Buddy, Can You Spare a Job?

With the national unemployment rate at 10.2 percent, President Barack Obama is focusing on job creation – the American public’s number one concern.  The administration’s “White House to Main Street” summit and tour is gathering advice from a variety of stakeholders, including business executives, small-business owners, economists, union officials and Ed Pawlowski, the mayor of hard-hit Allentown, PA.

The stakes are high because the Obama administration finds itself in the difficult position of wanting to create millions of new jobs without adding to the national debt.  “There’s one group that says we need to do more about the economy, more to create jobs,” according to political analyst Charlie Cook.  “And then there’s the other side that’s saying we’re blowing the heck out of the budget deficits.  And so they’re getting squeezed.”

“If we keep on adding to the debt, even in the midst of this recovery, at some point people could lose confidence in the U.S. economy in a way that could actually lead to a double-dip recession,” the President said in an interview with Fox News.

In the meantime, Congress is considering job stimulus legislation that could combine extensions of COBRA, unemployment compensation and food stamps. Because the Democrats have very little money to spend right now, they know that a successful second stimulus will have to pack a powerful punch.  Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) wants to use $50 billion in leftover TARP funds to provide loans to small businesses.  Yet another proposal from Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) would use $600 million to subsidize employees who volunteer to have their hours cut to help companies avoid layoffs.  This approach has worked spectacularly well in Germany, which has not seen an uptick in unemployment this recession.

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