Obama jobs panel pushes tax reform, domestic drilling

By Matt Spetalnick, Reuters

WASHINGTON–U.S. President Barack Obama’s jobs council is calling for a corporate tax overhaul, expanded domestic drilling and new regulatory reforms, a set of proposals unlikely to provide a quick fix for high unemployment or gain much traction in an election year. A panel of business leaders advising Obama — whose re-election chances could hinge on whether he can boost the fragile U.S. economy — will offer its latest job-creation prescriptions at a meeting with him on Tuesday. A draft of its report was obtained by Reuters. Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness has generated dozens of ideas since it was created amid political fanfare last February, but implementation of some of its key recommendations has lagged and the overall benefits remain uncertain. “There’s not one silver bullet on jobs,” General Electric Chief Executive Jeffrey Immelt, who chairs the non-partisan panel, acknowledged in an interview before the report’s formal release at the White House. Immelt insisted that a number of the panel’s earlier proposals, such as streamlining infrastructure building permits, were bearing fruit and the new ones deserved bipartisan support. That could be a tall order in a divided Congress where the Democratic president’s jobs agenda has largely stalled in the face of Republican resistance and election-year gridlock. Lofty Themes While the council used two earlier reports to present specific, although mostly modest, jobs proposals, the latest — with the lofty title “Roadmap to Renewal” — lays out a broader strategy to promote manufacturing, education and innovation.

“Investing in our future, building on our strengths, and playing to win – these are mantras we must adopt, along with the specific policies and initiatives that back them up, if we are going to renew our competitiveness,” the report states. This will be the focus of Obama’s meeting with the CEOs, the latest in a series of White House events aimed at showing voters he is serious about tackling unemployment. The Nov. 6 election is widely seen as a referendum on his economic leadership, and his record is under attack from Republican presidential contenders like front-runner Mitt Romney. Among the steps the council sees as urgently needed is long-delayed reform of the corporate tax system, which it says is outdated and “hurts both business competitiveness and American workers.” “The council urges Congress and the administration to begin work on tax reform immediately,” the report says. The panel calls for lowering corporate tax rates to “internationally competitive levels” while broadening the corporate tax base by eliminating deductions and loopholes.