The No. 1 issue facing the country is unemployment.
President Obama and Congress have been too slow to recognize that fact and to act upon it.
But that seems to be changing — now that the official jobless rate has spiked to 10.2 percent.
On Tuesday, Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, told the Senate Democratic Caucus that legislation to promote the creation of new jobs must become a top priority.
On Thursday, Obama made his move, announcing that a White House on jobs and economic growth will be held in December.
“We all know that there are limits to what government can and should do, even during such difficult times. But we have an obligation to consider every additional, responsible step that we can [take] to encourage and accelerate job creation in this country,” says Obama. “And that’s why, in December, we’ll be holding a forum at the White House on jobs and economic growth. We’ll gather CEOs and small business owners, economists and financial experts, as well as representatives from labor unions and nonprofit groups, to talk about how we can work together to create jobs and get this economy moving again.”
If the forum is realistic — and honest about the challenge that double-digit unemployment pose to the country in general and in particular to communities where the jobless rate far exceeds 10.2 percent — the summit will conclude that major new initiatives are needed.
What kind of initiative? The Roosevelt Institute has some great ideas, which are being highlighted at the institute’s New Deal 2.0 site.
But the key idea its that the federal response must be far bolder than the tepid stimulus package passed earlier this year by the Congress and signed by a new and well-intentioned president who, unfortunately, seemed to be a little too determined to get on to the next task.
There is now a greater urgency to act than there was at the time when the initial package was being discussed.
With unemployment now in the double digits, and at the highest rate in more than a quarter century, it is clear that bold steps — passage of a fully-funded and ambitious transportation infrastructure bill; allocation of additional funds for hard-pressed states, cities and school systems; establishment of new trade policies; perhaps the development of schemes to reward businesses that start hiring; perhaps the development of a 21st-century variation on the Civilian Conservation Corps and other New deal programs — must be launched quickly if they are going to shape a recovery that works not just for Wall Street but for Main Street.