President Obama held a meeting this morning with business leaders from across the country to discuss the impact of the weakening economy on businesses and workers. In addition, discussed their shared commitment to a plan that will both get the economy moving again and lay the ground work for the long-term strength of the economy. Following the meeting, President Obama made the following remarks:
A few moments ago, I met with some of America’s leading business executives. It was a sober meeting – because these companies, and the workers they employ, are going through times more trying than any we have seen in a long, long while. Just the other day, seven of our largest corporations announced they were making major job cuts. Some of the business leaders in this room have had to do the same. And yet, even as we discussed the seriousness of this challenge, we left our meeting confident that we can still turn our economy around.
But we must each do our share. Part of what led our economy to this perilous moment was a sense of irresponsibility that prevailed from Wall Street to Washington. That’s why I called for a new era of responsibility in my Inaugural Address last week – an era where each of us chips in so that we can climb our way out of this crisis – executives and factory floor workers, educators and engineers, health care professionals and elected officials.
As we discussed in our meeting a few minutes ago, corporate America will have to accept its own responsibilities to its workers and to the American public. But these executives also understand that without wise leadership in Washington, even the best-run businesses cannot do as well as they might. They understand that what makes an idea sound is not whether it’s Democratic or Republican, but whether it makes good economic sense for their workers and companies. And they understand that when it comes to rebuilding our economy, we don’t have a moment to spare.
The businesses that are shedding jobs to stay afloat – they cannot afford inaction or delay. The workers who are returning home to tell their husbands and wives and children that they no longer have a job, and all those who live in fear that theirs will be the next job cut – they need help now. They are looking to Washington for action – bold and swift. And that is why I hope to sign an American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan into law in the next few weeks.
Most of the money we’re investing as part of this plan will get out the door immediately and go directly to job-creation, generating or saving three to four million new jobs. And the vast majority of these jobs will be created in the private sector – because, as these CEOs well know, business, not government, is the engine of growth in this country. But even as this plan puts Americans back to work today, it will also make those critical investments in alternative energy and safer roads, better health care and modern schools that will lay the foundation for long-term growth and prosperity. And it will invest in broadband and emerging technologies, like the ones imagined and introduced to the world by people like Sam Palmisano and so many of the CEOs here today – because that is how America will retain and regain its competitive edge in the 21st century.
I know that some are skeptical about the size and scale of this recovery plan. I understand that skepticism, which is why this recovery plan will include unprecedented measures that will allow the American people to hold my Administration accountable. Instead of just throwing money at our problems, we’ll try something new in Washington – we’ll invest in what works. Instead of politicians doling out money behind a veil of secrecy, decisions about where we invest will be made public, and informed by independent experts whenever possible.
And we will launch a sweeping effort to root out waste, inefficiency, and unnecessary spending in our government, and every American will be able to see how and where we spend taxpayer dollars by going to a new website called recovery.gov. Because I firmly believe with Justice Brandeis that sunlight is the best disinfectant, and I know that restoring transparency is not only the surest way to achieve results, but also to earn back that trust in government without which we cannot deliver the changes the American people sent us here to make.
In the end, the answer to our economic troubles rests less in my hands, or in the hands of our legislators, than it does with America’s workers and the businesses that employ them. They are the ones whose efforts and ideas will determine our economic destiny, just as they always have. For in the end, it’s businesses – large and small – that generate the jobs, provide the salaries, and serve as the foundation on which the American people’s lives and dreams depend. All we can do, those of us in Washington, is help create a favorable climate in which workers can prosper, businesses can thrive, and our economy can grow. And that is exactly what the recovery plan I’ve proposed is intended to do. Thank you.