Obama says 'Washington's dysfunction' a drag on economy

Nov. 19, 2013 at 8:37 PM
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WASHINGTON, Nov. 19 (UPI) -- President Obama said Tuesday while times are good on Wall Street, the U.S. economic recovery would be stronger "if it weren't for Washington's dysfunction."

Obama told some of the nation's top executives at The Wall Street Journal Chief Executive Officers Council annual meeting the federal government shutdown this fall "cost our economy about $5 billion, and economists predict it will slow our GDP growth this quarter."

"And it didn't need to happen. It was self-inflicted," the president said. "We should not be injuring ourselves every few months. We should be investing in ourselves, and in a sensible world that starts with a budget that cuts what we don't need, closes wasteful loopholes and helps us afford to invest in the things that we know will help businesses like yours and the economy as a whole, education, infrastructure, basic research and development."

Obama made a plug for a Senate-passed bill "economists say would grow our economy by $1.4 trillion and shrink our deficits by nearly $1 trillion over the next two decades."

"You wouldn't turn down a deal that good, and Congress shouldn't, either," he said. "So I'm hoping that Speaker [John] Boehner [R-Ohio] and the House of Representatives can still work with us to get that done.

"More obstruction, more brinksmanship won't help anybody. It doesn't help folks politically. My understanding is nobody in this town's doing particularly well at the moment when it comes to the opinions of the American people. But it certainly doesn't help anybody economically.

"On many of the issues, I think you and I would agree, and I want you to know that I'm rooting for your success and I look forward to making sure that we are able in the remaining three years that I'm president to work together to not only improve the business climate, but also improve the prospects for Americans all across the country who have been treading water, feel like they're losing ground, are anxious about the future and their children's futures, but I think are still hopeful and still possess that fundamental American optimism."

Obama said he's reached out to Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., on corporate tax issues "and we've said let's get to work."

"We've put forward a very specific set of proposals that would lower the corporate tax rate, broaden the base, close some loopholes. And in terms of international companies and competitiveness, what we've said is, rather than a whole bunch of tangled laws that incentivize folks to keep money overseas, let's have a modest, but clear global minimum tax, get rid of some of the huge fluctuations that people experience," Obama said. "It will save companies money, make them more competitive, and in terms of transitioning to that system actually allow some people to bring back money and in a one-time way help us finance infrastructure and some other projects that need to get done.

"I don't expect Republicans to adopt exactly the proposal that we've put forward. But there's not that much separation between what Democrats are talking about ... this should be bridgeable.

Obama cautioned that if the corporate tax rate is lowered, loopholes must be closed or else "we would then blow another hole in the deficit that would have to be filled."

The president also said Democrats and Republicans should be able to pass immigration reform, noting some GOP lawmakers, including Ryan, agree there should be a mechanism for immigrants in the country illegally to "get right by our society."

"They're suspicious of comprehensive bills, but you know what? If they want to chop that thing up into five pieces, as long as all five pieces get done, I don't care what it looks like, as long as it's actually delivering on those core values that we talk about," Obama said.

"In my conversations with Republicans, I actually think the divide is not that wide. So what we just have to do is find a pathway where Republicans in the House in particular feel comfortable enough about process that they can go ahead and meet us."

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