An Unexpected Tactic

The Business Roundtable – the organization made up of the CEOs of the US’s largest corporations – is taking a rather unusual tack in its efforts to try to mobilize public support for free trade. An ad that I noticed in the Washington Post this morning is reproduced below.

I was struck by this invocation of Clinton in an appeal for free trade. The BR is a group typically affiliated with the Republican Party, and has been an ally of the Bush administration on many issues. So the BR’s explicit statement that free trade was last supported by a Democrat, and their implicit statement that it is not being supported by the current Republican president, is quite remarkable. Why does big business explicitly align themselves with Clinton, and not Bush, on this issue?

Some possibilities:

a) more and more, the Democratic party is genuinely seen in business circles as the party of free trade (not to mention fiscal responsibility), while the Republican party is seen as primarily the party of special interests;

b) the BR is simply hoping to get the support of Clinton Democrats in pushing for free trade in Congress;

c) the BR is sending an indirect message to the Bush administration that they are not happy with administration trade policies, perhaps with the hope of shaming Republicans into adhering to their own free-trade rhetoric (especially in light of recent Bush administration moves);

d) the BR is sending an indirect message to the Bush administration that they are not happy with the administration’s handling of the economy in general (as evidenced by this ad’s implicit comparison with the economy under Clinton);

e) I’m sure there are plenty of other possible explanations.

Regardless of the reason, I find this an interesting development. Current Republican economic policies – which by and large consist of particular groups and individuals feeding voraciously at the public trough at the expense of everyone else – are not good for the public, not good for the economy, and not good for business. Could it be that the country’s richest and most powerful CEOs are starting to see past the big tax cuts that they’ve personally received from Bush to realize this?