At the top of Tuesday's CBS Early Show, co-host Erica Hill cheered President Obama's supposedly pro-business move of speaking at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Monday: "Obama's olive branch. The President reaches out into hostile territory and meets with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, urging the private sector to start hiring."
Introducing the later report on the speech, co-host Chris Wragge touted the event as Obama's continued "effort to make peace with big business," despite the Chamber being "a group that he has battled ever since he took office." Senior White House correspondent Bill Plante noted how "Mr. Obama pledged to work on lowering federal spending, revising the corporate tax code, and eliminating some federal regulations." What the coverage failed to point out was that 43 major new regulations were imposed by the Obama administration in 2010.
Interestingly, a report from congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes on Monday's CBS Evening News did feature criticism from the business community over excessive government regulation: "In nearly 2,000 pages of letters to Congress, U.S. businesses unloaded on everything from anti-pollution rules, to new pilot rest requirements, to workplace noise standards, complaining they all kill jobs." Plante left those details out of his Early Show report. Cordes also featured sound bites of Republican members of Congress calling for less regulation, again something absent in Plante's coverage.
What Plante did manage to include was Obama's attack on businesses for not spending enough of their profits on hiring new employees: "The President's message to business? It's time to put their mountain of extra cash to work." Following Plante's report, Wragge spoke with business and economics correspondent Rebecca Jarvis and promoted the same criticism: "Now companies, they've done extremely well. They've cut a lot of jobs, as we've seen over the years, but their balance sheets are showing record profits. Wall Street's doing very well. So can a speech like this have any impact on these business leaders to go out and then hire more people?"
While Plante and Wragge fretted over businesses not hiring enough, they seemed to forget that in early 2010, CBS News itself fired close to 100 staffers. No word yet on many of those people the network news organization has hired back with its own "mountain of cash" ($15 million per year of which goes to CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric).
Concluding his report, Plante argued that "as the President looks forward to his re-election campaign, dissension aside, he stands to benefit from any perceived move toward business – benefit with independents and Republicans."
Here is a full transcript of Plante's February 8 Early Show report:
7:00AM ET TEASE:
ERICA HILL: Obama's olive branch. The President reaches out into hostile territory and meets with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, urging the private sector to start hiring. But did Wall Street buy his message? We have reaction from big business.
7:02AM ET SEGMENT:
CHRIS WRAGGE: But first, President Obama continues his effort to make peace with big business. Now, yesterday he spoke before the Chamber of Commerce, a group that he has battled ever since he took office. CBS News senior White House correspondent Bill Plante has the details for us this morning. Bill, good morning.
BILL PLANTE: Good morning, Chris. Well, yeah, it's been a pretty testy relationship. The Chamber spent heavily to get the new Republican congress elected last year. But now it's time for both to move on, and so yesterday the President walked from his office across the square which separates the White House from the Chamber. The President's message to business? It's time to put their mountain of extra cash to work.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Obama and Big Business; President Reaches Out, Urges Hiring]
BARACK OBAMA: Now is the time to invest in America. Today American companies have nearly $2 trillion sitting on their balance sheets.
PLANTE: The President told the business audience that he wanted to be more neighborly.
OBAMA: Maybe if we had brought over a fruitcake when I first moved in, we would have gotten off to a better start.
PLANTE: Mr. Obama pledged to work on lowering federal spending, revising the corporate tax code, and eliminating some federal regulations. But warned that there are limits.
OBAMA: America's businesses have a responsibility, as well, to recognize that there are some basic safe guards, some basic standards that are necessary to protect the American people from harm or exploitation.
PLANTE: That wasn't the President's only reminder that he believes business has an obligation to share the benefits of government regulation.
OBAMA: If we're fighting to reform the tax code and increase exports to help you compete, the benefits can't just translate into greater profits and bouses for those at the top.
PLANTE: The President also made no apologies for his health care bill, to an audience whose members have been trying to kill the law since it was passed last year.
OBAMA: We simply could not continue to accept a status quo that's made our entire economy less competitive as we've paid more per person for health care than any other nation on Earth.
PLANTE: Despite the President's friendly rhetoric, there's still a lot of distrust on both sides. Well, as the President looks forward to his re-election campaign, dissension aside, he stands to benefit from any perceived move toward business – benefit with independents and Republicans. Chris.
WRAGGE: CBS's Bill Plante for us in Washington this morning. Bill, thank you. And joining us now is CBS News business and economics correspondent Rebecca Jarvis. Rebecca, good morning to you.
REBECCA JARVIS: Hey, Chris.
WRAGGE: So how was this speech received in the business community?
REBECCA JARVIS: The business community is hesitant. They like the concessions, they like some of the tax breaks that have been afforded them by the administration, but they're looking for more and they don't want to be told what to do. They don't want to have the President's time table dictate when they hire. They want to have their shareholders and their business dictate it.
WRAGGE: Now companies, they've done extremely well. They've cut a lot of jobs, as we've seen over the years, but their balance sheets are showing record profits. Wall Street's doing very well. So can a speech like this have any impact on these business leaders to go out and then hire more people?
JARVIS: Ultimately I think what's going to have the biggest impact, and this is what business leaders tell me every day, is demand. They need to see demand for their products come back that will necessitate greater hiring on their part. They've cut costs, they've cut employees because the economy has necessitated it, according to them. They're not going to pick it up again until demand comes back. And we're seeing that from companies like Ford, which says, 'Maybe we're going to hire some new people because we have more cars wanted by the American public.'
WRAGGE: Okay, let's talk credit cards here for a moment now, because for the last couple of years we've seen people really pull back on using their credit cards. But now, it looks like people are starting to go borrow and use them a little bit more. What is that a sign of?
JARVIS: Yeah, consumer credit jumped in the month of December by 3.5%. It's a sign people are feeling a little bit more positive about the economy. That's a good thing on its face. We need consumers to spend, but we don't want them overspending, because that's what got us in this problem in the first place.
WRAGGE: Now let's talk about the market. Because again it's these mixed messages, we see the market with a – closing yesterday with a 2 1/2 year high, but those unemployment numbers and those job numbers are still staggering. So for the people at home that are wondering is this good, is this bad for the economy? What is actually going on?
JARVIS: I mean, ultimately when you look at the stock market, the stock market is telling you that corporations, corporate America is doing pretty well. They have found ways to do more with less. That does not mean that the jobs picture is going to be better. And sometimes what you see in a recovery is that the stock market improves, the corporations in America improve, and then this eventually the jobs market improves.
WRAGGE: And I guess one last question for you. And I'm not expecting you to look into a crystal ball, but what does this say about stocks as we move forward?
JARVIS: You're going to make me do this, Chris. I mean, I think what it says is that when you look at it historically, where we are in the recovery and what's happened to stocks, we still have a ways to go. That said, it cannot necessarily happen without pull backs along the way. So if you're an average investor, you're putting money in this market, you have to be prepared to lose some in the near term. Longer term, you're better off.
WRAGGE: Rebecca Jarvis, thank you.
JARVIS: Thanks, Chris.
WRAGGE: Good to see you this morning.
— Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.