- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 15, 2014

President Obama has vowed to take a variety of unilateral actions in his second term to boost the economy, but one of the leading voices in the American business community said Wednesday that the president, if he truly wants to help jump-start the economy, should start his own business.

“Start a business. We need more business start-ups. He could do that,” said John Engler, president of the Business Roundtable and a former three-term governor of Michigan. Mr. Engler made the comments at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor in Washington.

“I understand what he said [regarding executive action] with the phone or the pen, but I think actually time is the important asset he has,” Mr. Engler added, addressing the president’s recent vow to act on his own whenever and wherever possible and suggesting instead that the president build more personal relationships with congressional leaders and others.

The “start a business” remark wasn’t meant to be taken literally, but it does underscore the deep divide that still exists between this White House and the business community, which argues rampant regulations instituted by the Obama administration are hampering growth and keeping companies from hiring more workers.


Mr. Engler and Business Roundtable Chairman Randall Stephenson, the chairman of AT&T who also answered questions at Wednesday’s breakfast, pressed for corporate tax reform and other steps to encourage hiring otherwise boost economic growth.

They also took indirect aim at Mr. Obama’s recent focus on income inequality in the U.S., saying that problem, while serious, can best be addressed through overall economic growth, not specific programs targeted to low-income Americans.

“I think [income inequality] is an issue that America needs to deal with. … The president is doing a good job of teeing it up. But from a business standpoint, we think the best way to address these issues is through growth,” Mr. Stephenson said.

Heading into this year’s midterm elections, both Mr. Engler and Mr. Stephenson said the Roundtable will avoid advocating for or against specific candidates and instead will focus on a broader energy that involves the elimination of burdensome regulations, tax reform, immigration reform and other steps.

“We’re Switzerland when it comes to politics, … we just don’t go there,” Mr. Engler said.