Peter Peterson says Republicans and business need to step up

July 21, 2010

Peter Peterson knows a little something about Republicans, Wall Street, and American business. He’s a former Commerce Secretary under Republican President Richard Nixon, a former New York Federal Reserve chairman and a former chairman and CEO of Lehman Brothers.

And what he sees right now is that Republicans and business are not stepping up to the plate.

BUSH/“One of the things that troubles me about the position of the Republicans is they’ve also been the party of  ‘yes,’ not just the party of  ‘no’,” he said in an interview with Reuters Insider TV.

Peterson gave as an example a rise in discretionary spending and the enactment of the Medicare prescription drug bill “without paying for it” during the administration of former Republican President George W. Bush.

“So one of my big concerns about the Republican Party — it’s one thing to state a principle called fiscal conservatism, and it’s another thing to come up with a program to do something about it. And like the Democrats, they have been very lacking in coming up with such a plan,” Peterson said quite bluntly.

American business groups criticize Democratic President Barack Obama’s administration for not being very receptive to their needs, but Peterson turned that around and said it was business groups who needed to step up to the plate.

“I’ve been a businessman virtually my entire life, and I would like to suggest some things that business might do that’s somewhat different than what they’re now doing,” Peterson said.

Business groups complain, but don’t mention the long-term structural deficit, he said. While they are unhappy that liberalizing trade is not making headway, they don’t take steps to make sure the White House gets the support of Congress in moving that legislation, he said.

“So my criticism is whether it’s long-term structural deficits, whether it’s trade, it takes two to tango and the White House has to deal with the Congress. And business it seems to me, has to step up to the plate and use its tremendous power when it gets focused on helping the White House. It’s gonna take a partnership to get things done. So I don’t think business has been doing as much as it should on the long-term structural problems, on trade, for example,” Peterson said.

Given his criticism, does he plan to stay in the Republican Party? “I’m not comfortable, really, with American politics generally at this point,” he said. “I am very much of a centrist at the present time.”

So is he staying in the Republican Party? “At the moment, I am, yes.”

Photo credit: Reuters/Larry Downing (Peter Peterson March 14, 2008)

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