Business, Labor Push Back Against White House Some corporate leaders have been labeling President Obama anti-business in recent weeks. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been leading the charge when it comes to criticism. But plenty of people in the labor movement say the president has gone too far to accommodate business.

Business, Labor Push Back Against White House

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

If the economy is recovering from a severe retraction, why aren't more jobs being created? Well, Republicans and some business leaders say it's because the Obama administration has focused on new government programs in health care and new financial regulations. Some even say the president himself is anti-business.

But when it comes to jobs, Mr. Obama is catching fire from both sides, with some in organized labor arguing that he has hurt workers by going too far to accommodate business. NPR's Don Gonyea reports on the president's jobs predicament.

DON GONYEA: In this election year, Republicans have been running against the president and the Democratic Congress, portraying them as bad for business. Feeding this narrative has been the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, whose chairman, Thomas Bell, went through the litany of complaints at a recent job summit streamed live on the Web.

Mr. THOMAS BELL (Chairman, United States Chamber of Commerce): The health care reform law, the financial regulatory reform bill, EPA regulations of carbon emissions, expanded liability and higher taxes on income and investment. You know, it just goes on and on.

GONYEA: The group also heard from Charles Schwab, the giant discount brokerage firm that bears his name.

Mr. CHARLES SCHWAB (Founder and Chairman, Charles Schwab Corporation): They've actually in many ways put the fear of God in businesspeople.

GONYEA: The trend toward deregulation began in the late 1970s with the airlines. It intensified during the '80s under Ronald Reagan and continued through the subsequent decades. That era has definitely come to an end with the Obama administration.

But the AFL-CIO's Damon Silver(ph) says it was about time because the relaxing of rules had pushed the country to the brink in many ways.

Mr. DAMON SILVER (AFL-CIO): The business practices that it brought us, the economic crisis that began in 2007, the business practices that brought us the worst environmental devastation in my lifetime in the Gulf, the business practices that have hollowed-out our manufacturing sector and taken five million manufacturing jobs away from our country.

GONYEA: As for the complaints from the chamber and elsewhere that the size of the stimulus has added to the deficit and not created the job growth the administration predicted, the president himself has been defending the stimulus in regular trips outside Washington: Ohio, Missouri, Wisconsin, North Carolina and more.

It's called the White House to Main Street Tour. Here's Mr. Obama talking to NBC on the tarmac next to Air Force One in Michigan last week.

President BARACK OBAMA: You've got to remember also that about a third of the recovery act last year was tax cuts, and nobody talks about it, but those were not just tax cuts to individuals. They were also tax cuts to small businesses.

GONYEA: To counter the anti-business label, administration figures are often accompanied by individual business leaders, such as the Celgard company's Robert Toth in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Mr. ROBERT TOTH (CEO, Celgard): As you can see, we're currently expanding operations here with our investment supported by the $49 million matching grant we received from the Department of Energy last year. It's a very exciting time for our company.

GONYEA: But such events have not turned around public doubts about the stimulus or the president's handling of the economy in general. And the AFL-CIO's Damon Silver says that, too, came from the administration doing too much to make business happy.

Mr. SILVER: The business tax cuts, pretty clearly the least effective aspect of the stimulus bill.

GONYEA: At the liberal think tank the Economic Policy Institute, Josh Bivens also faults the administration for its management of the message.

Mr. JOSH BIVENS (Economic Policy Institute): I think it needs to be jobs, jobs, jobs, and instead, it's jobs, deficits, jobs, deficits, and they go back and forth.

GONYEA: And if both sides of the labor-management debate agree on nothing else, they both seem to want the White House to be on their side full time.

Don Gonyea, NPR News, Washington.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.