AMANPOUR: All right. And you'll continue, I hope, this conversation in the green room. That will continue, and we will be back after a break with all of the politics of the economy and the policy that's needed to put Americans back to work. Our expert economic panel is coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We still face some tough times. We still face some challenges. We're going to pass through some rough terrain. There are still some headwinds that are coming at us.
STEWART: No (bleep). All right. A little rough terrain, a little headwinds still coming at us. Fine, we're Americans, we're strong.
OBAMA: It's just like, if you had a bad illness, if you got hit by a truck, you know, it's going to take a while for you to mend. And that's what's happened to our economy.
STEWART: How -- how do we go from "There's a little bit of headwind" to "We got hit by a truck"?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: If Jon Stewart doesn't seem convinced, none of my guests here do, either. They think that that was funny, and he is not alone, because a new ABC News-Washington Post poll shows that 90 percent of Americans describe the state of the economy as not so good or poor. What's more, 57 percent believe the economy has not even started to recover.
No surprise. Look at this. You can see here how long it took the jobs picture to improve after previous recessions over the past 36 years. Now, fast-forward to the current crisis, job losses being deeper and longer lasting. If job growth continues at this pace, it could take until 2016 to return to pre-recession levels of employment.
So how do we jump-start this process? Joining me now, Republican Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, the ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee, Robert Reich, the former Clinton administration labor secretary and current professor at the University of California at Berkeley. And once again, ABC's Jon Karl.
So that comedic set-up had you all laughing. What is the reality? Has one been hit by a truck? Is it a headwind? Let me ask you first. You've dealt with labor and -- and the job market. Is this cyclical? Or is this a real structural hole?
REICH: Christiane, the central problem is on the demand side. Seventy percent of the U.S. economy is consumers, and consumers are hit with the equivalent of a truck. I mean, their housing prices are dropping like mad. Their wages, adjusted for inflation, are dropping. Their jobs are disappearing, and almost everybody knows somebody or has somebody in their own family or themselves are worried about losing a job.
Under these circumstance, consumers are pulling in. They are not spending. And if they're not spending, then jobs are not going to be created. There has got to be -- in fact, the jobs program we need is a way of putting money back in people's pockets and creating jobs even directly (inaudible)
AMANPOUR: So we sort of know, but is there a plan -- is there a plan to get Americans back to work, not long term, but now?