News / USA

Obama Courts US Business Leaders

President Obama record his weekly address for February 5, 2011
President Obama record his weekly address for February 5, 2011
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Kent Klein

President Barack Obama is continuing his efforts to reach out to some of his sharpest critics in the U.S. business community. The president is hoping to ease some business leaders’ opposition to his economic plan and his re-election bid.  

America’s top business leaders, many of whom are Republicans, have been skeptical about President Obama’s economic policies from the start.

One of the most consistent critics has been the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is based two blocks from the White House.  The Chamber represents more than three million businesses, and calls itself the world’s largest business federation.

Lately, the president has been trying hard to win over the Chamber and other business leaders to his proposals to make American companies more competitive globally.

His next step in that effort will be a speech at Chamber of Commerce headquarters on Monday.  Administration officials hope the visit will mark a turning point in the president’s relationship with corporate America.

In his weekly address Saturday, Mr. Obama said he will tell the corporate leaders that government has certain responsibilities to help promote American businesses.  Among those responsibilities, he says, are providing the world’s best schools, the best infrastructure and the best incentives to innovate.

He said he will also tell the executives that they have responsibilities as well. “If we make America the best place to do business, businesses should make their mark here in America.  They should set up shop here and hire our workers and pay decent wages and invest in the future of this nation.  That is their obligation," he said.

Mr. Obama’s outreach to business has gained momentum since he and Republicans in Congress reached a compromise in December to extend the life of tax cuts begun during George W. Bush’s presidency.

Another move seen as pro-business was the appointment of William Daley as White House Chief of Staff.  Daley had served as Commerce Secretary during Bill Clinton’s administration, and since held a high-ranking position at the large bank JP Morgan Chase.

President Obama has harshly criticized Wall Street bankers in the past for accepting big salary bonuses while their firms received government bailouts.  The Chamber of Commerce, meanwhile, made large contributions to Republican candidates in last November’s midterm elections, in which numerous Democrats were swept out of office.

Meanwhile, some liberal Democrats are furious about the president’s pro-business turn, saying he has abandoned their party’s principle of fighting for the well-being of workers.

Mr. Obama is trying to strike a balance on the issue, talking with workers at factories that produce equipment for alternative energy, and also hosting a day-long summit for executives of the nation’s largest companies.

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