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Obama reaches out to business community in meeting with 20 CEOs

A group of 20 chief executives was meeting with President Obama to discuss exports and the budget deficit, among other things. Here are the leaders who were slated to attend the meeting.

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Obama has conceded that he may not have effectively courted business leaders.

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"One of the things that I think has not been managed by me as well as it needed to be was finding the right balance in making sure that businesses have rules of the road and are treating customers fairly . . . but also making absolutely clear that the only way America succeeds is if businesses are succeeding," Obama said after the midterm elections.

As part of his outreach to corporate America, Obama met with Wal-Mart's chief executive last month and is considering speaking at a chamber event. He also met Tuesday with two of his allies in the business community, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. (Buffett is a Washington Post Co. board member.) And in its search for a new head of the National Economic Council to replace the outgoing Lawrence H. Summers, the administration has looked for someone who has run a company before, reflecting the concern in the business community that the Obama economic team is too dominated by academics.

The administration's relations with companies could improve over the next two years. Many of the issues the White House is advancing- tax cuts, increased funding and accountability in education, and attempts to grow the economy - aren't likely to find resistance from corporate America.

In contrast, the first half of Obama's term was defined by two landmark measures, health-care legislation and financial regulatory reform, which generated significant opposition from businesses.

"Moving forward, we see an alignment of interests between the business community and the administration on the objective of growing our economy," said senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett, who is heavily involved in the administration's efforts on business.

Still, Obama is facing pressure from many Democrats who want to sharpen the rhetoric against Wall Street and other businesses as unemployment remains high despite large profits for companies. And the administration's plans to reform the tax code, which may include cutting certain industry tax breaks, are sure to be challenged by lobbyists.

The administration has been trying to encourage businesses to start spending the $1.9 trillion in cash they are holding on their balance sheets to stimulate the economy. And there are signs that companies may soon open their wallets. A new survey released Tuesday by the industry group Business Roundtable shows that 45 percent of top executives expect to add to their payrolls, the highest percentage reported since the group began the survey in 2002.

In his entreaties to businesses, Obama faces competition from Republicans who traditionally have represented the interests of corporate America more consistently.

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio.), who will become speaker in January, came to a closed-door meeting of 80 chief executive members of the Business Roundtable last week and praised their "Roadmap for Growth" as a "very good plan," as first reported by Politico.

And he emphasized his support for keeping in place current tax rates for income over $250,000 a year and trying to prevent the federal government from increasing regulations on businesses.

"The mountains of regulations and new restrictions being proposed and considered by this administration do one thing: kill jobs," he told the group, according to a source familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the meeting was private.

baconp@washpost.com yangjl@washpost.com


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