GE's Immelt leads Obama economic panel on jobs

Jeff Immelt, Chairman and CEO of General Electric

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: All right get our your pencils, class -- here is your Marketplace Friday pop quiz: How do you know the White House is trying to move on from the financial crisis and recession? Well, A) because the president says so all the time. But B) because today he dissolved his economic recovery panel and replaced it with a new Jobs and Competitiveness Council. Jeff Immelt, the CEO of General Electric is going to be in charge -- just the latest White House move to make nice with American business.

Marketplace's Janet Babin reports.


Janet Babin: For the first time in months -- maybe years -- the business community is cheering the Obama Administration. They like that GE CEO Jeff Immelt will head a jobs panel, and perhaps, have the President's ear.

Karen Petrou with Federal Financial Analytics says Immelt is someone business leaders respect.

Karen Petrou: I don't know where you find a U.S. manufacturing firm with the global presence and the earnings that GE still has.

But GE is more than a manufacturing firm -- GE's Capital unit was the largest issuer of commercial paper going into the financial crisis.

Mike Konczal is a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute.

Mike Konczal: GE was, you know, a major recipient of bailout money. The FDIC guaranteed about a little over $50 billion of GE Capital debt. They were a very major player in the shadow banking realm.

In that sense, Konczal says Immelt's appointment could send the wrong message. But for business leaders frustrated with the administration's health care and financial regulatory reforms, this appointment is an olive branch.

Larry Sabato is director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics. He says President Obama is thinking re-election now.

Larry Sabato: He needs the support of at least a large slice of business big and small.

The president's bigger political challenge, though: create enough jobs to lower unemployment. Immelt says his jobs council will be a catalyst for action on jobs, with a focus on manufacturing, free trade and innovation.

In New York, I'm Janet Babin for Marketplace.

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