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NEW YORK ( RealMoney) -- Can this economy turn without Washington's help? Can it turn even with Washington hurting it? Those are the two questions I am asking industrial CEOs and the answers are a little surprising.
First, many of the industrial CEOs I deal with actually see a turn happening in this country's economy. They see it in non-residential construction, which can be a real driver of the GDP growth. They see it in autos where a 13 million auto build, once dreamed of, is now a reality. They see it in larger orders for trucks and generators and construction equipment. They see it in the construction of billions of dollars' worth of energy infrastructure projects, many to meet long-agreed-upon EPA standards for phasing out coal. They see it in the billions of dollars of petrochemical plant and pipeline businesses to harness our natural gas -- now the cheapest in the world -- and turn it into plastics. They see it in the beginning of the gigantic aerospace build for the Boeing Dreamliner, which could actually, in a ripple effect, impact GDP positively.
But if offered a chance for help from Washington, almost EVERY ONE of these manufacturing CEOs I speak to, and I know I speak to a lot more of them than the president, scoffs and says that help from Washington is inconceivable. Just out of the question. And not just because there is a limited amount of dollars for projects.There is no help from Washington because the CEOs behind this turn believe that the president is ideologically committed to hurting them either because their businesses involve some level of pollution -- or a build out of a fossil fuel system in some way or another -- or because labor is not going to do as well as capital in their successes. There is a "plague on your house" attitude from the White House rather than any encouragement, unless they are all green or the workers own more of the means of production, which, alas, isn't really a true capitalist doctrine. One thing that has changed, though, is that many of the CEOs I talk to have gone from reticence and defensiveness to "try and stop me Mr. President, I am going to make money for shareholders here." It's funny, as much as we on Wall Street fret every day about Europe, mostly about the imminent collapse of Italy, these execs, and I ask them all, are far more worried about the president and the Democrats and the obstacles they place on success. They think there is a deep-down anti-success bias. They think that the president is so anti-profit that he is the biggest hindrance to their successes, not Europe. They feel they can work around Europe but they know, in their hearts, that the president does not want them to succeed.