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Bill George

Harvard Business School Professor, former Medtronic CEO

The Economist Debate: Has President Obama Been Good for Business?

I was recently asked by the editor of The Economist to participate in an Oxford-style debate* on the question, “Has President Obama Been Good for Business?” Originally asked to take the negative response to this question, the editors later shifted me to the positive side.

As readers of my blogs and columns know, I have been critical of the Obama administration for neglecting to focus on jobs and investment in America and for failing to build closer ties to business, as well as having no business people on the White House staff or in the cabinet. My comments in The Economist debate notwithstanding, I still believe that the President needs to pivot to the economic center and focus on investment, trade, and jobs. His recent pronouncements provide encouragement that he understands this and is moving in this direction, even before mid-term elections.

In my challenge to argue that the President has been good for business, I started with the situation he faced upon taking office in January 2009.  Through my research I realized that his administration has made enormous progress in less than two years in restoring stability to the U.S. economy and addressing long-standing problems through multiple initiatives like financial services reform, automobile competitiveness, health care, government-funded research, and restoring America’s infrastructure.

That said, much remains to be done to ignite the domestic economy, re-establish confidence in the business community, and create sustainable jobs. This is where President Obama should focus his efforts in the next two years. Having a new economics team that understands investment and jobs is a major step in the right direction.

I hope you will enjoy The Economist debate

* Economist Debates adapt the Oxford style of debating to an online forum. The format was made famous by the 186-year-old Oxford Union and has been practiced by heads of state, prominent intellectuals and galvanizing figures from across the cultural spectrum. It revolves around an assertion that is defended on one side (the “proposer”) and assailed on another (the “opposition”) in a contest hosted and overseen by a moderator. Each side has three chances to persuade readers: opening, rebuttal and closing.