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Business May Be Ungrateful, But It's Not Stupid

Timothy Egan writes that President Obama saved capitalism, lost the midterm elections, and corporate American is ungrateful for it:

The banking system was resuscitated by $700 billion in bailouts started by Bush (a fact unknown by a majority of Americans), and finished by Obama, with help from the Federal Reserve. It worked. The government is expected to break even on a risky bet to stabilize the global free market system. Had Obama followed the populist instincts of many in his party, the underpinnings of big capitalism could have collapsed. He did this without nationalizing banks, as other Democrats had urged.

Saving the American auto industry, which has been a huge drag on Obama’s political capital, is a monumental achievement that few appreciate, unless you live in Michigan. After getting their taxpayer lifeline from Obama, both General Motors and Chrysler are now making money by making cars. New plants are even scheduled to open. More than 1 million jobs would have disappeared had the domestic auto sector been liquidated. ...

Of course, the big money interests who benefited from Obama’s initiatives have shown no appreciation. Obama, as a senator, voted against the initial bailout of AIG, the reckless insurance giant. As president, he extended them treasury loans at a time when economists said he must — or risk further meltdown. Their response was to give themselves $165 million in executive bonuses, and funnel money to Republicans this year.

I think he's basically right about this. Obama's policies have been extremely good for owners of capital. His problem is that nobody else is benefiting, and "nobody else" accounts for the vast majority of the electorate.

Where I disagree with Egan is the implication that business has erred in opposing Obama. It would be true if their opposition was having the effect of threatening TARP or Obama's other stabilization policies. The Republicans may be riding a backlash to those policies, but business understands perfectly well that Republicans not only don't plan to reverse them, they would have done the same thing if they had held power in 2009-2010. Business sits in the enviable position of having one party that wants to save capitalism and another party eager to slash regulations and the tax burden on the rich. Why not have their cake and eat it too?