Listen, the U.S. is better, stronger, and faster than anywhere else in the world.
In case you hadn't noticed, President Obama has been on a mission to love-bomb corporate America in recent weeks, from cutting a deal to extend Bush-era tax rates to peppering the State of the Union address with paens to private enterprise. But are business leaders buying into the courtship?
When he first appears in "Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps," Michael Douglas's Gordon Gekko—older, gray, thicker around the midsection—is lecturing at a college about the out-of-control debt culture. The inside trader has reinvented himself as a scold.
Welcome to the lowball culture. In a world of sluggish growth, excess capacity, and depressed expectations, buyers of goods and services—labor, houses, and restaurant meals, among others—have come to believe that desperate sellers should take any offer they make. But that kind of systemic bargain hunting can create a dangerous spiral: employers short-change workers, workers buy fewer goods—and the overall economy suffers.
The newly passed financial-reform bill requires CEOs of public companies to measure and report the ratio of their pay to that of their workers. Blackstone Group CEO Stephen Schwarzman is complaining that the Obama administration is like Hitler invading Poland. With government and the media making life so difficult for CEOs, it must be nearly impossible to turn a profit. Right? Um, not really.
It may seem ironic that signs of employee dissatisfaction should emerge at a time of high unemployment, but it's hardly surprising. For the two phenomena—the poor labor market and workers' antagonism toward employers and customers—are actually connected. Employees are sick and tired of tough conditions and crummy salaries.
Are we in a period of gloomy growth? An era in which Americans are pessimistic and sour but buying more anyway? What explains this behavior?
Let's pause and shed a tear for a class of American workers who are suffering unduly thanks to big, uncontrollable trends in the global economy. The slowdown and uncertainty in the markets is reducing demand for their services. They've become political punching bags. They're America's investment bankers.
After an eight-year slumber, the Environmental Protection Agency is issuing regulations again. Two years after an appalling financial debacle, Congress is finally moving to regulate Wall Street. But to hear our nation's commercial chieftains tell it, it's enough to plunge us back into recession.