On February 27, comments from Mr. George Buckley, the chief executive and chairman of 3M, were featured in an article written for the Financial Times by Hal Weitzman. They were not complimentary. Here’s my executive summary:
- Buckley does not believe what politicians say, but rather what they do. He thinks that President Obama’s instincts are more aligned with Robin Hood than with the principles of capitalism.
- Even though Obama created a “Job and Competitiveness Council” last month, that was stacked with selectively picked executives from major corporations, Buckley asserts that most companies in the United States view our nation is a difficult place to do business. They see Washington’s policies as hostile, overly taxing and excessively regulated.
- He believes politicians tend to forget that companies have a choice regarding whether or not to do business in the United States. Locations such as Canada and Mexico were cited as attractive alternatives, simply because they are more pro-American towards business than this White House.
- Buckley had concerns regarding the difficulty in obtaining visas for highly educated foreign nationals who come to the United States for jobs. As a result, he believes that American businesses have no choice but to export their research efforts overseas to nations such as China, India and Germany.
- Although Buckley acknowledges that there is modest improvement in the macro economic numbers for the United States, he’s more concerned about the micro numbers, citing poor performance in automotive, manufacturing and of course, housing.
Predictably, the new White House spokesperson William Daley fired back a response in the Financial Times on March 1. Daley was “amazed” that the CEO of 3M would characterize Obama as “anti-business. According to this White House representative:
- The federal government has a responsibility to lay foundations for private business. Economic solutions are not being driven by Washington.
- Obama is laying these foundations by reforming America’s education system, as well as spending federal money on transportation and communications systems.
- Obama’s tax incentives on research are key to bolstering American business.
- Obama has cut taxes 40 times.
- Obama produced a “tough budget” that includes a freeze on domestic spending for five years.
- This administration is not overly regulative, but rather, it is knocking down barriers that allow American business to compete with foreign companies. The recent trade agreement with North Korea was cited as an example.
- The president’s policies are moving this country “in the right direction”.
- No one should give Mr. Buckley’s comments any credence because “the stakes are too high”.
Before considering any content, it seems intuitively obvious that the statements of 3M’s Chairman and CEO would have more validity than the statements of the White House spokesperson. But when content is considered, that assumption is validated. To argue a position which paints Obama as a cost-conscious, tax-cutting, pro-business president who prefers grass-root economic solutions to federal micromanagement is the height of lunacy. Every single point cited by Daley is exactly 180° opposite of reality.
For example, the president’s Asian tour failed on virtually every objective. The Obma White House Diaries article dated November 15 entitle “In Your Dreams, Mr. President” republished this piece of news from AP:
“But the narrative soured once Obama arrived in Seoul, South Korea, for a meeting of the Group of 20 developed and emerging economies. Obama failed to achieve a free-trade deal with Korea that was to have been the biggest trophy of his trip, and instead of banding with America against China’s currency manipulation, several countries aligned themselves against the U.S.”
“The limits of America’s — and Obama’s — influence was on painful display as the G-20 failed to produce specific action against China’s currency undervaluation and Obama instead fielded questions about the wisdom of the Federal Reserve’s recent move to stimulate the U.S. economy through a $600 billion purchase of Treasury bonds, which is expected to inflate the value of the dollar.”
And Obama’s so-called “tough budget” was a laughing stock and openly acknowledged as and embarrassment by politicians on both sides of the aisle. Even Timothy Geithner admitted to Congress recently that under the rosiest of projections, the president’s budget would continue to increase the federal debt for the next 10 years. He failed to mention, however, that Obama’s numbers are simply unsustainable.
It must be difficult for chief executives of major US corporations to listen to the hollow rhetoric coming from this administration, let alone some bold-faced lies. It must also be difficult for corporate leaders to decide whether to appease this president and his socialistic agenda or to come out swinging in defense of American interests. Those interests include opportunity and prosperity as opposed to Obama’s vision of control and austerity, at least for the masses. Washington elite appear to be exempt.
Appeasement of Obama’s agenda may benefit some US companies in the short-term, but in my humble opinion, the true patriots include the CEO’s who come out swinging. Thank you, 3M.