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Guest Thinkers

Corporations Are Doing Well Under Obama

Good news if you happen to be a corporation: corporate profits went up 62% from the beginning of 2009 to the middle of 2010. That’s a larger increase than over any other 18-month period since the 1920s—more than after WWII or during the booms of the Reagan and Clinton administrations. It took four years for corporate profits to grow that much under President George W. Bush.

That kind of profit growth makes it hard to sympathize with the corporations who claim that President Obama has been “anti-business.” Although Obama has been happy to score political points off of big business’ expense, it’s hard to see the bailouts of Wall Street and Detroit—which helped keep credit from drying completely and saved the American auto industry respectively—as “anti-business.” As National Economic Council Director Larry Summers said, such a big increase in corporate profits “is not what you expect from a business-hostile set of policies.”

It’s true that part of the reason growth has been so high is that corporate profits started from a low base under Obama after collapsing during the last years of the Bush administration. But the growth in corporate profits is nevertheless testimony to the fact that the Obama administration was able to stabilize the economy after the financial meltdown. And the plain fact is that business is good right now for American corporations. As Matt Yglesias says, you would think business leaders would “just stay quiet and enjoy counting their money.

If Obama has anything to answer for it’s what happened to the rest of us. Small, non-corporate business profits have been flat since Obama came into office, and have not rebounded the way they usually do after recessions. And of course a large part of the reason corporate profits are up is that big businesses have been cutting labor costs by laying off employees. That’s why it has been a jobless recovery, and why so many Americans are still suffering even as corporate profits climb.


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