President Obama continued his campaign to reach out to America’s business community on Monday, telling a few hundred business leaders at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce he wanted to repair relations after a rough two years.
“I’m here in the interest of being more neighborly,” Obama said after walking across Lafayette Park to the Chamber. “Maybe if we had brought over a fruit cake when I first moved in we would have gotten off to a better start.”
“But I’m going to make up for it,” Obama promised.
The response from Republicans in Washington was resoundingly skeptical.
“President Obama has retooled his rhetoric, but not his job-destroying policies, which are eroding confidence, fostering uncertainty, and crowding out private investment,” said House Speaker John Boehner, Ohio Republican.
“It’s clear from his policies that President Obama isn’t as interested in winning the future as he is in rigging it for big government,” Boehner said.
The president brought a full cadre of advisers with him to the Chamber — including new chief of staff Bill Daley — and ticked off his most recent initiatives to position himself as more business-friendly: an emphasis on free trade deals, a promise to reduce regulation, a plan to reduce the corporate tax rate, and a focus on improving America’s ability to compete in the global economy.
But Obama, as he has throughout his presidency, made clear that concessions and compromise on his part come with obligations in return. He spent much of his speech reminding business of their responsibilities to the country.
Specifically, he said, that means that if the government helps them succeed, they should create jobs in America, and not overseas.
“If we as a nation are going to invest in innovation, that innovation should lead to new jobs and manufacturing on our shores,” Obama said. “The end result of tax breaks and investments cannot simply be that new breakthroughs and technologies are discovered in America, but then the manufacturing takes place overseas.”
“That too breaks the social compact. It makes people feel the game is fixed,” he said.
Obama pressured business to start expanding and creating jobs, referencing the oft-mentioned $2 trillion in private capital that has been sitting on the sidelines for months on end.
Many businesses say uncertainty created in large part by Obama’s policies has done much to stifle investment. Many in the administration and at liberal think tanks counter that the capital is not moving due to insufficient consumer demand. This is the reason the policy option of choice for the Obama administration has been to spend more money in an attempt to jump start consumer spending, though President Bush did the same in 2008.
Obama made some mention of uncertainty created by the health-care law passed in March 2010, but argued that the overhaul is going to help businesses save money. He linked the $2 trillion in unutilized capital to demand instead.
“Many of your own economists and salespeople are now forecasting a healthy increase in demand. So I just want to encourage you to get in the game,” he said.