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Rays of Happiness Cutting Through the Economic Gloom

12:00 AM, Nov 20, 2010 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
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Perhaps most important of all, Obama seems to understand that his chances for reelection in 2012 are tied to the health of the economy, and that a healthy economy requires a confident business community. In place of repeated attacks on greed, corruption, self-interest and whatever else passes for a crime in the liberal lexicon, we now have “outreach”. Treasury secretary Timothy Geithner and outgoing White House chief economist Larry Summers used the occasion of a meeting of the Wall Street Journal CEO Council to try to repair the rift between the president and the nation’s business leaders, and get the CEOs to begin investing their $2 trillion cash hoard.

Geithner promised more certainty as to tax policy: “It is not a sensible way to run a country to have the magnitude of tax issues left to annual uncertainty.” If a deal is struck on the extension of the Bush tax cuts, some of the uncertainty will be removed. But several issues remain unresolved, most notably the tax rate on overseas earnings repatriated to the U.S. Obama has always viewed overseas earnings as the ill-gotten gains from shipping jobs overseas, and so might not be willing to lower taxes to encourage repatriation of these overseas earnings.

Which leaves regulation. The business community doesn’t really need much by way of concessions from the president. Republicans will have control of the House and enough seats in the Senate to prevent passage of blatantly anti-business legislation. The president might just try to squeeze new bills through the lame-duck session. But with legislators’ eyes fixed on the 2012 elections, and the moderates among them having no desire to follow so many of their colleagues into involuntary retirement, that gambit probably won’t work. So although businessmen might not like the hand that Obama has dealt them in the past two years, they have reason to hope that will be as bad as it gets. In short, they have their much-longed-for certainty!

So, worry if you must, but permit yourself a ray of happiness.  

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