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Who's missing from debt talks? Corporate America.

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posted on Jul, 29 2011 @ 01:01 PM

The business lobby has entered the debt ceiling debate at the 11th hour with only a whimper, considering the stakes of a default for corporations.FORTUNE -- If the specter of a default has spooked corporate America, you wouldn't know it by watching their hired guns in Washington over the last several weeks.

Aside from sending a handful of letters urging Congress to act, the big business lobby has mostly hugged the sidelines as the partisan standoff over the debt limit crisis intensified. That appears poised to change, now that there are only five days to go until the Treasury Department says it will run out of money to pay all the federal government's bills.

With Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) set to put his plan for a debt ceiling hike to a vote in the House today, the heaviest-hitting trade associations are finally piping up and urging their member companies to rally behind the proposal. On Wednesday evening, a broad collective of those groups -- including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Business Roundtable, and the National Association of Home Builders -- cosigned a letter to Members of Congress endorsing the plan. And officials with those groups said this time, they will be following up with an aggressive, coordinated lobbying effort to try to muscle the package through a jumpy House Republican conference.

Wow, so - until now, they've let Boehner be the only one posturing.

But considering the stakes -- business types in Washington agree a default would be calamitous -- the failure of the business lobby to engage more forcefully earlier has even some veteran K Street hands scratching their heads. "If you look at the totality of the communications and the lobbying efforts, this has been uncharacteristically quiet," says one. "It's been a minimalist approach, and I'd have expected the business community to be much more vocal."

Representatives of the groups are quick to dispel that point. The Chamber, for example, has spent months organizing lobbying visits to skeptical lawmakers to explain the gravity of the threat. And NAM has been "talking about this issue for almost a year," says Dorothy Coleman, the group's vice president of tax and domestic economic policy. But the commitment barely registers against the eight-figure sums the groups regularly dole out for more parochial causes.

Cuz they can.

Doubting a default

There have been at least a few factors at work keeping big business groups from mounting a concerted campaign to sound the alarm.

For the most part, they've rested on the assumption that Congress would figure out on its own how to extend the federal government's borrowing authority without seriously flirting with default. Ken Bentsen, a former Democratic Congressman from Texas now lobbying for the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, said his group only started asking member companies to focus on the issue last week. "It's unthinkable you'd really default, and our members are just coming to grips with the fact that if we don't act, this could really happen," he says.

There was a similar dynamic three years ago, when the stunning failure in the House of the first attempt to pass the Wall Street bailout sent a relatively complacent business lobby into what one banking lobbyist called a "no-huddle hyper-drive blitzkrieg."

Wait. Was Boehner the speaker then? That seems to be the opposite of what's happening now.

"We all expected that to pass, too, and when it didn't, we lit it up," this lobbyist said. The Chamber, NAM, the Financial Services Roundtable, and the BRT, which represents top CEOs, all got in on the act, launching a cooperative push with the Bush administration and Congressional leaders to round up votes, in part by generating constituent pressure on wobbly lawmakers. "The effort was extraordinary," says Joanna Schneider, of the BRT. "We talked to Secretary Paulson every day, we had CEO conference calls with the Secretary every day, and we made a massive effort for all the CEOs, particularly where they had large employment centers, to make calls."

Lobbyists for the major trade groups point to other reasons they've taken a largely hands-off approach so far. Several noted that until this week, there was no specific, credible proposal for them to help push. Presumably, the lack of legislative text wouldn't prevent the groups from bankrolling, say, a major advertising campaign to educate voters about the stakes. Those types of campaigns are hardly uncommon.

But the argument points to what has been perhaps the most powerful motivator in keeping big business mum: fear of what could end up in whatever package makes it into law. As long as tax hikes remained on the table as a means of trimming the deficit, industries that could see their bottom lines bitten wanted to reserve the right to object.

Ahh. So, don't buy into anything you can't undo.

"They're all for shared sacrifice as long as they're not the ones sharing," says Bill Allison of the Sunlight Foundation.

Or, as one Republican lobbyist describes the investment by K Street's power-players: "They couldn't have done less if they tried, spent zero dollars and no cents. And it's because they're gutless. They've not done anything because they don't want to pop their heads above ground and get their heads taken off."

Well!. Ahem. I hope every doomed one of them is suffering intense migraines and bleeding ulcers. EVERY ONE of them.

posted on Jul, 29 2011 @ 01:08 PM
Obviously, Congress CANNOT figure it out on its own. They must be standing around watching the corridors, waiting for their patrons (Big Biz) to show up and tell them "okay, this is what you should do." Perhaps this is the evidence we need to show that the politicians really ARE nothing but puppets.

Big Biz holds the strings, and if they're not specific enough and don't send the memos saying: "here, do this."
They all just sit around looking at each other and shrugging?

This is complete lunacy. And then, the fact that Big Biz "figured it would sort itself out like it did 3 years ago", and "it'll all be okay. they got our backsides, cuz we are the money." so arrogant and confident that they haven't even bothered points to how inept they think the PUBLIC really is.

I have not contacted my congressional reps, because I'm honestly not sure I WANT them to fix it. I DO rather like the idea (as asked in S.O.'s new poll) of default, just to watch the chaos and shock of corporate america. Hell, I worry every day about paying off my debts before I die...but this is apparently unnecessary.


(as ever, if this is a dupe thread, please remove or direct my post there, mods)


posted on Jul, 29 2011 @ 01:15 PM
Claiming that Big Business isn't involved in washington talks about economics... has got to be just about hte stupidest thing I've read today. Granted, Friday is still young here on the west Coast, but... Jeeze, really? Hey what about those two political parties that cater exclusively to big business? What about them?

posted on Jul, 29 2011 @ 01:18 PM

edit on 29-7-2011 by caladonea because: link wouldn't work

posted on Jul, 29 2011 @ 01:22 PM
reply to post by TheWalkingFox

Sorry? I'm a little tired today, I'm not really sure I get your point. From what I gathered in the article, the Corp hired guns (lobbyists) have been sitting quietly on the sidelines assuming it would get settled without their pressure. As though they KNOW their minions in Congress will do what needs doing to keep the debt going, the money flowing, and the taxes there's no reason to "coach" from the sidelines when your team can manage itself.

But maybe I'm misinterpreting it.

posted on Jul, 29 2011 @ 01:25 PM

Originally posted by TheWalkingFox
Claiming that Big Business isn't involved in washington talks about economics... has got to be just about hte stupidest thing I've read today. Granted, Friday is still young here on the west Coast, but... Jeeze, really? Hey what about those two political parties that cater exclusively to big business? What about them?

and they have Cantor, who has sold his soul to the corporations fleecing America.

so whatever Cantor wants is obviously what the financial and other criminals want, he's their boy.

posted on Jul, 29 2011 @ 02:48 PM
I assume big business hasn't been more publicly vocal because they already know how this is going to end. More than likely they have there people in place behind closed doors that have already participated in this dog and pony show. My only guess, and it is just a guess, is that the corporations don't want to be connected with the debt plan that will be implemented. That way they can cry "boo hoo we are suffering just like the common folk" when the debt plan has us losing our AAA rating and raising interest rates.

posted on Jul, 29 2011 @ 05:47 PM
I think Corporations have been "quiet" since they've already bought the votes they need - especially since the Supreme Court ruled that money equals free speech and cannot be limited. There is no element of even the Democratic proposal that currently includes any tax code revision or increase. But they know to keep their minions along the "feed the wealthy" mindset, the Corporations must remain out of the sound-byte news cycle that seems to drive the masses.

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