President’s LinkedIn Town Hall Raises Hackles

Networking site LinkedIn was aflutter with comments as President Obama answered questions at a LinkedIn Town Hall at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif., today. The focus? Getting America back to work.

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner moderated the one-hour discussion in which the president answered questions from the live audience and from LinkedIn’s website.

And things got testy. Most of the questions from the live audience came from the unemployed, who asked about Medicare cuts, how veterans could better find jobs and what the long-term unemployed should do about the discrimination they now seem to face in the workplace.

The  comments and questions on LinkedIn’s website were rougher and harsher.

When the president said  that he had cut taxes for small businesses 16 times while in office, Torben T. wrote: “If in fact jobs are created by the  ‘job creators,’ and they have received a continuation of the tax cuts in order for them to “create jobs, where then are the jobs?”

Others went on to criticize the town hall  itself, which mirrored an  event held at Facebook’s headquarters earlier this year.

Mike L., of  greater Chicago, wrote that the event “has all been just been part of the Obama campaign. A very deceptive one at that. The [LinkedIn] CEO fawning over the president, and introducing him by announcing his support for ‘pass this bill.’  Absolutely no hard questions. … The president going on and on and on while actually saying nothing and not being challenged at all.”

Many used the event as an occasion for partisan remarks.

Chuck R., of New York City, asked  President Obama, “How soon can we expect your resignation?” which set off a firestorm.

Ken L., of the Tampa/St. Petersburg, Fla., area, wrote: “Wow. I thought Linkedin was a site for professionals. I’m not liking the unprofessional comments I’m seeing!”

Many in  the live audience who’d been unemployed or who had dabbled in unemployment asked questions that sent Obama back to his American Jobs Act for answers.

Doug Edwards, a former director of consumer marketing and branding at Google, who spoke incognito during the live town hall,  said he was unemployed by choice.

“Would you please raise my taxes?” Edwards, who wrote  ”I’m Feeling Lucky: Confessions of Google Employee Number 59,”asked, adding that his success came in part  from receiving Pell Grants and other forms of assistance.

“It kills me to see Congress not supporting the expiration of the tax cuts,” Edwards said. “I think that needs to change, and I hope you stay strong in doing that.”

Doreen N., a social media strategist-consultant in the greater Boston area, wrote on LinkedIn’s site “@BarackObama guy with the glasses [meaning Edwards] is on target. How can we afford not to make investment if  … our education system will never improve — 3.2 million jobs are available. Why aren’t they filled?”

On LinkedIn’s site, Ursula Gonzalez from the Miami/Fort Lauderdale area asked if the president had considered banning those employers who discriminate “really good candidates that suffered from a downward trend in their credit history due to lack of job opportunities?”

In answer to a similar question from the live audience, the president assured that his  American Jobs Act  would make it unlawful to refuse to hire applicants solely because they are unemployed.

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