Some of the nation’s top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals offer some insight into the biggest question burning up the blogosphere today.

Today’s question:

Will today’s jobs summit help President Barack Obama politically or highlight a weakness?

Sen. Ted Kaufman (D-Del.) said:

After 36 years in Washington I can’t be accused of being naive, but I think the point of a job summit is to get jobs. It may highlight a weakness, but he’s going to do everything he can, and not for political reasons. 

The hardest thing in the world is to come home to your spouse and kids and say you lost your job. I know the president feels that, I feel that, and every senator feels that. This is a tragedy. If I were President of the United States right now, my number-one concern would be getting more jobs. If I could get a bunch of people together to help me get jobs and help me politically, I’d do it, and you’d do it to. And I assume that’s what the president’s doing today.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (D-Alaska) said:

I don’t hold a lot of hope for the job summit.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said

I didn’t hear how the summit is structured, but I can say it is very important for this administration and for Congress to focus on job creation. Economist believe the recession is over, but that doesn’t mean balloons are popping on Main Street — actually, the opposite is happening. We’ve got to focus on creating jobs on Main Street and the way to do that is with strategic policy shifted to helping small businesses and entrepreneurs. That is what I will contribute to the job summit as chair of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee.

I don’t see how Obama can be hurt by it. I think it’s good he’s letting the American people know he knows our challenge is to create more jobs at home. There are exciting opportunities in this healthcare bill that will create opportunities for lots of entrepreneurs…and there are extraordinary opportunities in natural gas. If we can connect the jobs piece to the energy piece — I think the president can do that, and it will be a very good victory for him.

Michelle D. Bernard, president and CEO of the Independent Women’s Forum, said:

The “Jobs Summit” isn’t going to make a difference to President Obama’s political fortunes. Unemployed Americans aren’t going to feel better just because the president has shown that he’s concerned about the job situation, but he also won’t be hurt by reminding the public of a “weakness”–everyone is plenty aware of the dismal economy and alarming number of un- and under-employed.
The president and the congressional majority will be judged in the next election on their ability to actually improve the economy. These politicians should waste little time on photo ops and other PR stunts. They need to focus exclusively on advancing policies that will encourage private sector hiring (reducing regulations, streamlining the tax code, and signing new free trade agreements would be a place to start). This isn’t something you can fake. The American people want — and will judge their leaders on — the results.

Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist and a Pundits Blog contributor, said:

People who look at this seriously will note that we now have an Administration which takes job creation seriously.

Armstrong Williams, Pundits Blog contributor, said:

The American public is now bracing for another smack in the face, with the $787 billion stimulus package promised to create 3 million jobs over two years. The President’s job summit today is just another disappointment to Americans who fell for his rhetoric and drank the kool-aid. Many of whom thought their hard earned tax dollars were going to be spent on alleviating their hardships only to find their dilemma is dramatically worst.

It is obvious unclear exactly how our President will deliver on his pledge, or whom or what will benefit from this Public Relations summit. But one thing is clear: the usual suspect is the enemy -private industry. Although senior advisor to the administration, Valerie Jarrett, claims they need the cooperation of the private industry, they are definitely blocking major trade associations. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is expected to support export increasing policy, was never invited to participate. Just unbelievable!

But, of course the unions will be well represented at today’s highly touted event. Reality check: those sane Americans that still have a basic understanding of economics 101 realize that the private industry with unions is private in name only. When bureaucracy is incorporated into the industry equation, market forces are inhibited from playing out. Therefore, one has to assert that union jobs and government jobs are without question one in the same.

As this drama worsens with each changing scene, the summit will supposedly revive failing aspects of the economy where money from the stimulus package was designated for spending. Have you now reached the conclusion that the American people deserve to know what happened to the $787 billion stimulus package?

Isn’t it ironic that the Obama administration continues to recklessly spend the tax payers dollars as fuel to fuel a fire that will only keep those closest to this administration warm.

Dean Baker, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said:

The key point to keep in mind is that there are no elections right now. In fact, there are no elections for another 11 months. What is going to matter for Obama and the Democrats is what the economy looks like in November, not what people write about the jobs summit today. For most people, this will mean jobs.

Jobs are the measure of the economy for the vast majority of the American people. They don’t see GDP growth. This is a statistic collected by bureaucrats in the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

While stock market movements are the economy for the small group of relatively well-off people who comprise the country’s punditry, in reality, they have very little to do with the economy. A relatively small segment of the population has any substantial stock holdings so most people will get little or no benefit from an increase in stock prices. The market itself fluctuates hugely for reasons that have nothing to do with the strength of the economy. Discussions of the stock market are probably better placed on the sports pages than in an analysis of the economy.

For most people, the economy means jobs. If the country sees the jobs being created by November, they will be in a much better mood toward the party in power. On the other hand, the baseline projections from the Congressional Budget Office, the Federal Reserve Board, and most private forecasters show the unemployment rate continuing to rise well into 2010. While it may peak before November, any improvement by election day will be too small for anyone to notice.

There are actions that President Obama and Congress can take. The most obvious is using work-sharing tax credits to get companies to have people work shorter hours rather than laying off workers. This has worked incredibly well in Germany, where there has been no increase in unemployment, even though their downturn was steeper than ours.

There are 2 million workers laid off each month. If work-sharing tax credits (like one proposed by Representative Conyers) can reduce this figure by 10 percent, or 200,000 a month, it would be the equivalent of generating almost 2.5 million new jobs by election day.

There are things that can be done to create jobs and improve the economy. President Obama and Congress just have to stop letting the Washington punditry scare them.

Bill Press, host of the Bill Press Show, said:

First and foremost, the “Jobs Summit” is important for America. The official unemployment may be 10.2 percent, the actual rate is closer to 18 percent. Almost two out of 10 American families see no paycheck in sight. That must be turned around if we are ever going to see any real economic recovery. As for Obama… If actions follow words, if new jobs are created, if unemployment starts to fall, it will be a big boost to Obama and Democrats in 2010. If not, there’ll be hell to pay.

John F. McManus, president of The John Birch Society, said:

Meaningful jobs are created by manufacturers, not by governments. In fact, wealth should be known as productivity, the creation of goods from the raw materials of the earth. A nation is wealthy when its people are engaged in manufacturing, but America has lost close to half its manufacturing jobs during the past three decades. The chief impediment to wealth production is always government — with its taxation and regulatory burdens. Most of these impediments are not faced in such competitors as China. If Mr. Obama does not lead an effort to reverse government’s job-destroying policies, he should certainly be hurt politically. But, sadly, fewer and fewer Americans realize that government is the real reason why job are disappearing here at home.

Justin Raimondo, editorial director of, said:

The study of history teaches us there is very little that is new under the sun – and that goes for “job summits.”

There are two ways to deal with the economic depression – and it is a depression, not a recession, when the real rate of unemployment hits over 10 percent, as it has. The first is the classical laissez-faire solution: Let the bubble burst, and the market will liquidate the inflated estimates of value that have been pumped up by the arbitrary expansion of bank credit (engineered by the Federal Reserve). This method has been rejected by the present administration, as well as the previous one, in pursuit of the second solution, which is massive government intervention designed to re-inflate the bubble. Readers may be surprised to learn that the administration of Herbert Hoover, often condemned as standing by and doing nothing as the first Great Depression collapsed the U.S. economy, chose the same course: that is, government intervention. Aside from initiating a massive public works program, one of the first things the Hoover administration did was to inaugurate a – you guessed it! – Jobs Summit. As the economist Murray N. Rothbard described it in America’s Great Depression:

“All the great industrial leaders of the country were there, including such men as Henry Ford, Julius Rosenwald, Walter Teagle of Standard Oil, Matthew Sloan, Owen D. Young, Edward Grace, Alfred P. Sloan, Jr., Pierre DuPont, and William Butterworth. The businessmen asked Hoover to stimulate the cooperation of government and industry. Hoover pointed out to them that unemployment had already reached two to three million, that a long depression might ensue, and that wages must be kept up! Hoover explained that immediate “liquidation” of labor had been the industrial policy of previous depressions; that his every instinct was opposed to both the term and the policy, for labor was not a commodity: it represented human homes. . . . Moreover, from an economic viewpoint such action would deepen the depression by suddenly reducing purchasing power.”

The idea was to make this kind of cooperation between government and business appear “voluntary,” but the implicit threat of coercion was ever present. If the barons of industry didn’t keep wages up, and start investing in new projects, the government would force their hand. Hoover held a series of such “job summits,” which all resulted in declarations from the assembled industrial leaders – including union chieftains – that they would do their “patriotic” duty to re-inflate the economy so that “great hardship and economic and social difficulties would be avoided,” as one such declaration read. Yet it was all to no avail, as we now know: the Depression only deepened, in part due to the very efforts Hoover was so instrumental in initiating. The malinvesttment occasioned by the bubble economy had to be sweated out, or otherwise liquidated – it could not be ignored. So, good luck with that “Jobs Summit,” Mr. Obama – because you’re going to need it.

Tad DeHaven, budget analyst at The Cato Institute, said:

The so-called “jobs summit” is more political theater. Scheduled to attend are economists, union leaders and business leaders who supported the president’s failed stimulus package and who will simply recommend more government spending. In other words, the event isn’t a jobs summit, it’s an echo chamber.

It bears repeating that the government cannot simply wave a magic wand and “create” jobs. Every dime the government spends trying to boost employment has to be taxed or borrowed out of economy. There is no free lunch.

Perhaps the White House should start listening to the entrepreneurs and businesses shedding employees or not hiring because they’re worried about the administration’s agenda. Potential health care mandates, higher energy costs due to climate change legislation, new burdensome regulations, and potential tax increases to pay for the government’s rising debt could make hiring cost prohibitive.

Anna Burger, secretary-treasurer of SEIU, said:

Our jobs crisis didn’t happen overnight. And it didn’t happen by accident. ??

We’re paying the price for a system that for too long valued wealth over work, ignored the warning signs of crisis, and failed to meet the new challenges of the 21st century. Eighty years ago, we found ourselves facing similar challenges. A reckless financial system crashed our economy — leaving millions without jobs, without homes, and without hope. ??But we know what happened next. ??President Roosevelt created the New Deal and he did it by empowering Frances Perkins to shake things up across government and business. She worked around the clock to not only put people back to work — but to build an entirely new economy. ??She focused on innovative public works programs to put millions of people back to work quickly and efficiently. And she ensured workers could share in the productivity of a growing new economy by protecting their freedom to join unions-laying the foundation for the greatest middle class the world has ever seen.

If we are going to come out of our current crisis stronger and better prepared for the challenges of a 21st century economy, we need someone to take charge, to focus — 24/7 — on job creation until we see results. ??It’s time for President Obama to empower the 21st century Francis Perkins, someone to speak for him and someone who has the authority across government to shake things up. It’s time to create a country that works for all of us. And that starts with jobs.  ?Creating jobs isn’t rocket science. We just need the political will, courage and determination to make it happen. ??Now it’s time to get to work.

  1. We need to extend the safety net, including increasing unemployment insurance and expanding work sharing programs to provide unemployment benefits for reduced hours of work. and
  2. We need to use TARP funds to increase credit for small businesses.
  3. Federal fiscal relief to states and local governments needs to be expanded to save an anticipated 900,000 jobs and the vital services in our communities.  
  4. We need to target the fastest-growing sectors of human services such as child care, in-home services for the elderly and disabled, and other services our communities need through a public jobs program. This will create jobs in the public and private sectors and ensure our communities are healthy, educated, and well cared for.
  5. We need to leverage private investment with public dollars through a Green Bank that will promote energy-efficiency and renewables as a major source of job creation, in both the short and the long term.  The jobs we create today will lay the groundwork for the industries of tomorrow.  ??Expanding the home retrofitting programs begun under the Recovery Act will create good jobs in construction and related industries. Including commercial and public buildings would increase the scope of the program, create high skilled jobs, and protect the planet by reducing demand for energy. By acting now, America can lead the way on green technology.
  6. We must invest in our aging and failing infrastructure by rebuilding our schools, roads and bridges-putting millions to work. An Infrastructure Bank can foster public/private partnerships in developing regional and large scale projects critical for a 21st century economy.
  7. The passage of health care reform will add tens of millions of Americans to the healthcare rolls and create more than a million new and different jobs in healthcare and related industries. We need to ensure our present healthcare workforce is prepared and we need innovative recruitment and training programs to meet this new workforce demand.
  8. We must pass the Employee Free Choice Act to once again protect workers’ freedom to form unions and allow them to share in the prosperity of a new 21st century economy.
  9. We need expanded worker training programs on a national scale so that young people are prepared for new industries and workers can the learn skills necessary to compete for new jobs.  It’s time to coordinate across agency lines and provide flexible lifelong training for the new economy.

We can do this without breaking the bank or increasing the deficit over a ten year period. ??It’s time for Wall Street and the financial industry to pay back their debt to our society. Wall Street must do its part by paying a speculators tax on their obscene profits and transactions. This tax can fund the entire program over ten years. ??This isn’t a hard ask. After the trillions in taxpayer investments to bail them out, the excessive profits of firms like Goldman Sachs, and the $150 billion in compensation and bonuses the top six banks plan to dole out this year, this is a small price for Wall Street to pay.

The American people demand action. People like Ferol Wagner, an 81 year old widow who lost her life savings when the market crashed. Like Keith Scribner, who lost his job when a bank liquidated the 60 year old business he worked for.  And Maria Guerra, whose brother lost his job, fell behind on his mortgage payments, and had to sign the home Maria helped him purchase over to the bank.

We were together in Chicago recently with thousands of other Americans to demand an end to an economy that puts Wall Street and corporate CEOs ahead of the rest of us. We were there to demand that the leaders we elected work 24/7 to create the relief our families need.

We can solve this crisis. We can right the wrongs of our economy. ??But only with real focus and leadership that ensures everyone does their part. ??And only if we get to work today.