President Barack Obama's US$825 billion economic stimulus package got the enthusiastic endorsement Wednesday of IBM CEO and Chairman Sam Palmisano and other business leaders.
Before Palmisano, and other executives, including David Cote, chairman and CEO of Honeywell International Inc., trooped out for a White House press briefing, the group held what Obama described as a "sober meeting, because these companies and the workers they employ are going through times more trying than any that we've seen in a long, long while," according to a White House transcript.
With Obama looking on, Palmisano went to the podium to say that "bold and aggressive steps are needed of both business and government working together to address what's required to move the worldwide economies."
Palmisano said he has been in contact with others corporate leaders and found "there is a unanimous commitment and support of the president. We all agree we need to reignite growth in our country. The CEO further stated, "We need to undertake projects that actually will create jobs and make our infrastructure and make our country much more competitive for the long term."
IBM hasn't officially announced any layoffs. The company has made job cuts in the past two weeks, more than 4000, according to the Alliance@IBM, a labor group. But IBM says those cuts are part of its ongoing adjustment to business needs. Its corporate career site lists more than 3200 vacancies, from professional posts to entry level jobs, with 570 of those jobs in the U.S. Employment at IBM has been growing year-to-year and the company has more than 400,000 workers worldwide.
Among the items Palmisano cited in the stimulus bill were health care IT spending and a $30 billion proposed for expanded broadband deployment. "We know that $30 billion could create a million jobs in the next 12 months," he said.
"It is an imperative that business and government come together. We help the president get the package through, and we get the work, and we have a lot of work ahead of us," Palmisano said.
Obama, in his remarks, said that "part of what led our economy to this perilous moment was a sense of irresponsibility that prevailed in Wall Street and in Washington. And that's why I called for a new era of responsibility in my inaugural address last week, an era where each of us chips in so that we can climb our way out of this crisis - executives and factory floor workers, educators and engineers, health care professionals and elected officials."
The president said "corporate America will have to accept its own responsibilities to its workers and the American public."
The administration says its stimulus package will create or save as many as 4 million jobs.