(Adds quotes about Ex-Im Bank, paragraph 11; adds background)
By Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON Aug 3 President Barack Obama said
corporate America has done well under his economic policies,
telling the Economist magazine that chief executive officers
should stop complaining about regulations and show greater
"If you look at what's happened over the last four or five
years, the folks who don't have a right to complain are the
folks at the top," Obama said in an interview conducted last
week and posted on the magazine's website late on Saturday.
Republicans have sought to portray Obama as anti-business,
and businesses have complained that Obama's signature healthcare
law and the Dodd-Frank financial reforms have raised costs.
Business groups are lobbying against his new plan to curb
climate-changing carbon emissions from power plants.
"I would take the complaints of the corporate community with
a grain of salt," Obama said, arguing that his policies have
been friendly to business. "They always complain about
regulation. That's their job."
Obama has increasingly promoted populist economic measures
such as raising the minimum wage to motivate Democratic voters
ahead of critical November congressional elections, in which his
Democrats face the prospect of losing control of the Senate.
"Oftentimes, you'll hear some hedge-fund manager say, 'Oh,
he's just trying to stir class resentment'. No. Feel free to
keep your house in the Hamptons and your corporate jet,
etcetera. I'm not concerned about how you're living," Obama
"I am concerned about making sure that we have a system in
which the ordinary person who is working hard and is being
responsible can get ahead," he said.
Obama had a frosty relationship with business in his first
term, famously telling an interviewer: "I did not run for office
to be helping out a bunch of fat cat bankers on Wall Street."
The White House had toned down that rhetoric, and in Obama's
second term has rallied corporate America for support to advance
executive actions to hire the long-term unemployed, get better
technology in schools and provide more opportunities for young
Obama slammed Republicans for what he termed a thread of
"anti-globalization" that has stalled reauthorization of funding
for the Export-Import Bank, which he said would hurt U.S.
businesses trying to finance overseas trade.
But in the interview, Obama chided business for a lack of
social responsibility, citing a "general view" that "the only
responsibility that a corporate CEO has is to his shareholders."
"There's a huge gap between the professed values and visions
of corporate CEOs and how their lobbyists operate in
Washington," he said.
"My challenge to them consistently is, 'Is your lobbyist
working as hard on those issues as he or she is on preserving
that tax break that you've got?' And if the answer is no, then
you don't care about it as much as you say."
(Editing by Lynne O'Donnell and EricWalsh)