|President Obama speaking to the Business Roundtable at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington, on March 12, 2009. The hotel is located two blocks from The White House and the Irish investment firm Claret Capital acquired it for $170 million in 2007. |
President Obama on Thursday spoke to the Business Roundtable, in Washington, which is a group of leaders of America's biggest companies and rejected criticism that he is trying to do too much at once by promoting a multi-front agenda on health care, energy and education, while dealing with the severe economic crisis. He said he favours a lower corporate tax rate while closing loopholes, that make business tax so complex.
“I’m not choosing to address these additional challenges just because I feel like it or because I’m a glutton for punishment,”he said. “I’m doing so because they’re fundamental to our economic growth and ensuring that we don’t have more crises like this in the future. You see, we cannot go back to endless cycles of bubble and bust.”
The President said, that critical to the solution of the financial crisis, is an honest and forthright assessment of the true status of bank balance sheets -- "something that we've not yet had." And that's why the US Treasury has asked bank regulators to conduct intensive examinations or "stress tests" of each bank.
"When that process is complete next month, we will act decisively to ensure that our major banks have enough money on hand to lend to people even in more difficult times. And if we learn that such a bank has more serious problems, we will hold accountable those responsible, force the necessary adjustments, provide the support to clean up their balance sheets, and assure the continuity of a strong, viable institution that can serve our people and our economy,"Obama said. "I intend to hold these banks fully accountable for any assistance they'll receive, and this time they'll have to clearly demonstrate how taxpayer dollars result in more lending for the American taxpayer," he added.
Obama said the is the most severe in decades, and it will take an approach that addresses every facet of the crisis at once, but the scale of the problem only means accountability is more important than ever.
Plans for what Republicans and business critics have called "social engineering," such as shifting the tax burden to the rich, reforming the health care system and proposing a market-based cap-and-trade system for emissions, have been proposed.
In his speech and in answer to questions from the audience, Obama said critics were overreacting, because many of these plans would take years to put in place.
“When we issued the budget,” the President said, “they said, ‘Boy, these Obama people, they’re really ambitious. They’re taking on health care. They’re taking on energy. They’re taking on education. Don’t they know that there’s this bank crisis right now? We’ve got to do one thing at a time.’ ”
Obama said the Budget is a 10-year plan. “We don’t anticipate that every piece of health care is done this year,” he said.“We think that we’ve got to get the process and get in place a structure and a framework and a funding approach, and work out a lot of these details, but it’s going to be implemented over time.”
In response to a question, he said he would like to eventually lower the corporate tax rate from 35%, while closing loopholes that make it so complex.
“This isn’t reflected in our current budget because we’ve already got a lot on our plate,”he said. But“that’s a very appealing conversation to me and I’d like to pursue it.”
Also on Thursday, the Business Roundtable, published a study which shows that the costs and performance of the US health care system have put America,s companies and workers at a significant competitive disadvantage in the global marketplace.
"Health care costs are one of the top cost pressures facing American businesses today, inhibiting job creation and hurting America's ability to compete in global markets," said Harold McGraw III, Chairman of Business Roundtable and Chairman, President and CEO of The McGraw-Hill Companies. "This study helps us understand the relationship between spending, quality and competitiveness, while enabling us to track progress as we push forward with health care reform."
The report combines internationally reported measures covering both spending on, and the performance of, national health care systems to assign a value to the U.S. health care system compared with important global competitors. On a weighted scale, the results show that US workers and employers receive 23 percent less value from our health care system than the average of five leading economic competitors – Canada, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom and France (the G-5 group) – and 46 percent less value than the average of emerging competitors Brazil, India and China (BIC group). "This study shows a significant health care value gap," said Ivan Seidenberg, Chair of Business Roundtable's Consumer Health and Retirement Initiative and Chairman and CEO of Verizon Communications. "While, in many respects, the employer-based health care system in the United States is the best in the world – we have groundbreaking scientific advances, cutting-edge medical technology, and exceptional doctors and medical institutions – the business model supporting it doesn't meet Americans' needs. When we spend more to get less, we all lose – workers, employers and the government. The study points to a serious need for health care reform that puts customers in the center and uses the power of the market to lower costs, improve quality, create more consumer choice and expand accessibility."
The study also shows that, as a group, the G-5 countries spend approximately 63 cents for every dollar the United States spends on health care – yet the health of the U.S. workforce lags by 10 percent in a composite measure. The gap is even wider in relation to rising economic powers: the three BIC countries spend just 15 percent of what we spend on health care, yet the health of the U.S. workforce trails that of BIC countries by five percent.
Health Care Value Comparability Study: Full Report