INSIGHT: Obama's jobs plan on same page as Liveris book

13 September 2011 17:36  [Source: ICIS news]

By Al Greenwood

President ObamaHOUSTON (ICIS)--If Barack Obama's jobs plan had a ghost writer, the author would likely be Andrew Liveris, CEO of Dow Chemical.

The president's proposal to create jobs shares many points that Liveris made in his book Make It In America: The Case for Re-Inventing the Economy, published early this year.

In it, Liveris wrote that the US must re-invent its manufacturing base to bolster the country's long-term economic health.

Liveris certainly has had opportunities to influence the president, who appointed the CEO co-chairman of the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership.

If Liveris influenced the president, it would be hard to tell, based on the president's recent speech about the jobs programme. Obama mentions neither Liveris nor his book.

Regardless, the Dow CEO apparently liked what he heard.

"I applaud President Obama for giving the economy and jobs the attention it so clearly demands," Liveris said in a statement. "The President’s proposals deserve a rich debate, and we urge Congress to rapidly consider and adopt those aspects that will have the most immediate impact to boost the economy and grow American jobs."

Although Liveris's book focused on manufacturing - and not on jobs - it still made several points that appeared in Obama's plan.

In it, Obama proposed a $447bn (€331bn) legislative package that would extend federal unemployment benefits, cut employer and worker payroll taxes still further, provide stimulus funding for infrastructure projects and send federal money to state governments to save jobs for teachers, police departments and fire-fighters.

Obama also proposed an infrastructure programme, which would "set up an independent fund to attract private dollars and issue based on two criteria: how badly a construction project is needed and how much good it would do for the economy".

Likewise, Liveris proposed a non-partisan national infrastructure bank that would fund projects.

Liveris and Obama both proposed that the US should complete its pending free-trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea.

Obama called for an engineering training programme ­- something that could address Liveris's worries that the US is not creating enough engineers and scientists to meet demand from the economy.

Regarding regulations, Obama made the broad comment that "we're also planning to cut away the red tape that prevents too many rapidly growing start-up companies from raising capital and going public".

Liveris made similar ­- although more precise - comments about regulatory reform in his book. The US has too many contradicting regulations between state and federal government, between federal agencies and between states.

Those regulations are making it harder for companies to expand, he said.

Like Liveris, Obama also wants to lower the nation's corporate tax rate, one of the highest in the world.

Liveris noted many of these proposals in his statement. Specifically, he praised the jobs plan's emphasis on free trade and infrastructure.

However, Obama avoided some of the key points made in the Liveris book.

The president did not mention the nation's immigration policies, which Liveris said must be changed to allow more engineers and scientists into the country.

Obama also left out the nation's research and development (R&D) tax credit programme, which Liveris said should be permanent instead of subject to periodic approval.

Liveris was more supportive of renewable energy, and he proposed a four-point programme to promote the industry.

Obama made just one reference to renewable energy in his speech ­­- a general statement that the US can be the nation to build advanced biofuels.

More significantly, Obama did not propose incentives for the energy industry, be it offshore drilling or shale-gas production.

Energy is another important part of Liveris's book, since increased supplies would reduce costs for US manufacturers. He proposed that the US needs to increase energy efficiency and natural gas production.

Although Liveris praised Obama's plan in a statement, the president's lack of any energy incentives drew criticism from several trade groups.

They also questioned how Obama would find the money to fund his jobs programme.

Other challenges remain. Obama did not elaborate on how he would address many of the points Liveris brought up in his book.

Plus, Obama must manage to get his bill approved by a Congress that was barely capable of raising the nation's debt ceiling on time and of avoiding default on the nation's debt.

Unless Congress gives its approval, Obama's and Liveris's plans will share one more thing in common: they will be two proposals that never became law.

($1 = €0.74)

Paul Hodges studies key influencers shaping the chemical industry in Chemicals and the Economy

By: Al Greenwood
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