Ironically, lobbyist John Castellani put it best. "While we're each free to choose our actions," Castellani wrote in a recent blog post, "we're not free to choose the consequences of our actions."

It's ironic because Castellani, outgoing head of the Business Roundtable, has spent the last 18 months rallying the business community behind President George W. Bush's and President Obama's big-government agenda of handouts and boondoggles: Wall Street bailouts, Detroit bailout, stimulus, greenhouse cap-and-trade scheme, health care "reform" and more.

But in recent weeks Castellani has darkly warned of the "unintended consequences" of some of Obama's latest proposed regulations -- particularly on Wall Street and labor.

Of course, that was before Castellani left the Roundtable this week for the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America -- the lobby that carried Obama's health care reform across the finish line and is funding the re-election of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Castellani's oscillations -- supporting Sen. John McCain's, R-Ariz., presidential bid in 2008, embracing Obamanomics in 2009, then decrying it in mid-2010, and then joining the most Obama-friendly industry lobby -- exemplify the business lobby's schizophrenia.

It's the same story at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The chamber last year boosted the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the Detroit bailout, stimulus and cash-for-clunkers.

Wednesday, though Chamber President Tom Donohue rebuked Obama's regulatory ramp-up at a "jobs summit," assailing big government for killing jobs and entrepreneurship. But when asked about his full-throated support of the stimulus bill, Donahue said: "Would I do it again at the same time? Hell yes," Donahue said. "Would I do it now for another one? No."

Another recent case of Obamanomics schizophrenia is General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt. Immelt has openly turned GE into Obama's handmaiden, lauding a "reset" capitalism in which government is "an industry policy champion, a financier, and a key partner." Just after Obama's inauguration, Immelt bragged to shareholders: "GE's broad technical portfolio positions us as a natural partner as the role of government increases in the current crisis."

When Obama authorizes subsidies for embryo-destroying stem cell research, GE partners with Geron, a leading stem cell company. Obama wants cap and trade, and GE has a joint venture that deals in carbon credits. Obama wants more high-speed rail, and so GE revved up its locomotive industry and hired Linda Daschle as its rail lobbyist.

You could call GE the for-profit arm of the Obama administration.

So it was eye-catching when the Financial Times reported that Immelt recently "had harsh words for Barack Obama." The FT paraphrased Immelt: "Business did not like the U.S. president, and the president did not like business. ..." Conservative critics of the president trumpeted this report as proof that Obama's big government had driven away even the friendliest CEOs. But this misreads Immelt -- and the business lobby.

Immelt, in the speech cited by the FT, said the United States should be more like Germany, whose government he praises for working "as a pack" with business. Immelt isn't objecting to big government -- he's objecting to big government not helping him as much as he had expected.

At a San Francisco talk on "ecomagination" this week, Immelt made his complaint a bit clearer, grumbling about a lack of "regulatory certainty."

This is the key. Big business can deal with bigger government or smaller government -- they just want to know the rules so that they can figure out how to profit from them.

GE started Greenhouse Gas Services to profit from an economywide carbon-trading market -- something Obama had promised. But now Democrats are opting for a different set of subsidies, regulations and mandates.

And on these rocks, the love affair crashes: Big-business profits depend on consistency and certainty. Politicians' power depends on caprice and flexibility.

Obama's $20 billion fund for BP's oil cleanup is a power grab not because he's making BP pay, but because he's making it up as he goes along. We saw the same improvisation with Obama's handling of Chrysler -- Obama did whatever he thought best, regardless of precedent and law.

The business lobby's protestations these days are a bit rich -- they wanted big government, but they didn't want the consequences.

Timothy P. Carney is The Washington Examiner's Lobbying Editor. His K Street column appears on Wednesdays.