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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Lefty blogger: pay no attention to the industry money behind ObamaCare.

I am constantly railing against what I call "The Big Myth," the false dogma that Big Business simply wants to be left alone by government, and that Big Government serves the role of constraining Big Business. Matt Yglesias, a liberal blogger for the Center for American Progress, tried pretty hard in a blog post yesterday to salvage that myth yesterday in a blog post that has an odd "I want to believe" tone.

In a later post, I'll address Yglesias's specific points, but for now I want to address his thesis. Referring to Obama's health-care overhaul, the blogger writes:

But the simple fact of the matter is that corporate America is doing what it usually does—attacking progressive legislation, and promoting obstruction by conservative politicians.

I'll admit it's a bit hard to argue with Yglesias because of his tendency of leaning almost exclusively on loaded but undefined terms such as "progressive," "conservative," "corporate America," and -- this one Yglesias repeats so much, with so little content, it's almost his mantra -- "reform." So you have to do some mind-reading when dealing with this guy. Let's assume that by "progressive," he means "Big Government policies Obama has supported."

By this definition Yglesias's thesis falls apart. What are the biggest legislative issues of the last year or so? By my count, the top five would be the Wall Street bailout, the Detroit bailout, the stimulus, cap-and-trade, and health care. On Wall Street, Detroit, and the stimulus, Obama's Big Government side had the backing of the affected industries as well as the Chamber of Commerce. On cap-and-trade and health care, "corporate America" has been split.

Many industry giants including Duke Energy, Alcoa, Chrysler, Caterpillar, Conoco Phillips, Dow Chemical, DuPont, Ford Motor, General Electric, General Motors, Johnson & Johnson, PepsiCo, and Shell are members of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, the lobbying group that has crafted the cap-and-trade legislation currently on Capitol Hill. Yes, the Chamber and Exxon are against cap-and-trade, but with the above big boys and Goldman Sachs on Obama's Big Government side, the situation is hardly one of "corporate America ... attacking prorgessive legislation."

Health-care is far more complex, but Yglesias's blog post unfortunately glosses over that complexity by leaning so heavily on the undefined word "reform." Still, it's startling to hear this "industry-always-battles-progressives," talk from the liberal blogger who so proudly touted his "progressive" employer's deal with Wal-Mart -- the nation's largest private employer -- to lobby for a federal mandate that all employers provide health insurance. While Yglesias tried to paint this Wal-Mart-CAP alliance as an anomaly, he did note, "the willingness of much of the business community to break with Chamber ideology on Waxman-Markey and now on health care."

Let me add these data points to poke further holes in the Big Myth Yglesias is peddling here Barney Frank scored higher on the Chamber's score card than did Ron Paul. The tobacco regulation bill Obama signed was partly written by Philip Morris, and the toy safety bill he supported was the fruit of Mattel's 2007-08 full-court lobbying press. Cash-for-Clunkers also provided an industry-Obama alliance.

At the time of the Yglesias-Wal-Mart alliance, I wrote:

The notion that Big Business has long been reflexively anti-government is a myth, and Yglesias repeats it here in order to pat his boss John Podesta (whose brother lobbies for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and whose sister-in-law lobbies for Boeing, Cigna, and dozens of other megacorps,) and the President (who received more money than anyone else from Wall Street, and frankly every industry but insurance) on the back for "change."

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