Obama blames Americans for 2009 drop in foreign investment

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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President Barack Obama told an international audience that America’s economic difficulties are caused, in part, by laziness, and the cure is more centralized government.

“We’ve been a little bit lazy, I think, over the last couple of decades,” and so we have failed to do enough to attract foreign investment, the president said, Saturday in Hawaii during a scripted conversation with Boeing CEO James McNerney, Jr. at a summit for Pacific-region business leaders.

The criticism of other Americans is similar to Obama’s previous remarks blaming American citizens and politicians, especially President George W. Bush, for the slow economic recovery during the president’s three years in office.

In September, Obama told a Florida interviewer that “this is a great country that had gotten a little soft, and we didn’t have that same competitive edge that we needed over the last couple of decades.”

Foreign investment in the United States climbed rapidly from the late 1990s to 2001. Foreign investment in the U.S. then fell from roughly $300 billion to below $100 billion during 2003, according to a February report titled “Foreign Direct Investment in the United States: An Economic Analysis” issued by the Congressional Research Service.

However, foreign investment in the U.S. recovered to an average $300 billion per year some time during Bush’s second term, before declining to roughly $150 billion in 2009, early in the Obama administration. In 2010, foreign investment climbed back up to $194 billion.

GOP legislators and advocates say investment and economic growth can be spurred if taxes and regulations are reduced, and if the political power of progressives is reduced.

In Hawaii, Obama said that America’s tiered government is a hindrance to his preferred cure to the drop in foreign investment. “Because of our federalist system, sometimes a foreign investor comes in and they’ve got to navigate not only federal rules, but they’ve also got to navigate state and local governments that may have their own sets of interests.”

The solution, he said, is more centralized government. “Being able to create, if not a one-stop shop, then at least no more than a couple of stops for people to be able to come into the United States and make investments, that’s something that we want to encourage,” he said.

He’s already implementing this centralized solution, he said. “One of things that my administration has done is set up something called SelectUSA that organizes all the government agencies to work with state and local governments where they’re seeking assistance from us… We think that we can do much better than we’re doing right now.”

In September, after saying the U.S. had lost its competitive edge, Obama also suggested the cure lies with Democratic policies. The country can recover its competitiveness, he said, because the country has “the best universities, the best scientists, and best workers in the world.” Many Democrats routinely say they support education, science and labor, and that Republicans oppose all three.

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