WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama prodded American businesses to do their share to help the economy, calling on executives to “get in the game” and begin investing nearly $2 trillion accumulating on their balance sheets. The president, in a speech Monday to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, called for a cooperative relationship with the private sector and argued government and business have a shared responsibility. He highlighted new efforts by his administration to improve the nation's infrastructure, invest more on entrepreneurs and foster greater innovation.
Obama needs the centrist cloak that the business community the chamber represents can offer as he seeks to win independent voters for his re-election bid next year. The Republican-leaning chamber can benefit by softening the sharp edges it developed fighting Obama's healthcare overhaul and tighter financial rules.
Both sides also need each other to win on areas of policy where they share common interests, such as trade deals.
To a polite, subdued audience, Obama offered a stout defense of
government regulations, even as he promised to eliminate those that are too burdensome. He reached back to history, invoking President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's outreach to corporate leaders and evoking the strains of self-sacrifice expressed by President John Kennedy.
“I want to be clear: Even as we make America the best place on earth to do business, businesses also have a responsibility to America,” Obama said. “As we work with you to make America a better place to do business, ask yourselves what you can do for America. Ask yourselves what you can do to hire American workers, to support the American economy, and to invest in this nation.”
Obama said his appearance at the chamber was in the interest of “being more neighborly”– literally true as the trade organization's headquarters are so close to the White House that Obama was able to walk across the street to give his speech. His appearance came as he aims to smooth his relations
with corporate leaders and persuade major businesses to spend their cash,
expand hiring and promote economic growth.