Obama and the executives will discuss an overhaul of the tax system…

See if you can guess what sort of “overhaul of the tax system” suggestions are likely to come out of a “summit” with top CEOs. Hint: a recent “summit” with Republican leaders resulted in a plan for extending tax cuts for the rich and cutting the inheritance tax.

Record Profits

The Washington news types talk about “strained relations” between business leaders and President Obama. The business news reports I’ve been reading don’t reflect a “strain” at all. A recent NY Times story: Corporate Profits Were the Highest on Record Last Quarter,

American businesses earned profits at an annual rate of $1.659 trillion in the third quarter, according to a Commerce Department report released Tuesday. That is the highest figure recorded since the government began keeping track over 60 years ago, at least in nominal or noninflation-adjusted terms.

Record corporate profits. Wow. Just wow. And for the rest of us?

High Unemployment, Very High Long-Term Unemployment

But wait, something else is at high levels as well. This year’s headlines:

January: Number of long-term unemployed hits highest rate since 1948

June: Long-Term Unemployment at Highest Recorded Rate

September: Long-term unemployment reaches crisis level

December: Long-term unemployed are left without assistance

Susie Madrak , over at Crooks and Liars, has a few things to say about this summit in her post, Obama To Hold CEO Summit Wednesday; Execs To Present Their Very Reasonable Demands For Ransom

Basically, they want to run untaxed, unregulated businesses with few (if any) legal obligations to the people who still work for them. Oh, and they want “austerity” for the working classes…

… Now perhaps the president can convene a one-day summit of the unemployed and the working poor to ask them what they think, for a change.

Yes, perhaps the President can convene a summit with the unemployed.

Playing The Ref

In November I wrote about this idea that President Obama is “anti-business,”

Here is what has been going on. In a classic “playing the ref” move, the Chamber of Commerce has been pitching the idea that the Obama administration is “anti-business” because they don’t give the big, monopolist, multi-national corporations everything they want. “Playing the ref” is a sports term, the idea being that if you complain enough about the calls a referee makes the referee will feel the need to give your team a few breaks in order to appear to be making fair calls.

So the Chamber, by complaining that Obama is “anti-business,” is really trying to get Obama to be even more pro-business. (The same strategy is at work when you hear complaints about the “liberal media.” After so may years of this accusation by right-wingers, newsroom editors are terrified of appearing to be left-leaning, resulting in so many right-leaning news stories.)

This summit to “ease strained relations” with business leaders is in response to a classic “playing the ref” move. While sitting on the highest profits ever they complain that the President is :anti-business” and get what they want. It’s too bad the unemployed — with the highest rates of long-term unemployment ever — are not represented in Washington by swarms of well-paid lobbyists, or by campaign contributions, or by “independent expenditure” smear-ad campaigns, or by astroturf (providing a corporate-purchased appearance of “grassroots” support) organizations. That seems to work. Being one of the regular old-fashioned “We, the People” doesn’t seem to buy much influence on our government and its leaders any more.

So how about holding a summit with the unemployed, and taking their suggestions? This might “ease strained relations” between the unemployed and the country’s leaders and their policies.

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