The White House Jobs Summit was Thursday, and in case you have any hope for it actually helping produce real jobs, keep in mind two things.
First, it was billed as a "listening" event by the administration -- and everybody knows what that word really means: We'll pretend to listen in order to shut everybody up, then we'll do exactly what we planned all along.
Second, the invite list is mostly representatives from academia and think tanks, big labor and big business ... in other words, three groups of people who know almost nothing about how to actually create, rather than merely preserve, jobs.
In other words, if you're on line at the employment office right now and you're hoping that the jobs summit is actually going to help you get, you know, a job, you'd better keep filling out that form in front of you.
In watching President Obama the last few months, it's become increasingly apparent that there are certain things he is very much interested in. Nationalized health care. Protecting and expanding organized labor. Instituting a national energy scheme. Repositioning America's role in the world as a partner rather than a leader.
Meanwhile, there are two nettlesome problems that continue to demand his attention, but he seems annoyed at having to deal with: Afghanistan and unemployment. And like most of us, he has reacted to both by dithering, postponing decisions and acting busy on other, equally pressing matters.
But this week, the president appears to be trying to get both items out of his in-basket. And he is dealing with each of them in a classic committed/non-committal way.
With Afghanistan on Monday, it was to commit to, almost, give the Gen. Stanley McChrystal the added troop numbers he requested ... and then to immediately announce a departure date.
And now with jobs -- which, polls say, has become the single most important national crisis in the minds of Americans -- we're going to get the temporary sop of a big publicity event, with administration representatives listening soberly and taking careful notes.
This isn't to say that the White House is indifferent to the jobs crisis. On the contrary, it appears to be hugely embarrassed to see the unemployment rate break 10 percent -- especially after it confidently predicted it would stop the bleeding at 8 percent -- and worried about what that general unhappiness will mean in next year's mid-term elections. Thus, the self-evidently inflated job creation numbers that supposedly have resulted from the stimulus. And the interesting, behind-the-scenes maneuvering by Rahm Emanuel to relax the rules on Sarbanes-Oxley regulations for young public companies.
That said, it is also hard not to notice that the administration doesn't seem especially desperate to do something about these high unemployment figures -- no doubt secretly understanding that, as Breaker Morant said just before taking a chest-full of bullets, "This is what comes of empire building." When you nationalize large segments of the economy, tilt the playing field towards unions, and threaten to tax business until it screams, you are going to get high, and lingering, unemployment. The White House and Congress seems to believe that millions of lost jobs are worth the cost of a better, fairer society -- and now merely needs to convince the rest of us that the broken eggs will pay off in a tasty omelet.