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

Video Getting to Zero AIDS Infections

More than 35 million people around the world are infected with HIV, a disease that is both preventable and treatable

Children, Childhoods Lost in European Refugee Crisis

According to UNICEF, 190,000 children applied for political asylum in Europe in the first 9 months of this year - twice as many as last year

What Happened When I Landed in Antarctica

Refael Klein chronicles what it's like to visit one of the coldest, most desolate places on Earth

This forum has been closed.
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.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs