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President Obama on Creating an Economy Built to Last

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Published on May 21, 2012

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President Obama responds to questions during a press conference at the 2012 Chicago NATO Summit.

President Obama:
"Well, first of all I think Cory Booker is an outstanding mayor. He's doing great work in Newark and obviously helping to turn that city around. And I think it's important to recognize that this issue is not a, quote, distraction. This is part of the debate that we're going to be having in this election campaign about how do we create an economy where everybody from top to bottom, folks on Wall Street and folks on Main Street, have a shot at success, and if they're working hard and they're acting responsibly, that they're able to live out the American dream.
 
Now, I think my view of private equity is that it is -- it is set up to maximize profits and that's a healthy part of the free market. That's - that's part of the role of a lot of business people. That's not unique to private equity, and as I think my representatives have said repeatedly, and I will say today, I think there are folks who do good work in that area, and there are times where they identify the capacity for the economy to create new jobs or new industries. But understand that their priority is to maximize profits. And that's not always going to be good for communities or businesses or workers.

And the reason this is relevant to the campaign is because my opponent, Governor Romney, his main calling card for why he thinks he should be president is his business experience. He's not going out there touting his experience in Massachusetts. He's saying,' I'm a business guy and I know how to fix it,' and this is his business.

And when you're president, as opposed to the head of a private equity firm, then your job is not simply to maximize profits. Your job is to figure out how everybody in the country has a fair shot. Your job is to think about those workers who get laid off and how are we paying them for their retraining? Your job is to think about how those communities can start creating new clusters so that they can attract new businesses. Your job as president is to think about how do we set up a equitable tax system so that everybody's paying their fair share that allows us then to invest in science and technology and infrastructure, all of which are going to help us grow.

And so, if your main argument for how to grow the economy is, 'I knew how to make a lot of money for investors,' then you're missing what this job is about. It doesn't - it doesn't mean you weren't good at private equity, but that's not what my job is as president.

My job is to take into account everybody, not just some. My job is to make sure that the country is growing not just now, but ten years from now and twenty years from now. And so, to repeat, this is not a distraction. This is what this campaign's going to be about, is: what is a strategy for us to move this country forward, in a way where everybody can succeed? And that means I've got to think about those workers in that video just as much as I'm thinking about folks who have been much more successful."
 
Reporter: [inaudible]
 
President Obama:
"What I would say is, is that Mr. Romney is responsible for the proposals he's putting forward for how he says he's going to fix the economy, and if the main basis for him suggesting he can do a better job, is his track record as the head of a private equity firm, then both the upsides and the downsides are worth examining."

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