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Obama to US companies: Time to hire and invest is now

Obama's speech Monday to US Chamber of Commerce outlined plans to encourage innovation and business investment. But he also urged US companies to get off sidelines and 'invest in America.'

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President Obama addresses the US Chamber of Commerce in Washington on Feb. 7.

Jim Young/Reuters

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President Obama called on American business Monday to get off the sidelines and invest in the nation’s economy and its workers.

In a highly anticipated speech to the US Chamber of Commerce, which had worked hard in the last election to defeat Democrats, Mr. Obama laid out ways in which his administration aims to encourage innovation and business investment. Then, in a patriotic appeal, he asserted that “winning the future” is not just about what the government can do to help business succeed, it’s about business helping the nation succeed.

“So if I’ve got one message, my message is: Now is the time to invest in America,” Obama told the business lobby.

The president noted that American companies have nearly $2 trillion in reserve, and encouraged them to “get in the game.”

“I know that many of you have told me that you're waiting for demand to rise before you get off the sidelines and expand, and that with millions of Americans out of work, demand's risen more slowly than any of us would like,” Obama said.

But, he noted, many economists are forecasting a “healthy increase” in demand. “And as all of you know,” Obama said, “it’s investments made now that will pay off as the economy rebounds. And as you hire, you know that more Americans working will mean more sales for your companies.”

The president then pushed hard on the idea that opportunity brings responsibility – that in exchange for administration efforts to reform the tax code and boost exports, the benefits cannot just translate into greater profits and bonuses.

“They have to be shared by American workers, who need to know that expanding trade and opening markets will lift their standards of living as well as your bottom line,” Obama said.

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