President’s Jobs Council falls flat

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by Vanessa Bostwick on June 17, 2011

The President’s Jobs Council, made up of top executives appointed by the President from citizens outside the federal government, released its much-anticipated interim recommendations for economic fixes this week.

But the suggestions, crafted after only three months of private meetings, met with lackluster reviews and were called “uninspiring” and “a big yawn.”

“I’m underwhelmed,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former head of the Congressional Budget Office and adviser to John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign.

The report, published as an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, was penned by CEOs Jeff Immelt of General Electric and Ken Chenault of American Express.

A more thorough analysis is expected in September.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the group doesn’t see its mandate as having to define new ideas. Instead, it says it wants to identify good, productive ones—new or old—that can be put into action with a minimum of bureaucratic delay.

The group’s suggestions include:

• Train workers for today’s open jobs. There are more than two million open jobs in the U.S., in part because employers can’t find workers with the advanced manufacturing skills they need. The private sector must quickly form partnerships with community colleges, vocational schools and others to match career training with real-world hiring needs.

• Streamline permitting. Cut red tape so job-creating construction and infrastructure projects can move forward. The administration can take a few simple steps to streamline the process of obtaining permits, without undercutting the protections that our regulatory system provides.

• Boost jobs in travel and tourism. This industry is one of America’s largest employers, but the U.S. has lost significant market share. By making it easier to visit the U.S. through improved visa processes, we can win back market share in travel and tourism and create hundreds of thousands of jobs.

• Facilitate small-business loans. Help small-business owners obtain the information and support they need to access Small Business Administration funding. At Jobs Council town halls in Dayton and Minneapolis, small-business owners expressed frustration about the challenges in obtaining financing and assistance. We must move quickly to allow easier access to SBA funding. SBA Administrator Karen Mills is already tackling this challenge, and the administration should accelerate and prioritize these efforts.

• Put construction workers back to work. More than two million construction workers don’t have work. Every city in America has commercial buildings that can be made more energy efficient. Both the private and public sectors can step up to create good jobs and save energy.

The authors write, “To truly bend the curve over the longer term, we need a more strategic view. Over the next 90 days, we will turn to addressing the actions needed to make a more significant, longer-term impact.”