Obama Hosts Jobs Summit At White House
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
President Obama sought suggestions today for what the government can do to put more people back to work. Even though the economy is growing again, unemployment remains stubbornly high. And a report coming tomorrow from the Labor Department is expected to show more than 100,000 additional jobs disappeared during the month of November.
NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley was at the president's jobs summit today. He joins us now. And Scott, tell us about the goal of this forum.
SCOTT HORSLEY: Well, President Obama said he's under no illusion that they're going to fix the unemployment mess in one afternoon. But, you know, in recent days, there's been a lot of focus on Afghanistan, before that the President was traveling in Asia for more than a week. So, this is a chance for Mr. Obama to show he gets just how important this jobs issue is to the American people. It's no accident they're holding this summit on the eve of that jobs report you mentioned, which again is going to show the unemployment rate in double-digit territory. And month after month as that jobs report comes out, it's been a sort of a barometer for the White House. While the pace of job loss has slowed considerably, Mr. Obama says it's still not good enough.
President BARACK OBAMA: We cannot hang back and hope for the best when we've seen the kinds of job losses that we've seen over the last year. I am not interested in taking a wait-and-see approach when it comes to creating jobs. What I'm interested in is taking action right now to help businesses create jobs, right now, in the near term.
BLOCK: Now Scott, the guest list for the people at this job summit has been a little controversial. Who was at the summit and who was not?
HORSLEY: That's right. Well, there are CEOs here from big companies like FedEx and Home Depot. There are owners of small businesses. There are union bosses. There are a lot of academic economists. Some folks have pointed out that a number of big trade groups are not represented here, groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs was asked about that yesterday and he said if he wants to know what the Chamber of Commerce thinks, he just has to turn on his TV set because, of course, the chamber has been running some ads that are critical of the administration's policy and things like health care. So, the chamber is not here as an organization, although some of its members are represented. There is a range of opinions though. I saw in the audience Douglas Holtz-Eakin, the former economic advisor to John McCain, for example.
BLOCK: And what kinds of ideas is the White House considering to try to stimulate job growth?
HORSLEY: Well, they said they're open to anything. Any worthwhile idea will be considered. But you can kind of get an idea from the small group sessions that they had, the things that they're most interested in, things like financing for small businesses which has been a real stumbling block for economic recovery, green jobs, direct spending by the government on, for example, energy efficiency. There is a representative here from a company that makes highly efficient doors and windows. And he'd like to see the government, for example, provide an incentive for more homeowners to weatherize their houses with these high efficiency products, creating jobs both for his company and for the folks who would go out and install them.
BLOCK: And what about a second stimulus package? Some have been saying, the first didn't go far enough. What does the White House think about that?
HORSLEY: Well, the White House got some good news this week when the Congressional Budget Office came out and said that the first stimulus had, in fact, created at least 600,000 and maybe as many as 1.6 million jobs, about what's been advertised by the administration. And at the same time, the White House has been wary about calling for a big second stimulus package. The president has said he's very concerned about adding to the federal deficit. Here he is speaking at the job summit.
Pres. OBAMA: We're going to have to be surgical and we're going to have to be creative. We're going to have to be smart and strategic. We'll need to look beyond the old standbys and fallbacks, and come up with the best ideas that give us the biggest bang for the buck.
HORSLEY: The president quoted FDR saying we needed bold, persistent experimentation. I think you could say the White House has been persistent about this. Some of their critics would say maybe they haven't been bold enough.
BLOCK: NPR's Scott Horsley, talking about the jobs summit today at the White House. Scott, thanks very much.
HORSLEY: Good to be with you.