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'They made a big bet, and they lost'

Official White House photo

For the third time in two weeks, President Obama will meet today at the White House with several private-sector chief executives, discussing among other things the administration's fiscal plans. According to the Wall Street Journal, 14 CEOs will be in hand, including Goldman Sachs' Lloyd Blankfein, Caterpillar's Doug Oberhelman, and Pfizer's Ian Read.

And while it's unclear whether and how much this will help the White House's larger plans, National Journalraises an interesting point about the larger political dynamic.

President Obama's meeting Wednesday with business leaders, his second such get-together since Election Day, is a sure sign he is intent on repairing a troubled relationship known more for its conflict than partnership during his first term. But when the private-sector tycoons gather in the White House, they'll feel just as much pressure to make things right.

Only a month ago, many in the business community were openly trying to defeat the president. They denounced him as anti-business and funneled tens of millions of dollars to Mitt Romney's campaign.... Obama won, and he earned not only another four years in office but another term just as lawmakers are set to consider a raft of measures -- such as tax and entitlement reform -- of critical importance to most businesses.

In other words, the man they were openly hostile toward now has leverage over them and their fate. Making amends with the president isn't just good publicity, it might be a necessity for their bottom lines.

Democratic budget expert Stan Collender added, "They made a big bet, and they lost. And now they have to, if not grovel, make it clear they'll work with the administration."

Time will tell whether (and how much) Corporate America is actually prepared to grovel, but there have been some encouraging signs for the White House since the election. A variety of business leaders, for example, have already begun pressuring congressional Republicans to accept a raise in the debt ceiling, aligning the private sector with Democratic wishes. What's more, the corporate-financed Fix The Debt has begun focusing more attention on tax increases, much to the right's chagrin.

For the last year or so, much of Corporate America figured there was no real point in cooperating with the Obama White House -- they didn't see eye to eye, and the president's odds of re-election were, shall we say, iffy. Now, however, they're stuck with him through 2016, and business leaders need Obama at least as much as Obama needs them.