Barack Obama has spent much of his presidency attacking the rich and berating businesses for not hiring more workers. But many businesses aren’t hiring because they see an uncertain future with a President who at best doesn’t understand business and at worst is at war with capitalism.
The headlines tell us that the unemployment rate in November fell to 8.6%, its lowest level in more than two years. But, as with much in the Age of Obama, the devil is in the details. The primary reason for the drop is that more than 300,000 Americans ceased looking for work altogether last month—more than twice the number who actually got jobs. (Just think: Unemployment could go to zero if those pesky unemployed folks would just drop out of the job hunt.)
These are people who perhaps understand better than Obama that economic recovery entails more than companies simply “step[ping] up” to hire new workers, as Obama admonished CEOs to do last May.
Last week, Leon Cooperman, CEO of Omega Advisors, a hedge fund, sent Obama a blistering open letter, criticizing the President’s “desperate demagoguery” against job creators. “Capitalism is not the source of our problems, as an economy or as a society,” Cooperman wrote before reminding Obama:
“As a group, [capitalists] employ many millions of taxpaying people, pay their salaries, provide them with health care coverage, start new companies, found new industries, create new products, fill store shelves at Christmas, and keep the wheels of commerce and progress (and indeed of government, by generating the income whose taxation funds it) moving.”
“To frame the debate as one of rich-and-entitled versus poor-and-dispossessed,” Cooperman continued, “is to both miss the point and further inflame an already incendiary environment. It is also a naked, political pander to some of the basest human emotions—a strategy, as history teaches, that never ends well for anyone but totalitarians and anarchists.”
Cooperman isn’t the only employer fed up with the anti-business environment Obama has helped create. Six months ago Bill Looman, CEO of U.S. Cranes, recently posted signs on his company’s trucks stating, “New Company Policy: We are not hiring until Obama is gone.”
Facebook pictures of the signs went viral, prompting a visit from the Secret Service, which interviewed Looman as a possible security threat to the President. Welcome to Obama World, where intimidation of the President’s critics is becoming commonplace.
But Looman’s concise declaration revealed how much of a burden the Obama administration is to employers. “Can’t afford it,” Looman told an Atlanta radio station last week. “I’ve got people I want to hire now, but I just can’t afford it. And I don’t foresee that I’ll be able to afford it unless some things change in D.C.”
Cooperman and Looman are hardly alone. Home Depot founder Bernie Marcus lambasted Obama in July, saying that “Home Depot would never have succeeded if we’d tried to start it today. Every day you see rules and regulations from a group of Washington bureaucrats who know nothing about running a business.”
Whole Foods CEO John Mackey has said, “It was a lot easier for me to start my business 30 years ago than it is for an entrepreneur starting out today to do the same thing.”
Polls show as many as three in four small businesses would like to hire but cannot, in many cases because of the stifling regulatory regime Obama has created.
An October Gallup poll found that one in three small-business owners are concerned about going out of business and that they are most likely to point to government regulations as the most significant problem they face.
According to a recent Bloomberg report, the Obama administration approved 613 rules during its first 33 months. Obama’s regulations (many related to oil drilling, environmental protection, ObamaCare and financial reform) cost between $7 billion and $11 billion annually.
The Obama administration has an additional 219 major rules under consideration, up from 137 in 2005, according to Bloomberg.
Democrats apparently are under no illusions about who will ultimately pay the price for their job-stifling policies. “Preparations by Democratic operatives for the 2012 election make it clear for the first time that the party will explicitly abandon the white working class,” the New York Times’ Thomas Edsall wrote last week. “All pretense of trying to win a majority of the white working class has been effectively jettisoned …”
It’s been years since Democrats have fared well among white working-class voters. Obama lost them in 2008, and he didn’t help himself by infamously referring to Middle Americans as clinging bitterly to guns, xenophobia and religion. The Democrats lost these voters by 30 percentage points in the 2010 midterm elections.
Obama’s reelection campaign will look like the polar opposite of his 2008 campaign. Hope and unity will be replaced by demonization and division. But Obama may ultimately unite two groups historically at odds—the titans of industry and the working class. They are both under assault by Obama’s socialist policies.