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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

November 12, 2009 at 10:05 AM

A jobs summit? President Hoover call your office. Plus, a debate over whether capitalism has failed

Top of the News: President Obama sounded eerily like Herbert Hoover this morning when he announced a White House summit on unemployment next month, bringing together business leaders and economists to “talk about how we can work together” to create jobs.

Hoover, a community organizer, too, on a world scale with his heroic World War I efforts to help refugees and the hungry, brought a new ethos to Washington. He strongly believed government should get businesses to cooperate for the greater good. Alas, it did not work, especially once the Depression was upon the nation.

An over-the-top analogy, you say? Perhaps. Obama faces many problems, most inherited from George W. Bush and years of bad policy. But none are more immediate than 10.2 percent unemployment and little hope that the forces driving job losses will abate soon, or that we’ll see a return to an economy that creates jobs. A summit won’t cut it. Look for more talk of retraining, etc. But smaller companies are crying for credit and big ones have made low hiring, offshoring and wage-cutting part of their business plans.

Unlike Hoover, Obama presides over a huge federal government, that between the civilian side and the military provides millions of jobs. What the administration has been unwilling to do is to commit the necessary funding to infrastructure that would create sustainable jobs and private-sector growth (e.g. — broken record — high-speed rail). In the minds of most Americans, it has been far more concerned with saving the jobs of the top executives in the financial industry.

Save the Date: Oscar Wilde was wrong about socialism taking up too many evenings. It will take only about an hour this Saturday afternoon.

Socialist Alternative will hold a debate about whether the free-market economy has failed, with me mixing it up with Philip Locker, a member of the editorial board of Justice, the organization’s newspaper.

The details: 4:30 p.m. Saturday on the third floor of Seattle University’s Administration Building at 10th Ave. & E. Madison St. If you’re wondering, my job is to defend capitalism. (I guess Lloyd Blankfein was busy saving kittens). It’s a worthwhile conversation and the public is invited.

Today’s Econ Haiku:

They’ll take Manhattan

And New York will take Costco

Sure beats a Wal-Mart

Comments | More in Jobs/Unemployment

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