News / USA

Obama Challenges Business Leaders to 'Get Off the Sidelines' to Create Jobs

President Barack Obama gestures as he speaks at the US Chamber of Commerce in Washington, February 7, 2011
President Barack Obama gestures as he speaks at the US Chamber of Commerce in Washington, February 7, 2011

In a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Monday, President Barack Obama urged the nation's business community to "get off the sidelines" and fully engage with him to help create jobs. The president challenged business leaders to work with the government to get the country through tough economic times.

It was a short walk across Lafayette Park in front of the White House to the Chamber of Commerce for remarks that were part of Obama's fence-mending with leaders of American business.

It was his first address to an organization representing some 3 million companies and a major force in Washington politics, with a powerful lobbying operation on Capitol Hill.

Watch Mil Arcega's Companion TV Report:

The president has had a rocky relationship with the U.S. business community, with Obama being labeled - he says unfairly and inaccurately - as anti-business during the first two years of his administration.

Tensions were seen before last year's midterm congressional elections as the administration and the chamber traded charges over the issue of campaign contributions. Obama also faced opposition from the business community to his sweeping health care reform law and financial system reform.

After joking that he came in the interest of being "more neighborly," and saying he recognized there had been disagreements on key issues, the president urged business leaders to "get off the sidelines" and invest in America's future.

"Now is the time to invest in America," said Obama. "Today, American companies have nearly $2 trillion sitting on their balance sheets and I know that many of you have told me that you are waiting for demand to rise before you get off the sidelines and expand, and that with millions of Americans out of work, demand has risen more slowly than any of us would like. We are in this together."

As in his State of the Union Address, Obama spoke about "winning the future" by making the United States more competitive. He also pointed to export deals with China and India, and a free trade agreement with South Korea that he said will be the model for similar accords the administration is pursuing with Panama and Colombia.

The president said he is confident that the federal government and business can work together to boost the economy, mentioning administration efforts to eliminate burdensome regulations.

But he said that although he understands the pressures businesses face to cut costs and serve shareholders they also have a responsibility to help middle class Americans - too many of whom, he said, have been "left in the mud."

"We cannot go back to the kind of economy and culture that we saw in the years leading up to the recession, where growth and gains in productivity just didn't translate into rising incomes and opportunity for the middle class. That's not something necessarily that we can legislate, but it is something that all of us have to take responsibility for thinking about."

The president received a tepid reaction from those in the audience to some of his remarks, especially those about regulation and export promotion. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the president was not seeking applause, but that he sought to encourage a process of cooperation.

"I think the president is clear that we are not going to agree on everything, and we have seen some of that transpire over the past two years," said Gibbs. "But as the president has said, we're not looking to refight the battles of the last two years. We've got significant challenges that continue to lay ahead of us, and the only way we are going to make progress is to tackle those challenges together."

Part of President Obama's signals to the business community that he is seeking a better relationship with corporate America has been appointments he has made, including his new White House Chief of Staff William Daley, who has strong business ties.

Obama also has named the chairman and chief executive of General Electric to a new commission to give the president advice on job creation and making the Untied States more competitive.

Reacting to Obama's remarks to the Chamber of Commerce, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ohio Republican John Boehner, said the president has created new barriers to job creation and has pursued policies that erode confidence, foster uncertainty and "crowd out private investment.

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs