Business Week vs. The White House?


When was the last time you read Business Week? As print media publications continue to fall like dinosaurs, I can’t help but liken their demise to the the decline of an old way of thinking about business – the all or nothing, single bottom line, us vs. those hippies way of thinking.
We’ve been getting Business Week at the 3P office and I opened up a copy this afternoon. The issue in question reports basic news for the most part but gets bizarre if you start to read more deeply. Call it Rush Limbaugh mixed with USA Today.
A great example is this week’s examination of presidential proposals and their impact on industry (using charts to make the information displayed seem official and well researched). That’s all well and good, and I’d love to hear it if The Economist wrote it. Business Week has chosen to title their graph Business vs. the White House.” Bring on the inflammation!

The chart has 2 columns: “What Obama Wants” and “What Business Thinks.” As if the impacts of sweeping, game changing economic and social legislation affect all of the 25 million businesses in the US in the same way. As if all 25 million business leaders feel the same way about Obama. But that’s just the start.
The chart lists off Emissions, Health Care, Foreign Tax, Income Tax, Drilling, and Farm Subsidies, and describes Obama’s proposal for each in a sentence or two. I’m sure at this point you can imagine “What Business Thinks” about Obama’s big proposals:
* Companies are fine with a price on carbon, but they oppose having to buy carbon credits because they will cost too much money. (What’s the alternative, folks? Carbon Gift Certificates? As we learned in Europe, the system doesn’t work if too many credits are given away)
* Private insurers are worried about competition from government sponsored initiatives. Hospitals are worried about costs rising, and drugmakers are worried about “far lower prices.” Business Week does mention that some business owners are looking forward to the changes, but they neglect to specifically call out and acknowledge the millions of small business owners who are being crushed by the cost of insurance premiums.
* The oil industry thinks that Obama’s plan to remove oil subsidies in favor of support for renewables stinks. Big surprise there. They think that if they can’t drill in the US, jobs and energy security will be at risk. I really, really think the oil industry should start thinking of themselves in terms of the service they provide: energy. They should ramp up R&D on biofuels and renewables, and come to terms with the fact that oil is not a renewable resource. Of course BW neglects to mention what business leaders in the renewables sector think about the shift in priorities.
* Farmers can’t stay in business without subsidies. Of course not– because the US agriculture system produces about 3,800 calories per person, about twice what we actually require. Without subsidies to prop up the farm income, that means they’d only receive the rock bottom prices consumers are willing to pay for food they don’t need. The solution is less big ag, not less subsidies. Again, BW neglects to discuss the impact on small players, in this case family farmers who could use a leg up moving into other industries or investing in the infrastructure to get off cash crops and back to vegetables.
I can’t help but notice that Business Week is conducting this less than comprehensive reporting amid a massive decline in the world of print media. Maybe there’s a reason people aren’t interested in reading this stuff.

Jen Boynton

Jen Boynton is editor in chief of TriplePundit and editorial director at 3BL Media. With over 6 million annual readers, TriplePundit is the leading publication on sustainable business and the Triple Bottom Line. Prior to TriplePundit, Jen received an MBA in Sustainable Management from the Presidio Graduate School. In her work with TriplePundit she's helped clients from SAP to PwC to Fair Trade USA with their sustainability communications messaging. When she's not at work, she volunteers as a CASA -- court appointed special advocate for children in the foster care system. She enjoys losing fights with toddlers and eating toast scraps. She lives with her family in sunny San Diego.

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