Thursday, February 11, 2016

War on Women Hell, There’s a War on Business

War on Women

There’s a War on Business

And business is losing: the American economy suffered a nasty recession from December 2007 through June 2009 and its “recovery” has been the most anemic ever. The first three 2014 quarters of GDP crawled upward at 1.9%, 2/6% and 2.7% versus an average of 4.6% over the 1960s. “[O]ur single most serious economic problem,” according to Jim Clifton, Chairman and CEO of Gallup is the lack of new startup companies, long the leader the U. S. now comes in twelfth. “But even more dangerous there are more failures of American companies than new ones starting for the first time in 35 years…when free enterprise dies, America dies with it.”  An article in the January 2, 2015, “Wall Street Journal”, “Endangered Species: Young U. S. Entrepreneurs” told of the drastic drop in people under the age of 30 who own private businesses, roughly 3.6% of them plummeting from 10.6% in 1989. Productivity, the foundation of U. S. growth has dropped over half since 2011 to 1.1% compared to 2.5% for the decades after 1948. But why is all of this happening now?  While Journal article mentioned several causes including a long hangover from the recession, a dearth of starting jobs, lower bank lending, and fear of these kids of failure, these seem a result. Others have blamed: new burdensome regulations, including from the Affordable Care Act and Dodd-Frank Act (enabled by high “whistleblower” bounties), accelerated federal and tort litigation, higher capital gains and personal income taxes, and massive negative publicity about “business corruption.”

I would add that there has been a relentless war on business by the Obama administration. As President Obama famously said at a campaign stop in Virginia, June 2012:  "If you got a business, you didn't build that – somebody else made that happen." That is a severe misunderstanding of and antipathy toward private sector business. The sole job President Obama ever held in the private sector – the only time in his life he actually touched private enterprise – for a New York international consulting group, in his autobiography “Dreams from My Father” he called himself “a spy behind enemy lines.” In those words he identifies the private sector as the enemy. Mr. Obama left that company to move to Chicago and begin his government work, initially in community organizing.

But even more than words, the president’s actions are the tell.

DOJ. Obama’s former attorney general, Eric Holder, through the United States Department of Justice has engaged in an unprecedented assault on banks, businesses, and individual businesspeople. With virtually unlimited taxpayer money, he has deeply investigated – with extravagant media coverage – the financial services industry about “abuses” which he said led to the so-called 2007 sub-prime mortgage loan meltdown and accompanying Great Recession. Many of the largest and most prosperous financial institutions have been charged with a grocery list of assertions of abusive behavior in issuing mortgages, packaging them into collateralized debt obligations, errors in servicing, even in alleged “abusive behavior toward homeowners” and of banks not adequately disclosing risks to other large, powerful financial institutions and finally, the all-encompassing “predatory lending,” whatever that means. It is exceptional Monday morning quarterbacking by the DOJ attacking businesses including Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Sun Trust, PNC, Sovereign, Ally, U. S. Bank, MetLife Bank, HSBC Holdings, Royal Bank of Scotland, UBS, BNP Paribas. As Justice clearly understands, most companies, fearing reputational and competitive risk, settle such allegations rather than investing millions of dollars and tens of thousands of executive and employee hours and years of negative media coverage to defend themselves. In settlements, DOJ doesn’t even have to define “abuse,” since the media has already defined it for it. Around $65 billion was paid in fines and settlements in 2014 up 40% from 2013’s previous record $46 billion. In winning settlements, the DOJ’s power and reach increases, with higher settlement demands. And other agencies jump on. All the media publicity from settlements cause average Americans to distrust big business and banking institutions, which seems to be an Obama administration objective. That it isn’t the money is explained by a September 18, 2014, “Wall Street Journal” article entitled “Billions Going Unrecovered” telling that the DOJ has failed to recover $97 billion “won” from these sorts of enforcement actions. 

NLRB. Three of five members of the National Labor Relations Board and its powerful general counsel are progressive Democrats with roots in labor unions.  The NLRB  remade a thirty-year-old rule by redefining “employer” to make one company (McDonald’s, a franchisor) the employer of other companies’ employees (each of its 14,000 franchisees) ruling that it “co-employs” workers together with its franchised local small businesses. More than three dozen unfair labor practice charges have been filed against other franchisors including Taco Bell, Subway, Burger King, Panera Bread, and Jack in the Box. This decision completely alters the business models of the eight million small business franchisees and eight hundred thousand franchisors making them easier to unionize. Other NLRB anti-business initiatives include requiring businesses to post an 11-by-17-inch poster essentially explaining that employees have the right to unionize to improve wages and working conditions; to form, join, and assist a union; and to bargain collectively with their employer. The NLRB  filed a complaint against Boeing for opening a new plant in South Carolina, a right-to-work state. It was acting on its May 10, 2010 internal memorandum that the NLRB wants to grant union bosses power over employers’ investment and management decisions, forcing companies to negotiate their investment plans with union bosses. It later withdrew the complaint and the poster requirement was overturned by the courts, in which the McDonald’s rule presently resides.

DOL. Über-Activist Secretary of Labor, Thomas Perez’ department ruled that home-care workers, including family members caring for their loved ones, must be paid, overturning a 1974 amendment to the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act and enabling the easy unionizing of tens of thousands of innocent family helpers. At this point, a federal judge said “no,” and DOL has appealed. Perez himself was Ted Kennedy’s special counselor on labor.

EPA. The Environmental Protection Agency halted all oil and gas projects on public lands, delayed (apparently forever) the Keystone XL pipeline, and devoted fifties of billions of dollars to “alternative” energy sources from windmills, solar panels, ethanol and high-end electric vehicles. On January 14, 2015, the EPA proposed regulations to slash methane emissions in the oil and natural gas industry. It crippled mining from West Virginia to Alaska. The Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository was abandoned, thus killing all future nuclear energy. Along with his Department of Transportation, EPA arbitrarily required a presently-impossible 54.5 miles per gallon corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) for cars and light trucks by 2025, adding $5,000 to the price of each vehicle.

DOI. In a video message, December, 2015, President Obama announced that his Department of the Interior was blocking all oil and gas drilling in Bristol Bay, Alaska, virtually forever and on Sunday, January 25, 2015, DOI proposed to preserve as wilderness nearly 13 million acres of land in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, including 1.5 million acres of coastal plains that is believed to have rich oil and natural gas resources.  Later in the week, the department also is slated to propose a draft offshore leasing plan that is expected to include more limits on future oil and gas production in Alaska.

EEOC. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has greatly stepped up investigations and lawsuits, including a class-action sexual harassment claim against CRST Van Expedited, a Georgia nursing home, where a judge found EEOC’s FBI-like raid and conduct a “misuse of authority” and “frivolous, unreasonable or groundless,”  ordering it to pay $4,694,442.14 in attorneys’ fees, expenses, and costs in the largest loss ever against the EEOC, illustrating the strong lawless anti-business approach of the agency. It also arbitrarily pregnancy to be a workplace disability.

DOE. Through a provision passed in the health-care reform of 2010, the Department of Education became the originator of roughly ninety percent of U.S. student loans with taxpayer obligations soaring past $1 trillion. The president has coerced indebted students OUT OF working in the private sector by forgiving student loans if they work for non-profits or government for ten years.  If they work in the private sector it takes twice as long. Also, the Department of Education is purposely destroying for-profit educational companies by eliminating government funding for students through new regulations applying only to for-profit school businesses, not non-profits, such as President Obama’s alma mater, Harvard. These regulations took down 81,000-student Corinthian Colleges, one of the country’s largest for-profit companies whose students tended toward minorities, older persons and the poor. All U. S. schools will be closed or sold.

FDIC. In 2011, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation classified gun-selling as a “high risk activity,” along with thirty other industries the Obama government doesn’t like.  In 2012, the Justice Department adopted the FDIC’s “high risk” list into official guidance it provides to banks under Operation Choke Point. While there has been no definition proffered of “high risk” or “high risk activity” by either agency it warns financial institutions and payment systems such as PayPal, Intuit and Square from servicing such companies. Other targeted industries include: ammunition sales, coin dealers, credit repair services, debt consolidation services, fireworks sales, government grants, home-based charities, money transfer networks, pay day loans, telemarketing, tobacco sales and travel clubs. And in conjunction with this, it shut down a company it deemed to be an illegal direct-sales “pyramid scheme.”

In the president’s 2015 State of the Union address he said, “and no challenge – no challenge – poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.”  Of course, in the first part of December, 2013, the growing income gap “income inequality,” was “the defining challenge of our time” he said.

He is wrong. The greatest threat to future American generations is his war on business, some examples of which are briefly described above. Popular opinion is negative toward business, capitalism, and free enterprise, undermining the foundation of innovation, growth and jobs which has brought unprecedented prosperity and high standards of living to Americans. Unless politicians can clearly spell out with clarity this war, interpret how it will adversely impact most Americans, and broadcast it to convince the American voter, the hope of Barack Obama to change America will come true.

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