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Obama Jobs Panel Urges Broadened Tax Base, More Oil Drilling

Obama Jobs Panel Urges Broadened Tax Base, More Oil Drilling
President Barack Obama greets members of his Council on Jobs and Competitiveness while Education Secretary Arne Duncan, second from left, looks over documents before a meeting of council at the White House on Jan. 17, 2012. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Pool via Bloomberg

The U.S. must broaden its tax base and lower rates, extract more coal, oil and natural gas, and boost government research and development to revive the economy and stay competitive, according to recommendations of President Barack Obama’s jobs council.

“Our competitiveness has eroded over the past decades,” Jeffrey Immelt, chairman and chief executive officer of General Electric Co. and head of the jobs panel, said in a report being released today. “We have lost ground in metrics ranging from education to infrastructure to export.”

The President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness presented its 72-page report today prescribing how the U.S. can recover its global economic edge.

“The economic recovery has to be driven by the private sector,” Obama said at the White House session. Obama, who met with the group for about 90 minutes, said there already has been “substantial progress” on the panel’s recommendations.

The president said his administration has taken action on 33 of the 35 items that don’t need legislative approval and completed action on 16. Those include putting more emphasis on companies that return jobs to the U.S., streamlining the government permit process and, last week, proposing to consolidate the agencies dealing with trade and commerce.

Congress Returns

The House of Representatives returns to work today after a three-week holiday break and the Senate comes back next week. Congress during this election year will consider extension of a payroll tax cut through the end of 2012. The council’s recommendations that require congressional action probably will wait until 2013 at the earliest.

Obama’s panel of business and labor executives is endorsing “the approach to job creation House Republicans have been pursuing for more than a year,” House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said in a statement.

“We must ease the regulatory burden on small businesses, foster private-sector innovation, transition to a more competitive tax system, and utilize the vast energy resources we have here at home,” Boehner said.

Obama, during the meeting, reminded executives of the November elections, which may make legislation difficult. The president said he’ll continue to use his executive powers to “at least chip away at some of these problems.”

Stubborn Unemployment

Recovery is under way in the U.S. economy, said Roger W. Ferguson, a former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve.

“The headline is that things seem to be getting incrementally better,” Ferguson said, citing consumer and business confidence. Still, it’s “not enough to dent” the unemployment of 8.5 percent, he said.

Matthew Rose, chairman and chief executive officer of Burlington Northern Santa Fe LLC, said the government needs more consistent approaches to regulatory writing. He cited ozone rules proposed for tightening, then canceled in September. Rose said rules ought to be codified and not subject to whims, depending on what party controls the White House.

“It’d go a long way to shutting the business community up,” Rose said.

“Well, let’s go,” Obama said to laughter. “We’ve got to give that more thought,” he said.

‘Mantras’ to Adopt

“Investing in our future, building on our strengths and playing to win -- these are mantras we must adopt,” Immelt said in the report, titled “Road Map to Renewal.”

Obama appointed the council in February 2011 to replace the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board. Its job is to offer “non-partisan advice” on how to strengthen the U.S. economy and ensure competitiveness while creating “jobs, opportunity and prosperity for the American people,” according to the executive order that created the panel.

To aid manufacturing, the council said, the government must overhaul export controls to encourage high-tech equipment sales in foreign markets, help small-business manufacturers to find overseas markets and instill a “competitiveness” element in all decisions governing regulation, taxes and infrastructure.

Regulations should be overhauled, an ombudsman should be named to review disputes, and a “one-stop shop” should be created for big projects that require a permit, it said.

To boost energy development, the government must allow more access to oil, natural gas and coal deposits on federal lands, the panel said, provided it can be done safely. Energy research funding should be increased and the U.S. should also purchase more alternative-fuel vehicles.

Obama said every government agency “has been focused on how do they improve, get smarter, get better, get faster.”

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