Obama job creation panel suggests modest steps

DURHAM, North Carolina Mon Jun 13, 2011 6:59pm EDT

1 of 3. President Barack Obama pauses next to Chairman of the council and CEO of General Electric Jeffrey Immelt as he meets with the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness after touring a North Carolina energy efficient LED light manufacturing facility, Cree Inc., in Raleigh-Durham, June 13, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing

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DURHAM, North Carolina (Reuters) - With few tools left to fix the economy, President Barack Obama pledged on Monday to act on job-boosting ideas from a panel of corporate executives whose modest proposals failed to offer a quick fix for stubbornly high unemployment.

Obama's jobs council, led by General Electric chief Jeffrey Immelt, called for measures to cut red tape, provide more loans, invest in energy efficiency and attract more tourists, many of which have been suggested before.

The president, whose 2012 re-election prospects hinge on his ability to address unemployment, was enthusiastic about the panel's recommendations but made no specific commitments.

"I promise you we we're going to act on a range of these recommendations," Obama said.

"There are some common-sense ideas that we can all embrace to make ourselves more competitive that should not be subject to the usual political gamesmanship."

With opinion polls showing Americans unhappy with Obama's stewardship of the economy, he has been counting on fresh ideas from the jobs council, which includes the CEOs of Eastman Kodak, American Express, DuPont, Xerox and others.

The panel's proposals were helpful but not nearly enough with unemployment above 9 percent, said Sherle Schwenninger, director of economic growth and American strategy with the nonpartisan New America Foundation.

"I generally view the jobs council as operating within the current serious political constraints. These are extremely modest suggestions in terms of the scale of the problem," Schwenninger said.

Monday marked the second meeting of the full panel, which Obama inaugurated in March to brainstorm on the economy and find ways to encourage business growth and employment.

'PHOTO OP'

Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, the top Republican in Congress, dismissed the North Carolina event as a "photo op" and signaled more pressure from Congress on Obama to cut deficits, not spend, ahead of the 2012 vote.

"Photo ops with business leaders only reinforce that no one in this administration has ideas to create the private sector jobs our economy desperately needs," he said. "Republicans have a Plan for American Job Creators, and we hope the president will work with us to implement it."

The Democratic president's record on the economy is seen as his weak spot into 2012, and seven Republican presidential contenders were expected to hit the issue hard on Monday evening in their first major debate.

Obama has been trying to show that the tools he has used so far -- including a big economic stimulus package, the auto and financial sector bailouts and a tax-cut deal reached last year -- have stabilized an economy that was in freefall when he took office and put it on the path to full recovery.

"Today, the single most serious economic problem we face is getting people back to work. We stabilized the economy. We prevented a financial meltdown. An economy that was shrinking is now growing. We've added more than 2 million private sector jobs over the last 15 months alone," he said on Monday in North Carolina, a state he narrowly won in 2008.

Obama's hands may be tied on new efforts to spur hiring. Analysts see little scope for him to deliver more economic stimulus with Republicans opposing added government spending that adds to debt and annual deficits.

The member companies of the White House jobs council will hire 100,000 people in the United States in 2011, according to GE spokesman Andrew Williams.

Still, some executives on the panel have a record of cutting jobs.

Antonio Perez, CEO of Eastman Kodak, embarked on a pricey restructuring plan in 2003 that slashed more than 45,000 jobs as the photographic film market collapsed, shrinking the company's payroll to around 18,000.

Immelt slashed thousands of jobs during the downturn as his storied company struggled to weather a credit crunch that forced its lending unit, GE Capital, to seek a government guarantee for $139 billion in debt.

GE, the world's largest maker of jet engines and electric turbines, laid off 19,000 workers globally in 2009 -- about 6 percent of its workforce. But it will add 16,000 manufacturing and high-tech services jobs in the United States in 2010 and 2011, Williams said.

(Additional reporting by Liana B. Baker, Anurag Kotoky, Tiffany Wu, Nick Zieminski and Matt Spetalnick; Writing by Laura MacInnis; Editing by David Lawder and Cynthia Osterman)

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Comments (12)
bck555 wrote:
How about truth Mr. President. Your jobs council (according to your website) has only only met one time prior to today on Feb. 24 for their initial meeting and photo opp at the White House. No meeting since. But now they are going to present their initial report and findings to which they just happen to agree that more spending is needed to spur jobs? (“Immelt, in a joint opinion piece with American Express Co. boss Ken Chenault in the Wall Street Journal on Monday, said the panel would present Obama with an initial report recommending steps that could help create a million jobs.”)

According to The Hill – June 10 , 2011 – The council, headed by General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt, has spent three months on the plan, and it will call for some government spending, senior adviser Valery Jarrett acknowledged Friday.

Three months on a plan???? Come on! And by the way, since today will be only their second meeting, how come they all have to fly to SC to get together? None of them live or work in SC. Let’s do some math. 25 people, their staff, their private jets (of yes, most of them do not fly commercial), represent over 100 folks traveling for another photo opp and charade with you. How is that carbon footprint stuff working for you?

Mr. President, please stop trying to fool us.

Jun 13, 2011 7:43am EDT  --  Report as abuse
bck555 wrote:
One last note Mr. President. We checked the resumes of your jobs council members. Good mix of folks! One half of them are C Level people in major companies and most of those have held their current positions for 4 years or less. Probably very good stewards and managers of existing businesses, but not much in the way of new jobs creation. One quarter of the members are from the banking or investment fields. Now there are some job creators! 3 of the 25 members are union bosses. A couple of environmentalist are thrown in. And ONE, just ONE member is a small business owner. Terrific! You managed to find one token job creator out of a country full of them to give you a report your own staff has written. Good job!

Jun 13, 2011 8:11am EDT  --  Report as abuse
as a small business owner, I assure you, the Immelt puppet sitting on obama’s lap will not speak about anything that will spur job creation. He will, because its what his puppetier wants him to say, tell us we need more government spending.
If obama was more concerned about fixing the economy and less concerned with showing people supported his failed plans, the country might improve.

Jun 13, 2011 8:12am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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