Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

There's no 'magic wand' for jobs

By John D. Sutter, CNN
February 15, 2013 -- Updated 1412 GMT (2212 HKT)
Even Harry Potter can't wave a wand and create new jobs.
Even Harry Potter can't wave a wand and create new jobs.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Commenter: "You think the President just waves his magic wand and jobs are created?"
  • John Sutter: Congress, the president and all of us can help
  • Sutter: The long-term unemployed encounter widespread discrimination
  • Commenter: "You do whatever you have to to get work"

Editor's note: John D. Sutter is a columnist for CNN Opinion. He heads the section's Change the List project, which focuses on human rights and social justice. E-mail him at CTL@CNN.com.

(CNN) -- Here's one from the obvious file: There's no "magic wand" that -- poof! -- creates jobs in the United States, or anywhere else.

In response to my column this week on long-term unemployment, some of you commented that the president doesn't have superpowers to create jobs for the rest of us. Or you pointed out that he should be part in the process -- but job-creation is actually something Congress or business leaders should take on instead.

I thought those were great points.

Here's my favorite comment -- mostly because it uses the term "pea brain" (and yes, it's in reference to me, but you've gotta love a nerdy insult, especially when it includes a vegetable):

John D. Sutter
John D. Sutter

"Are you so stupid that you think the President just waves his magic wand and jobs are created? Let me give you a lesson in government Sutter. Maybe your pathetic conservative pea brain will be able to grasp one fact: The President proposes and Congress legislates. So it is the Republican Congress that is keeping that poor woman unemployed. They have done nothing to aleviate (sic) her plight ..."

The "poor woman" the commenter, who used the screen name "tom sellier," referenced is Kim Peters, an unemployed mom who invited me into her home Tuesday to watch the State of the Union. Overall, Peters, who has been unemployed on and off for five years, didn't take much comfort from the speech. She's more worried about keeping a roof over her head.

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



Some of the most cutting things Peters had to say focused on House Speaker John Boehner, whose apparent indifference toward the State of the Union -- scowling, licking his lips, looking very "get me outta here" -- made her angry. Her point of view, and I think there is some merit to this, is that President Obama wants to promote infrastructure projects and other "stimulus" efforts that would create jobs, but Republicans are so focused on the deficit they won't consider spending money on that.

She wasn't thrilled with everything Obama said either.

Drafting public policy that will create jobs and put people back to work is a tricky thing. That's part of the reason I argued the first and easiest thing we all can do to help the long-term unemployed is to treat them as equal humans.

Currently, they're some of the most maligned people in our society.

Companies put out ads saying they only will consider employed candidates. Recruiters toss their resumes before taking a look. Generally, I think the national sentiment is that unemployed people must have done something wrong to end up jobless.

As a person who's been laid off before, I can tell you that's not always the case. It's unfair to give unemployed people less of a chance at getting back on their feet. If anything, I think they deserve more consideration. It's the fair thing to do.

Other readers said getting a job is an individual's responsibility.

"I've been unemployed and it sucks . . . BUT you do whatever you have to to get work you dig ditches, you wash dishes, empty trash, you may even have to move your home," wrote mikemc58. "Point is you have to think outside the box and get out of your comfort zone. Wishes and dreams aren't going to do it. Get off your butt hit the streets everyday asking, looking, volunteering, for a job. And listening to Obama drone on about how good the economy is useless, because as we all know, 'we' who live in the REAL world know it's NOT. GOV is not the answer, personal responsibility and self motivation is the key to finding new work."

That's another fair point, although I think individual effort only goes so far when there are 3.4 unemployed workers for every job opening in the United States in December, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. And it's important to empathize with people who become stuck in a cycle of hopelessness and depression the longer their unemployment continues. That's not an easy cycle to break.

One more thing to bring up about the comments: While many of you wrote in to ask how you can help long-term unemployed people get back on their feet, several of you attacked Peters -- criticizing her ownership of a TV, saying she shouldn't have cable if she doesn't have a job (she actually doesn't have cable, but that's beside the point) and speculating about what type of cell phone she uses.

What silliness, right? And it speaks to the underlying problem here: We're inclined to attack unemployed people -- to judge their financial situations and to speculate about what might have put them out of work. That's unhelpful. And discriminatory.

Peters, the woman I featured, told me that ending ignorance will help end unemployment. Government and business leaders must help, too. But I think she's right: a simple shift in attitude -- trading ignorance for empathy -- can and will make a huge difference.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of John D. Sutter.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1617 GMT (0017 HKT)
Today's politicians should follow Ronald Reagan's advice and invest in science, research and development, Fareed Zakaria says.
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
Artificial intelligence does not need to be malevolent to be catastrophically dangerous to humanity, writes Greg Scoblete.
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1505 GMT (2305 HKT)
Historian Douglas Brinkley says a showing of Sony's film in Austin helped keep the city weird -- and spotlighted the heroes who stood up for free expression
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)
Tanya Odom that by calling only on women at his press conference, the President made clear why women and people of color should be more visible in boardrooms and conferences
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1312 GMT (2112 HKT)
When oil spills happen, researchers are faced with the difficult choice of whether to use chemical dispersants, authors say
December 25, 2014 -- Updated 0633 GMT (1433 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says the legislature didn't have to get involved in regulating how people greet each other
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2312 GMT (0712 HKT)
Marc Harrold suggests a way to move forward after the deaths of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 1336 GMT (2136 HKT)
Simon Moya-Smith says Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, who was killed by law enforcement officers, deserves justice.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
Val Lauder says that for 1,700 years, people have been debating when, and how, to celebrate Christmas
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
Raphael Sperry says architects should change their ethics code to ban involvement in designing torture chambers
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0335 GMT (1135 HKT)
Paul Callan says Sony is right to call for blocking the tweeting of private emails stolen by hackers
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1257 GMT (2057 HKT)
As Christmas arrives, eyes turn naturally toward Bethlehem. But have we got our history of Christmas right? Jay Parini explores.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 0429 GMT (1229 HKT)
The late Joe Cocker somehow found himself among the rock 'n' roll aristocracy who showed up in Woodstock to help administer a collective blessing upon a generation.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2115 GMT (0515 HKT)
History may not judge Obama kindly on Syria or even Iraq. But for a lame duck president, he seems to have quacking left to do, says Aaron Miller.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1811 GMT (0211 HKT)
Terrorism and WMD -- it's easy to understand why these consistently make the headlines. But small arms can be devastating too, says Rachel Stohl.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1808 GMT (0208 HKT)
Ever since "Bridge-gate" threatened to derail Chris Christie's chances for 2016, Jeb Bush has been hinting he might run. Julian Zelizer looks at why he could win.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 1853 GMT (0253 HKT)
New York's decision to ban hydraulic fracturing was more about politics than good environmental policy, argues Jeremy Carl.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 2019 GMT (0419 HKT)
On perhaps this year's most compelling drama, the credits have yet to roll. But we still need to learn some cyber lessons to protect America, suggest John McCain.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 2239 GMT (0639 HKT)
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 0112 GMT (0912 HKT)
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1709 GMT (0109 HKT)
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2345 GMT (0745 HKT)
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 2134 GMT (0534 HKT)
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
ADVERTISEMENT