Barack Obama promised a “hard pivot” to jobs in the third year of his presidency, and he has decided to shake up his advisory staff to demonstrate his commitment to it. The old Economic Recovery Advisory Board will get shut down, and chair Paul Volcker will leave the White House after two years. In his place, GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt will lead a new Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, tasked with finding solutions to the slow pace of job creation:
Signaling a shift to a new phase of the administration’s response to the nation’s economic woes, President Barack Obama will sign an executive order Friday establishing a new Council on Jobs and Competitiveness that will be lead by General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt. The signing coincides with a visit to a GE branch in Schenectady, N.Y., the birthplace of the company.
The new panel will replace the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, and will have a new mission: to find “new ways to promote growth by investing in American business to encourage hiring, to educate and train our workers to compete globally, and to attract the best jobs and businesses to the United States,” according to the White House.
Obama also announced that Paul Volcker, head of the advisory board, would step down as its mission ends.
The new CJC will help Obama politically in a couple of ways. First, the new board will showcase a new priority on jobs, a “pivot” Obama began promising in December 2009 and the lack of which contributed to the midterm beating Democrats took two years ago. Second, membership on the board will apparently include a number of CEOs in a more high-profile advisory capacity than earlier outreach efforts.
The White House has to hope that the increased reliance on private-sector executives will improve Obama’s relationship with the business community as well as answer critics who have blasted the administration for its dearth of real-world business experience. But it also comes as a rather large coincidence. The White House just announced the start of its re-election campaign efforts, which will be run out of Chicago, and which will be tasked with beating the $700 million in contributions Obama raised in the 2008 campaign. He will want businesses to get involved in that effort; his sudden interest in what CEOs think at least has the appearance of self-interest more than a change in economic philosophy.
Hopefully, Obama actually takes their advice and puts pro-growth economic policies in place while pulling back hard on regulatory innovation. I suspect, however, that this is more intended as window dressing while Obama pursues the same economic policies that have led to stagnation and persistently high unemployment.