Topics: Barack Obama

Obama pulls the plug on White House jobs council

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Politics,White House,Brian Hughes,Politics Digest,Barack Obama,Jobs

President Obama's jobs council -- a team of CEOs, economists and labor leaders fashioned to attack the nation's unemployment problem -- is officially dead.

Obama pulled the plug on his council Thursday, even though more than 12 million Americans are out of work, a move which Republicans said symbolized the president's failure to turn around the economy.

Championed by the president as a collection of great economic minds, the panel died with more of a whimper than a bang, having not met in a year -- and convening only four times since its formation two years ago.

Grilled by reporters about the demise of the group, White House press secretary Jay Carney insisted the development was no big deal, imploring observers to focus on "progress" not "meetings."

"There is no disputing economic cold hard facts that because of the policies that this president pursued, that kind of economic decline was reversed," Carney said. "And that's the measure of your commitment to job creation and economic growth."

However, Republicans scoffed at that assessment of the president's economic stewardship.

"To understand the abysmal nature of our economic recovery, look no further than the president's disinterest in learning lessons from actual job creators," said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. "Whether ignoring the group or rejecting its recommendations, the president treated his jobs council as more of a nuisance than a vehicle to spur job creation."

In his second term, the president has quietly increased his outreach to the business community, looking to patch a rocky relationship. With the president's jobs council disbanded, administration officials said Obama will look to boost entrepreneurship and workforce development -- but the White House blueprint remains vague.

When Obama launched the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness at the start of 2011, unemployment was nearly 9 percent. As of December, 7.8 percent of Americans were unemployed. January figures were due to be released Friday morning.

"It was a gimmick," said a senior Democratic official. "They look silly. You can't have it both ways -- the jobs council can't both be critically important when formed and then meaningless when it goes away."

Stubbornly high unemployment has been a constant thorn in the side of the president. Obama would much prefer to focus on social initiatives, such as immigration reform and gun control, but the GOP keeps steering the conversation back to the economy.

The end of the jobs council came at a particularly bad time for the White House, reeling from the news that the economy contracted during the last quarter of 2012, the first time since October 2009.

The panel was chaired by General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt and included chief executives from Facebook and Xerox, among other major companies. But some of the business leaders in the group clashed with the panel's labor leaders over tax policy, limiting tangible results from the meetings.

The jobs council attracted a fair share of controversy and occasionally became a self-inflicted political wound for the president. The White House came under fire last summer when Carney explained that the council did not meet during the height of the president's re-election campaign because Obama "has obviously got a lot on his plate."

bhughes@washingtonexaminer.com

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