- The Washington Times - Friday, December 4, 2009

Seeking to reassure the country he’s fighting unemployment, President Obama on Thursday said the government will have to go deeper into debt to create jobs - but stopped short of committing the administration to any specific new spending programs.

At the daylong “jobs summit” he convened at the White House, Mr. Obama said the government can’t bring about an economic recovery, but he said it will need to spend more - on top of February’s $787 billion stimulus package - to spur job growth.

“We are under no illusion that somehow the federal government can spend its way out of this recession, but it is absolutely true that any of the ideas that have been mentioned here are still going to require some public dollars and those are actually good investments to make right now,” Mr. Obama told an audience of more than 100 corporate executives, economists, union leaders and local government officials at the forum.

Tax credits for businesses that create new jobs, more federal aid to states and a boost in spending on infrastructure projects were among the ideas floated to Mr. Obama and several of his Cabinet officials, who moderated one-hour panel discussions on green jobs, help for small business and other topics.

Mr. Obama sat in on a few of the discussions and later solicited questions from the audience before making closing remarks. He avoided specifically backing any of the proposals, but said broadly that he believes some of them can be translated “immediately into administration plans and potentially legislation.”

Critics of the White House event said it amounted to little more than a “photo-op” in the face of sky-high unemployment and widespread unease about the state of the economy.

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner of Ohio and other House Republicans convened a competing jobs summit of their own Thursday, hearing from several conservative economists. House Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia, head of the party’s economic working group, has called for a freeze on tax increases and on new regulations on businesses to help create jobs.

“It’s no secret that unemployment is now over 10 percent and 3 million Americans have lost their jobs this year alone. And the biggest problem that we heard from our economists with regard to why employers aren’t hiring is all the job-killing policies that are being offered by this administration and this Congress and creating an awful lot of uncertainty for American employers,” Mr. Boehner said.

An initial list of those invited to the jobs summit issued by the White House earlier this week did not appear to include any dissenting viewpoints, but at least three conservative economists - including two from Mr. Boehner’s summit - ended up going to the event.

However, Mr. Obama did not extend invitations to some of the best-known voices of the business community, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business.