Obama calls for partnership with business, everyone rowing in same direction

By Philip Elliott, AP
Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Obama calls for partnership with business

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Wednesday rejected charges that his agenda would lead to socialism and challenged some of the nation’s foremost corporate leaders to join him in powering the country to a robust future.

In a speech to the Business Roundtable, Obama tied together and defended the widespread threads of his reform agenda, describing them as a unified push to help the United States compete abroad and rebound at home.

On a particularly sore point for business leaders who have or are planning to ship jobs overseas, Obama was unapologetic for his policy of rewarding industries that choose to remain at home.

“As president of the United States, my interest is to reward or at least not disadvantage companies who are creating more jobs and doing more business within the borders of this country,” Obama said. “That’s not antibusiness, it’s pro-America, and I don’t apologize for it.”

In addressing the Roundtable, one of capital’s most influential business groups, the president essentially reprised his State of the Union message.

Obama said those points needed repeating “because we have arrived at a juncture in our politics” where any reform efforts are “too often greeted with cries of ‘government takeover’ or even ’socialism.’ “

Reminding his audience he is the president of a people with widely varying interests and needs, Obama told the business leaders, “We are all in this together.”

Of the daunting array of troubles still facing all the country, Obama said that could be overcome only “if we all pick up an oar and start rowing in the same direction.”

The group’s support is crucial to Obama’s agenda as he faces a rough road heading toward November’s midterm elections. He has wooed Roundtable leaders since the start of his presidency, including an hour-plus speech to them last year and a private White House dinner Tuesday night.

His top advisers, such as Valerie Jarrett, have spent hours hearing the group’s viewpoints and weaving their opinions into the White House’s agenda, including a new push to make it easier for U.S. firms to compete abroad.

Obama also gave a nod to the Senate having passed just hours earlier a new bill to invest $15 billion to create more jobs in the United States through a series of tax incentives to business. Several Republicans broke unity with their party’s habit of blocking all legislation, joining Democrats in a 70-28 vote.

On the Net:

Business Roundtable: www.businessroundtable.org

will not be displayed