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THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much. (Applause.) Everybody, please have a seat. Thankyou.

Well, it is wonderful to be here,and I always lookforward to an opportunity to speak to some of ourtopbusinesses across the country who are hiringpeople, investing in America,making the economyrun. And many of youI’ve had a chance to interactwith before. As you know, oftentimes when I dosomething like this, I want to spendmore timeanswering questions and having a conversationthan giving any formalremarks. Let me just provide a littlebit of an introduction.

Obviously, over the last coupleof months, most of the oxygen in this town has beenconsumed with two things --one, the government shutdown and the possibility of default thatwas ultimatelyresolved; and the second has been the rollout of the Affordable Care Act andthefact that my website is not working the way it’s supposed to. And it’s entirely legitimate thatthose havebeen issues of great concern.

The impact of the shutdown andthe threat of default I think not only did some significantdamage to theeconomy at a time when we didn’t need self-inflicted wounds, but it also spoketosome of the larger problems we’ve seen here in Washington, and the sense ofdysfunction andthe seeming incapacity of both parties in Congress to worktogether to advance an agendathat’s going to help us grow.

With respect to the AffordableCare Act, I think people are legitimately concerned becausewe have a majorproblem with health care in this country -- 41 million people withouthealthinsurance, a lot of people underinsured. And once again, how we fix a health care systemthat’s been broken fortoo many people for too long I think ends up speaking to how muchconfidence wehave in government and whether we still have the capacity, collectively, tobringabout changes that are going to be good for our economy, good for ourbusinesses, good forthe American people.

I do want to say, though, thatbeyond the headlines, we have made real progress in theeconomy, and sometimesthat hasn’t gotten enough attention. Some of the tough decisionsthat we made early on have paid off --decisions that helped us not only recover from a crisis,but begin to lay astronger foundation for future growth.

We refocused on manufacturingexports, and today, our businesses sell more goods andservices made in Americathan ever before around the world. Aftera decade of shedding jobs,our manufacturing sector has now added about half amillion new jobs, and it’s led by anAmerican auto industry that has comeroaring back after decades of decline.

We decided to reverse ourdependence on foreign oil, and today, we generate morerenewable energy thanever before and more natural gas than anybody in the world. And for thefirst time in nearly 20 years,America now produces more of our own oil than we buy from othercountries.

When I took office, we invested afraction of what other countries did in wirelessinfrastructure, and today, it’sup nearly 50 percent, helping companies unleash jobs,innovation and a boomingapp economy that’s created more than 500,000 jobs. When I tookoffice, only 5 percent of theworld’s smartphones ran on American operating systems. Today,more than 80 percent do.

And it’s not just in thehigh-tech economy that we’re seeing progress. For example,American farmers are on pace to have one of their bestyears in decades, and they haveconsistently been able to export more, makemore profits and help restore rural economiesthan when we came into office.

And, yes, we decided to take on abroken health care system. And even though the rolloutof the new health caremarketplace has been rough, to say the least, about half a millionAmericansare now poised to gain health care coverage beginning January 1st. That’s after onlya month of sign-up. We also have seen health care costs growingat the slowest rate in 50years. Employer-based health costs are growing at about one-third of the rateof a decade ago,and that has an impact on your bottom line.

And after years oftrillion-dollar deficits, we reined in spending, wound down two wars, andbeganto change a tax code that I believe was too skewed towards the wealthiest amongus atthe expense of the middle class. And since I took office, we have now cut our deficits by morethan half.

Add it all up, and businesseslike yours have created 7.8 million new jobs over the past 44months. We’ve gone farther and recovered faster thanmost other advanced nations. And so inalot of ways, America is poised for a breakout. We are in a good position to compete aroundthe world in the 21stcentury.

The question is, are we going torealize that potential? And that meansthat we’ve still gotsome more work to do. Our stock markets and corporate profits are soaring, but we’ve gottomake sure that this remains a country where everyone who works hard can getahead. Andthat means we’ve still got toaddress long-term unemployment. We stillhave to addressstagnant wages and stagnant incomes.

And frankly, we’ve got to stopgoverning by crisis here in this town. Because if it weren’t forWashington’s dysfunction, I think all of usagree we’d be a lot further along. Theshutdown andthe threat of default harmed our jobs market, they cost oureconomy about $5 billion, andeconomists predict it will slow our GDP growththis quarter -- and it didn’t need to happen. Itwas self-inflicted. We shouldnot be injuring ourselves every few months. We should beinvesting in ourselves. And in a sensible world, that starts with a budget that cuts what wedon’tneed, closes wasteful loopholes, and helps us afford to invest in the thingsthat we knowwill help businesses like yours and the economy as a whole --education, infrastructure, basicresearch and development.

We would have a grand bargain formiddle-class jobs that combines tax reform with afinancing mechanism that letsus create jobs, rebuilding infrastructure that your businessesdepend on, butwe haven’t gotten as much take-up from the other side as we’d like to seesofar. We have the opportunity forbipartisan authority to negotiate the best trade dealspossible so businessesand workers can take advantage of new markets that are opening uparound theworld. We haven’t seen the kind oftake-up from the other side that we’d like to seeso far.

We’ve got the opportunity to fixa broken immigration system that strengthens oureconomy and our nationalsecurity. The good news here is theSenate has already passed abipartisan bill that economists say would grow oureconomy by $1.4 trillion and shrink ourdeficits by nearly a trillion over thenext two decades. You wouldn’t turn downa deal that good,and Congress shouldn’t either. So I’m hoping that Speaker Boehner and theHouse ofRepresentatives can still work with us to get that done.

And we need to be going all outto prepare our kids and our workers for the demands of a21st-centuryeconomy. I’ve proposed giving everychild an early start at success by making high-quality preschool available toevery four-year-old in America. We knowthat you get more bangfor the buck when it comes to early childhood educationthan just about anything else, andyou’ve got great examples around thecountry, oftentimes in red states, that are doing justthat. We need to make that same investment.

We’re working to bring down thecosts of a college degree so more young people can get ahigher education. And one thing that I’m very excited about --and this has been a goodexample of a public-private partnership -- is the ideaof redesigning our high schools to makesure that more young people gethands-on training and develop the skills that they need,particularly in math,science and engineering, that businesses are looking for. And in fact, todaywe’re announcing acompetitive grant program that will encourage more high schools topartner withcolleges and local businesses to better prepare our kids for college or acareer. Andin December, I’ll bebringing together college presidents and other leaders to figure out waystohelp more low-income students attend and to succeed in college.

So just to sum up, my basicmessage is this: We know what thechallenges are. We knowwhat thesolutions are. Some of them are tough,but what’s holding us back is not a lack of goodpolicy ideas or even what usedto be considered good bipartisan policy ideas. We just have tobreak through the stubborn cycle of crisis politics andstart working together. Moreobstruction,more brinkmanship won’t help anybody. It doesn’t help folks politically. My understanding isnobody in this town isdoing particularly well at the moment when it comes to the opinions oftheAmerican people, but it certainly doesn’t help anybody economically.

On many of the issues, I thinkyou and I would agree, and I want you to know that I’mrooting for yoursuccess, and I look forward to making sure that we are able in theremainingthree years that I’m President to work together to not only improve thebusinessclimate, but also improve the prospects for Americans all across thecountry who have beentreading water, feel like they’re losing ground, areanxious about the future and their children’sfutures, but I think are stillhopeful and still possess that fundamental American optimism. Ifthey see leadership working across theboard on their behalf, then I’m confident that we canmake enormous progress.

So with that, why don’t we getJerry up here and I’ll start answering his questions. I hopehe adds some input. (Laughter.) If he starts asking me about whathappened to the Kansas CityChiefs, I’m not sure I’ll have a good answer forthat one. (Applause.)

Well, thank you, Mr. President. Let me start by thanking you officially forjoining us today. Ithink you probablysee a lot of familiar faces out there, most friendly, most of them. And I wouldalso note that you’re gettinghere a little late. Congressman PaulRyan is coming later. He is goingto gethere a little early. So if you guysoverlap a little bit, maybe we can just get some problemssolved righthere. What do you think?

THE PRESIDENT: Let’s do it. (Laughter.) Let’s do it.

It’s your chance. We have talked amongst ourselves or tried tosort of take the sense of theroom. So I’mgoing to try to reflect some of the conversations that have been going on hereinthe questions I’m going to ask you. You’ll not be stunned that I’m going to ask you abouthealth care first.

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