“I never give them hell. I just tell the truth and they think it’s hell.” Harry S. Truman

The thirty-third president’s words never rang more true than at yesterday’s meeting of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley was the “guest of honor.” It was part of the President’s effort to  make-nice session with corporate America before the election so he can gain their support for his campaign, get re-elected and then continue to crap all over private enterprise if he has a second term.

But this was not a friendly outreach session as Daley was confronted by angry executives who see their businesses heading downhill thanks to the administration’s anti business policies.

Daley didn’t have any good answers for many of the questions blaming the business owners problems on “bureaucratic stuff that’s hard to defend.Sometimes you can’t defend the indefensible.”

One by one the Chief of Staff faced criticism from the executives in the room, who applauded each others criticism of the administration

“At one point, the room erupted in applause when Massachusetts utility executive Doug Starrett, his voice shaking with emotion, accused the administration of blocking construction on one of his facilities to protect fish, saying government ‘throws sad into the gears of progress,’” said the Washington Post report.

Americans for Limited Government Communications Director and former Labor Department Public Affairs Chief of Staff Rick Manning  pointed out that Daley’s meeting may have large political implications.

“Business community to William Daley, your Jedi tricks don’t work on us,” Manning said in an email. “The chickens are coming home to roost from the wholesale assault by Obama on the free enterprise system and the private job creators who make it run. The meeting itself is incredible in that it demonstrates just how vulnerable Obama feels in 2012.”

Daley tried to lay out the administration’s efforts to help business, and  promoted Obama’s support for changing the corporate tax structure and for new free trade agreements.

When a paper company executive said Environmental Protection Agency regulations might cost her $10 million to $15 million to upgrade a mill, Daley said the number of rules and regulations “that come out of agencies is overwhelming.”

Later, he added: “We’re trying to bring some rationality to it.”

Daley’s appearance before Thursday’s meeting of the National Association of Manufacturers was an unusual public appearance for Obama’s relatively new chief of staff. He invited the executives to offer candid views and extended the question-and-answer session, at one point joking, “I’ll probably regret saying that.”

I am sure that he did.

On lowering the corporate tax rate, a top goal of business groups, Daley said again, “there are winners and losers.” He warned that some small businesses might face a tax increase.

Mary Andringa, head of NAM, described the meeting as “constructive” and was “quite pleased” that Daley devoted more than an hour to the group’s concerns.

But some business executives in the room said they were unimpressed by the White House’s attempts to woo industry.

“We think there’s a thin facade by the administration to say the right things, but they don’t come close to doing things,” said Barney T. Bishop III, chief executive of the business group Associated Industries of Florida. He called the efforts to streamline regulations “immaterial.”

“We love the platitudes, but we want to see action,” Bishop said.

And that’s the bottom line for these executives.  Before they invest more in their businesses, and hire more people, they need to feel sure that the economic environment is going to get better. Unfortunately as the Obama administration’s policies stand right now…that is unlikely to happen anytime soon.

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