Business executives think Obama is better for the global economy

by pdxblake

A wise man (Adam Smith) once gave some advice to governments about how to interpret advice from business:

The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order [that is, “those who live by profit”], ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men, whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it.

In the context of the presidential election, this is especially true when the narrative proposed by Romney is that he is more ‘pro-business’ than Obama and therefore would be better for the economy because of all the nice things he would do for business (cut regulations, lower the statutory rate on corporate income taxes).  This always goes hand in hand with an idea that Obama is bad for business because of Obamacare, concerns about fracking (despite production growing to record amounts under the Obama Administration) and the Keystone pipeline and a host of other policies that are decried by the Republicans as being anti-business.

This idea about Republicans and Democrats and being pro- or anti-business has become a carefully developed story that is trotted out for why the population as a whole should support Romney in order to help their own economic situation, even though the last time these policies were tried under George W. Bush, companies benefited from low wages but income stagnated (not to mention the ending of that particular story which we all remember).

So, it is perhaps interesting to contrast the view of business within the US and globally to see which candidate they prefer (read: would be better for them), which is the subject of a recent poll by The Economist magazine and the Financial Times:

Business executives from around the world think it would be better for the global economy if Barack Obama remained US president than if Mitt Romney unseated him in November


Twice as many of the 1,700 executives in the survey said a victory for Mr Obama would be better for the global economy than said the same for Mr Romney. The remaining 37 per cent thought it would make no difference who won the election.


Opinion was more balanced among respondents in North America, where 37 per cent said Mr Obama would be better compared with 33 per cent for Mr Romney.

Executives in every region said another term for Mr Obama would be better for their own companies too, except in North America where slightly more respondents said Mr Romney would be more beneficial.

So, to summarize, 42% globally say Obama would be better for the global economy than Romney (37% in the US), while 21% said Romney would be better (33% in the US).  An almost equal amount of executives in the US and globally believe Obama would be better for the global economy than Romney, but a much fewer number outside of the US think Romney would be preferable to Obama for the global economy.

This lack of enthusiasm outside of the US for Romney compared to within the US is probably where the ideology of executives matter more.  Executives in the US have always had a much greater fondness for the slash and burn approach Republicans have had for regulation (which is not to say the foreign executives are fond of greater regulation).  They are also more likely to have a particular political preference (for Romney) that affects their view about which presidential candidate would be better for the global economy, shifting them from the undecided to pro-Romney camp.

And it makes sense policy-wise as well.  Romney has been campaigning essentially on a platform of tax cuts for the wealthy with either large and permanent deficits or higher taxes on the non-rich, combined with austerity in the form of his pledge to cut government spending down to 20% of GDP, which would require a dramtic cut in current spending that would be a drag on the overall economy in the US (which would have a big spillover internationally).

So, that may be why so few global business executives (whose businesses depend on the health of the global–and by extension the US–economy) are particularly fond of Romney and why the share within the US (who have a much greater ideological stake in Romney’s proposals) is higher (although still trailing the number who think Obama would be better for the global economy).