Barack Obama told top business leaders Thursday that politics often gets in the way of solving problems that threaten America's ability to stay competitive in the global economy.
"There is surprising consensus in this country about what needs to be done — somehow our politics prevent us from acting on that consensus," Obama said at an economic summit meeting. "We spend an enormous amount of time talking about what separates us, along party lines, along racial lines, along economic lines, but when it comes to how we need to retool America to continue, it's greatness."
The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee noted that his panelists, a group that included America Online founder Steve Case and General Motors Corp. chief executive Rick Wagoner, were not all Democrats and did not share the same political philosophy.
But they do have many common goals, he said, like reducing the country's dependence on oil and investing more in research, innovation, education and infrastructure.
He asked the panelists what the federal government can do to help companies do their part. On the topic of energy, Wagoner told Obama that American automakers will need support for research and manufacturing to stay ahead as the industry tries to become more environmentally friendly.
Separately, Obama said in an interview Thursday with FOX Business Network the two most important things to do to restore consumer confidence would be to pass legislation now before Congress to alleviate the housing crisis and to pursue a "serious energy plan" that addresses speculation in the oil futures market.
"And if we do those two things — and I believe we need a second stimulus package, another round of rebates, as well as a permanent $1,000 tax cut for individuals and families that are out there working hard and trying to absorb some of these rising costs — then I think we can get the economy back on the right track," Obama said.
Obama convened the summit to wrap up a three-week tour of battleground states where he has focused on economic issues, visiting people in their workplaces and holding question-and-answer meetings with smaller groups of voters. The tour wound down this week with stops at a baking facility in Albuquerque and a nature reserve in Las Vegas.
Throughout his economic tour, Obama has sought to tie his opponent, Republican John McCain, to what he says are the Bush administration's failures contributing to today's soaring gasoline prices and sagging economy.
The Illinois senator said Thursday that McCain supports an economic agenda "that I believe has failed to keep pace with the challenges of the 21st century."
The McCain campaign said Obama's policies would actually stall competitiveness for American companies.
"The greatest force for jobs here at home and for global competitiveness is fewer government regulations, strong trading partners and lower taxes, all of which Barack Obama has opposed," McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds said.
Besides a tax cut for working families, Obama's economic proposals include a "windfall profits" tax on oil companies, a $4,000 annual college tuition credit for students who commit to national or community service programs and a new Social Security tax on incomes above $250,000.
He has said he would pay for his proposals partly by ending the Bush administration's tax cuts for the wealthy and ending the Iraq war.