Obama pushes back at criticism his White House is anti-business

President Barack Obama pushed back at criticism that his administration is anti-business on Friday, arguing White House actions have boosted the private sector.

He also underlined his support for the private sector as the driving force of the economy, and said his administration had worked to help business recover from the depths of the recession.

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“The greatest generator of jobs in America is our private sector,” Obama told an audience at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “It’s our entrepreneurs and innovators, who are willing to take a chance on a good idea. It’s our businesses, large and small, who are making payroll, working with suppliers.”

The remarks in a speech in the battleground state of Nevada followed intense criticism of the White House from corporate leaders and business groups.

Executives and trade association leaders have expressed frustration with the financial regulatory overhaul the Senate is expected to approve next week, along with new taxes on business proposed by Obama.

Republicans have hammered Obama and Democrats in Congress for excessive spending, and have been especially critical of last year’s $787 billion economic stimulus package.

Obama sought to defend the stimulus and his government’s role in the economy during Friday’s speech.

“Our role in government, especially in difficult times like these, is to break down barriers that are standing in the way of innovation,” he said. “It’s to unleash the ingenuity that springs from our people. It’s to provide an impetus for businesses to grow and expand.

“That’s my view, and it isn’t some abstract theory. We’ve seen the results. We’ve seen what we can do to catalyze job growth in the private sector,” he said.

At the same time, Obama said it would be the private sector and not government that would “always will be the source of America’s economic success.”

Obama said his administration and Democrats in Congress have enacted a number of tax breaks for businesses, and he called for the extension of a $5 billion clean-energy manufacturing tax credit, which was first included in last year’s stimulus. He said his proposal would create almost 40,000 jobs and lead to another $12 billion in private investment that would create 90,000 more jobs.

Republicans seized on a Rasmussen poll this week showing that a plurality of Americans — 43 percent — believe the Obama administration’s $862 billion stimulus hurt the economy. Just 29 percent believe it helped.

House GOP leader John Boehner’s (Ohio) office sent e-mails to reporters before Obama’s speech calling the Obama administration’s policies “anti-business” and “anti-jobs.”

Obama also took a punch last week from General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt. In a speech in Rome, he said he was concerned that regulations pushed by Obama would hurt the economic recovery and that Obama and business didn’t like each other.


“People are in a really bad mood,” Immelt told a group of executives in Rome, according to the Financial Times. “We are a pathetic exporter ... we have to become an industrial powerhouse again but you don’t do this when government and entrepreneurs are not in synch.”

GE has questioned the accuracy of the Financial Times report and said Immelt’s remarks had been taken out of context. 

The White House has touted independent economic reports suggesting the stimulus — the centerpiece of Democrats’ efforts to jumpstart the economy out of a recession — saved or created more than a million jobs. A Congressional Budget Office study in May found that the stimulus, which included infrastructure spending, fiscal aid for states and tax breaks, increased employment by between 1.2 million and 2.8 million people.

Obama was in Nevada on Thursday and Friday raising money and stumping for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D), who is in a tough reelection race against Republican Sharron Angle.

Obama said Reid and Democrats in Congress have been willing to make the tough choices to bolster the economy, and that their efforts are starting to work.

“Our economy is growing, instead of shrinking,” Obama said. “We have gained private sector jobs for each of the past six months, instead of losing them. Almost 600,000 new jobs.”