Obama Reassures Business

In a lengthy and wide ranging question and answer session with business leaders, President Obama defended his tax and budget plans and the breadth of his legislative agenda on Thursday.

At the same time, the President tried to reassure the group of CEO's - and the nation - that there is something to look forward to, in terms of economic growth in the future.

"I've always been a strong believer in the free market," Mr. Obama said.  "It has been, and will remain, the very engine of America's progress."

During the session, the President several times defended his decision to do more than just focus on the economy, arguing that reforms in health care, energy and education are all central to a firmer economic setting in the future.

"I didn't come here to pass on our problems to the next generation," he said.

As for health care, and the increase in taxes called for in his budget to pay for an over $600 billion proposal, the President dug in his heels.

"Not one American will see their taxes raised between now and the end of 2010," he said, uttering a line that I expect to hear a lot in the months to come.

"So for the next two years, your taxes aren't going up."

It would be in 2011 that new taxes on the top two brackets would kick in, along with a cut in their tax deductions, with that money going to fund part of health care reform.

Some of the execs mentioned the climate change issue, which is sure to be a big hangup for many in both parties - already denounced as a carbon tax by critics.

As Mr. Obama was speaking, there was word on Capitol Hill that two dozen Senators were writing a letter opposing the idea of jamming climate change legislation into the so-called budget reconciliation process, where no filibusters are allowed.

I have the distinct feeling that - at least this year - the climate change issue isn't going to be approved by Congress, no matter the desires of the occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

That would make many business execs very happy indeed.