The Next Economy and the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness

During a recent appearance on BBC World News, Bruce Katz discussed the appointment of Jeffrey Immelt to head President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. Katz believes that Immelt, a CEO from General Electric, will help usher a shift toward an export-driven and innovation-fueled economy.

BBC World News Host: A chief executive of General Electric, Jeffrey Immelt, is to head up President Obama’s new Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. This new panel replaces one that was led by the former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker. It’s tasked with speeding up economic growth. President Obama will be hoping for some decisive action from Mr. Immelt – a new poll shows that more than half of Americans disapprove of the way the president is handling the economy.

Joining us from the Brookings Institution in Washington is Bruce Katz. What do you think the difference is going to be between the two people, between Volcker and now [Immelt], and also the difference between the organizations which they’re running?

Bruce Katz: I think it means a shift in emphasis and policy focus. I think Jeff Immelt has been one of the most articulate CEOs in the United States, calling for a different kind of U.S. economy. From one characterized by debt and consumption, pre-recession, to one that’s driven by exports and clean energy, innovation and skilled workers. So there’s going to be a fundamental difference in which policies I think begin to galvanize the Washington policy community and spread out to states and metropolitan areas in the United States.

Host: That’s a really interesting idea. I hadn’t thought of the idea that you have a pre-recession America and a post-recession America and the two are different. What do you do to create that new American economy, in concrete terms?

Katz: I think we need to set a platform for a different kind of growth. That means trade. That means investment in advanced research and development, both public and private. That means investment in transformative infrastructure, energy and transport in particular. That means overhauling immigration and dealing with skills and education. Immelt represents that kind of corporate leader. The first two years of Obama’s presidency has focused on stabilizing the economy, dealing with financial restructuring, obviously health care. Now we need to move toward these more proactive interventions to set a platform for growth going forward.