February 24th, 2010
03:05 PM ET
12 years ago

Obama bemoans extreme rhetoric in meeting with CEOs

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/02/24/art.bobiz0224.gi.jpg caption=" 'A thriving, competitive America is within our reach ... only if we move past the old debates and crippling divides between left and right,' President Obama told members of the Business Roundtable."]
Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama sought an increasingly elusive political middle ground in remarks to business leaders Wednesday, warning that harsh partisan rhetoric is crippling the government's ability to find solutions to a growing array of problems.

The president portrayed an extensive list of administration priorities - including financial sector reform, stimulus spending, and new education investments - as necessary for long-term economic stability.

He also praised the Senate's approval earlier in the day of a $15 billion jobs bill. The package would give businesses tax breaks for hiring the unemployed and states more money for infrastructure projects. Thirteen Senate Republicans backed the measure - an unusual example of bipartisan accord in an increasingly polarized Congress.

The bill now moves to the House of Representatives, which may take it up as soon as Friday, according to a Democratic aide.

"A thriving, competitive America is within our reach ... only if we move past the old debates and crippling divides between left and right," Obama told members of the Business Roundtable, a group of CEOs representing many of the country's largest corporations.

Unfortunately, "we have arrived at a juncture in our politics where reasonable efforts to update our regulations, or make basic investments in our future, are too often greeted with cries of 'government takeover' or even 'socialism.'"

The president argued that "not only does that kind of rhetoric deny our history, but it prevents us from asking hard questions about the right balance between the private and public sectors."

Obama defended what he characterized as government's limited role in promoting economic growth. "It's not about being anti-business or pro-government," he said. "It's about being pro-growth and pro-jobs."

Part of the president's speech was devoted to what some observers have cited as the most divisive item on the White House agenda: health care reform. Obama is set to host a high-profile televised meeting with congressional Republicans on the subject Thursday.

The president said he is looking forward to "a good exchange of ideas" during the meeting. He used his appearance before the Business Roundtable to seek support from traditionally Republican-leaning corporate leaders for the plan rolled out by the White House on Monday.

"There is no certainty in a future where premiums rise without limit; a future where companies are forced to drop coverage or cut back elsewhere," Obama said. "That can't be good for business."

Among other things, Obama's plan would expand Medicare prescription drug coverage, increase federal subsidies to help people buy insurance, and give the federal government new authority to block excessive rate hikes by health insurance companies.

The White House claims the package would extend coverage to 31 million Americans while cutting the deficit by $100 billion over the next 10 years. It would be financed in part by targeted reductions in Medicare spending, a new tax on high-end health insurance plans, and an extension of the Medicare payroll tax to unearned income for couples making over $250,000 annually.

Top Republicans have slammed Obama's plan, arguing that it will increase premiums and undermine the economic recovery while doing little to contain spiraling medical costs.

A number of GOP leaders have also expressed pessimism about Thursday's meeting, arguing that it will amount to little more than political posturing on the part of the White House.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, indicated Tuesday that he may use a controversial parliamentary shortcut to bypass GOP opposition and pass a health care plan.

The fast-track approach, known as reconciliation, would allow Democrats to pass the bill with just 51 votes, not the 60 usually required to overcome a filibuster.

Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah warned in January that the use of reconciliation by the Democrats could lead to "outright war" between the two parties.

Updated: 4:10 p.m.

Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. Jane/Seattle

    He is correct on this one. It is this extreme rhetoric which confuses the population not paying attention.

    February 24, 2010 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  2. Ryan

    Oh I'm sure all the wingnuts will shout "He's a socialist!!" despite that they got YET AGAIN, more tax breaks.

    More than they ever did under Bush.

    Numbers don't lie, people.

    February 24, 2010 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  3. ThinkAgain

    I think President Obama should say it once, and then move on. It's obvious to everyone that the Republicans are more concerned with trying to make our president and our country fail than in helping.

    The time for talk is done. The President must lead in pushing the agenda the majority of Americans voted for in 2008.

    Those on the losing side of that election had their chance for 8 years under Bush and Cheney – and it was proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that those policies are failures.

    February 24, 2010 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  4. Randolph Carter, I'm no expert but....

    "A thriving, competitive America is within our reach ... only if we move past the old debates and crippling divides between left and right," Obama told members of the Business Roundtable, a group of CEOs representing many of the country's largest corporations.

    A thriving, competitive America is within reach.... if we adopt a single-payer not-for-profit healthcare system like every other developed country on the planet. Instead, we've got a bloated giveaway to our corporate masters that reforms nothing. Welcome to the United States of Amerika, Inc., consumerbots. Have a nice day!

    February 24, 2010 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  5. Chas in Iowa

    The issue of affordable education has been put on the backburner. The states in their economic need are cutting education budgets big time. The tuition costs are going up by 20% to 30 % per year. The smartest kids cannot afford to go to college any longer. Only those that come from very, very poor families qualify for any government programs.
    Our youngest and brightest are ending up working fast food.

    February 24, 2010 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  6. Jay

    What do you expect? US political culture is dysfunctional because US culture also is due to the pervasive influence of us -vs.-them, win-lose, compete-don't-cooperate sports and military mentalities. It's no longer "for the common good" but "my way or the highway."

    February 24, 2010 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  7. al in memphis

    Everyone see the benefit in government staying out of business and call it free enterprise. The problem is when businesses become oppressive by serving the benefit of the few while taking advantage of the masses.
    Business want the government (people) help when they are facing bankrupty, but the will spend like crazy to prevent anything that impact their ability to steal from the people.

    February 24, 2010 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  8. Mike in MN

    Obama is crippling the government's ability to find solutions to a growing array of problems because he is determined to continue down a path that a majority of voters do not want to go.
    Republicans agree with the voters and their rhetoric is harsh in opposition to Obama and the Democrats.
    Obama and the Democrats refuse to listen to the people and change course and respond with their own harsh rehetoric.
    If Obama does not change course, the pattern will not stop. The will of the people will not change.
    What Obama wants is just for the majority of the people who are opposed to what he is doing to just shut up and let him do it anyway.
    That will never happen no matter how much he complains.
    Obama is totaly out of touch with America.

    February 24, 2010 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  9. Diane Dagenais Turbide

    So true!

    February 24, 2010 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  10. Red by Choice

    Obama just doesn't get it. Business leaders, big and small, do not trust him, do not approve of the Democratic strategy of tax and spend and nearly universally agree that we do not need more debt and another "jobs bill". Hey Obama, stop trashing the very people who can bring us out of the recession - the small business owners. Those that make $200K + are not the problem. The problem is politicians that pander to those who contribute nothing to the country and humanity in general. Stop UAW welfare, stop strangling small business and stop taxing to death the people that make this country prosper. Only then will the recession abate.

    February 24, 2010 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  11. Jim

    Orrin Hatch warns that the use of reconciliation could lead to "outright war?" What does he call what the Republicans are already doing? To me it seems like a Maoist strategy to gum the government up until everyone hates it, then take power.

    February 24, 2010 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  12. givemecrat

    LETS SEE HERE........let me get this straight.......... I am a small business owner, I get these tax breaks if I hire someone that is unemployed? First, why would I hire someone that has a job and second if I hire someone is that going to give me anymore business? My business is not with the government it is with the people that are not afraid of being laid off . And that is a small list now days. I guess what I am trying to get across is if there is no business why would I hire someone and how am I to pay them? I dont use the tax payers money to fund my jobs. So pass all the job bills you want it is only going to the big hogs anyway that have an in with the government. Talk about trickle down If you all cant see what is coming down the road then you be fools

    February 24, 2010 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  13. Rick McDaniel

    The buck needs to start with Obama. he has been partisan from the git-go.

    February 24, 2010 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  14. Mike in MN

    Obama is one to talk about harsh retoric when the DNC is running adds calling Republicans hypocrites on the stumulus.
    Voter anger and frustration over the failed stimulus has nothing to do with the Republicans. They did not write the bill and did not vote for the bill and did not say it would quickly create millions of shovel ready jobs sufficient enough to keep unemployment under 8%, and have not insulted voter intellegence with bogus jobs saved or created numbers and have not claimed it has succeed beyond all expectaions when voters know it has not.
    Voters are not decieved by Obama's and the DNC's childish and insulting attempts to divert voter anger over the failed stimulus to Republicans. And the attempts to do so just make us all the more angry.
    Get in touch with America for once Obama.

    February 24, 2010 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  15. Four and The Door

    Obama defended what he characterized as government's limited role in promoting economic growth. "It's not about being anti-business or pro-government," he said. "It's about being pro-growth and pro-jobs."
    Why does it take the Federal Government over $500,000 to create each job ( even if you believe their numbers ) ? If that is the best they can do, leave it up to private industry. We can do it at least 5 times better.

    February 24, 2010 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  16. jules sand-perkins

    "Cries of...even socialism," the President said?
    He knows that his goals are socialistic, but he thinks that we are too stupid to know that.
    Who told us that he wanted "to spread the wealth around?"
    Was that Robin Hood, or President Obama?

    February 24, 2010 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  17. coolncalm

    Hooray Mr. President –

    Every word you have stated his true.
    I pray to God that people get with the program and that He hurry and make your enemies your footstool.

    Wake up America before it is too late!

    February 24, 2010 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  18. Marie MD

    We also need to bring those jobs back to the US from the "Marys" and "Joes" in customer service in who knows what country.
    Let other countries take care of their own.

    February 24, 2010 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  19. drew

    Health care reform is the most important legislation facing the Congress. I understand that certain Congressional members are being showered with 'gifts' to stop this legislation by the healthcare corporations and are being pressured by constituants who don't want their taxes to go up. However the pressure it is undeniable that we as a country should embrace this legislation for the good of our citizens. Being rich and powerful does not give anyone the right to deny people
    basic health services. It is shameful that we as a nation can't get this right when so many others have.

    February 24, 2010 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  20. Scott, Tucson

    What a joke that meeting must have been, here's obama who never ran so much as a lemonade stand trying to tell business leaders how to conduct their business. Who is going to hire in this economy when people are not buying?

    February 24, 2010 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  21. aware

    Well most partisan POTUS – what do you expect? 🙁

    February 24, 2010 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  22. Jake

    I believed this moron(Obama) once and got screwed.I do not believe anything he says now.

    February 24, 2010 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  23. Allen in Hartwell GA

    If the president could somehow write a law making greed a felony crime punishable by death the health care industry, along with many others, would suddenly get well and be customer friendly. But as long as greed rules these companies will rob and steal from us, and then give us the finger as they retire into the sunset.

    February 24, 2010 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  24. gt

    obama wants it both ways,,, he will get on tv and dog the business communtiy then sounds like rodney king " we all just need to get a long"he must be bi polar...

    February 24, 2010 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |