President Obama: “Don’t play chicken with our economy!”

On Wednesday, President Obama spoke at a gathering of the Business Roundtable, an “association of chief executive officers of leading U.S. companies working to promote sound public policy and a thriving U.S. economy.” The president had some strong words for those who want to shut down the government over their ideology.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

[The] fact is, what I’ve called middle-class economics has been good for business. Corporate profits have hit an all-time high. Slowing health care prices and plummeting energy costs have helped your bottom lines. Manufacturing is growing at the fastest clip in about two decades. Our workforce is more educated than ever before. The stock market has more than doubled since 2009, and 2015 is on pace to be the year with the highest consumer confidence since 2004. And America’s technological entrepreneurs have continued to make incredible products that are changing our lives rapidly.

Now, you wouldn’t know any of this if you were listening to the folks who are seeking this office that I occupy. (Laughter.)

In the echo chamber that is presidential politics, everything is dark and everything is terrible. They don’t seem to offer many solutions for the disasters that they perceive -– but they’re quick to tell you who to blame.

I’m here to say that there’s nothing particularly patriotic or American about talking down America, especially when we stand as one of the few sources of economic strength in the world. […]

Democrats are ready to sit down and negotiate with Republicans right now, today, as we speak. But it should be over legitimate questions of spending and revenue –- not unrelated ideological issues. You’ll recall that two years ago Republicans shut down the government because they didn’t like Obamacare. Today, some are suggesting the government should be shut down because they don’t like Planned Parenthood. That’s not good sense and it’s not good business. The notion that we’d play chicken with an $18 trillion economy and global markets that are already skittish all because of an issue around a women’s health provider that receives less than 20 cents out of every thousand dollars in the federal budget, that’s not good policymaking.

The last time Republicans shut down the government, it cost our economy billions of dollars; consumer confidence plummeted. I don’t think anybody here thinks that’s going to be good for your business.

It is not good for business … or labor or, really, any segment of society other than those who fundraise off lies and who could not care less who suffers as long as the outrage fuels their own political careers.

One of these days, the members of the Business Roundtable, and the Chamber of Commerce, will realize that business needs a rational governmental presence and that the nihilism promoted by the Republican Party is NOT in their best interests. For all of our sakes, I hope that day comes sooner rather than later.

Congress has 11 days to pass a budget or to pass a Continuing Resolution to fund the government until a budget can be agreed upon.

The clock is ticking …

(Transcript below the fold).

Remarks by the President to the Business Roundtable

Business Roundtable Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
11:24 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Randall, and thank you to everybody here at the Business Roundtable for having me today. I’m just going to say a few words and then hopefully spend a lot of time taking your questions.

Seven years ago today was one of the worst days in the history of our economy. If you picked up the Wall Street Journal that morning, you read that the shocks from AIG and Lehman were spreading worldwide. The day before, stocks had suffered their worst loss since 9/11. In the months after, businesses would go bankrupt, millions of Americans would lose their jobs and their homes, and our economy would reach the brink of collapse.

That’s where we were when I became chief executive. Here’s where we are today: Businesses like yours have created more than 13 million new jobs over the past 66 months -– the longest streak of job growth on record. The unemployment rate is lower than it’s been in over seven years. There are more job openings right now than at any time in our history. Housing has bounced back. Household wealth is higher than it was before the recession. We have made enormous strides in both traditional energy sources and clean energy sources while reducing our carbon emissions. And our education system is actually making significant progress with significant gains in reducing the dropout rate, reading scores increasing, math scores increasing. And, by the way, more than 16 million people have health insurance that didn’t have it before.

So this progress is a testament to American business and innovation. It’s a testament to the workers that you employ. But I’m going to take a little credit, too. It’s a testament to some good policy decisions. Soon after we took office, we passed the Recovery Act, rescued our auto industry, worked to rebuild our economy on a stronger foundation for growth. Other countries in some cases embraced austerity as an ideology without looking at the data and the facts, tried to cut their way out of recession. The results speak for themselves. America has come back from crisis faster than almost every other advanced nation on Earth. And at a time of significant global volatility, we remain the world’s safest, smartest investment.

Of course, I will not be satisfied — and we as a country shouldn’t be satisfied — until more working families are feeling the recovery in their own lives. But the fact is that what I’ve called middle-class economics has been good for business. Corporate profits have hit an all-time high. Slowing health care prices and plummeting energy costs have helped your bottom lines. Manufacturing is growing at the fastest clip in about two decades. Our workforce is more educated than ever before. The stock market has more than doubled since 2009, and 2015 is on pace to be the year with the highest consumer confidence since 2004. And America’s technological entrepreneurs have continued to make incredible products that are changing our lives rapidly.

Now, you wouldn’t know any of this if you were listening to the folks who are seeking this office that I occupy. (Laughter.)
In the echo chamber that is presidential politics, everything is dark and everything is terrible. They don’t seem to offer many solutions for the disasters that they perceive -– but they’re quick to tell you who to blame.

I’m here to say that there’s nothing particularly patriotic or American about talking down America, especially when we stand as one of the few sources of economic strength in the world.

Right now, we’ve got the chance to build on progress that we have made and that is acknowledged worldwide. We have a chance to grow the economy even faster, create jobs even faster, lift people’s incomes and prospects even faster. We just have to make some sensible choices. And I’m going to focus on one particular example. America’s next fiscal year is almost upon us, which means that Congress has about two weeks to pass a budget. If they don’t, they will shut down America’s government for the second time in two years.

Democrats are ready to sit down and negotiate with Republicans right now, today, as we speak. But it should be over legitimate questions of spending and revenue –- not unrelated ideological issues. You’ll recall that two years ago Republicans shut down the government because they didn’t like Obamacare. Today, some are suggesting the government should be shut down because they don’t like Planned Parenthood. That’s not good sense and it’s not good business. The notion that we’d play chicken with an $18 trillion economy and global markets that are already skittish all because of an issue around a women’s health provider that receives less than 20 cents out of every thousand dollars in the federal budget, that’s not good policymaking.

The last time Republicans shut down the government, it cost our economy billions of dollars; consumer confidence plummeted. I don’t think anybody here thinks that’s going to be good for your business.

I’ve always believed what our first Republican President, a guy from my home state named Abraham Lincoln, believed –- that through government we should do together those things that we can’t do as well by ourselves. Funding infrastructure projects. Educating the best workforce in the world. Investing in cutting-edge research and development so that businesses can take that research and take some risks to create new products and new services. Setting basic rules for the marketplace that encourage innovation and fair competition that help a market-based economy thrive. Creating a safety net that not only helps the most vulnerable in our society but also frees all of us to take risks and protect against life’s uncertainties. And welcoming, rather than disparaging, the striving immigrants that have always been the source of continued renewal, economic vibrancy and dynamism in our economy.

So my hope is that Congress aims a little higher than just not shutting the government down. That’s a good start, we’d like them to achieve that, but I think we can do better. We can actually do some things to help the economy grow. After the last shutdown, both parties came together and unwound some of the irrational cuts to our economy and military readiness that’s known as sequester. That agreement expires in two weeks as well. And for those of you who are not steeped in federal budget terminology, sequester basically are automatic topline cuts that don’t discriminate, don’t think through what are good investments and what is waste. And if we don’t reverse the cuts that are currently in place, a lot of the drivers of growth that your companies depends on — research, job training, infrastructure, education for our workforce — they are going to be reduced effectively at a time when other countries around the world are racing to get ahead of us. On the other hand, if Congress does reverse dome of these cuts, then our own budget office estimates it would add about half a million jobs to our economy next year alone, about 0.4 percent to GDP.

And keep in mind that we can afford it right now — all the things I said at the front in terms of the recovery that we’ve made. We’ve also reduced the deficit by two-thirds. Right now it’s about 2.8 percent of GDP. We’ve reduced our deficit faster than some of those countries that pursued strict austerity policies and weren’t thinking about how to grow the economy.

And so we are well positioned without adding to the deficit. I want to repeat — since I took office, we’ve cut the deficit by more than two-thirds. And the good news is we might actually be moving beyond some of the stale debates we’ve been having about spending and revenue over the past several years if what economists and people who are knowledgeable about the federal budget are listened to as opposed by this being driven by short-term politics.

People in both parties, including some of the leading Republican candidates for President, have been putting out proposals. Some I agree with, some I don’t. I’ll give you one example, though. You’ve got two leading candidates on the Republican side who have said that we should eliminate the carried interest loophole. Now, there’s disagreement in this room around that. But I will tell you that keeping this tax loophole, which leads to folks who are doing very well paying lower rates than their secretaries, is not in any demonstrable way improving our economy.

On the other hand, if we close the tax loophole, we could double the number of workers in America’s job training programs. We could help another 4 million students afford college. These are sensible choices that if you were running your business and you took a look at it, you’d make that decision. Well, America should too.

And this is an example of how we can maintain fiscal responsibility while at the same time making the investments that we need to grow.

So the bottom line is this: Seven years ago, if we had listened to some politicians who said we could only cut our way to prosperity, the fact is we’d be worse off today. If we listen to them now, then we’re going to be worse off tomorrow.

I hope that you will talk to your friends in Congress, Democrats and Republicans alike. As Congress flirts with another shutdown, remind them of what is at stake. We will have some disagreements sometimes. I do not expect to get 100 percent of what I want in any conversation, including with my wife. But I do expect us to stay focused on why we’re here, which is to help the American people and businesses like yours and your workers do better. That’s our job. We’re not supposed to be impeding progress. We’re supposed to be advancing progress, accelerating it.

And if our leaders can put common sense over ideology and the good of the country before the good of the party, then we’ll do just fine. Despite the perennial doom and gloom that I guess is inevitably part of a presidential campaign, America is winning right now. America is great right now. We can do even better. But the reason that I’m so confident about our future is not because of our government or the size of our GDP or our military, but because everybody in this country that I meet — regardless of their station in life, their race, their religion, the region they live in — they do believe in a common creed that if people work hard in this country, they should be able to get ahead. And I know that’s what you believe. That’s the values that you try to instill in our companies, as well. My hope is, is that that decency, that hard work, that common sense is going to be reflected here in Washington.

So with that, let me take some questions. And I’m going to start with Randall, because since he volunteered for what I’m sure is a thankless job of being head of the — (laughter).

Question and answer session followed (see transcript).

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6 Comments

  1. President Obama:

    Seven years ago, if we had listened to some politicians who said we could only cut our way to prosperity, the fact is we’d be worse off today. If we listen to them now, then we’re going to be worse off tomorrow.

  2. The House is ready to man the Abortion Alamo:

    Some conservatives in the House have also said that they will refuse to approve any spending bill to keep the government open past Sept. 30 unless it includes a ban on funding for Planned Parenthood.

    The House is voting Thursday and Friday on a bill offered by Reps. Dianne Black, R-Tenn., and Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., that would cut all federal funding to Planned Parenthood for a year and transfer the $235 million to community health centers and other qualified facilities. Republicans argue that these centers provide all the services Planned Parenthood provides — except for abortions. Democrats and abortion rights advocates say that is not true and that these health centers would not be able to provide comparable services. Planned Parenthood is already barred from using any federal money to provide abortions.[…]

    “They don’t believe in family planning,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. “That’s what we’re dealing with here. This is not about terminating a pregnancy.” Pelosi said Republicans are simply using Planned Parenthood as an excuse to shut down the government when the federal budget expires Sept. 30. But she said Democrats would prevail because President Obama would veto any bill to cut the group’s funding and Democrats have enough votes to uphold a veto.

    • These people are out of their friggin’ minds.
      I have to wonder about what year we are in…can it possible be 2015?

      • Another reminder of why the person who is in the White House is vitally important. President Obama has a veto over the destruction that the teaparty has no qualms about unleashing.

        Sadly, right now there are three parties in our country, none of whom have a majority: Democrats, Republicans who the Business Roundtable might recognize as somewhat sane, and the trumpetty teabaggers of the far right. The last group wants to burn our country to the ground. I hope the Republicans who still have a brain cell work with the Democrats to keep the government running.

  3. Hey, let’s blur the lines between Church and State! Some of those “presidential candidates” President Obama talks about want to change our secular nation, a nation of laws, into a religious nation, governed by the majority religion’s interpretation of what their god wants:

    The crowd of Republican presidential candidates gathering in Des Moines on Saturday evening needs to address only a narrow band of issues, but they must say the right thing if they want to impress an influential bloc of caucusgoers.

    “They’ve gotta strike three notes,” pastor and conservative activist Jamie Johnson said. “They have to speak on life, they have to speak on marriage and they have to speak on religious liberty.”

    Eight GOP hopefuls will appear at the fundraiser banquet sponsored by the Faith & Freedom Coalition, one of Iowa’s leading socially conservative political organizations: U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former New York Gov. George Pataki, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, businessman Donald Trump and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

    They are looking for candidates who will shut down the federal government, appoint judges who will ignore the parts of the constitution they do not like … much like they themselves cherry pick the bible, skipping past the icky parts that tell them to feed the poor, shelter the homeless, and care for the sick.

    • They want a good Christian in White House (other than the one they’ve got) – they should have re-elected Jimmy Carter when they had the chance. And of course they can help elect Hillary in 2016 although I’d never call on anybody to vote for her because she’s Methodist and Bernie’s Jewish. Unfortunately, they don’t want a good Christian. Or a good/moral/ethical anybody else. They someone who more closely resembles what they book they say they are following describes as the anti-Christ.

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