- The Washington Times - Friday, February 13, 2009

UPDATED:

President Obama on Friday sought to assure business CEOs at the White House that the $787 billion stimulus plan will be good for business and for the country, and that he will seek to make government run as efficiently as private enterprise.

The president told the audience of about 100 business executives and some spouses that the emergency legislation, which was set to be passed through Congress later in the day, will create jobs in the private sector.

But his main message for the Business Council — an association of CEOs from the nation’s largest businesses, many of them Republicans — was on the country’s long term fiscal picture.

“Passing this plan is a critical step, but as important as it is, it’s only the beginning of what I think all of you understand is going to be a long and difficult process of turning our economy around,” Mr. Obama said to the audience, which was polite and receptive but did not applaud during the speech.

The president mentioned the credit crunch, the housing crisis, financial market regulation, and the federal budget.

“We’re going to have to have fiscal discipline,” he said. “We’re going to have to make some tough decisions that many of you are already making in your companies, but the federal government has not made with respect to our operations.”

“Your best practices should be our best practices,” he said.

It was a concentrated effort to counter the twin notions among many in the business community that he is a big government, anti-business liberal, and that his economic policies will not only fix the current mess but make it worse.

To reinforce his message, Mr. Obama spent more than 10 minutes wading into the audience to shake hands. He shook hands and greeted nearly every person in attendance, making small talk with some.

“So nice to see you sir,” he told Bernard J. Poussot, CEO of Wyeth, a pharmaceutical company.

After Mr. Obama shook hands with former Kroger CEO Joseph A. Pichler and his wife, Susan, who were in the back row, Mrs. Pichler turned to the person next to her and said, “That’s impressive.”

Marshall O. Larsen, CEO of Goodrich Corporation, said in an interview that he remained optimistic about the economy in the long term, and had praise for the president, for whom he did not vote.

“I see him going down the road of bipartisanship,” Mr. Larsen said. “I think we have to have to give the man a chance.”

He said he realized that business would have to make concessions in the months ahead.

“We’re all going to have to compromise to get this economy moving. Were not all going to get what we want,” he said.

Mr. Larsen said he had a “great deal of faith in the resiliency of our economy.”

While the president met with Fortune 500 CEOs, the American Small Business League criticized Mr. Obama for backing off a promise to support legislation that would stop large corporations from taking federal contracts and sub-contracts that, under the law, should go to small business with 20 or fewer employees.

“Broken Obama campaign promise will kill American jobs,” charged an ASBL press release.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide