Surprisingly practical sometimes, ridiculously ignorant other times, here’s how J. Immelt CEO of GE, (NYSE:GE), and K. Chenault, chairman and CEO of American Express Co. (NYSE:AXP) explained the advice their Jobs and Competitiveness Council gave the President in yesterday’s WSJ:
First up, train workers for today’s open jobs. Amazingly, they recommended that the private sector (!) take the lead and work with local community colleges to train people. Hello! That’s what community colleges already do!
Next, streamline permitting. Duh! But wait – the federal government doesn’t issue permits for most activities. You do have to get a federal permit to build a dam, or actually do anything on, near, or with water, whether flowing or still or intermittent (think puddles).
But the problem business people actually complain about is the interminable time it takes to get a building permit, plus inspections and approvals at every step of the project. Those are LOCAL government activities and LOCAL building department workers are widely acknowledged to be excruciatingly slow, disinterested footdraggers.
It goes downhill from here: boost jobs in travel and tourism. These are non-productive, consuming activities that require wealth production to finance. If people don’t have jobs, they don’t take trips. Immelt and Chenault want to make it easier for foreigners to travel. Does that mean they think we are a Third World country now? Maybe.
Facilitate small-business loans. Business owners have already said they won’t and can’t borrow money until they need it. SBA funding is a loser and should be shut down, not amplified as Immelt and Chenault recommend.
Put construction workers back to work. Oh, yeah? Building what? We are oversupplied with houses and shopping malls right now. Look at the online real estate maps. RealtyTrac is a good one. The link shows properties in foreclosure in a small town in Oregon. You can check out your own city. It will make you sick, or at least, scared.
Closer inspection of that proposal shows that they are advocating remodeling, not new building, to make buildings energy-efficient. Solar panels, new double-pane windows and light bulbs, insulation. Don’t they think building owners would have done that already if the owners had thought those improvements would pay for themselves?