Obama: Jobs Summit Generated Good Ideas

President Barack Obama speaks at the opening of his jobs summit, officially known as the Jobs and Economic Growth Forum, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2009, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House campus in Washington. CBS/ AP

President Barack Obama on Thursday said he'd heard many "exciting ideas and proposals" from participants at a White House sponsored jobs forum and said he hoped some could be put into action quickly.

"This has been a tough year, with a lot of uncertainty," Mr. Obama said as he wrapped up a half-day brainstorming session with some of the nation's top CEOs, small business and union leaders and economists.

He said he welcomed the suggestions as well as some "good, hardheaded feedback" from some people who don't always share his views, including the former top economic adviser to 2008 Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain, economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who also addressed a rival GOP jobs forum earlier in the day.

The president said there were some ideas that could be put to work almost immediately and other ideas that will become part of legislation for Congress to consider. He listed "moving forward on an aggressive agenda for energy efficiency and weatherization" as a prime candidate for quick action.

"There's no question that it's difficult out there right now," Mr. Obama said. "Digging ourselves out of the hole we have dug into is not going to be easy."

With a 1.5 trillion dollar deficit the president says the nation can't afford another major stimulus package, reports CBS News chief White House correspondent Chip Reid.

But he said he puts a lot of faith in American ingenuity and industry. "We can't go back to business as usual," he said.

Mr. Obama had challenged his audience to help him come up with innovative ideas for putting millions of Americans back to work, saying he wants the "biggest bang for the buck." He opened the session by saying the unemployment problem "cuts deep."

"We cannot hang back and hope for the best," Mr. Obama said. "What I'm interested in is taking action right now."

Mindful of growing anxiety about federal deficits, Mr. Obama also tempered his upbeat talk with an acknowledgment that government resources could only go so far and that it is primarily up to the private sector to create large numbers of new jobs.

He said while he's "open to every demonstrably good idea ... we also though have to face the fact that our resources are limited."

He spoke the day before the Labor Department was to report unemployment figures for November. In October, the rate climbed to 10.2 percent - the highest since the early 1980s - and forecasters expected the November figure to be around the same level as October's, or worse.

After opening remarks, guests broke into different working groups to brainstorm with administration officials.

Republicans have been critical of the Obama administration's effort on jobs, pushing hard on the notion that the stimulus package has been wasteful and ineffective.

On "Washington Unplugged" Thursday, House Republican Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) suggested the event Thursday could ultimately amount to nothing more than a "photo-op." Republicans held their own, alternate jobs summit Thursday, with Minority Leader John Boehner complaining that "President Obama, Speaker Pelosi and Leader Reid have never run a business."

At the GOP summit, Democratic policies were deemed "job killing." Participants pinned the blame for the high unemployment rate in part on efforts to craft climate change and health care reform legislation as well as financial regulation.

Unions and liberal activists are also unhappy with the president -- demanding hundreds of billions more on infrastructure projects, Reid reports.

The White House forum was kicked off by Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, who called the present unemployment rate of 10.2 percent "a stark reminder of how much we have to do." She said the administration "will not rest" until it had been successful at job creation.

White House officials then showed a video about small businesses in hard-hit Allentown, Pennsylvania, where Mr. Obama was to speak on Friday in an effort to reinforce his message.

Vice President Joe Biden also addressed an audience that included the CEOs of Google, Xerox, Boeing and General Electric, labor leaders and prominent economists. "Your presence is welcome, but quite frankly it's not as important as your input," Biden said. "Without you, it will not become a reality," he said.

"Our task together is obviously not an easy one," Biden said. And while the $787 billion stimulus package had helped kick-start the process, "the government's capacity is still somewhat limited."
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