President Obama Woos Fat Cat CEOs

In the White House's Roosevelt Room Wednesday morning, President Obama met with more than a dozen CEOs of companies ranging from Aetna to Xerox to discuss the economy and the stimulus package being voted upon in the House of Representatives.

The president later described the meeting as "sober."

Afterwards, in the East Room of the White House, the president was introduced by two CEOs whose combined five-year compensation packages total $146.35 million.

Sam Palmisano, Chairman, CEO and President of IBM ( five-year compensation package, according to Forbes, $86.12 million ) introduced David M. Cote, Chairman and CEO of Honeywell ( five-year compensation package: $60.23 million ).

Calling the economic situation "dire," Cote said "we are very supportive of the reinvestment act" and that "we can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good."

Cote then introduced President Obama, who said that "these companies, and the workers they employ, are going through times more trying than any we have seen in a long, long while. Just the other day, seven of our largest corporations announced they were making major job cuts. Some of the business leaders in this room have had to do the same. And yet, even as we discussed the seriousness of this challenge, we left our meeting confident that we can still turn our economy around."

Amidst criticism from Republicans , economists and business groups who question whether this economic stimulus plan will indeed stimulate job growth, the president today insisted that "most of the money we're investing as part of this plan will get out the door immediately and go directly to job-creation, generating or saving three to four million new jobs. And the vast majority of these jobs will be created in the private sector -- because, as these CEOs well know, business, not government, is the engine of growth in this country."

Mr. Obama acknowledged that "some are skeptical about the size and scale of this recovery plan. I understand that skepticism, which is why this recovery plan will include unprecedented measures that will allow the American people to hold my Administration accountable. ... Instead of politicians doling out money behind a veil of secrecy, decisions about where we invest will be made public, and informed by independent experts whenever possible."

Afterwards, the dulcet tones of Cole Porter's "Night and Day" filled the East Room as President Obama shook the hands of the business leaders who had come to Washington, DC, to express their support for his plan.

No lyrics could be heard -- just the melody to the song that would otherwise proceed "Night and day, you are the one/Only you beneath the moon or under the sun/Whether near to me, or far/Its no matter darling where you are" -- while in the next room, Staff Sgt. Russell Wilson of the U.S. Marine Corps Band tickled the ivories at a tax-payer-financed orange-juice-and-coffee reception awaiting the CEO crowd and their appetites.

-- jpt

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