business news in context, analysis with attitude

Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted a lunch for four business CEOs – Mike Duke of Walmart, Howard Schultz of Starbucks, Ivan Seidenberg of Verizon, and Dan DiMicco of Nucor – at which they discussed issues such as the economy and healthcare reform.

However, “hosted” may not be exactly the right word. While the lunch may have taken place in the White House, the executive shad to provide their credit card numbers so that they could be billed for the lunch. Politico reports that this has become standard operating procedure in the Obama White House, where they say that the policy is in place to avoid conflicts of interest or even the occurrence of such conflicts.

Duke and Schultz are interesting choices to have in to chat about healthcare. Schultz made health care benefits a core value in Starbucks’ corporate culture, and offers coverage to people working as few as 20 hours a week. Walmart, on the other hand, has largely been demonized for its approach to health care benefits, though its image has improved and the company has endorsed the kind of health care reform being advocated by the Obama administration.
KC's View:
I think the lunch is a good idea…but the idea of taking credit card numbers seems a little extreme. As a taxpayer, I’m happy that the White House is talking to a lot of different people and looking to get a lot of different perspectives. And if it costs me a tuna fish sandwich every once in a while, that strikes me as a good investment.

Just imagine how much territory they could have covered if they’d had an end-of-day beer…