May 10, 2011; Source: Dayton Daily News | President Obama appointed Jeff Immelt, the CEO of General Electric, as chair of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. He and Darlene Miller, CEO of Permac Industries and a member of the Council, penned an op-ed outlining the four priorities of the 26-member Council:

  1. To identify and “eliminate regulations and impediments that restrain small business” and to “grow small businesses through partnerships with large businesses” (The authors cite GE as an example);
  2. To make improvements at “the intersection of education and innovation,” including “developing a road map to graduate 10,000 more engineers” annually;
  3. To “win…in global markets” through increasing exports; and
  4. To “improv(e) collaboration between government and business with regard to regulation.”

Immelt and Miller say that the Council will be “truly an all-hands-on-deck effort” run “like a business, with a heavy emphasis on deliverables, transparency and metrics.” That’s sort of a rib-tickler, since GE paid no federal taxes in 2010 despite profits of $14.2 billion. GE ascribes its ability to escape what should have been its 35 percent tax bracket to losses at GE Financial, but most experts say that it was because that $9 billion of GE’s total profits were earned off-shore.

Entirely missing in action is the role of the nonprofit sector as a component of the nation’s economic engine. The authors say that the Council is a “a partnership of business, government, labor and academia,” presumably the latter containing an occasional nonprofit, but they show no recognition of the employment-generating role of the nonprofit sector – counted differently in various sources, but as high as 15 million in an HHS study – or its crucial role in linking people to jobs, providing skill-building and employability training, creating community-based employment opportunities, and more.

Like other corporate bigwigs on the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, Immelt is undoubtedly a charitable and philanthropic donor; he would have to be, since his compensation package, despite the company’s zero in taxes, doubled to $15.2 million in 2010 including a 40 percent bonus.

As a philanthropic donor, he ought to recognize the nonprofit sector as not only a service provider for families in need, but a crucial component of the nation’s economic engine. Ignore the nonprofit sector and you shortchange workers and the potential for a more robust economic recovery.—Rick Cohen