Austan Goolsbee

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Obama's New Give-and-Take: Common Ground with CEOs

WASHINGTON – Hiring is anemic but corporate profits are up, and President Barack Obama is having 20 CEOs over to talk about how to tap that cash to boost jobs. But don't count on the president to reprise the "fat cat" scolding he gave bankers a year ago. No, this is not a woodshed moment. For Obama and the business sector, Wednesday's meeting is a wary embrace. With new tax and trade deals as enticements, Obama is taking yet another step toward the political middle as he moves to confront a still-weak economic recovery and the capital's new political alignment. Both sides come to Wednesday's session with their respective wishes: Obama wants the private sector to use its record profits to increase employment; executives want the administration to ease regulations they perceive as onerous. Since the election, Obama has been holding private meetings with individual executives to discuss potential job growth strategies. But the higher-profile meeting Wednesday also serves a larger public relations purpose: It shifts attention from past confrontation to rolled-up-sleeves cooperation. "We have to be competitive and the private sector needs to stand up," said Austan Goolsbee, the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. "There is opportunity perhaps in the fact that the corporate sector has begun to rebound and there is cash on their balance sheets." Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett said some companies are recovering, others are waiting for dema