unemployed workersPresident Obama has repeatedly warned of the corrosive effect that hidden corporate campaign donations could have in election campaigns, following a Supreme Court decision this year that for the first time allows companies, labor unions and other special interests to spend unlimited amounts of money on behalf of candidates and causes.

The ruling has already stirred controversy for big-box retailer Target (TGT) and media-giant News Corp. (NWS) after the companies made outsized contributions on behalf of Republican candidates. While that gush of money can be an effective new tool to sway elections, conservative business leaders are also using a more traditional tactic -- jawboning -- to appeal to voters to back pro-business GOP office seekers.

"Jobs Will Not Be Created Here"

One of them, Intel (INTC) Chief Executive Paul Otellini, delivered a speech last week in tony Aspen, Colo., offering a depressing set of observations about the economy and the Obama administration, CNET reported. Unless government policies are altered, Otellini predicted: "The next big thing will not be invented here. Jobs will not be created here." In addition, he said, the U.S. legal environment has become so hostile to business that there is likely to be "an inevitable erosion and shift of wealth, much like we're seeing today in Europe -- this is the bitter truth."

Another businessman, Michael Fleischer, president of New Jersey-based Bogen Communications International (BOGN), showed similar disdain for Obama in a recent op-ed in The Wall Street Journal (subscription required), in explaining why he isn't hiring new workers at a time when the country desperately needs new jobs.

When all costs are tallied, Fleischer explained, it costs $74,000 to put $44,000 in the pocket of a typical worker (whom he called "Sally") and to provide her $12,000 in benefits. Taking into account both federal and state taxes, government imposes a 33% surtax on Sally's job each year, he said.

Fleischer concluded his piece this way: "A life in business is filled with uncertainties, but I can be quite sure that every time I hire someone, my obligations to the government go up. From where I sit, the government's message is unmistakable: Creating a new job carries a punishing price."

Businesses Always Complain of the Cost of Doing Business

Of course, Otellini and Fleischer aren't saying anything new. Businesses large and small have complained for years about the cost of doing business in the U.S. Further, it's not unusual for them to use the cost associated with hiring and employing moderate-income workers to illustrate their points.

Such criticism, however, is just one side of the argument, says Christy Huebner Caridi, director of the Marist College Bureau of Economic Research in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

"What they're not doing is putting it in context," she says. "If you're talking about cost, you really need to consider the output, or the productivity, of the workers."

A statistic called unit labor cost, routinely used by economists and reported in government data, gives insight into how onerous the price tag of employing workers today truly is. Unit labor costs include such things as contributions to worker's compensation, disability, unemployment insurance, social security -- all taxes placed on employers.

Conveniently Ignoring Labor Unit Costs

And here's the kicker: Despite all the bellyaching by business leaders, labor unit costs for U.S. employers have decreased dramatically during the last 20 years, largely due to increases in worker productivity. In other words, the cost of employing workers relative to how much they produce has been falling, Caridi says -- and has been for a long time.

For example, in the period from 1968 to 1987, when inflation and oil shocks were routine features of the U.S. economy, unit labor costs rose on average 5.6% a year. In the current era, 1998 to 2009, the statistic has risen just 1.7% a year on average, on par with the increases seen during the two robust decades following the end of World War II.

Still, Caridi notes that any cost -- including hiring and employing workers -- is going to affect businesses' bottom line. Also, the stagnating recovery has created uncertainty, "one of the biggest problems in any business," she says. No employer wants to hire and train new employees only to find that they aren't producing enough sales to justify the salaries paid to them.

Then There's Executive Compensation

That said, salvos that target the costs of average wage earners conveniently fail to note other significant expenses, including executive compensation, which has skyrocketed in recent years. Otellini, for example, earned nearly $15 million last year, or the equivalent of about 200 "Sallys." (Bogen Communications last disclosed Fleischer's annual compensation in regulatory filings for the 2002 fiscal year, prior to its delisting from the Nasdaq Stock Market in 2004.)

Also neglected are costs related to golden parachutes of failed executives, such as Hewlett-Packard's (HPQ) Mark Hurd, who, despite being fired, walked away with $37 million (500 Sallys). Then there are the costs associated with executive travel and relocation.

Corporations are correct in that they are overtaxed, Caridi says. But in hanging the argument on the backs of everyday workers without ever taking into consideration the millions spent on executive pay and perks, business leaders aren't just being less than forthcoming, she says. "The truth is it's very mean-spirited."

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Lawrence

...and we're gonna drive business outta the US and business will flock to the UK and Europe and..and...Wait a Minute ! isn't that the argument used to deregulate derivitives which set off the panic which got us into this mess ?

September 03 2010 at 10:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Chuck Miller

I like to reffer to trickle down as tinkle down.

September 01 2010 at 9:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jagcapt007

The answer is getting corporations out of our government so it goes back to a government of the people FUNDED by the people. A corporation is not a person but an entity.==========The correct response to that is workers are not real people either, only tools for the corporation, so stop whining when business discard useless tools for better machinery. What is good for the goose, is good for the gander. I will gladly rehire my old tools when WE the people demand I need pay less taxation because I have no representation or voting rights like my workers enjoy. Same marxist rhetoric just updated languages.................. I am a businessman....not a social worker. I much prefer the GOP over the DNC because Liberal America idiots always think they are so superior a race than other br races, and We the owners. Thankfully you can't imprison wealth. You can only make it uncomfortable so it moves somewhere else more respectful of business. Oddly Americans are still whining how dare you take your jobs elsewhere. The greatest gift today that the left media refuses to report is we finally have more poverty today than any time in US history.....Yes we can....Yes We Can.....yeah you did. We have more red ink in two year, than the entire past eight prior. Germany embraced business, Obama told us to go screw ourselves. It is becoming superior to move the businesses elsewhere.........Sadly you da people lost.

August 31 2010 at 9:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jagcapt007's comment
Debbie

You will lose if the people stop buying your cheap over sea's product. I don't want to pay cheap only to go back out again to buy the same damn item weeks later when it breaks.

August 31 2010 at 1:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Peter

HOW MANY US TAXES DOES A CHINESE WORKER PAY? TAX CUT FOR THE US WORKER, LET TEH CORPORATIONS PAY OFF THE DEFICIT

August 31 2010 at 6:30 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Peter

HEY, if you pay no Federal Taxes then you can work cheaper! Doesn't that warm every GOP heart? Leave the taxes to the Corporations. VOTE out every emcumbant, select the other lever

August 31 2010 at 6:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Peter

Remenber to VOTE OUT EVERY EMCUMBANT. It's the 1st step to a long fught for social justice. A TAX CUT to the workingman is #1 keeping your money ready for the poor economy that the GOP REAGANOMICS "TRICKLE DOWN" has created.

August 31 2010 at 6:27 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Peter

One thing to be sure, the GOP has destroyed the middle income salary worker so the one left is the Rich & the Corporatinons to pay the Budget deficit. That's the other cost of not hiring a US worker. I'll be sure to let my Congressman know he is OUT the DOOR the first chance I get to VOTE him OUT, unless there is a tax cut for those making less than 100K.

August 31 2010 at 6:23 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Peter

Ask BP! PAY YOUR CEO 700 TIMES THE average wage, then listen to him cry he wants his life back when the Corp incurres tens of Billions of damage claims. But then the Safty & Environmental employee he nevered hired would probably have been ignored anyway. Too Bad the Republicans haven't gotten teporary visas for Chinese workers, then the CEO can make 1400 TImes the average Eployee salary

August 31 2010 at 6:19 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
cdavecrz

Schepp is a real schepp........... Somehow argueing against the cost of an employee without really saying anything,,, right?? Was the number quoted right or wrong,,, and why? Ask the unions who contribute to the Dems,, as much as they want,,, who were given a big american company,, GMC,, because they gave to the president,,, so why shouldn't Walmart or Home Depot give to whomever and get 100 billion interest free loan which doesn't have to be paid back,,, pro-quo.

August 31 2010 at 5:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
eyeforeye42

If jobs are so scarce, stimulus money should have been meted out to positions at 80% of the going rate, and not limited to closed shop operations so to encourage business, get more people on the payroll and less people on unemployment. That would be a win win situation unlike a zero sum game organized labor, employers and the government play. If the 80% rule provides insufficient income, people won't take the jobs but also means the supply and demand for workforce is becoming stabilized. I think you will find there is a lot of people willing to get off unemployment onto a job that pays 80% these days. The 80% rule would allow much more than 20% additional workers get off unemployment.

August 31 2010 at 5:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply