Obama's jobs summit: Let it be
By Miriam Pepper, Kansas City Star editorial page editor
It took no time for critics to proclaim President Barack Obama’s jobs summit idea a time-killer.
Since when did brainstorming a serious national problem become so out-of-date?
Former President Bill Clinton didn’t even wait for his inauguration to host a major economic summit in his hometown of Little Rock, Ark. He presided personally over the massive gathering of 330 business, labor, economic and academic experts. His mastery of myriad business theories never flagged in hours of presentations, and he even surprised a few folks by critically questioning some economists who supported his campaign proposals.
But the hoopla and lack of serious critics on the agenda reaped him an array of critical commentary, including The Economist’s “The no-hard-choices summit” and the National Review’s “Seminar in sycophancy.”
Obama is well aware of what can be expected when he tries to corral big thinkers on a big worry for Americans.
But if he lets the critics derail a needed national discussion he will disappoint many, especially those in the ranks of the unemployed, underemployed and part-time-wishing-for-fulltime workers.
The unemployment figure of 10.2 percent is bad enough; but the less-discussed and more worrisome figure of 17.5 percent of people who are working less than they want is worth a national gathering.
Former President George W. Bush had a summit on the same topic, in Waco, Texas, but didn’t personally preside. The comparisons with Clinton’s mastery of details would not have been kind.
Plenty of Americans want to hear new ideas on getting their neighbors back to work. Even old ideas, like the Civilian Conservation Corps, are worth debating.
For the nation’s future, there should be no hesitancy to call together leaders to propose a better way forward. Meaningful debate should never be out of vogue.