Ed Driscoll

2010: A Forgotten Man Odyssey

Amity Shlaes, author of The Forgotten Man, in a recent Bloomberg column:

High taxes, or the prospect of tax increases, do damage as well. In 1937, a tire company executive explained the effect of Roosevelt’s confiscatory rates upon the investor: “He will not risk financing new ventures if the government take is greater than that of the average gambling house.”

Infantilizing the private sector also makes it shut down. In the 1930s, Roosevelt, like Obama, alternated between coddling banks and companies and giving them the equivalent of a good spanking. Both can be counterproductive. The editors of Time magazine formally recognized that by printing a regular rubric over its weekly reports: “Last week the U.S. Government did the following for and to U.S. Business…”

The insistence on executive discretion is a real killer as well. Adolf Berle, Roosevelt’s assistant secretary of state, sounded for all the world like Hank Paulson or Timothy Geithner when he argued in the late 1930s for a “modern financial tool kit.” Tool kit means “let me fiddle around” and not “let us agree together on rules and abide by them, together.”

Intel’s CEO Paul Otellini, as quoted by CNN:

Otellini is also one of the first Fortune 500 CEOs to speak publicly about President Obama’s newly proposed $350 billion economic recovery plan. He said that proposal, which includes tax breaks for businesses and research and development incentives, is not the right plan either.

The way Otellini sees it, Washington must decide what the industries of the future are. “We still subsidize trains and agriculture — industries of the 19th century. We should decide what’s important to us going forward and make sure we’ve got the education system in place and the capital incentive system in place to do the investment here.”

Otellini also said that a major problem for companies is that they are being held back by high corporate tax rates.

Otellini says it costs Intel (INTC, Fortune 500) $1 billion more to build a factory in the U.S. than abroad because of a lack of U.S. tax incentives. The company has a multi-billion dollar factory slated to open in China this October.

“You have to weigh the advantages of working here, the security of working here in this country…against that billion dollars.”

Otellini questioned why global business leaders would want to do business in the U.S. due to the cost, saying it is critical to incentivize foreign countries to invest in America. “Our corporate taxes are twice what they are in the rest of the world. You want corporations to invest here.”

Intel is on pace for what Otellini predicts could be the company’s best year ever but said other businesses are not so lucky. “A lot of companies are sitting on the sidelines right now,” he said, due mainly to a lack of clarity about taxes and regulation.

“Take the uncertainly out. Businesses can’t invest until they have fewer variables and right now there are just too many variables,” he said

Hey, when Time magazine compared Obama to FDR, they weren’t kidding, were they?