The Chamber of Commerce versus the Business Roundtable

The Financial Times:

Amex chief calls for jobs taskforce

By Francesco Guerrera and Suzanne Kapner in New York

Published: December 5 2010 22:00

Ken Chenault, the chief executive of American Express, has called for an alliance of business leaders and politicians to find concrete ways to create millions of jobs in the US and kick-start the anaemic economic recovery.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Chenault, who has met frequently with President Barack Obama and his aides, proposed a special commission to set a target for new jobs and specific measures to reduce stubbornly high unemployment.

“I’d like to see an industry taskforce between the public and private sectors to determine what businesses need to create jobs,” he said. He added that it would be essential for any public-private taskforce to set a specific target and a timeframe for the new jobs in order to force government and business to take tangible steps to reduce unemployment.

Mr Chenault’s proposal was given added urgency by Friday’s official figures showing that employers added fewer-than-expected jobs in November, pushing the unemployment rate to 9.8 per cent of the workforce.

The call for a truce between the White House, which has attacked companies’ reluctance to invest in the economy, and a business community that has been calling for more government help, was echoed in other parts of corporate America.

The Business Roundtable, the trade organisation for some of the largest US companies including Amex, said Mr Chenault’s proposal was “very intriguing” and could be debated at a meeting of its members this week. The White House declined to comment.

Mr Chenault, whose company collects data on millions of retail transactions, said that high unemployment was the biggest obstacle to a faster economic recovery.

In America, there are very wealthy nihilists but there are also very wealthy realists. Chenault and his supporters in the realist camp could reform not just the American economy (leaning on a Congress that is all too clearly for rent), but also the Republican Party which has lost the plot, entirely.