January 23, 2011

White House Appointments of Immelt, Daley Bring Mixed Reaction From Analysts

Choices are said to be a move in the right direction

On Sunday’s This Week with Christiane Amanpour on CNN, a discussion of President Obama’s latest appointments as he reshuffled his staff brought favorable and unfavorable comments from guests.

Maureen Dowd, a liberal columnist for The New York Times, when asked what she thought about the appointments of Jeffrey Immelt and Bill Daley as economic advisor and chief of staff, respectively, said that their selection “did send a message to the business community that [the president is] going to give some level of competence on the economy.”

Political journalist George Will said Immelt’s appointment, as head of a new council on jobs and competitiveness, “paid off” in that it lowered Obama’s identification as a liberal with American voters. “The percent of the American population that identifies the president as a liberal has declined 10 points in two months. That's astonishing,” he said, adding that the loss of blue-collar white voters from the Democratic Party had been steady since the 1960s and “this is the way to get them back.”

Paul Krugman, a Nobel Prize-winning economist and liberal columnist for the The New York Times, wasn’t so cheered by Obama’s choices. He said that competitiveness was a bad metaphor, and when Amanpour asked why, since “America is all about competition,” Krugman said it wasn’t.

The country is not a corporation,” he replied. “You know, a CEO who manages to lay off a large part of his workforce and increase profits is a success. Well, America has managed to lay off a large part of its workforce and profits are hitting new records, and that is not a success. So these are not similar.”

He went on to say that it was more of a way to appear business-friendly than to woo back blue-collar voters “by appointing to a not very important, but still a symbolic government post the CEO of a company which has most of its workers outside the United States, earns most of its profits outside the United States, and is now these days more of a financial firm than it is a manufacturing firm, in reality, was a major recipient of bailout funds.”

Asked about the cash being held by corporations, and whether the president can “coax that out of them,” Krugman said that if people really looked at what corporations were saying when asked about their prospects, the reason they were holding cash wasn’t due to fear of government regulations or taxes. “They're saying, 'why should I expand my plant when I can't even sell the capacity ... that I've got right now?' "

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