President Barack Obama unabashedly reinforced his anti-business credentials in a recent interview with The Economist magazine. In so doing he illustrated that he has no grasp of the harm he has done to the economy and with that the middle class.
Obama told the magazine last week that American CEOs should just stop complaining about regulations and taxes.
"If you look at what's happened over the last four or five years, the folks who don't have a right to complain are the folks at the top," he said. "Oftentimes you'll hear some hedge fund manager say, 'Oh, he's just trying to stir class resentment.' No. Feel free to keep your house in the Hamptons and your corporate jet, etcetera. I'm not concerned about how you're living."
Except that he is. The president's remarks define him. No CEOs are complaining about not being able to keep their home or their corporate perks or their golf club membership. They are complaining about taxes and expansive new regulations under the Obama administration that have made it difficult to do business and create jobs.
There's the war on coal. There's the on-again, off-again business mandate under Obamacare. There's the 35 percent corporate tax rate - highest in the developed world. There's the president's opposition to tax relief that would allow U.S. companies to repatriate trillions in foreign earnings.
In fact the president's posture on corporate taxes is a great illustration of what CEOs have been talking about. Rather than reform the corporate tax code to bring U.S. rates in line with those of other industrialized nations, the president wants to build a sort of regulatory Berlin wall to prevent U.S. companies from reincorporating abroad to take advantage of lower tax rates.
Obama told The Economist, "I am concerned about making sure that we have a system in which the ordinary person who is working hard and is being responsible can get ahead."
If so, he is failing miserably. The New York Times reported last month that the typical middle class household is now worth more than one-third less than it was in 2003. Further, virtually all of that decline has occurred since 2007, shortly before Obama took office, and has continued throughout his tenure.
The president has also presided over the most anemic economic recovery on record. Participation in the workforce has fallen to 35-year lows as unemployed Americans gave up looking for work and left the workforce. This is the product of an economy in which corporations by and large have been afraid to hire and afraid to invest because of tax and regulatory uncertainty.
The president's demonizing of corporate CEOs is salt in the wound, and it only reinforces their reluctance to take entrepreneurial risks while this president is in office. We'll also note the hypocrisy of Obama's contempt for CEOs, since - whether he admits it or not - he is one, and he's quick to avail himself of the perks of that office.
Corporate jets? Obama has the best in the world. Ritzy vacations? Obama prefers Hawaii. And as the New York Post recently noted, since his re-election, while Russia has carved off slices of Ukraine and the Mideast has erupted in flames - CEO Obama has played 81 rounds of golf and attended 75 fundraisers (as of July 26).
Are those the actions of a true champion of the middle class? Far from it, and that's why the middle class continues to struggle while Obama tells job creators to quit complaining.