Business executives on President Barack Obama’s jobs council offered tepid support for his proposed $450 billion jobs package, while independent business leaders offered cautious critiques.
“The need to create more jobs is the greatest challenge facing America today, and the President’s speech tonight underscored the commitment all of us must show in responding to that challenge,” said Ken Chenault, the chairman and CEO of American Express.
“The President’s focus on assisting small business is spot on, since small business is the engine of job creation,” said a statement from Richard Parsons, chairman of Citigroup.
Members of the jobs council are “encouraged that one of the President’s areas of focus in his American Jobs Act speech was on infrastructure,” according to a statement from Robert Wolf, chairman of the UBS Americas bank.
Independent leaders were more skeptical. “While the president discussed a variety of important issues, his ideas appear to fall short,” according to a statement from Thomas Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “A workable jobs plan must genuinely reduce regulatory uncertainty, unshackle promising American industries, and not be overly reliant on government spending and subsidies.”
The job council’s chairman, Jeff Immelt, released the longest statement in favor of the speech. “The 26 members of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness are pleased that the President embraced several Council recommendations, including programs cutting red tape, improving our nation’s infrastructure, helping U.S. universities graduate more engineers and skills training programs for advanced manufacturing and healthcare,” said his statement.
But he also included a subtle dig against Obama. “The Jobs Council will be making additional recommendations to the President over the next few weeks on topics such as tax policy and investment in the U.S. economy … We need a sense of urgency and more collaboration around getting more Americans back to work and maintaining America’s competitive leadership.”
The most enthusiastic response came from Steve Case, the former America Online mogul, and now the chairman of his own investment firm. “I was honored to represent America’s entrepreneurs at tonight’s joint Congressional session, and am pleased that President Obama is focused on the pivotal role that entrepreneurs play in creating jobs and ensuring our nation’s competitiveness,” he said.
“I hope both parties will put politics and partisanship aside, and work together to ensure the success of the next generation of great American companies,” he said.