Today President Obama announced that he has appointed GE Chairman Jeffrey Immelt to head his newly created Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. Obama explained in terms that only a political consultant could love:
Speaking at GE’s birthplace in Schenectady, N.Y., Obama said that the economic recovery is entering a new phase that will necessitate a greater focus on job creation, innovation and international competitiveness.
“The past two years years have been about pulling the economy back from the brink,” Obama said. “The next two years, our job now, is to put our economy in overdrive.”
“A greater focus on job creation”? Obama has been talking about job creation–most voters’ number one priority–since the day he took office. The chatter about “pulling the economy back from the brink” is his way of getting around the fact that after two years, his policies have been a failure.
Most people don’t buy the claim that Obama has been busily engaged in pulling the economy back from the brink, or out of a ditch, or whatever. The Fox News poll finds that more Americans believe the Obama administration’s policies have hurt the economy (32%) than helped it (28%). Thirty-seven percent think they have made no difference. So, while Obama will inevitably reap some credit as the economy improves, his “back from the brink” narrative (one aspect of which is the “jobs saved or created” theme) hasn’t sold, and many voters will think that the improvement between now and 2012 is too little, too late.
As for Immelt, he penned an op-ed in the Washington Post that generally made the right sorts of noises, didn’t say much of substance, but included this startling sentence:
The assumption made by many that the United States could transition from a technology-based, export-oriented economic powerhouse to a services-led, consumption-based economy without any serious loss of jobs, prosperity or prestige was fundamentally wrong.
“An assumption made by many”? I can’t think of a single person who made any such assumption. But Immelt might have had GE in mind. The New York Times describes the company’s recent history:
G.E. revamped its strategy in the wake of the financial crisis. Its heritage of industrial innovation reaches back to Thomas Edison and the incandescent light bulb, and with that legacy in mind, G.E. sought to go back to basics. The company, Mr. Immelt insisted, must rely more on making physical products and less on financial engineering — a path that, he said, is also necessary for the American economy as a whole.
Mr. Immelt candidly admitted that G.E. was seduced by GE Capital’s financial promise — the lure of rapid-fire moneymaking unencumbered by the long-range planning, costs and headaches that go into producing heavy-duty material goods. Other industrial corporations were enthralled with finance, of course, but none as much as G.E., which became the nation’s largest nonbank financial company.
Perhaps it’s a good thing to have someone in charge of job creation who has learned the hard way.
One basic way of creating jobs, of course, is by developing natural resources. One wonders whether Immelt’s commitment to “making physical products” encompasses energy production. Exploiting America’s vast deposits of fossil fuels would both provide a large of number of high-quality jobs and help to reduce the cost of everything–not immediately, to be sure, but soon enough. But so far, the Obama administration has been committed to hampering our energy production, apparently with the goal of making energy more expensive and Americans therefore poorer. How this fits with Immelt’s job-creation mission is anyone’s guess.
Today we received another reminder of how vast our energy resources are. Does the name “Bakken” mean anything to you? Likely not; but it should: Oilman: Bakken holds 20 billion barrels of oil:
Billionaire oilman Harold Hamm told North Dakota bankers on Thursday that government estimates of recoverable oil in the Bakken and Three Forks formations are too conservative.
Hamm, 64, chairman and chief executive officer of Continental Resources Inc., said the formations in North Dakota and Montana hold about 20 billion barrels of recoverable crude, or about five times the amount previously estimated by federal geologists. The formations also hold the natural gas equivalent of 4 billion barrels of oil, he said.
“This is something that is totally incredible,” Hamm told about 200 bankers who had gathered in Bismarck for a conference. “Everywhere you look the Bakken is front and center.”
So far, the Obama administration has done just about everything it can to impede the development of efficient energy and to promote subsidies for inefficient energy. If it can put aside its superstition with regard to carbon and get out of the way of American companies that are trying to develop American energy resources, it will not create jobs, but it will stop preventing a great many jobs from being created.