Despite trumpeting his support during the campaign for the middle class and small business, President Obama will be hearing instead today from corporate chieftains at a crucial White House meeting staged to solicit the business community’s views just before talks on the “fiscal cliff” begin.
According to a report in Politico, the session will include at least 11 CEO’s of major U.S. corporations, among them the chieftains of Walmart, Dow Chemicals, Proctor & Gamble, and Ford. There does not appear to be any participation by representatives of small and medium businesses.
Obama Tuesday met with labor and progressive leaders. So non-union members of the middle class will not be heard from at either of Obama’s “listening sessions” this week.
He will gather Friday with congressional leaders to formally launch fiscal cliff negotiations.
Small and medium business representatives in Washington – like the National Federation of Independent Business and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – tend to support Republicans because of what they view as GOP policies that are far more favorable to their interests. These groups, which represent thousands of the type of businesses Obama said during the campaign he wants to embrace, have been almost completely shut out from the White House during the four years of the Obama administration.
CEOs, by contrast, are more likely to back both Democrats and Republicans, in part because of the diverse political views of their large number of employees and the direct effect the administration can have on their bottom lines.
Today’s meeting has been described in the press as expected to be “tense,” but that’s not very likely. Several of the CEOs who will be present have donated as much or more to Democrats than Republicans, according to the website Opensecrets.org.
Xerox CEO Ursula Burns gave $3,000 to Obama’s 2008 Inauguration. American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault, according to the latest 2011-2-12 election cycle numbers, contributed more to Democrats than Republicans, and his wife Kathryn gave $5,000 to Obama’s reelection effort.
Both Burns and Chenault sit on Obama’s Jobs Council, which is chaired by another of today’s participants, General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt. What’s more, the White House has been laying the groundwork for today’s meeting with months of CEO hand holding, according to Bloomberg.
While excluding small business officials, Obama will gather today with CEOs from insurance and oil companies, two industries he savaged during the campaign.