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 1, 2014 -- Updated 1221 GMT (2021 HKT)
Carlos Moreno says atheists, a sizable fraction of Americans, deserve representation in Congress.
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 1625 GMT (0025 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says Democrats and unions have a long history of mutual support that's on the decline. But in a time of income inequality they need each other more than ever
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 0423 GMT (1223 HKT)
William McRaven
Peter Bergen says Admiral William McRaven leaves the military with a legacy of strategic thinking about special operations
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1611 GMT (0011 HKT)
Leon Aron says the U.S. and Europe can help get Russia out of Ukraine by helping Ukraine win its just war, sharing defense technologies and intelligence
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1724 GMT (0124 HKT)
Timothy Stanley the report on widespread child abuse in a British town reveals an institutional betrayal by police, social services and politicians. Negligent officials must face justice
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 0106 GMT (0906 HKT)
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say a new video of an American suicide bomber shows how Turkey's militant networks are key to jihadists' movement into Syria and Iraq. Turkey must stem the flow
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 1554 GMT (2354 HKT)
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1434 GMT (2234 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1432 GMT (2232 HKT)
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0243 GMT (1043 HKT)
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 1722 GMT (0122 HKT)
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1330 GMT (2130 HKT)
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2242 GMT (0642 HKT)
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2335 GMT (0735 HKT)
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2053 GMT (0453 HKT)
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1919 GMT (0319 HKT)
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1558 GMT (2358 HKT)
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1950 GMT (0350 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2052 GMT (0452 HKT)
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2104 GMT (0504 HKT)
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 2145 GMT (0545 HKT)
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
ADVERTISEMENT