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12/14/2004

Bruce Josten and the Corporate Agenda

Bruce Josten is the executive vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in charge of public affairs, including lobbying and monitoring legislative development. Jeff Birbaum in yesterday's Washington Post included some predictions from Josten's most recent legislative update, forecasts renowned within business circles for being "complete and unvarnished," "nuanced and realistic, often to a fault." The predictions are interesting, but not nearly as much as what they reveal about the underlying agenda of business lobbyists. While it has been glaringly clear for decades, business favors the hard right:

Despite the Republicans' impressive victories on Election Day, the corporate agenda won't be easy to get through Congress. What the House giveth, the Senate will taketh away. So industry groups will have to redouble their efforts to enact the promises their GOP allies have made.
The good news, Josten said, is that the Senate now has 55 Republicans and that the GOP freshmen include "conservatives with strong ideological credentials" such as Reps. Jim DeMint (S.C.), David Vitter (La.) and former representative Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. In other words, he concluded, "the political center in the Senate has moved to the right."
They pretend that their issues, things like corporate pork, are pocketbook issues; the question, of course, is whose pocketbook are we talking about?
When it comes to the economic legislation that business lobbyists care most about, he said, additional obstacles stand in the way. The highest of these: Americans don't care as deeply as they once did about pocketbook issues.
They have a problem with the budget deficit, but only to the extent that it stands in the way of more corporate pork, social security abolition and revolutionary changes to the tax code:
Another barrier: the federal budget deficit, which will run to hundreds of billions of dollars each year. "The continuing flow of red ink," Josten said, "has the potential to interfere with any plans to overhaul Social Security or the tax code" -- which are President Bush's top fiscal initiatives.
They apparently favor Bush's ill-defined yet certainly inane tax package:
Tax overhaul, in particular, could be fraught with hazards for companies, Josten said. Lawmakers of both parties are sure to want to cut "corporate welfare" and close "corporate loopholes." As a result, individual industries could face higher tax bills even if the president keeps his promise for "tax reform" to neither lose nor gain revenue overall.
They want Trade Promotion Authority, "tort reform," and an investigation of "the big-money, independent groups called 527s that made a mockery of campaign-finance reform."

Again, none of this should be surprising, but it's nice to have some confirmation.

 

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