Obama Voter, Mort Zuckerman, on the president’s lack of leadership and the current administration.
Real-estate and newspaper mogul Mortimer Zuckerman voted for Obama but began seeing trouble as soon as the stimulus went into the pockets of municipal unions.
‘It’s as if he doesn’t like people,” says real-estate mogul and New York Daily News owner Mortimer Zuckerman of the president of the United States. Barack Obama doesn’t seem to care for individuals, elaborates Mr. Zuckerman, though the president enjoys addressing millions of them on television.
The Boston Properties CEO is trying to understand why Mr. Obama has made little effort to build relationships on Capitol Hill or negotiate a bipartisan economic plan. A longtime supporter of the Democratic Party, Mr. Zuckerman wrote in these pages two months ago that the entire business community was “pleading for some kind of adult supervision” in Washington and “desperate for strong leadership.” Writing soon after the historic downgrade of U.S. Treasury debt by Standard & Poor’s, he wrote, “I long for a triple-A president to run a triple-A country.”
His words struck a chord. When I visit Mr. Zuckerman this week in his midtown Manhattan office, he reports that three people approached him at dinner the previous evening to discuss his August op-ed. Among business executives who supported Barack Obama in 2008, he says, “there is enormously widespread anxiety over the political leadership of the country.” Mr. Zuckerman reports that among Democrats, “The sense is that the policies of this government have failed. . . . What they say about [Mr. Obama] when he’s not in the room, so to speak, is astonishing.”
We are sitting on the 18th floor of a skyscraper the day after protesters have marched on the homes of other Manhattan billionaires. It may seem odd that most of the targeted rich people had nothing to do with creating the financial crisis. But as Mr. Zuckerman ponders the Occupy Wall Street movement, he concludes that “the door to it was opened by the Obama administration, going after the ‘millionaires and billionaires’ as if everybody is a millionaire and a billionaire and they didn’t earn it. . . . To fan that flame of populist anger I think is very divisive and very dangerous for this country.”
This doesn’t mean that Mr. Zuckerman opposes the protesters or questions their motives. When pressed, he concedes that the crowd in Lower Manhattan may include some full-time radicals, but he argues that the protesters are people with a legitimate grievance, as the country suffers high unemployment and stagnant middle-class incomes.
It is a subject he has obviously studied at length, and he explains how the real unemployment rate is actually well above the official level of 9.1%, which only measures people who have applied for a job within the previous four weeks. In fact, he says, unemployment has even surged beyond the Department of Labor’s “U-6” number of 16.5% that has received increasing attention lately because it includes people who have given up looking for work within the past year, plus people who have been cut back from full-time employees to part-timers.
Mr. Zuckerman says that when you also consider the labor-force participation rate and the so-called “birth-death series” that measures business starts and failures, the real U.S. unemployment rate is now 20%. His voice rising with equal parts anger and sadness, he exclaims, “That’s not America!”
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SOURCE: The Wall Street Journal