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Romney previews Obama economic speech: 'Words are cheap'

June 13, 2012|By Paul West

WASHINGTON — Blaming President Obama’s policies for the “tepid recovery,” Republican candidate Mitt Romney promised a group of top corporate executives that he’d make America “the most attractive place in the world” for entrepreneurs, investors and job creators.

One day before the president is expected to deliver a major economic speech, Romney predicted that Obama “will speak eloquently.”

“But,” he added, “words are cheap.”

Romney said that Obama’s record did not justify his re-election. Under Obama, he said, increased government regulation, the new healthcare law and pro-union administration actions had discouraged private businesses from hiring and, as a result, slowed the recovery.

“I happen to think the American people are tired of politicians who make excuses instead of taking responsibility,” he said. Romney said the Democratic administration was responsible for the “most anti-investment, anti-business, anti-jobs series of policies in modern American history. The reason it has taken so long for this recovery to gain traction and put people back to work is in large measure because of [Obama’s] policy choices.”

The former Massachusetts governor outlined his own economic agenda for about 100 members of the Business Roundtable, made up of the chief executives of many of the nation’s largest corporations, during a luncheon speech at the Newseum in Washington. He broke no new ground in calling for lower taxes, fewer regulations, more exploitation of domestic coal resources and repeal of the Dodd-Frank and Affordable Health Care laws.

He also said he would approve completion of the Keystone oil pipeline and put in place policies that would reduce federal spending and balance the budget within eight to 10 years.

Romney promised to make the government a friend to private business. “Too often, you find yourself facing a government that looks at you as the bad guy,” he told the business audience, which continued to check their smartphones and eat their Wolfgang Puck pan-seared Pacific salmon salad while he spoke.

As with a similar meeting earlier in the year with Obama, the Business Roundtable members did not interrupt with applause. But a chuckle swept the room when Romney, whose business background has made him a favorite of many corporate chiefs, repeated his opposition to government programs that assist specific businesses.

“I don’t believe in the government picking winners, or in the case of our government, picking losers,” he said, an apparent reference to one of his favorite targets: Solyndra, the California solar company that went bankrupt after receiving hundreds of millions in taxpayer assistance from the Obama administration.

After Romney’s 30-minute speech, reporters were escorted from the room prior to a private question and answer sessions with the chief executives.

That was also the case when Obama addressed the CEOs in March.  In his 13-minute speech to the corporate officials, the president highlighted the growth in private sector employment, particularly in manufacturing, and emphasized the need to open more markets to U.S. goods and increase spending on infrastructure and make additional investments in American energy.

“The economy is getting stronger, and the recovery is speeding up,” Obama said that evening.  “The question now is, how do we make sure that it keeps going?”

Since then, the recovery has faltered, with job growth slowing and unemployment ticking up.

On energy, Obama had said that, despite increased domestic oil production, an “all-of-the-above strategy” was needed.

“Yes, we’ve got to produce more oil and more natural gas, and we are game for that.  It also means, though, we’ve got to invest in the energy sources of the future,” the president said, adding that there was a need to invest in clean energy, greater energy efficiency and advanced batteries for electric cars.

One of the most prominent CEOs at the Obama session was missing from the Romney luncheon. James Dimon, the JP Morgan Chase chairman, was several blocks away, getting grilled by the Senate Banking Committee about his firm’s $2 billion trading loss.

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Paul.west@latimes.com

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