Fareed Zakaria is the Darling of Davos, the Mensch of Manhattan, the Zeitgeist of Zurich (yes, I know, you get it), everyone's favorite sufficiently unidentifiably ethnic (is he American? Euro? Pak?) observer on the international scene has gathered his friends from the world of business in his tony salon and concluded that they are not happy. Why aren't they happy? Well, it appears the Obama Administration has acquired the reputation of being a wee-bit anti-business. Say it ain't so!
I watch CNBC quite a bit in the afternoons as the markets wind down, some days a couple of hours of it. I remember during the primaries in 2008 and then in the general, there was this glib, hip, "he's one of us" vibe coming from many of the traders and CEO's interviewed. Barack Obama was seen as un-threatening, he was going to save the economy and get America back to work. His internationalist view was going to make doing business around the world easier.
Now we're 18 months into it--the Obamanation--and the interviews are increasingly more negative. There is dismay in the American business community--on Wall Street and every other street where business is done. Here's one of Fareed's buddies: "One CEO told me, "Almost every agency we deal with has announced some expansion of its authority, which naturally makes me concerned about what's in store for us for the future." Another pointed out that between the health-care bill, financial reform and possibly cap-and-trade, his company had lawyers working day and night to figure out the implications of all these new regulations."
This Administration is the most anti-business and anti-capital group of my lifetime. They have succeeded in driving trillions of dollars in cash to the sidelines because there is no confidence in the markets. Everyone's waiting for the next shoe to drop. Does anyone know what their personal income taxes are going to look like in 2011? The Bush tax cuts --across the board tax cuts mind you--are set to expire next year. If they do, every single taxpayer in America is liable to pay more, and some who did not pay taxes this year will. I call that a tax increase--I'm sure the Dems won't. What about the capital gains rate? Will it increase? This is just the environment for individuals. What about corporate taxes? What about cap and trade? What about the impact of the healthcare bill?
The bottom line is that there is a bunker mentality in the business community and Barack Obama is the dive bomber keeping their heads down. There is no mystery here--this is what most of us predicted from the Obama Administration. That so many on Wall Street were suckered by his smooth talk and his crypto-socialist ways still drives me nuts. Simple truth here friends--the US economy will not resume growing at anything like an acceptable rate until Mr. Obama is replaced in the White House.