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President Obama slays anti-business myth

There are two pesky myths about Democratic presidents. One is that they are inherently dovish on foreign policy and they are anti-big business in their domestic policy.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Boston — There are two pesky myths about Democratic presidents. One is that they are inherently dovish on foreign policy and they are anti-big business in their domestic policy.

The GOP myth that Democratic presidents were chronic foreign policy pushovers got some traction in the early going with their attacks on Democratic presidential candidate Obama and for a short time immediately after his election as president. He quickly slayed that myth with his hit on the Somali pirates, his troop ramp-up in Afghanistan, the expansion of the drone war and his authorized killing of Osama bin Laden.

But the myth that he’s anti-business, even a closet socialist and wealth re-distributor, has lingered. Obama has continually heard that everything he’s proposed — financial, and health care reform, ending tax breaks for the rich, curtailing some tax perks for corporations, backing stronger consumer protections and defense of unions — has been socialist-tinged, if not part of a larger conspiracy to topple free enterprise.

Like any other lie, if it’s repeated often and loud enough, it becomes fact in the minds of those who hunger to believe the worst about Obama.

But even before the skyrocket in the stock market that has made Wall Street and corporate coffers fatter than ever, Obama’s record — and indeed the record of past Democratic presidents — in making Wall Street and big business richer has been plainly evident. Going back nearly a century, as measured by the stock market and the GDP, business has done better, and at times spectacularly better, under Democrats than Republicans.

During those years, there has been a recession during the presidency of every GOP president. Since World War II, there have been three two-term presidents dogged by recession. They were all Republicans. Big business had the best of it under Clinton. The stock market surged by a double-digit percent during his two terms, and corporate profits leaped off the charts.

The GOP hit on Obama was that he undid the business gains under Clinton, and even those under President George W. Bush. This is an even bigger GOP self-serving myth. Corporate profits have leaped more than 50 percent under Obama. That’s the biggest jump under any president since 1933. By comparison, corporate profits increased 12.5 percent and 14 percent during Clinton and Bush’s tenures in the White House.

Obama proved he was business-friendly from the first moment of his first presidential campaign. He far exceeded GOP presidential rival John McCain in bagging and bundling millions from the giants among Wall Street bankers, investors, and corporate PACs and executives. In an ironic twist, while Obama has been knocked for being anti-business, he’s also been lambasted for being too cozy to big business, even willing to wink and nod at the alleged corporate tax dodge abuses and the shipping of jobs and capital overseas.

Some of the alleged worst offenders are prominently represented on the 26-member Jobs Council Obama set up in 2011. The most prominent corporate exec that drew heat was the council’s chairman, General Electric Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt. The charge is that GE made billions by exporting jobs to China while paying zero corporate taxes. GE pushed back hard against both by citing figures on the taxes it paid and the jobs it created in the U.S.

But this is little more than a political footnote to the bigger story that Obama supposedly was out to strangle big business with draconian business-killing regulations, hyper-inflated government tax and spending and the wild expansion of entitlement programs. This propelled Wall Street and corporate campaign money bundlers and GOP-connected corporate super PACs to dump millions into GOP presidential foe Mitt Romney’s failed campaign.

This was no surprise. The mildest criticism of big business and the wealthy have long brought howls of socialism. The American economic sacred cow is that laissez-faire wealth is tantamount to a divine right of kings, and any attempt to touch it is economic heresy. Politicians know it is a kiss of death to be seen as an advocate for tax and income fairness.

Obama has spent much time in assuring the GOP, Wall Street and corporate leaders that he is willing to cut government excess and compromise on tax reform that targets the rich. This isn’t enough to stop the veiled talk that he’s the sworn enemy of business.

But this talk can’t scrub away the fact that Obama and Democratic presidents have been far better friends of big business than GOP presidents have ever been.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst.