In business


After losing his Senate seat in the 1980 "Reagan Revolution," former Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern bought, renovated and operated a 150-room inn in Stratford, Conn.

The operation went bankrupt in 1990.

In 1992, the left-leaning Mr. McGovern wrote articles for The Wall Street Journal and Nation's Restaurant News in which he partially attributed the business failure to the cost of dealing with federal, state and local regulations that he said were passed with good intentions but made life difficult for small businesses -- as well as the cost of frivolous lawsuits.

"I ... wish that during the years I was in public office I had had this firsthand experience about the difficulties business people face every day," Mr. McGovern wrote. "That knowledge would have made me a better U.S. senator and a more understanding presidential contender."

The current Democratic administration has faced heat for showing the same ignorance about the struggles of small businessmen that Mr. McGovern -- however belatedly -- acknowledged.

So to address criticism that he and his closest advisers are ignorant of the business owner's plight, Barack Obama now lets it be known he's contemplating bringing a few business leaders into his administration, according to recent news reports.

Assuming these "peace overtures" to the business community constitute an admission that the president's anti-capitalist, anti-business rhetoric has been counterproductive, they are good signs.

The risk is that they could be merely cosmetic. Because the rift between American business and this administration is clear. Executives at larger companies complain about the administration's raising taxes on overseas corporate income, as well as their plans to end Bush-era tax cuts for high-income business owners, impose new costs on employers for health care, pile on more onerous environmental reviews, and rework pending free-trade agreements.

Thomas J. Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, says U.S. companies now face a "tsunami" of regulations that are becoming a new, pass-along tax on citizens. Mort Zuckerman, the 73-year-old chief executive officer of Boston Properties, says, "The business community is about as alienated from a government as I have ever seen it."

It's not a question of putting "a businessman" near the front door so he gets his picture taken. The question is whether the president -- obviously a bright fellow -- is now willing to find a few people who can tell and show him what a business owner really goes through on the way to "creating a job."

Presuming there's still time.

 

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