Hey, remember the president’s jobs council?

Eve Troeh Jan 30, 2013
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Hey, remember the president’s jobs council?

Eve Troeh Jan 30, 2013
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In the “something you didn’t know existed that is now going away” category: The president’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness is set to end tomorrow. It came together two years ago, to generate ideas and policies for accelerated job creation. I asked economist Gary Burtless at the Brookings Institution what he thought about the president’s jobs council calling it quits.

“Well, as probably more than one economist would remark to you, I didn’t even remember we had one,” he says.

Most of the American public would answer the same, though the 26 members of the council did include some big names, mostly CEOs from companies like GE, Intel and DuPont. Burtless says the general idea was to have leaders in the business community offer advice to the president on how jobs could be created more quickly with government help.

But he says those leaders had a hard time seeing past their own interests. Their insights and suggestions mostly applied to their own companies.

“They’re not thinking hard about the broad policy problems facing the United States of America,” Burtless says.

At council meetings, President Obama repeated mantras, like how he would wake up every morning thinking about how to create jobs. Then the council conversations often turned very specific. An airline rep, for example, would talk about how better air traffic control would let planes idle less, and save money on jet fuel.

MIT economist Thomas Kochan says the council leaders failed to push hard for government spending on such programs.

“We know that infrastructure investments have very good rates of return, both in job creation and building a competitive economy,” he says. “And yet they didn’t really make a strong case.”

Nor did the CEOs offer to match government investment with their own money, he says. So the president’s jobs council drummed up some good ideas, but no plan to pay for them.

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