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Obama: Washington politics holding back growth

By Tom Cohen, CNN
November 19, 2013 -- Updated 2255 GMT (0655 HKT)
"America is poised for a breakout," President Obama said today at a Wall Street Journal conference.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: President says healthcare website problem shows government IT gap
  • NEW: Obama tells business leaders he's no socialist
  • "America is poised for a breakout," Obama says
  • Self-inflicted wounds from constant political crises hinder growth, Obama says

Washington (CNN) -- We're doing well, President Barack Obama told business leaders Tuesday, but it could be better if not for political hijinks in Washington.

In remarks at a Wall Street Journal conference, Obama said policy decisions in his first term in response to the Great Recession had spurred a recovery that could be better.

"America is poised for a breakout," he declared, noting that stock markets and corporate profits were "soaring" and that "we are in a good position to compete around the world in the 21st century."

Now, Obama said, the challenge was to ensure opportunity for all to address too-high unemployment and stagnating incomes as growth continues.

Blinded by the charts: Politicians only see it their way

In particular, he cited the 16-day government shutdown in October as an example of what he called "self-inflicted" wounds caused by dysfunctional politics in Washington.

"We have to stop governing by crisis in this town," Obama said, making clear he blamed Republicans for a failure to achieve compromise on major issues such as immigration reform and a comprehensive deficit reduction agreement.

"We should not be injuring ourselves every few months. We should be investing in ourselves," the President said in advocating a budget approach that includes deficit reduction as well as strategic spending on education, infrastructure and technology.

On immigration, Obama noted that the Democrat-led Senate has passed a reform measure that analysts say would grow the economy and shrink deficits. However, House Republicans have refused to bring up the Senate plan.

"You wouldn't turn down a deal that good," he said. "Congress shouldn't, either."

At the same time, the President said he was open to passing a series of immigration reform measures instead of the comprehensive legislation that won Senate approval -- as long as all the necessary components are included.

Obama also addressed the major issue of the day, saying the HealthCare.gov website problems have hurt efforts to address the biggest contributor to the nation's debt -- rising health care costs.

Asked what lesson he had learned, Obama said that "we probably underestimated the complexities of building out a website." He also said the ordeal showed that "the way the federal government does procurement and IT (information technology) is just generally not very efficient."

"We probably need to blow up how" the government contracts information technology services, Obama said.

In a lighter moment, Obama noted that some people call him a socialist, and he said to laughter his accusers need to get out into the world more.

"You've got to meet real socialists to know what a real socialist is," he said, noting that he advocates a lower corporate tax rate and that the stock market "is doing pretty good."

Obama's support slips; controversies, sluggish economy cited

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