Irked by Critics, Obama Says He's Good for Business

(Evan Vucci / AP Photo)

An apparently irked President Obama responded to critics who've called him anti-business, pointing to improved corporate profits and mocking Republican policies, during his economic speech in Chicago today.

Those critics' "notion is that this agenda I just outlined is somehow contrary to pro-business, pro-capitalism, free-market values," Obama said at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management.

The president had just reiterated some of the stump-speech points made during his "60 Minutes" interview-that the economy is better than when he took office, but that many Americans aren't feeling the benefit-and called for his usual array of economic measures: infrastructure spending, tax reform, clean-energy investment, greater availability of high-quality preschool education, immigration reform, student-loan relief, equal pay for women, paid maternity leave, and, of course, a higher minimum wage.

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"Since we're here at a business school, I thought it might be useful to point out … corporate balance sheets are the strongest, just about, that they've ever been. Corporate debt is down, profits are up, businesses are doing good. So this idea that somehow any of these policies, like the minimum wage … or clean energy are somehow bad for business is simply belied by the facts-it's not true," Obama said.

The president referenced today's Bloomberg story juxtaposing corporate criticism of Obama with the health of S&P 500 companies, which have are seeing their lowest debt-to-earnings ratio in 24 years.

"Has anyone seen a credible argument that that is what our economy needs right now? Seriously," an agitated/dismayed Obama asked, of lower taxes on higher incomes. Throughout his presidency, many of Obama's clashes with Republicans over tax policy have centered on rates for higher incomes. "Folks are just pontificating … based on what? What's the data, what's the proof? If there were any credible argument that says, when those at the top do well, and eventually, everybody else will do well, it would have borne itself out by now. We'd see data that that was true. It's not."