06.29.11

Bill Clinton Kicks Off Jobs Summit

With high unemployment and gridlock in Washington, Bill Clinton is launching a two-day Clinton Global Initiative America jobs summit in Chicago. R.M. Schneiderman previews.

The unemployment rate is a dismal 9.1 percent, yet with federal lawmakers still wrangling over long-term budget woes, there’s virtually no chance that Congress will pass a second round of fiscal stimulus. Meanwhile, the private sector is flush with cash, yet companies are reluctant to hire, as consumers remain bogged down in debt and the global economy—from the future of the euro zone to fears of inflation in China—remains mired in uncertainty.

As gloomy as this sounds, when I met with Bill Clinton a few weeks ago on a hot summer day in Harlem, the former president—looking trim in a three-piece suit—waxed ebullient about ways to create jobs without Congress leading the charge. In a recent cover story for Newsweek, Clinton—who is working with President Barack Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness—laid out 14 ways to improve the economy. Among them: Speeding up the approval process for public works projects and retrofitting buildings across the country to make them more energy efficient.

Starting Wednesday afternoon, Clinton will gather together business leaders, non-profits directors, lawmakers and academics at the Clinton Global Initiative’s two-day jobs summit in Chicago. The goal: To share the best ideas out there and brainstorm new ones, so that individuals, cities, states, and companies can help grow the economy, despite the gridlock in Washington.

The jobs summit will stream live on CGI’s website, beginning at noon Wednesday with a panel on obstacles to job growth, which will feature speakers such as Clinton, along with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour.

At 4 p.m., Kaya Henderson, the chancellor for Washington, D.C.’s public schools and Stephanie Burns, the chairman of the Dow Corning Corporation, among others, will speak on a panel about improving the education system. For those who don’t have time to sit and watch. I’ll be blogging about some of the best ideas, and talking to the power players involved, to get their respective takes on what we can do to jumpstart the economy and create jobs for the millions who are out of work.