Obama, CEOs Discuss Ways To Spur Growth
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
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And I'm Melissa Block.
President Obama was all business today. He hosted a group of the nation's top CEOs at the White House from GE, Google and Boeing to name a few. Mr. Obama is hoping to mend fences with one of his most powerful antagonists - corporate America.
In a moment, we'll hear from the head of UPS, who was also at the meeting. First, here's NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson.
MARA LIASSON: You could put today's meeting with 20 leading CEOs under the column titled midcourse corrections. In the past, President Obama famously called Wall Street executives fat cats and business groups returned the favor, spending tens of millions of dollars in the midterm elections to defeat Democrats.
But now, things are different. The president just negotiated a free-trade deal with South Korea that businesses applauded, and he made sure that business-friendly tax breaks were included in the tax cut bill Congress is about to pass.
Going into the meeting this morning, the president said he wanted to elicit ideas from the CEOs that would, as he put it, seize the promise of this new moment.
President BARACK OBAMA: Ideas about tax reform; ideas about a balanced approach to regulation that will promote, rather than undermine, growth; ideas that will help encourage businesses to invest in America and American jobs at a time when they're holding nearly $2 trillion on their books.
LIASSON: And that's a real sticking point. The president wants to shake some of that cash loose and encourage businesses to invest and hire. For the long term, he wants to talk to business leaders about what he's called our Sputnik moment: the need for the U.S. to restore its competitive economic edge.
Pres. OBAMA: We know some of what we need to do to out-compete other countries in the 21st century. We need to offer our children the best education in the world. We need to spur innovation and new industries like clean energy that will create the jobs of tomorrow. We need to upgrade America's crumbling infrastructure, its roads and bridges, update high-speed rail and high-speed Internet to connect every community. And we need to redouble our commitment to fiscal discipline and address our long-term deficit challenges.
LIASSON: None of those priorities will get much opposition from big business, whose leaders also seem eager to turn the page.
Here's Tom Donahue, the CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in an interview with Fox talking about the president.
Mr. TOM DONAHUE (CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce): I think he's going to build coalitions that are broader than the ones that he was able to work before. And I think if he does that, he'll be more successful than he would otherwise have been.
LIASSON: The president started building some of those coalitions when he finished the South Korean trade deal, reacted positively to his deficit commission's recommendations and agreed to extend the Bush tax cuts. He may have put a few more bricks on that new foundation when he spent four hours with the CEOs today.
Mara Liasson, NPR News, the White House.
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