WASHINGTON — Creating jobs is a political and economic imperative for President Barack Obama, who is holding a high-profile jobs summit today that aides hope will demonstrate his concern for the plight of everyday Americans.
Obama has summoned 130 corporate executives, economists, small-business owners and union leaders to the White House to sound out ideas for accelerating job growth during the worst labor market in a generation.
"The main thing that people are concerned about is jobs," said Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md. "It is the No. 1 issue."
But Obama's options are limited, as the administration already has signaled that it is unwilling to make any investments that would add significantly to the nation's ballooning deficit. "We want to make sure it is not just the public sector doing this in a vacuum," said Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to Obama. "It's important we engage the private sector as well."
Administration officials, however, have excluded major trade associations from the summit.
It is far from clear that Obama will embrace all the ideas being promoted by his supporters in organized labor, who are making calls for direct funding of federal public works jobs, another round of aid to cash-strapped states and cities, and funding for infrastructure projects. The White House has been warmer to ideas to use federal money to leverage private investments. One, dubbed "cash for caulkers," would offer federal subsidies to people who weatherize their homes.