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Washington Needs to Get Bold and Creative on Jobs

unemployment rate

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In 1932, with unemployment at 25 percent, President Franklin D. Roosevelt called for “bold, persistent experimentation,” to turn the economy around and get Americans back to work. It’s exactly that spirit of creativity and experimentation that’s missing from Washington today, especially when it comes to job creation, writes Jonathan Alter in a column for Bloomberg. Republicans, of course, care only for cutting government spending and blocking any kind of tax raise. As for Obama, he deserves credit for getting out on the road to promote jobs plans, says Alter, but most of those are longer-term solutions of little help to the currently unemployed. But there’s hope: “The good news is that Obama can put people to work without spending billions if he and his team will just open themselves to more fresh ideas.” One such fresh idea has been put forward by Alan Khazei, a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, who suggests that Washington allow states to convert their unemployment insurance payments from checks sent to the jobless into vouchers that companies can use to hire workers. “If a mere 10 percent of unemployed Americans persuaded employers to accept such vouchers,” Alter writes, “more than a million people would find work with no new spending beyond some administrative costs. Not too shabby.” Of course, this idea, as great as it sounds, might not work out in practice. What then? That will just mean, says Alter, that “it’s time for the government to follow Roosevelt’s advice and ‘admit failure frankly and try another. But above all, try something.’ Fourteen million Americans looking for work deserve no less. [Jonathan Alter, Bloomberg]

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