business news in context, analysis with attitude

The Boston Globe reports that Rep. Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts), admittedly one of the most liberal members of the Congress and the likely chairman of the House Financial Services Committee when the new Democratic Party-controlled Congress convenes next January, is proposing a “grand bargain” with corporate America that he says could make real progress on economic issues.

According to Frank’s proposal, the Globe writes, “Democrats would agree to reduce regulations and support free-trade deals in exchange for businesses agreeing to greater wage increases and job benefits for workers.”

Frank tells the Globe: “A lot of policies that the business community wants us to adopt for growth are now blocked. On the other hand, the business community is successfully blocking the minimum wage [increase] and created a very anti union attitude in the Congress.” Frank says, “What I want to do is break that deadlock.”

The Globe writes that “while Frank has won support in Massachusetts among financial-services executives, some national business leaders are skeptical. Bruce Josten , chief lobbyist for the US Chamber of Commerce said he is worried that Frank's grand bargain would mandate costly benefits to employees, including health care , in exchange for support of free trade.” However, the Globe also reports that “Stephen J. Collins, president of the Automotive Trade Policy Council, which represents Detroit's Big Three automakers, said business leaders would welcome such a discussion with Frank.”

Health care would be a likely starting point, according to the Globe. “Many businesses are trying to shed high health care premiums. Frank hopes that workers and businesses can agree on a government-administered plan paid for by workers that would reduce burdens on businesses, which would pass on savings to employees through higher wages.”

Frank expects to begin holding hearings on his proposal starting early next year.
KC's View:
We understand why a lot of business leaders might be suspicious of Frank, but it seems to us that if he is willing to talk about these issues and try to find some middle ground, business leaders ought to be willing to engage in the dialogue.

Numerous reports have suggested that a raise in the minimum wage is a near certainty when the Democrats take over. But Frank, at least, seems to understand that the nation’s economic problems will not be solved through simplistic solutions…and big business ought to take advantage of his apparent attitude.