By Kevin Bogardus - 09/07/09 07:49 PM EDT
Bloom’s background and new position differs from the two czars
who served under President George W. Bush. Bloom is a former union
official and remains close to leaders in organized labor. His two
predecessors were businessmen.
Bush’s manufacturing czars
also were placed in the Commerce Department, where they were considered
to have little sway in the administration.
Bloom already has a few wins under
his belt, which should further serve to increase his influence. He was
a fierce advocate of the “cash for clunkers” program — which offered
consumers subsidies for trading in gas-guzzlers for more fuel-efficient
vehicles. And he gets kudos for quickly steering General Motors and
Chrysler through bankruptcy as the auto task force chief.
now will work closely with the White House as a senior counselor for
manufacturing policy to the National Economic Council, which
coordinates domestic economic policy. He will also stay on as the head
of the auto task force, which is based in the Treasury Department, the
White House said.
“He is in a position to come up with creative ideas and can marshal the resources behind them,” said Ross Eisenbrey, vice president of the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank. “It is a place that these other guys who were off in Commerce never came too close to.”
Working with the National
Economic Council, Bloom’s reach will stretch beyond Commerce to the
Energy, Labor and Treasury departments, Eisenbrey said.
But Bloom also faces a big challenge in revitalizing a sector devastated by the recession.
a report issued last week showed growth in the sector for the first
time in 19 months, unemployment levels remain high.
The overall rate stands at 9.7 percent, the highest level since 1983.
U.S. manufacturers reported 63,000 lost jobs in August, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Bloom’s appointment won instant backing from unions, and was also hailed by some business groups.
are thrilled with this appointment. It is a great choice for this job,”
said Thea Lee, policy director for the AFL-CIO. “Ron Bloom brings a
great depth and expertise to this position.”
Bloom was a
former special assistant to the president of the United Steelworkers
Union and also worked for the Service Employees International Union.
But the aide also has experience with Wall Street, working for investment bank Lazard Freres & Co.
[National Association of Manufacturers (NAM)] is pleased the Obama
administration is appointing a manufacturing adviser to serve as a part
of the National Economic Council,” said an NAM spokeswoman in a
statement. “We look forward to working with Ron Bloom on important
issues to strengthen our world’s largest manufacturing economy.”
said Bloom should work on lowering tax burdens and reducing regulatory
costs for manufacturers, and that he should look for ways to expand the
domestic energy supply, maintain a skilled workforce and expand the
innovative capacity of manufacturing.
Given those broad
challenges, “it makes sense to have a senior policy position focused on
manufacturing in the White House,” the spokeswoman said.
Lee hopes Bloom will help reverse several policies she believes have hampered manufacturing.
also expects Bloom to have a major role in the debate over climate
change legislation. There is widespread concern among industrial-state
senators that a cap on carbon dioxide will hurt the manufacturing
sector by pushing jobs overseas to countries with lower energy costs.
“buy American” provisions that favor homegrown products and tax credits
for domestic industry, such as the steel manufacturers, need to be
included in the final bill in order to offset potential job losses, Lee
said. That should secure the votes of several industrial-state
Democrats for the bill.
“If it is not done right, [President
Obama] could lose those votes,” Lee said. “Those are precisely the
kinds of things a manufacturing czar should focus on.”