One crucially important, but not-so-well-understood aspect of American politics is that business groups in the U.S. tend to behave in a highly ideological, highly solidaristic manner rather than as narrow interest groups. For example, check out this interesting item from my colleague Lee Fang:
Corporate front groups and large business trade associations are funneling their resources into defeating health reform. Even though health reform will lower costs for small businesses and boost worker productivity economy-wide, it appears that corporate entities influenced by major polluters are hoping that the defeat of health care legislation will slow President Obama’s agenda and derail their true enemy: clean energy reform.
The West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, which is largely backed by the coal industry, candidly revealed this strategy in a letter released today to Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Robert Byrd (D-WV). The Chamber of Commerce demanded that the senators use “their clout and seniority” to obstruct the health reform debate until cap and trade legislation is taken off the table and the EPA is barred from regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant. As Ken Ward of the Charleston Gazette noted, Rockefeller has already rejected a similar proposal of blocking health reform unless the EPA stops reviewing mountaintop removal permits. The coal lobby has also pressured West Virginia state legislators to pass resolutions opposing clean energy reform.
Part of what’s interesting about this is that, as a matter of logic, you could easily imagine trying to run this play in the other direction. The WV Chamber of Commerce could be working with Senators Rockefeller & Byrd to cement a broad, bipartisan alliance between WV legislators in which the Republicans join with the Democrats to support health reform and the Democrats join with the Republicans to protect the state’s coal interests. There’s nothing, in other words, particularly obvious, natural, or inevitable about this kind of linkage. But American business has a very strong tendency toward forming a broad ideological alliance against all forms of regulation and public services. You might, for example, think that “real economy” firms would want a well-regulated financial system but business groups show no signs of anything other than hostility to efforts to better-regulate the main banks.