This morning in Washington, President Obama was in the Rose Garden trying to make the jobs bill he was signing sound like a big success, chief economic adviser Larry Summers was at the National Press Club trying to make the administration sound tough on financial regulatory reform -- and a critical bunch of economists, policymakers and policy wonks were gathering at the New America Foundation to bemoan the fundamental unseriousness of the administration's approach to economic recovery and job creation.
Including that so-called jobs bill.
"I have never hired a man or a woman based on a tax credit," Hindery said.
Employers hire when they are certain they will have a growing market for their products -- and they don't have that certainty now, Hindery explained.
As for the bill's emphasis on incentivizing small and medium-sized businesses, Hindery said: "I can't fix Dayton, Ohio" that way. "We have to have a large-business orientation," he said. "You've got to go after this with big ideas and transformational ideas."
"We have to come up with a non-belligerent equivalent of the kind of economic shock produced by World War II," said Huff Post blogger Robert Kuttner, who is editor of the American Prospect and author of the upcoming book: "A Presidency in Peril: The Inside Story of Obama's Promise, Wall Street's Power, and the Struggle to Control our Economic Future".
"You either need much more presidential leadership than you're getting, or you need more pressure on the president, or you need Congress to lead, or you need all three things," Kuttner said. "Because, otherwise, Obama is going to be a failure."
Senator Byron Dorgan, the retiring North Dakota Democrat and HuffPost blogger with a track record of economic prescience, warned that real progress in job creation will only come if the administration addresses the toll of uncontrolled globalization.
Likening today's jobs bill to opening a (small) faucet, Dorgan noted: "Even as we do that, we've got a wide open drain."
But he said that the minute you start talking about protecting American jobs in this town, "you are called some sort of xenophobic isolationist stooge who just can't see over the horizon."
Rep. Bruce Braley, the Iowa Democrat and HuffPost blogger who last year revived the Populist Caucus, termed the jobs bill a step in the right direction. (He was, after all, headed off to the signing ceremony.) "But the reality of it," he continued, is that "we have much greater issues that are out there waiting to be addressed...
"My advice for the president is that he get away from the White House and all his Ivy-League advisers and start spending time with average Americans who've lost their jobs, lost their businesses, lost their health care," Braley said.
Braley noted that Obama has been holding more town halls lately -- but for some reason still isn't getting unfiltered feedback from citizens. "Unless you're out there listening to a broad spectrum of ideas, you are going to have a narrow focus to your approach to job creation," Braley said.
Kuttner put it this way: Obama "is essentially a captive of the Wall Street wing of the party, and until he breaks out of that, we're not going to get the recovery that we need because we're not going to get the policy that we need."
Panelists agreed that there are things the government can do to dramatically grow jobs in this country, such as creating a national infrastructure bank, funding youth jobs programs, establishing strong industrial and trade policies in general and recalibrating the relationship with China in particular. But those things are simply not on Obama's agenda.
Despite the few kind words for Obama's policies, everything is relative. "I'm critical of some of the things of this administration," Dorgan said, "but I'm pleased it's there as compared to the last administration."
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