Tags: Obama | Jobs | Panel | Layoff

LA Times: Obama’s Jobs Panel Run by Layoff-Happy Execs

Monday, 10 Oct 2011 02:20 PM

A presidential panel created by President Barack Obama to find ways to create jobs is run by executives famous for slashing payrolls and battling unions, The Los Angeles Times reports.

The executives make up the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, which Obama created in January by appointing 26 leaders of companies.

Panel member Kenneth I. Chenault, chairman and chief executive of American Express, eliminated 550 jobs, or about 1 percent of the company's work force, around a time the company made $1.1 billion in the fourth quarter of 2010, up 48 percent from the same period the previous year.

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Xerox CEO Ursula Burns, who also sits on the board, cut 4,500 jobs in the first six months of 2011, while Jim McNerney, chief executive of Boeing, has said his company will cut 1,100 U.S. jobs.

President Barack Obama
(Getty Images photo)
At the same time, Boeing reported that profits rose 20 percent to $941 billion in the second quarter of 2011, the newspaper reported.

Some say such executives might not be the appropriate members for a council designed to create jobs.

"Nobody should expect this group to come up with innovative ways of investing in the American work force and generating not only more jobs but higher wages," economist Robert Reich, who was labor secretary during the Clinton administration, told the Los Angeles Times.

"That's just not what these big companies do," said Reich, now a professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley.

Labor advocates say some council members forced concessions on unions at a time when profits were healthy.

"They call it the jobs and competitiveness committee, but when they mean by competitiveness is massive concessions being imposed on working people," says Chris Townsend, political action director of United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, which represents 3,500 General Electric workers.

To be fair, job-loss numbers don't necessarily stem from corporate heartlessness but could be the result of asset sales, the economic downturn or could accompany fresh hires in other parts of the U.S.

Although the U.S. has officially been out of recession for two years now, unemployment rates remain well above the government's comfort zones, coming in at 9.1 percent in September.

The economy added 103,000 jobs in September, and although that figure exceeded many market expectations, it's still far below what's needed to really get the economy back on track and bring unemployment rates closer to pre-recession levels, administration officials admit.

"The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.1 percent, a level that is unacceptably high," says Katharine Abraham, a member of President Barack Obama's Council of Economic Advisers, the AFP newswire reports.

"Clearly, we need faster economic growth to put Americans back to work. Today's report underscores the president's call for Congress to pass the American Jobs Act," says Abraham, referring to President Obama's $447 billion jobs creation bill.

Harvard economist Martin Feldstein, who served as Ronald Reagan's chief economist, say even though the economy is recovering, growth has been so sluggish that it merits no real praise.

"I would say we are expanding, but it's about as bad as an expansion as I've ever seen," says Feldstein, according to the Wall Street Journal.

He expressed concern that there is a “nontrivial chance” the U.S. economy will turn down again.

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