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Smart v. Stupid

Congress fails so Bill Clinton steps up

As Congress fails to create any jobs, world philanthropists take up task

So it has come to this. In another example of the current state of American Exceptionalism, we’ve now become the only first-world nation to need a Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) intervention. CGI is organized to “devise and implement innovative solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges.” This year, that’s us.

Am I the only person this bothers?

That’s not to say a Clinton intervention is unnecessary; just the opposite. Despite the spiteful and blustery rhetoric from the Republican-controlled House, this Congress seems unable to fix anything. They haven’t created a single job – not one. Their economic strategy consists entirely of fawning over the rich as if they were the precious thing that makes us all worthy.

Didn’t we already try that?

Yet this is Republican science in a nutshell. They practice faith-based economics – start with a moral belief, ignore all evidence and be blind to bad results. When whatever you believe in doesn’t work, just do it more. Then double down. Comparing these Republicans to either Sasha or Malia finds them several years wanting in maturity and comparatively lacking any sense. Either Obama kid could surely do better at creating jobs.

There is no jobs program, no tech investment program, no worker retraining program, no business creation investment fund, no new Small Business Administration technical assistance initiative, no manufacturing development loan fund, and no green jobs program. They’ve taken that Reagan “can’t do-ism” to a level that would frighten even old Ronnie himself.

The Democratically-controlled Senate, as usual, remains paralyzed by its filibuster and supermajority rules. The Senate is actually controlled by the tyranny of one. It’s certainly no excuse, but even if that formerly august body could manage to accomplish anything, they’d run into a roadblock just across the Rotunda.

Today’s Congress is made up of collective senility in the north hall and complete nutbaggery in the south.

So these things are left to international philanthropists. Until now, these folks had concerned themselves with third world countries like Haiti and Namibia. Last year they focused on healthcare and education for girls and on bringing technology into the outback. The year before that it was about building canals and railroads. And the year before that? Well, you get the idea.

This latest Clinton Global Initiative, dubbed “CGI America” is focused on job creation. Here. In the United States. Let that sink in for a moment…

The meeting convened with an opening session called “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs.” It was devoted to “supporting innovation and entrepreneurship, strengthening American industries, building the infrastructure for a clean energy economy, equipping students with the skills needed for the 21st-century workforce, and ensuring America’s fiscal sustainability.”

In the opening session, speaking to over 700 sector leaders from business, governments and nonprofits, President Clinton announced the first three “Commitments to Action.” These are a feature of CGI in which sponsors make financial and administrative commitments to accomplish initiatives.

The first commitments were by Kiva, Visa, Onshore Technology Services, and the AFL-CIO. They promised to expand access to microfinance, train workers, and fund infrastructure development. “When these commitments are fully funded and implemented, 140,000 people will receive access to job training, 1,000 information technology jobs will be created in rural America, and $3.5 million will be loaned to small businesses in the U.S.,” said President Clinton.

Kiva is a nonprofit provider of international micro loans. Microfinance, of course, is the loan strategy pioneered in third world countries to spur business creation. It hasn’t been tried here. Historically, Kiva’s average loan is $384. Visa will provide $1 million to support Kiva activities in Detroit.

Onshore Technology Services organizes the outsourcing of corporate tasks to vendors in rural Missouri. AFL-CIO will invest $10-20 million dollars in real-estate investment funds that underwrite energy efficient retrofits of commercial, industrial, institutional, and public buildings.

With the exception of micro loans, The CGI ideas look an awful lot like President Obama’s plan. There is a concerted focus on new energy, energy retrofit, and the technology sector to create new-economy jobs. And they also want to develop new and replicable strategies for improving the availability of jobs. These ideas are commonly held views about how to fix the economy. Yet to Republicans, they are as alien as climate change. “How is helping workers going to create jobs” you can imagine them saying. “Only rich people can create jobs.”

During the meeting, ten working groups will focus on: Green Buildings, the Healthcare Workforce, Infrastructure, Manufacturing, Rural Renewal, Service Corps, Startups, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Education, Veteran Employment, and Workforce Development.

This is all good stuff. All of it is sadly needed. And all of it, tragically, is the kind of stuff that would be done by our Congress—if we had one.

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Jimmy Zuma splits his time between Washington, D.C. and Tucson. He writes the online opinion journal, Smart v. Stupid. He spent 5 years in Tucson in the early ‘80s, when life was a little slower, swamp coolers were a little more plentiful, Tucson’s legendary music scene was in full bloom, and the prevailing work ethic was “don’t - unless you have to.”

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Jul 3, 2011, 8:31 pm
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Jimmy Zuma, as always, SPOT-ON!

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Clinton Global Initiative

This latest Clinton Global Initiative, dubbed “CGI America” is focused on job creation. Here. In the United States. Let that sink in for a moment…