OBAMA TO CEOs: Quit Complaining

President Barack Obama has a message for the CEOs of corporate America: Quit complaining.

In an interview with The Economist published over the weekend, Obama said corporations have done well under his administration’s policies, and he argued it was time to turn their attention to making the lives of the middle class better.

“They always complain about regulation. That’s their job. Let’s look at the track record. Let’s look at the facts. Since I have come into office, there’s almost no economic metric by which you couldn’t say that the U.S. economy is better and that corporate bottom lines are better. None,” Obama told the magazine.

Obama went on to list the good in the U.S. economy: a climbing stock market, “record corporate profits,” the best growth in the job market since 1997, the deficit being continually cut, both energy and “clean energy” sectors he said were booming, and an unemployment rate lower than the height of the financial downturn in 2008.

Looking at the last five or six years, Obama said, the “last people” who should be complaining are the ones at the top 1%. Obama’s presidency has always been fit with the perception of a mixed relationship with big business.

Right now, the White House is pushing Congress to address what they view as the problem of corporate “inversions,” in which U.S. corporations move their tax domiciles abroad. But he is also prodding Congress to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank, which is generally supported by the business community.

Obama also said corporations generally support comprehensive immigration reform and certainty in regulation on climate change. Part of it, he said, is a difference between how CEOs and their lobbyists in Washington operate.

“There are always going to be areas where business does not want to be regulated because regulations are inconvenient,” Obama said.

“I would take the complaints of the corporate community with a grain of salt. If you look at what our policies have been, they have generally been friendly towards business, while at the same time recognising there are certain core interests — fiscal interests, environmental interests, interests in maintaining stability of the financial system — where, yes, we’re placing constraints on them. It probably cuts into certain profit centres in their businesses. I understand why they would be frustrated by it, but the flip side of it is that they’d be even more unhappy if the global financial system unravels. Nobody has more of a stake in it than them.”

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