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The Creepy Corporatism of Obama's America

Citi’s Pandit to Obama: “You can count on me and the entire Citi organization...”

12:39 PM, Apr 28, 2010 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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Citigroup Inc Chief Executive Officer Vikram Pandit has written President Barack Obama endorsing “strong regulatory reform” for U.S. banks. What’s more, Pandit wrote, “You can count on me and the entire Citi organization to support” Obama’s reform efforts.

The Creepy Corporatism of Obama's America

Of course, the U.S. government owns 27% of Citi, so one shouldn’t be surprised at this. And even without the direct ownership, Citi has no more interest than other big coprorations heavily dependent on government regulation and increasingly at the mercy of discretionary, not to say arbitrary, government action, in antagonizing the Obama administration or Democrats in Congress—especially since the administration and the congressional Democrats have shown a willingness to go after those standing in their way.

But what's particuarly creepy about the letter is the phrase, “and the entire Citi organization.” This is authentic corporatism: A CEO seeking political favor commits his “entire organization” to work for a particular policy outcome. And if individual Citi employees disagree? No stifling of freedom of speech or freedom of political activity there, I’m sure....

Perhaps it’s time for conservatives to resist not only the big government side of corporatism, of course—the size and scope and arbitariness of government intervention in the age of Obama—but also to rethink policy questions of corporate politicization, corporate governance, CEO accountability, and the like.

And in the short run critics of the financial regulation bill have the comfort of opposing both big government and big Wall Street.  

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