Lobbying America tells the story of the political mobilization of American business in the 1970s and 1980s. Benjamin Waterhouse traces the rise and ultimate fragmentation of a broad-based effort to unify the business community and promote a fiscally conservative, antiregulatory, and market-oriented policy agenda to Congress and the country at large. Arguing that business's political involvement was historically distinctive during this period, Waterhouse illustrates the changing power and goals of America's top corporate leaders. Examining the rise of the Business Roundtable and the revitalization of older business associations such as the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Waterhouse takes readers inside the mind-set of the powerful CEOs who responded to the crises of inflation, recession, and declining industrial productivity by organizing an effective and disciplined lobbying force. By the mid-1970s, that coalition transformed the economic power of the capitalist class into a broad-reaching political movement with real policy consequences.
Ironically, the cohesion that characterized organized business failed to survive the ascent of conservative politics during the 1980s, and many of the coalition's top goals on regulatory and fiscal policies remained unfulfilled. The industrial CEOs who fancied themselves the "voice of business" found themselves one voice among many vying for influence in an increasingly turbulent and unsettled economic landscape. Complicating assumptions that wealthy business leaders naturally get their way in Washington, Lobbying America shows how economic and political powers interact in the American democratic system.
Benjamin C. Waterhouse is associate professor of history at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
Acknowledgments ix Introduction: American Business, American Politics 1 Chapter 1: From Consensus to a Crisis of Confidence 14 Chapter 2: A New Life for Old Lobbies 46 Chapter 3: The Birth of the Business Roundtable 76 Chapter 4: Business, Labor, and the Politics of Inflation 106 Chapter 5: The Producer versus the Consumer 140 Chapter 6: Uncertain Victory: Big Business and the Politics of Regulatory Reform 174 Chapter 7: A Tale of Two Tax Cuts 201 Chapter 8: Every Man His Own Lobbyist 229 Epilogue: American Politics, American Business 255 Abbreviations 265 Notes 267 Bibliography 311 Index 325