2013-02-14 00:36:25 UTC
(Reuters) - The White House on Thursday disbanded President Barack Obama's
jobs council, a group of high-profile chief executives who gave advice on
how to spur employment growth, even as 12 million Americans remain out of
White House spokesman Jay Carney said the council was set up with a two-
year lifespan that was now expiring.
But Republicans quickly pounced on its demise as sign that Obama lacked
credibility on jobs, noting it came the day after data showed the U.S.
economy contracted in the fourth quarter.
In place of the jobs council, the administration said it will begin an
expanded effort to work with the business community and other groups to
boost economic growth, cut debt and fix a broken immigration system.
"It's a broad engagement strategy to make sure the president's message is
getting out to the American people, because with their voices involved we
think that we can still do big things," Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, his
point person on working with business, told Reuters in a recent interview.
The jobs council, chaired by Jeff Immelt of General Electric (GE.N), had
not met with Obama for more than a year.
From its start, it was an easy target for critics because its ability to
act was limited, and its mandate was to serve a modest advisory role to
The U.S. jobless rate hangs stubbornly at 7.8 percent, down from a peak of
10 percent in the depth of the recession after Obama took office in
January 2009. Economists expect a report on Friday to show little
"Over the past four years, President Obama has seemed far more interested
in political show votes and tax gimmicks than actually focusing on what
Americans need: more jobs," said Senator Mitch McConnell, top Republican
in the Senate.
LIST OF IDEAS
The council was created in January 2011 as Obama sought to soothe
businesses alarmed at the potential cost of his health care reforms and
sweeping regulations on banks.
Obama recruited Immelt, a Republican, to lead the jobs council and met
four times with them.
The panel's job was to give Obama advice on strengthening the economy and
get more people back to work. It collected 90 recommendations on investing
in infrastructure, streamlining permits for large projects and ramping up
Of the 60 ideas that could be done without Congress, the administration
made "significant progress" on 54 of them, according to a report from the
council in December.
For example, Obama told federal agencies to look for ways to get rid of
redundant regulations, even as new health care and financial regulations
were added. Visa wait times for tourists from key markets like China and
Brazil were reduced.
Carney blamed Republicans in Congress for blocking legislation that would
have created more infrastructure jobs.
Policy experts said that while jobs councils and other business engagement
strategies can be helpful, Obama needs to find concrete ways to grow the
"If he doesn't have growth, he could find himself in an unhappy midterm
(election) and without the political capital to get what he wants to get
done," said Elaine Kamarck, who was a top adviser in the Clinton White
House and now leads a management initiative at the Brookings Institution
The White House emphasized that it has continued to talk with business in
other ways. For example, on Wednesday, senior White House officials spoke
with Greg Brown of Motorola (MSI.N), Dan Akerson of General Motors (GM.N)
and others on Obama's immigration reform proposals.
John Engler, president of the Business Roundtable, which represents large
companies, said he is also encouraged that Obama recently told the
business community he might back some sort of territorial tax system.
Corporate America has said such a regime, which would exempt offshore
corporate profits from U.S. taxation, would make businesses more
competitive against foreign rivals.
"We are not worried about our ability to communicate with the president
and White House staff. We think that will be fine," Engler said.