Obama Rejects Attackers' Cries of 'Socialism'

By: Reuters

President Barack Obama launched a vigorous defense of his economic agenda Wednesday, rejecting critics who call his policies “socialism” and insisting he aims to boost U.S. competitiveness abroad.

Speaking to the Business Roundtable, which groups some of the country’s top chief executives, Obama called for support of his administration’s efforts to overhaul financial regulation and create jobs.

Obama’s remarks were set against a backdrop of unease in the business community about his economic and budget policies as well as his legislative drive for healthcare, energy and financial regulatory reform.

“Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, I am an ardent believer in the free market,” Obama said in prepared remarks.

Obama said his efforts to enact sweeping legislation to overhaul financial regulations and set caps on carbon emissions to fight climate change were not aimed at thwarting businesses.

“We have arrived at a juncture in our politics where reasonable efforts to update our regulations, or make basic investments in our future, are too often greeted with cries of ‘government takeover’ or even ‘socialism’,” Obama said.

“Getting this balance right has less to do with big government or small government than it does smart government. It’s not about being anti-business or pro-government; it’s about being pro-growth and pro-jobs,” he said.

The president’s agenda got a boost early on Wednesday from the U.S. Senate, which, in a relatively bipartisan vote, approved a $15 billion package of tax breaks and highway spending that aims to bring down the country’s stubbornly high 9.7 percent unemployment rate.

Copyright 2010 Reuters.

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