Job creators to Obama: Not this time


As the Democrats leave Charlotte, N.C., after rallying behind President Obama, they face an uphill battle. Americans are concerned about jobs, entitlements and the growing federal deficit — the three things that Obama and the Democrats don’t want to talk about. But they must if they’re going to have any chance of keeping the White House.

Democrats surely can’t take much comfort from the national and battleground state polls that show a close race. Americans are only starting to pay attention to the campaign, and their natural instinct is to support the candidate they know (Obama) over the candidate they’re just learning about (Romney). But one group of voters has been paying attention for quite some time and that should concern all Democrats.

I’m talking about job creators — the entrepreneurs, CEOs and other business owners whom President Obama mostly ignores, when he’s not criticizing them. Two recent polls of this group should be sending waves of panic through the president’s re-election team. For instance, an August 20 Rasmussen poll found that Romney leads Obama by 20 points among entrepreneurs (56 percent to 36 percent). Another poll from Manta, released on August 24, shows that 61 percent of small business owners support Romney, compared to just 26 percent who support Obama.

At least among this group, there is no contest: America’s job creators support Mitt Romney by overwhelming margins. This comports with my own informal survey of business leaders in consumer electronics and other industries. I have yet to meet a CEO who supports the president’s re-election. Indeed, in an August 8 column I wrote for Forbes, I asked if there were among my readers any business owners who support Obama. I wasn’t just trying to make a political point: I was completely serious. I want to hear the argument for why job creators should vote for Obama. I repeated this challenge on national television in August.

I guess I’ll have to keep waiting, because I didn’t get a single response from a business-owning Obama supporter. There must be some out there, but perhaps they just can’t make an effective case, given the president’s record and rhetoric.

The Democrats did trot out two supposed entrepreneurs at their convention to try to refute the case that every job-creator opposes Obama’s re-election. Austin Ligon was credited as an entrepreneur for creating the successful CarMax chain, but ironically the company was launched and owned by Circuit City, which employed Mr. Ligon. More, Costco co-founder Jim Senegal was certainly passionate in his support of the president, but he had scant economic rationale for his support.

Of course, the president’s “you didn’t build that” remark has been used out of context, but the words surrounding it were worse and they refute the American precept that success comes with hard work and doing something better than others. The president actually said successful people are not smarter or harder working; he implied they are simply lucky.

The president’s attack on job creators goes much deeper than poorly chosen words. It has been not only a failure of leadership to recognize and respect entrepreneurs and job creators; it has been a direct attack on American businesses.

Across this administration there has been an anti-business animus driving decisions. Let’s start at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which in 2011 tried to stop Boeing from opening a plant in South Carolina. Boeing had invested $1 billion in South Carolina for the new plant, but had run afoul of Big Labor and for that it was singled out and punished. The NLRB also proposed and issued several rule changes encouraging secret and quick unionization.

Or take the administration’s August 2011 raid on Gibson Guitar. Federal agents hauled away hundreds of thousands of dollars of Gibson materials on the flimsy charge that the company had violated the Lacey Act — which prohibits the importation of wood that was illegally harvested. Even though no charges were ever filed, Gibson settled the case and paid a $300,000 fine. Or what about the out-of-control Environmental Protection Agency? Federal courts, including a 9-0 Supreme Court, have struck down EPA rules as illegal, but the EPA keeps imposing outrageous job-killing rules.

The Obama administration does not support U.S. companies. It has attacked our world-leading companies — including Apple, AT&T, Google and Intel. It has imposed huge costs on small and large employers through the Dodd-Frank financial reform law and Obamacare.

Despite these actions, one would think that the Obama campaign would at least try to mask its hostility toward business owners on the trail. But we’ve seen the exact opposite. The president and his advisors have made a very conscious decision to pit middle-class and low-income Americans against job creators. The message to them has been: Don’t blame the president for low GDP growth and high unemployment; it’s their fault.

It’s a strategy that might work in the end, if enough Americans believe that the golden goose of business can birth new jobs while fighting a hostile government. But business owners have had enough. Whether the recent Democratic National Convention papered over the anti-business tone is doubtful. One big voting group — America’s job creators, entrepreneurs and business owners — have decided: You slammed us for almost four years; why would we support you now?

Gary Shapiro is president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)®, the U.S. trade association representing more than 2,000 consumer electronics companies, and author of the New York Times bestselling book, “The Comeback: How Innovation Will Restore the American Dream.” Connect with him on Twitter: @GaryShapiro

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