Obama: Debt fight hinders jobs growth

@CNNMoney June 13, 2011: 2:02 PM ET

WASHINGTON (CNNMoney) -- President Obama listened to dozens of jobs-spurring recommendations suggested by his jobs council Monday -- and then he made one himself on deficits and debt.

"We need to solve our medium and long-term debt problems, not just for abstract reasons, but because they're a concrete impediment to growth and jobs," Obama said at the second meeting of the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.

The jobs council met in Durham, N.C., to discuss different ideas for jobs creation, which mostly revolved around things the federal government can do to speed up or cull back regulation of private businesses.

The meeting came 10 days after a disappointing May jobs report, and heightened criticism lobbed by both parties against each other that leaders aren't doing enough on job growth.

The president said finding a way to cut mounting federal deficits would help private businesses feel more secure about the future, so they will be more likely to invest more on jobs.

Obama also took a swipe at Congress, noting that most of the suggestions his jobs council offered were things that private industry or the executive office could do that wouldn't require congressional action.

"It sends a message to Congress that we shouldn't have to work around Congress," Obama said. "Regardless of whatever political camp you're in, there are some common sense ideas that we can all embrace and that should not be subject to political gamesmanship."

For example, jobs council members suggested speeding up the permitting process for construction projects. But the president noted there's only so much power the executive office has on that sort of thing, since local communities get a say on what gets built in their neighborhoods.

U.S. workers need more training - GE chief

Obama said he had heard the U.S. ranks low among nations on the speed at which a project gets to the construction stage.

"That's not very good," he said. "There's a way to maintain our environmental standards and make sure communities have a voice -- and not just have layer upon layer of bureaucracy tying things up." But Obama didn't offer any specifics as to how to balance the two competing goals.

General Electric (GE, Fortune 500) CEO Jeff Immelt, who heads the job panel, talked about partnerships that private industry can make with community colleges to help train students for manufacturing jobs.

Southwest Airlines (LUV, Fortune 500) Chief Executive Gary Kelly suggested that upgrading the nation's air traffic control system could help airlines trim 15% of their costs.

"We want to grow, we want to buy more airplanes, but we're not just generating sufficient profits to make those kinds of investments," Kelly said.

But upgrading the air traffic control system would cost a lot of money, and would require Congress to loosen its purse strings.

Obama said such investments are worth it.

"As we move forward, distinguishing between smart investments and dumb investments -- it's not something that's often highlighted in these debates," Obama said.  To top of page

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