Obama Jobs Panel Suggests Modest Steps

Monday, 13 Jun 2011 02:53 PM


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DURHAM, N.C.  — With few tools left to heal the U.S. economy, President Barack Obama pledged Monday to act on job-boosting ideas from a panel of top executives whose modest proposals fell short of a quick fix for stubbornly high unemployment.

Obama's jobs council, led by General Electric Corp chief Jeffrey Immelt, called for measures to cut red tape, provide more loans and invest in construction, manufacturing, healthcare and tourism, many of which have been suggested before.

The president, whose 2012 re-election prospects hinge heavily on his ability to boost the sagging economy and create jobs, said he was "excited" by the panel's recommendations but made no specific commitments.

The president faces strong opposition to any new spending from Republicans who control the House of Representatives.

"I promise you we we're going to act on a range of these recommendations," Obama said, pointing out that the private sector could adopt many of the panel's ideas.

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

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.

Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House 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 more in the run-up to the election.

"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."



Analysts see little scope for the president to deliver much more economic stimulus with Republicans opposing any more government spending that adds to the U.S. debt and deficit.

Obama said an agreement between the White House and Republicans on raising the federal government's $14.3 trillion debit limit and cutting the U.S. deficit, which is estimated to reach $1.4 trillion this year, could help give businesses the confidence to hire more workers.

"The steps that we take do not have to create a sudden drastic cliff in 2012 or 2013 while the economy is still recovering. We have a 10-year time horizon and a 20-year time horizon that we are offering off of. That gives us a little bit of room to do smart things," he said.

A weak jobs report in May, in which unemployment rose to 9.1 percent from 9 percent in April, hardened national unease over the economy, which many Americans think has barely climbed out of recession.

Immelt outlined the jobs council's proposals in an opinion piece with American Express Co. boss Ken Chenault in The Wall Street Journal on Monday.

"The economic decisions we make now will determine American job creation and competitiveness in the years to come. Government, business and labor need to work together to get this done," the two chief executives said. (Additional reporting by Liana Balinsky-Baker and Matt Spetalnick; Writing by Laura MacInnis)

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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