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
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1653 GMT (0053 HKT)
Jeff Yang calls Ello a wakeup call to Facebook and Twitter, and a sign of hope for fast-rising upstarts Pinterest and Snapchat.
October 1, 2014 -- Updated 1423 GMT (2223 HKT)
Paul Waldman says the Secret Service should examine its procedures to make sure there are no threats to the White House--but without losing the openness so valuable to democracy
October 1, 2014 -- Updated 1455 GMT (2255 HKT)
Jesse Williams says the videotape and 911 call that resulted in police gunning down John Crawford at a Walmart reveals the fatal injustice of racial assumptions
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 2303 GMT (0703 HKT)
Mel Robbins says officials should drop the P.C. pose: The beheading in Oklahoma was not workplace violence. Plenty of evidence shows Alton Nolen was an admirer of ISIS.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1911 GMT (0311 HKT)
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, William Piekos says..
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1911 GMT (0311 HKT)
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, writes William Piekos.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1413 GMT (2213 HKT)
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits America, Madeleine Albright says a world roiled by conflict needs these two great democracies to commit to moving their partnership forward
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1404 GMT (2204 HKT)
John Sutter: Lake Providence, Louisiana, is the parish seat of the "most unequal place in America." And until somewhat recently, the poor side of town was invisible on Google Street View.
September 29, 2014 -- Updated 1311 GMT (2111 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says in the run up to the 2016 election the party faces divisions on its approach to the U.S.'s place in the world
September 29, 2014 -- Updated 1419 GMT (2219 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says Common Core supporters can't devise a new set of standards and then fail to effectively sell it.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1329 GMT (2129 HKT)
Earlier this month, Kenyans commemorated the heinous attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1859 GMT (0259 HKT)
David Wheeler says Colorado students are right to protest curriculum changes that downplays civil disobedience.
September 27, 2014 -- Updated 0158 GMT (0958 HKT)
Sally Kohn says when people click on hacked celebrity photos or ISIS videos, they are encouraging the bad guys.
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1155 GMT (1955 HKT)
Loren Bunche says she walked by a homeless man every day and felt bad about it -- until one day she paused to get to know him
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1332 GMT (2132 HKT)
ISIS grabs headlines on social media, but hateful speech is no match for moderate voices, says Nadia Oweidat.
September 29, 2014 -- Updated 1233 GMT (2033 HKT)
A new report counts jihadists fighting globally. The verdict? The threat isn't that big, says Peter Bergen.
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 2137 GMT (0537 HKT)
Ebola could become the biggest humanitarian disaster in a generation, writes former British Prime Minister Tony Blair
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1658 GMT (0058 HKT)
ISIS has shocked the world. But will releasing videos of executions backfire? Four experts give their take.
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1439 GMT (2239 HKT)
Eric Holder kicked off his stormy tenure as attorney general with a challenge to the public that set tone for six turbulent years as top law-enforcement officer.
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1309 GMT (2109 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Obama was elected as a war-ending change agent, not a leader who would leave behind for his successor new engagement in Iraq and Syria. Is he as disappointed as the rest of us?
September 24, 2014 -- Updated 0910 GMT (1710 HKT)
Gayle Lemmon says the question now is how to translate all the high-profile feminizing into real gains for women
ADVERTISEMENT