Obama Says Modest Measures Needed to Trim Budget Deficit

President Barack Obama told a group of business executives that the U.S. can avoid extreme measures to trim the deficit while still meeting the nation’s need to bolster education and rebuild infrastructure.

Addressing members of the Business Roundtable in Washington yesterday, Obama said “modest” increases in tax revenue and cuts in spending will bring the budget shortfall into line without jeopardizing a still fragile recovery.

“This is not a situation that’s analogous to Greece, we don’t have to cut by 25 percent, raise taxes by 25 percent, that’s not the situation we find ourselves in,” Obama said to the group of about 100 chief executive officers. “These are relatively modest adjustments that can stabilize our economy, give you the kind of business confidence you need to invest.”

The association, whose members are top executives from large U.S. companies including American Express Co., Caterpillar Inc. and Intel Corp., convened in Washington to discuss a report it is releasing today called “Taking Action for America: A CEO Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth.”

Obama, who has worked to repair his relationship with the business community, gave opening remarks with reporters present then met privately with the executives for about an hour. Business leaders in attendance at yesterday’s meeting included PepsiCo Inc. CEO Indra Nooyi and JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon.

Obama said the U.S. must focus on its “core strengths” in manufacturing, innovation and education to maintain its edge in the global economy. He repeated his call for investments in energy and infrastructure, and said that at the same time health-care costs for an aging population must also be cut.

Doubling Exports

Obama said U.S. exports are on track to reach his goal of doubling by 2015 largely because of bipartisan trade agreements. He repeated his call on Congress to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank.

“I think I’ve shown that I will go anywhere in the world to open new markets for American goods,” he said. “When the playing field is level American companies will win, American workers will win and this country will win.”

Last month, the president announced plans for Export-Import Bank financing for U.S. companies for domestic as well as overseas sales to match foreign competitors’ source of official funding.

The last time Obama addressed executives from the Business Roundtable, a Washington-based association of chief executive officers at large companies that backs lower taxes on overseas profits, was in February 2010.

Roundtable Report

The group’s report is scheduled to be released today by Boeing Co. Chief Executive Officer James McNerney, who is also chairman of the Business Roundtable, chairman of the president’s export council, and a member of the president’s jobs council; Dow Chemical Co. CEO Andrew Liveris; and Procter & Gamble Co. CEO Bob McDonald.

The report will offer recommendations to boost the economy and jobs by taking steps in such areas as fiscal policy, regulation, taxation, open markets for trade and investment, energy, cybersecurity, skilled workers, health care and retirement policies, the group said in a statement.

It follows a Jan. 17 report by Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness on helping the U.S. recover its global economic edge. The council’s recommendations included: broadening the U.S. tax base and lower rates; extracting more coal, oil and natural gas; boosting government research and development; easing small business rules; overhauling export controls; and increasing government purchases of alternative-fuel vehicles.

Business Roundtable members represent companies with more than $6 trillion in total annual revenues and more than 14 million employees, according to the group’s website.

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