Joshua Green writes in the current issue of Bloomberg BusinessWeek that business interests have lost their clout with the Republican Party. The evidence is the government shutdown: the business community is against it, but Republicans are prolonging the crisis anyway.
Fair enough. But I wouldn’t take this too seriously. Here’s a passage from Green’s story that explains why:
But the shutdown and debt ceiling are both matters where they do—and the unwillingness of Republican lawmakers to shift course underscores the diminished clout of their traditional business allies, despite the financial largesse. Asked by the Associated Press if he had heard business groups express alarm about the economic impact of a shutdown, Republican Representative Dana Rohrabacher of California replied, “No. And it wouldn’t make any difference if I did.”
Rohrabacher says two things here. The part that Green is writing about is the second half of his sentence: Rohrabacher claims that even if he got a lot of pressure from business interests, he’d keep the government shut down anyway. That’s big talk. But the more interesting part is what Rohrabacher said first: he hasn’t gotten a lot of pressure from business interests.
In fact, to hear him tell it, he hasn’t heard even a whisper from business groups. And I think that’s the key to all this: the Chamber of Commerce might be against the shutdown, but they haven’t made much of an issue out of it. My sense is that this is widespread. So far, anyway, the posture of the business community has been that, sure, they’re against the shutdown, but they don’t really care much. For now, they’re fine with the GOP continuing to play its games and make trouble for Democrats.
Do Republicans no longer care about corporate interests? Don’t be silly. This hasn’t even been tested yet. If Wall Street and the Business Roundtable and other groups start screaming seriously about this—and they will if it goes on long enough to cause some kind of market panic—then we’ll find out how much clout they still have. Right now, they’re just shrugging their shoulders and doing a bit of tut-tutting. Nobody should interpret that as a failure of business lobbying. They haven’t even been trying so far.