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On Solution to Jobs Crisis, Left and Right Agree to Disagree

The American Action Forum — the right’s answer to the Center for American Progress — launched itself into the public consciousness Tuesday in Washington with a debate on Congress’ efforts to tackle the jobs crisis, which has left nearly one in five Americans without work or underemployed.

Jared Bernstein, top economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, was on hand to defend the Democrats’ stimulus legislation, claiming that it’s “created or retained about 2 million jobs.” Also representing the left was Ron Blackwell, chief economist of the AFL-CIO, who advocated for a year-long extension of unemployment benefits, more emergency funding for states, and the creation of a new federal employment program akin to FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps.

Most speakers, though, rallied behind what’s likely to be the American Action Forum’s bread and butter: the advocation of job creation and economic development by way of freeing industry to do pretty much whatever it wants.

There was Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-Va.) arguing against cap-and-trade, card check and any more deficit spending. (He didn’t mention that he signed a letter this week requesting more Medicaid funding from Congress.) There was Stan Anderson, senior attorney for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, blasting the EPA as “enormously unhelpful” and promoting the further development of fossil fuels. (“Green jobs are not the short-term future,” he said.) There was William “Denny” Dennis, senior fellow at the NFIB Research Foundation, a small-business advocacy group, arguing that companies aren’t hiring in part because Congress hasn’t made the Bush tax cuts permanent. (“Uncertainty,” he said, is a greater hindrance to new hires than lack of available credit.) And there was Arnold Kling, former economist at the Federal Reserve and Freddie Mac, blasting the thought that more state funding would help the recovery. (If states are struggling financially, he said, they should simply slash salaries for teachers and cops.)

Finally, apropos of nothing, former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), who heads the Forum, also stressed the importance of the United States having Israel’s back.

This group might be new, but don’t say it isn’t on message.

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