February 2011, Week 2


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Tue, 8 Feb 2011 20:36:42 -0500
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Corporate Media Push Wrong Story on Obama's Relationship With

By Rose Aguilar
February 7, 2011


President Barack Obama is hoping to 'mend ties' with big
business by speaking to the US Chamber of Commerce (COC),
Washington DC's top lobbyist. That's the frame we're hearing
in the corporate media even though the President has extended
the Bush tax cuts, recently named JP Morgan Chase executive
and former COC board member William Daley as his chief of
staff, and chose General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt to head
the new 'White House Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.'

Since 2009, GE has closed more than 25 manufacturing plants
in the US and slashed thousands of jobs, according to the
United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America.
While GE has laid off at least 10,000 workers in the US, it
has created more than 30,000 jobs in India over the past
decade. The administration's job czar runs a company that
employs more workers overseas than it does in the US.

During his recent eight-hour floor speech on inequality, tax
cuts for the ultra-wealthy, and corporate greed, Senator
Bernie Sanders (I-VT) cited an investors' meeting on December
6, 2002 at which Immelt said, "When I am talking to GE
managers, I talk China, China, China, China, China.  You need
to be there. You need to change the way people talk about it
and how they get there. I am a nut on China. Outsourcing from
China is going to grow to $5 billion. We are building a tech
center in China. Every discussion today has to center on
China. The cost basis is extremely attractive."

Since Immelt became CEO in 2001, he has been paid $90 million
in salary, cash, and pension benefits, and like most multi-
nationals, GE just posted better-than-expected fourth quarter
and 2010 profits.

According to the Wall Street Journal, with about half of the
largest corporations already reporting fourth-quarter
profits, 2010 is expected to deliver the third-best full-year
gain since 1998. Chevron's fourth-quarter profits rose 72
percent. Dow Chemical's profits rose a whopping 188 percent.

The banks that received $13 trillion in bailout money and
subsidies with no strings attached are also posting record
profits and paying their CEOs multi-million dollar salaries.
According to the New York Times, 2010 was JPMorgan Chase's
most profitable year. CEO Jamie Dimon is expected to take
home $17.5 million, while four of his top executives have
been awarded stock worth more than $10 million each.

At the recent state dinner with Chinese President Hu Jintao,
attendees included Boeing CEO James McNerney, Goldman Sachs
CEO Lloyd Blankfein, JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, Coca-
Cola CEO Muhtar Kent, Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris and The
Carlyle Group Co-Founder David Rubenstein. Even Henry
Kissinger, the man who is facing international arrest
warrants for war crimes, was there.

And yet The Washington Post claims that President Obama is
speaking to the COC to 'rebuild ties with corporate America?'

What most media outlets fail to mention is that many of the
corporations that fund the COC are responsible for sending
millions of jobs overseas and yet they present themselves as
the saviors for job creation as long as they continue
receiving tax breaks. 'And that's just wrong,' says Sasha
Abramsky, a freelance journalist who is working on a book
about the COC. 'It's a rewriting of history and the fact that
they haven't been called on it is a major failing among
progressive politicians.'

Abramsky says the COC claims to speak for all American
businesses and by extension, for all Americans, but it's
important to point out that it's 'got a very sectarian, very
narrow agenda.'

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The COC used to claim that it represents 'three million
businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions,' but a 2009
investigation by Mother Jones' Josh Harkinson found that the
number is closer to 200,000. A day after the story appeared,
the COC quietly revised its membership number from three
million to 300,000.

When most people think of the COC, images of their local
Chamber and mom and pop shops come to mind, but according to
the Mother Jones piece, 'many state and local chambers don't
want the national body to speak for their members. Since
2006, when the Chamber offered to automatically enroll local
members in the national group free of charge, only 354 of the
nation's 7,000 state and local chambers have signed up.'

'The US Chamber is the largest lobbying organization in the
country,' says Kristy Setzer, communications director of the
union-backed watchdog group, US Chamber Watch. 'It is not
lobbying on behalf of small business owners. It is lobbying
to protect the handful of very large CEOs that fund its

According to the US Chamber Watch, the COC's more than 100-
member board includes CEOs from Dow Chemical, JP Morgan
Chase, AT&T, and Caterpillar; just 16 corporations, including
WellPoint, Cigna, Charles Schwab, and Hewlett Packard provide
60 percent of the COC's $200 million budget.

The COC is not required to reveal specific contribution
information, so it's difficult to break down individual
donations. In October, Politico reported that the News
Corporation, whose holdings include the Fox News Channel and
the Wall Street Journal, donated $1M to the COC.

'That's probably the most disheartening thing about the
Chamber's business model. It is all so secret. It's done that
way by design,' says Setzer.

She says anonymous contributions allow major corporations to
hide behind policy positions that might be unpopular with
their customers and the public at large, including repealing
the healthcare law, undermining climate legislation, and
extending tax breaks to companies that send jobs overseas.
Since President Bill Clinton signed NAFTA in 1993, American
corporations have shut down 43,000 factories, resulting in
the loss of 5.1 million manufacturing jobs, according to
Public Citizen.

According to a Bloomberg report, America's Health Insurance
Plans (AHIP), the health insurance lobby whose members
include Humana, Aetna, WellPoint, and Cigna, gave the Chamber
$86.2 million in 2009 to oppose real healthcare reform. The
COC ran TV ads in over 20 states warning that a public option
would lead to 'expanded government control over your health.'

"By funneling the money through the Chamber," says the
report, "insurers were able to remain at the table
negotiating with Democrats while still getting the bill

At the March 5, 2009 White House Health Care Summit, where
doctors and single payer advocates were arrested for standing
up to ask why single payer reform was not on the table, AHIP
president Karen Ignagni told President Obmaa he could count
on her and the insurance industry. 'We want to work with the
members of Congress on a bipartisan basis here. You have our
commitment. We hear the American people about what's not
working. We've taken that seriously,' she said. 'You have our
commitment to play, to contribute, and to help pass health
care reform this year.'

President Obama responded by saying, 'Good. Thank you, Karen.
That's good news. That's America's Health Insurance Plans.'

At today's speech to 200 COC members, President Obama said,
'I'm here today because I'm convinced we can and must work

'It's unclear what is more mortifying: President Barack Obama
choosing the club of America's notorious job-offshorers to
talk about the importance of creating American jobs, or his
rallying of his fiercest political opponents to help him
overcome the majority of Americans who oppose more-of-the-
same job-killing trade agreements and pass a NAFTA-style deal
with Korea that the government's own analysis shows will
increase our trade deficit,' said Lori Wallach, director of
Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, in response to today's

'The US Chamber of Commerce audience must have been thrilled
to have Obama push more of the trade agreements that both
help them offshore American jobs and, given that most
Americans oppose more of these job-killing trade pacts, can
help them achieve their political goal of replacing Obama in

The Economic Policy Institute estimates that the Korea-US
Free Trade Agreement will cost 159,000 US jobs within the
first seven years after it takes effect. Congress is expected
to vote on the deal in the coming months.

[Rose Aguilar is the host of "Your Call," a daily call-in
radio show on KALW 91.7 FM in San Francisco and on KUSP 88.9
FM in Santa Cruz. She is author of "Red Highways: A Liberal's
Journey Into the Heartland."]


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