It's hard to quantify, but it sure looks to me as if more business leaders are more willing now than they were, say, a year ago to challenge the Obama administration's expansion of government. Verizon and the Business Roundtable's Ivan Seidenberg spoke out; Now Tenneco chairman and CEO Gregg Sherrill has an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal:
The free enterprise system, hard-wired into this country's DNA, has created more wealth and lifted more people out of poverty than any other system ever devised by human beings. For the entire history of our nation, people from all over the world have come here for the opportunity to succeed on their own merits.
It would be a profound mistake to grow government's size in a way that would fundamentally shift its level of involvement in our overall economy. Other countries have tried this strategy in various ways, especially over the last century. The results have often been negative, and at times disastrous. None has come close to the levels of growth and individual prosperity driven by the American free enterprise system.
As Mr. Sherrill puts it, "For the most part, the business community has remained relatively silent....It's time we find our voices and speak up."
The question is, why is business speaking out now? A few possibilities:
1. They think the Republicans are going to take over Congress in 2010 and want to accumulate points now that they can use to be rewarded later.
2. President Obama overreached to the point that it became intolerable for business.
3. The fear of crossing a popular president with a Congressional majority has diminished now that the president is less popular.
4. It's become clearer that President Obama's policies aren't actually working to improve the economy, so the initial inclination to give the president the benefit of the doubt is now gone.
5. Some combination of the above.