Archive for the ‘Employment News’ Category

Sharp drop in new claims for unemployment: Dropped 29,000 last week …

Stock edge higher after unemployment claims fall
May 19, 2011, 10:25 a.m. EDT
Associated Press

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NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks opened slightly higher Thursday, extending Wednesday’s gains, after a government report showed a sharp drop in new claims for unemployment benefits. Weaker reports on home sales and economic expectations kept the gains in check.

Shares of social-networking company LinkedIn Corp. jumped 81 percent to $81.76 on their first day of trading. It is the largest U.S. Internet IPO since Google Inc.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 26 points, or 0.2 percent, at 12,586 in early trading. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index gained 2, or 0.2 percent, to 1,343. The Nasdaq composite index added 4, or 0.1 percent, to 2,819.

The Department of Labor reported that applications for unemployment dropped 29,000 last week, more than expected, to 409,000.

Two other reports raised doubts about the strength of the housing recovery and the overall direction of U.S. growth.

The National Association of Realtors said fewer people purchased previously occupied homes in April. The number of homes sold in foreclosure also declined.

The Conference Board reported that expectations for future economic activity decreased, based on its index of leading indicators. The private research group said the index fell 0.3 percent in April, the first decline since June 2010.

In a sign that the U.S. consumer recovery remains uneven, Big Lots Inc. fell 9 percent to $34.31 after news reports that it decided not to sell itself. The Wall Street Journal said late Wednesday that the company received bids from two private-equity groups that were lower than it had hoped.

Sears Holding Corp. reported softer sales at its Kmart and Sears stores, causing a first-quarter loss of $1.58 per share, worse than analysts expected. The stock fell 3.2 percent to $73.31.


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Tax cut has little impact on economy in January

Tax cut has little impact on economy in January
Feb. 28, 2011, 4:09 p.m. EST
Associated Press
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WASHINGTON (AP) — A Social Security tax cut that economists say should help the economy this year is off to a slow start. Consumers increased their spending last month at the weakest pace since June, even with the extra money in their paychecks.

Some people may be using the additional money to pay down holiday credit card bills or higher gas prices, analysts said. And harsh weather may have deterred some people from shopping in January.

Personal finance experts say the real test of the tax cuts impact will come this spring, when the Easter holiday sales begin.

Still, consumers increased spending by only 0.2 percent in January, the smallest gain since June, the Commerce Department said Monday. At the same time, their incomes rose 1 percent — the biggest jump in nearly two years and a reflection of the tax cut.

The increased income is part of an additional $110 billion that economists say workers will receive this year from the cut in their Social Security taxes. Most families will see about $1,000 to $2,000 in extra income. Households with two high-income earners could receive up to $4,000 more.

In December, when President Barack Obama signed the tax cut as part of a broader tax package, economists predicted Americans would spend about two-thirds of the extra money and save the remaining one-third. Higher-income taxpayers were expected to save a little more; lower-income households would spend a bit more.

Economists said the extra spending would help boost growth and could lead businesses to hire more. Still, all that was before tensions in the Middle East sent oil prices spiking. And a surge in global commodity prices is now expected to push U.S. food prices up slightly this year, too.

Many analysts say such inflation could siphon off most of the benefit of the tax cut. Several scaled back expectations for growth Monday after seeing January’s disappointing report.

“It doesn’t look like the economy is going to get any strong net boost from the Social Security tax cut,” said Paul Dales, senior economist at Capital Economics. “It will just go to pay higher prices on food and energy.”

Consumer spending was growing at the fastest pace in four years in the final three months of 2010, helping to support the overall economy. The weak showing in January raised questions about how strong consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of economic activity, will be this year.

The modest 0.2 percent rise in spending was even weaker when inflation was taken into account. After adjusting for price changes — particularly a steep rise in energy costs — spending actually dipped 0.1 percent in January. That was the poorest showing since September 2009.

One factor that the report doesn’t take into account is how much was spent on reducing debt. Households may have boosted their spending in December — after hearing about the pending tax cut — and spent the extra money in January to pay credit card bills.

Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for a N.Y.-based consumer market research firm, cautioned that most people might not have spent a lot because they didn’t see much change in their income after only one month.

“One or two percent in your paycheck is not going to change the way you live,” said Cohen, of the NPD Group Inc. in Port Washington. “It’ll make living easier. What it will do is keep you spending the way you’ve been spending, so it will keep the status quo.”

Over time, however, as consumers have the opportunity to pay down credit card and other debt, they’ll feel more like spending again, Cohen said.

That could bode well for retailers, who are now looking for shoppers to open up for spring.

“I think the next big event we need to watch for is Easter sales,” said Arun Jain, professor of marketing research at the University at Buffalo School of Management. “That will reflect what they want to buy for spring. That to me will tell us how confident they are.”

An early sign of that would be an increase in clothing sales at discount department stores such as Sears, J.C. Penney, and Target, Jain said.

J.C. Penney launched its spring advertising during Sunday night’s Academy Awards show, buying seven 30-second commercials focusing on its “We make it affordable, you make it yours” clothing campaign.

“When people get these types of paycheck boosts from the government, typically the first area people will spend on is essentials for the family,” Jain said.

Job growth would also boost spending.

Sal Guatieri, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, predicted the government will report Friday that the economy added around 200,000 jobs in February, much better than the 36,000 jobs created in January.

Still, the weak January spending data caused him to trim his forecast for overall economic growth for the current quarter from a rate of 3.5 percent down to 3.2 percent.

He said the January numbers suggest many families are still stretched financially.

“The key going forward will be job growth,” he said. “If we start to see jobs growing in a stronger fashion, that will support the consumer in the face of rising gasoline and food costs.”

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State spending cuts slow US economic growth in Q4

State spending cuts slow US economic growth in Q4
Feb. 25, 2011, 10:28 a.m. EST
Article Published by Associated Press Writers
Article Posted Here by Calvin Lee Ledsome Sr.,

WASHINGTON (AP) — Deeper spending cuts by state and local governments weighed down U.S. economic growth in the final three months of last year.

The government’s new estimate for the October-December quarter illustrates how growing state budget crises could hold back the economic recovery.

The Commerce Department reported Friday that economic growth increased at an annual rate of 2.8 percent in the final quarter of last year. That was down from the initial estimate of 3.2 percent.

The weaker figure was disappointing and prompted some economists to lower their forecasts for economic growth in the current January-March quarter.

State and local governments, wrestling with budget shortfalls, cut spending at a 2.4 percent pace. That was much deeper than the 0.9 percent annualized cut first estimated and was the most since the start of 2010.

Consumers spent a little less than first thought. Their spending rose at a rate of 4.1 percent, slightly smaller than the initial estimate of 4.4 percent. Still, it was the best showing since 2006. And it suggests Americans will play a larger role this year in helping the economy grow, especially with more money from a Social Security tax cut.

One of the crucial questions is whether consumers can spend enough this year to help offset negative forces in the economy — notably struggling state and local governments and a wobbly housing market that has depressed homes values.

Rising energy prices also pose a danger. If oil prices were to rise to $150 or more a barrel and then stay there for months, another recession is possible, economists said. Gasoline prices would near $5 a gallon. Consumers and businesses would spend much less, and some employers might slash jobs.

“Consumers stumbled a bit to start the year, and while we expect them to pick up the pace some in coming months, the recent rise in energy prices poses a notable headwind,” said economist Michael Feroli at JP Morgan Chase Bank.

Overall economic growth in the October-December quarter was marginally better than the 2.6 percent pace logged in the prior quarter. The economy has steadily grown after hitting a difficult patch last spring. But rising oil prices and budget cuts by state and local government are creating headwinds.

Feroli and other analysts now predict the economy will grow at a pace around 3.5 percent in the January-March quarter. That’s down from earlier estimates in the 4 percent-plus range.

Government stimulus is fading and budget cuts at the federal level could further hamper economic growth.

The federal government trimmed spending at the end of the year, entirely reflecting cuts to defense spending. And a showdown over the U.S. budget is taking place on Capitol Hill between Democrats and Republicans, threatening a government shutdown.

For all of last year, the economy grew 2.8 percent, the most in five years, according to revised figures. That was down a bit from the 2.9 percent growth first estimated a month ago. However, it was an improvement from 2009 when the economy suffered its worst decline in more than 60 years.

Still, economic growth must be stronger to make a noticeable dent in unemployment, which was 9 percent last month. The economy would need to grow 5 percent for a whole year to significantly bring down the unemployment rate. Economic growth of just 3 percent a year would hold the unemployment steady and keep up with population growth.

Looking ahead the economy is expected to grow by 3.2 percent this year, according to an AP Economy Survey.

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Home prices are hitting new depths in most major U.S. cities – Feb. 22, 2011

Home prices plummet in most big US cities
Feb. 22, 2011, 6:17 p.m. EST
Article Published by Associated Press Writers
Article Posted Here by Public News Blog Posting Service Group

WASHINGTON (AP) — Home prices are hitting new depths in most major U.S. cities and are expected to fall further over the next six months.

In a majority of metro areas tracked by Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller, prices have fallen to their lowest points since the housing bubble burst.

High unemployment, stricter lending rules and fears that prices will continue to fall are among the reasons why few people are buying homes. A rising number of foreclosures are also weighing down prices. And as more people get stuck in depreciating homes, housing could slow the economy.

Across the country, the housing industry is recovering unevenly. Many of the cities now setting new lows have been struggling with high unemployment, more foreclosures and, in some cases, a delayed response to the housing bust in 2006 and 2007.

Homes in more established areas — those that had little room to build during the housing boom — are doing a better job holding their value. Coastal cities in California and Northeast are seeing much smaller price declines. In Washington and San Diego, home prices even rose over the past year.

Still, many people who want to buy can’t. Nearly 25 percent of households cannot move because they owe more on their mortgage than their home is worth, according to Capital Economics. An additional 25 percent can’t qualify for a new mortgage because selling their homes would leave them with too little money for a down payment.

“We’re likely to see new lows hit across most major markets at some point in 2011,” said Mark Vitner, a senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities. “We’re afraid of all this turning into another vicious cycle.”

Housing prices in all but one of the 20 cities tracked by Standard & Poor’s/Case Shiller fell in December from November. And the overall index declined for the sixth straight month. Washington was the only metro area where prices rose month to month.

Eleven of the markets hit their lowest point since the housing bubble burst in 2006 and 2007: Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., Chicago, Detroit, Las Vegas, Miami, New York, Phoenix, Seattle, Tampa, Fla., and Portland, Ore.

The housing sector is struggling even while much of the economy is recovering slowly but steadily. The latest evidence of the divide came Tuesday when the Conference Board said its Consumer Confidence Index rose in February to its highest point in three years. The report suggested that many people are more hopeful about hiring and income gains over the next six months.

By contrast, the outlook for housing this year is dim. Construction of new homes is on pace for little more than half the million units a year that economists consider to be healthy. And the number of vacant homes is near a record high.

Some of the worst declines in home prices are in cities hit hardest by high unemployment and foreclosures. A home that sold for $250,000 in Detroit in 2000, for example, now sells for roughly $163,150, according to the housing report. The unemployment rate there was 11.1 percent.

One in 24 Detroit-area homes with a mortgage was at risk of foreclosure last year, according to foreclosure tracker RealtyTrac Inc. — the fifth highest rate among major cities.

Homes in Las Vegas, on average, have lost more than half their value since 2006. They now sell for less than they did in 2000. The city had a record-high 14.9 percent unemployment rate in December. It also led the nation in foreclosures last year.

Three out of every four sales in southern Nevada are foreclosures or “short sales.” These sales occur when a bank lets a homeowner sell a home for less than what’s owed on the mortgage.

“You can see how many people’s dreams just didn’t make it,” said Karin Wilson, a real estate agent with Century 21 in Las Vegas.

For many, the problem is getting worse. In Phoenix, about 70 percent of all homes with a mortgage were at risk of foreclosure in January, according to the Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service.

The median home price has dropped by half since 2008, to roughly $110,000. Prices in one central Phoenix zip code have plunged 81 percent in the past three years.

In Tampa, foreclosures and short sales dominate the housing market. One in 20 households with a mortgage was at risk of foreclosure last year. Home buyers are mainly interested in distressed properties, real estate agents say.

“They all want to steal them,” said Stephanie LeFew, owner of Tampa Home Buy Realty. “I had someone call me from Australia the other day wanting an inexpensive property for $20,000.”

Tougher lending rules have scared away some potential home-buyers. Banks have been hesitant to extend new credit. Many are demanding that buyers put down a larger down payment. During the housing boom, people in many cases were able to buy homes with little or no money down.

In many depressed markets, a significant percentage of buyers are really investors and private equity firms looking to cash in on cheap real estate, Realtors say.

The federal government is trying to deter this practice, at least in cities hit hardest by foreclosures. In Detroit, the city is using money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to offer suburban homes to police officers with only a $1,000 down payment.

But locals have yet to take advantage. The average home price in Detroit fell 7.5 percent in the October-December quarter, to $73,200, the lowest in the nation, according to

“People don’t qualify for loans anymore, and banks have continued to price homes lower and lower,” said Mike Shannon, a suburban Detroit real estate agent who specializes in foreclosures.

Millions of foreclosures are also expected to flood the market this year. That will force prices still lower. For many, the big question is, when will prices bottom? Some have tried to time their purchases to buy at the bottom. It often hasn’t worked.

Matthew Hartman, a 38-year-old sales manager in Chicago, thought he was getting a steal in 2009 when he bought a four-bedroom house for $395,000. He sold it last month for $370,000.

“We kind of thought that the market was toward the bottom, especially when we moved here in August of last year,” he said. “We thought we got a great deal on this house.”


AP Business Writer Alex Veiga in Los Angeles contributed to this report. Herron reported from New York.

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GOP newcomers test mandate to shrink government

GOP newcomers test mandate to shrink government
Feb. 19, 2011, 7:16 p.m. EST
Article Publish by Associated Press
Article Posted by Public Blog News Posting Service Group

WASHINGTON (AP) — Asked how long the House would need to finish legislation cutting $61 billion in government spending, the most powerful Republican in the land responded wryly. “I don’t know, I’m only the speaker.”

It was a candid acknowledgement from Ohio Rep. John Boehner that the 87 Republican first-term lawmakers who swept the party into power in the House are moving on a path — and at a pace — of their own choosing.

When the leadership brought a bill to the floor to renew parts of the anti-terrorist Patriot Act, it fell short. The leadership regrouped, and the rebels, their questions answered, helped pass the measure on a second try.

When party elders initially drafted a bill to cut spending by $35 billion two weeks ago, the newcomers deemed it too timid.

In office less than two months, the same group of tea party-backed newcomers to Congress provided the muscle for passing the bill early Saturday by a 235-189 vote. The legislation cuts spending across hundreds of programs and eliminates others, kills a costly defense project and aims to block implementation of the year-old health care law, as well as regulations on several industries.

President Barack Obama has pledged to veto it in the unlikely event it passes pass the Democratic-controlled Senate.

It is an article of faith among Democrats that the impatient newcomers will overreach politically and suffer the consequences in the 2012 elections.

“The Republican plan will cost jobs, undercut American innovation and clean energy, jeopardize our safety by taking cops off the street and threaten investments in rebuilding America — at a time when our economy can least afford it,” House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California said.

But less than two months after taking office, Republicans say they have a mandate and sound unflinching as they pledge to carry it out.

“This is about listening to our country, listening to the people who just elected this Congress to restore discipline with respect to our spending,” Rep. Frank Guinta of New Hampshire said Friday as the House debated the spending legislation.

He made the remark shortly before he and like-minded newcomers suffered their sharpest setback, rejection of a proposal to add $22 billion in cuts. It was one of their few losses on the sprawling spending bill that was the focus of debate for nearly a week under rules that allowed the type of free-wheeling debate that had all but vanished in recent years.

Under Boehner’s direction, Republicans opened the floor to hundreds of amendments. More than 100 were debated and voted on, a striking departure from recent years, including when Pelosi and the Democrats held power and tightly controlled floor proceedings.

On the short end of most of the votes, Democrats were privately complimentary, publicly grudging in their acknowledgement. “It’s open, but whether it’s focused … I don’t know whether it’s been productive,” said Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the second-ranking Democratic leader.

At $1.2 trillion, the bill was better known for the cuts that it makes than the money it spends, and for the limitations it places on the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Communications Commission and other regulators.

It calls for eliminating a high-speed rail program that Obama has ticketed for a multibillion-dollar expansion. It recommends ending federal support for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, low-income family planning services and the National Service Corp., which oversees AmeriCorps and Senior Corps.

WIC, which provides nutritional support for women and infants, would be cut by $747 million. Training and employment grants to the states are ticketed for a $1.4 billion reduction. Pell Grants for lower-income college students would drop by $5.6 billion, which the White House says would reduce the maximum $5,550 grant by $845.

The Food and Drug Administration would be cut by $241 million, Community Health Centers by $1 billion, and education aid for disadvantaged students by $700 million. Cleanup efforts in the Great Lakes would take a 53 percent cut.

Defense spending would rise by less than 2 percent, to $674 billion, an amount that includes $158 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But in one striking example of the difference made by the Republican newcomers, the House voted to strip out $450 million to continue work on an alternative engine for the F-35, the Pentagon’s next generation warplane.

Two successive presidents have tried to kill the program, the Pentagon opposes it and a letter from Defense Secretary Robert Gates was used by opponents to swell their ranks in the days before the vote. The last time the House voted, last spring, the money was approved.

The House agreed to block the FCC from enforcing regulations that were opposed by large Internet service providers and to stop the Department of Education from imposing restrictions that privately owned colleges opposed.

The EPA, targeted for a cut of $3 billion, or 29 percent of its current budget, was blocked from regulating greenhouse gases, which are blamed for global warming.

Critics said Republicans were catering to industry at the expense of public health and safety. But in each case, advocates of the prohibitions argued that the regulations would kill jobs.

The debate over jobs, the overriding issue in last fall’s elections, was central to the entire bill.

Republicans said their overriding objective was to cut government spending and block federal regulations so private employers would create jobs and bring down the national 9 percent unemployment rate.

But administration estimates circulated in Congress said the bill’s cut to Head Start would lead to about 55,000 layoffs among teachers and support staff. A reduction in Title I money to schools with disadvantaged students would mean “10,000 teachers and aides could lose their jobs,” the administration said.

Republicans struggled to defend elements of their bill in light of such estimates. GOP lawmakers suggested at one point that spending on those programs had jumped dramatically, then they attacked other Democratic predictions of job losses as unreliable.

Democrats swiftly criticized Boehner when he said at one point that if federal employees lose their jobs as a result of the bill, “so be it.”

He later recast his comment without apologizing or yielding on the spending cuts.

“I don’t want anyone to lose their job, whether they’re a federal employee or not,” Boehner said. “But come on, we’re broke. We’ve got to make the tough decisions, and the American people sent their representatives here to Washington to make tough decisions on their behalf.”

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Obama to call for $53B for high-speed rail – ultimately creating tens of thousands of jobs in the U.S.

Feb. 8, 2011, 4:42 p.m. EST
Article Published by Associated Press Writer
Article Posted by Public Blog News Posting Service Group

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is calling for a six-year, $53 billion spending plan for high-speed rail, as he seeks to use infrastructure spending to jump-start job creation.

An initial $8 billion in spending will be part of the budget plan Obama is set to release Monday. If Congress approves the plan, the money would go toward developing or improving trains that travel up to 250 mph, and connecting existing rail lines to new projects.

The White House wouldn’t say where the money for the rest of the program would come from, though it’s likely Obama would seek funding in future budgets or transportation bills.

Obama’s push for high-speed rail spending is part of his broad goal of creating jobs in the short-term and increasing American competitiveness for the future through new funding for infrastructure, education and innovation. During last month’s State of the Union address, Obama said he wanted to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail within 25 years.

At the same time he’s calling for new spending on sectors like high-speed rail in the upcoming budget, Obama also has pledged to cut overall spending as he seeks to bring down the nation’s mounting deficit.

The White House has said environmental programs for the Great Lakes, and block grants for community service and community development are among the programs that will face cuts.

But it’s unlikely the cuts Obama proposes in the budget will be enough to appease the GOP. Republicans now controlling the House have promised to slash domestic agencies’ budgets by nearly 20 percent for the coming year.

The White House has said cuts must be cautious, arguing that drastic reductions in spending could cause the still-fragile economic recovery to stall. Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday the administration wouldn’t compromise when it comes to spending on the infrastructure, education and innovation programs Obama is touting.

“We cannot compromise. The rest of the world is not compromising,” Biden said in Philadelphia at an event announcing the high-speed rail initiative.

Obama’s call for increased spending on high-speed rail projects is nothing new. He’s long seen the sector as an area of opportunity for creating jobs and improving the nation’s transportation system.

His administration awarded $10 billion in federal grants for high-speed rail projects last year, including $2.3 billion for California to begin work on an 800-mile-long, high-speed rail line tying Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay area to Los Angeles and San Diego; and $1.25 billion to Florida to build a rail line connecting Tampa on the West Coast with Orlando in the middle of the state, eventually going south to Miami.

Obama also laid out a plan last summer to invest $50 billion in high-speed rail, as well as highways, bridges, transit and airports, adding it to the first year of a six-year transportation bill.

Congress didn’t act on the proposal before adjourning last year, but Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said he’s confident lawmakers will take up the measure again and deliver a bill to Obama by August.

Thus far, Obama’s plans to increase spending on high-speed rail have received a chilly a reception from Republicans. House Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica, R-Fla., urged the administration Tuesday to focus its spending on the crowded Northeast rail corridor, and not “squander limited taxpayer dollars on marginal projects.”

Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor, the second-ranking House Republican, urged the administration to involve the business community in its high-speed rail plans.

“I’m not in favor of additional monies that we don’t have, to be spent on those projects, and would certainly look for ways to leverage the private sector to get it involved,” Cantor said.

The White House said the six-year rail plan would include strong “Buy America” requirements that attract private sector investment in developing and operating passenger lines, and would ultimately create tens of thousands of jobs in the U.S.


Associated Press Writers Joan Lowy and Alan Fram contributed to this report.

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Obama, Chamber of Commerce look for common ground

Feb. 7, 2011, 3:20 a.m. EST
Published by Associated Press
Posted by Public Blog News Posting Service

WASHINGTON (AP) — After two years of vociferous conflict over
health care and financial regulations, President Barack Obama and the
nation’s top business lobby — the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — have
entered into something of a detente.

Obama is scheduled to deliver a speech Monday at the Chamber,
a first for him. Not four months ago, he had attacked the huge,
Republican-leaning trade organization for failing to disclose donors to
its $32 million congressional political campaign. “Their lips are
sealed,” Obama said at the time, “but the floodgates are open.”

The White House and the Chamber now are highlighting areas of
common ground and expressing a joint commitment to creating jobs. Obama
has stressed his new economic agenda, featuring competitiveness,
innovation, energy and entrepreneurship.

Disagreements linger and are
no less vehement, but they no longer are the subject of loud
legislative battles and big-dollar advertising campaigns by the Chamber.

White House officials say Obama’s speech will not break new
policy ground, nor will he offer an olive branch. But in his radio and
Internet address Saturday, Obama said he planned to tell businesses
they have an obligation to stay in the United States, hire American
workers and invest in the nation’s future.

The speech — part nudge, part courtship — is a message to
business that is hardly limited to the Chamber of Commerce. Obama met
with some of the nation’s top 20 executives in December, gently
prodding them to get cash off their balance sheets and use it to create

Also in December, he negotiated a compromise with Republicans on
tax cuts that won him some grudging boardroom support.

It wasn’t always so. During his first two years as president,
Obama was known to play a populist hand, referring to bankers as “fat
cats,” rebuking corporate lobbyists and casting the insurance industry
as an antagonist in the health care debate.

So bitter were the fights,
they overshadowed areas of solid agreement, including the Chamber’s
support of Obama’s 2009 economic stimulus plan and the bailout of
automakers General Motors and Chrysler.

“What’s changed now? I would use four words,” U.S. Chamber of
Commerce President Thomas Donohue said in an interview with The
Associated Press. “The election has changed.”

The Republican wave in the November election wrested control
of the House of Representatives from the Democrats.

It created a need
for more compromise in the legislative process and for the type of
outreach Obama did not seek — and Republicans did not offer — when
Democrats were in total control.

Obama needs the centrist cloak that the business community
offers. The Chamber can benefit by softening the sharp edges it
developed fighting the health care overhaul and tighter financial rules.

Both sides need each other for policy, as well.

The Chamber
can help the Obama administration win congressional support of trade
deals, particularly a recently renegotiated pact with South Korea.

Both the White House and the Chamber face Republican opposition

to increased
spending on public works, from roads and bridges to wireless networks.

On trade, on infrastructure and — mostly — on regulations,
Donohue said, companies want certainty from the government.

“The reason the companies are sitting on $2 trillion worth of
cash is because of uncertainty,” he said.

Obama long has had allies in the private sector. He has given
corporate CEOs advisory roles, and throughout his first two years, he
held periodic lunches with executives at the White House.

But until
now, he had not brought them into his inner circle.

Last month, that changed. Obama named Bill Daley, a former
commerce secretary and JPMorgan Chase executive, as his chief of staff.
He promoted Gene Sperling, a known quantity to the business community,
as his new chief economic adviser.

He gave high-profile assignments to
General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt and AOL founder Steve Case.

In one of his first calls in his new post, Sperling called
Donohue, who welcomed him with characteristic bluntness: “Glad to have
someone over there I’m comfortable sparring with at 10 a.m. and sitting
down with at 2 p.m. to work on policy.”

The story, confirmed by White House and Chamber officials,
helps illustrate the 2011 version of this relationship.

Donohue also saw Daley’s appointment as a positive signal.

“Daley is a big-time Democrat, but he’s a sound guy,” Donohue
said. “He knows how the town works, he knows how business works. He
knows how the system works.”

Still, the Chamber can be a sharp-elbowed foe.

“The Chamber is an enormously sophisticated Washington insider
organization and is run by very conservative Republican operatives, for
the most part,” said Matt Bennett, a vice president at the centrist but
Democratic-leaning Third Way. “That relationship is always going to be
more difficult than the broader outreach to business.”

But the joint focus these days is jobs. In front of the 10
massive Corinthian columns that grace the front of the Chamber’s
building, Donohue has authorized the placement of giant banners that
spell out J-O-B-S.

The letters are visible from the White House through the bare
winter trees of Lafayette Square — offering both a sign of common
purpose and a reminder to the White House occupant of the 9 percent
unemployment rate that still bedevils him.


Warmest regards,
Owner Calvin L. Ledsome Sr.,

Posted by Public Blog News Posting Service


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