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
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 2203 GMT (0603 HKT)
It used to be billy clubs, fire hoses and snarling German shepherds. Now it's armored personnel carriers and flash-bang grenades, writes Kara Dansky.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1727 GMT (0127 HKT)
Maria Haberfeld: People who are unfamiliar with police work can reasonably ask, why was an unarmed man shot so many times, and why was deadly force used at all?
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 2152 GMT (0552 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette notes that this fall, minority students will outnumber white students at America's public schools.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 2121 GMT (0521 HKT)
Humans have driven to extinction four marine mammal species in modern times. As you read this, we are on the brink of losing the fifth, write three experts.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 1158 GMT (1958 HKT)
It's been ten days since Michael Brown was killed, and his family is still waiting for information from investigators about what happened to their young man, writes Mel Robbins
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1723 GMT (0123 HKT)
Sally Kohn says the Ferguson protests reflect broader patterns of racial injustice across the country, from chronic police violence and abuse against black men to the persistent economic and social exclusion of communities of color.
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 1242 GMT (2042 HKT)
The former U.K. prime minister and current U.N. envoy says there are 500 days left to fulfill the Millennium Goals' promise to children.
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 1310 GMT (2110 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says the left mistrusts Clinton but there are ways she can win support from liberals in 2016
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1738 GMT (0138 HKT)
Peter Bergen says the terror group is a huge threat in Iraq but only a potential one in the U.S.
August 16, 2014 -- Updated 1734 GMT (0134 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says the way cops, media, politicians and protesters have behaved since Michael Brown's shooting shows not all the right people have learned the right lessons
August 17, 2014 -- Updated 1523 GMT (2323 HKT)
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says the American military advisers in Iraq are sizing up what needs to be done and recommending accordingly
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1941 GMT (0341 HKT)
Marc Lamont Hill says the President's comments on the Michael Brown shooting ignored its racial implications
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 2146 GMT (0546 HKT)
Joe Stork says the catastrophe in northern Iraq continues, even though many religious minorities have fled to safety: ISIS forces -- intent on purging them -- still control the area where they lived
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 2226 GMT (0626 HKT)
Tim Lynch says Pentagon's policy of doling out military weapons to police forces is misguided and dangerous.
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1315 GMT (2115 HKT)
S.E. Cupp says millennials want big ideas and rapid change; she talks to one of their number who serves in Congress
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 2357 GMT (0757 HKT)
Dorothy Brown says the power structure is dominated by whites in a town that is 68% black. Elected officials who sat by silently as chaos erupted after Michael Brown shooting should be voted out of office
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 1149 GMT (1949 HKT)
Bill Schmitz says the media and other adults should never explain suicide as a means of escaping pain. Robin Williams' tragic death offers a chance to educate about prevention
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1505 GMT (2305 HKT)
Nafees Syed says President Obama should renew the quest to eliminate bias in the criminal justice system
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 2024 GMT (0424 HKT)
Eric Liu says what's unfolded in the Missouri town is a shocking violation of American constitutional rights and should be a wake-up call to all
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 1922 GMT (0322 HKT)
Neal Gabler says Lauren Bacall, a talent in her own right, will be defined by her marriage with the great actor Humphrey Bogart
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1056 GMT (1856 HKT)
Bob Butler says the arrest of two journalists covering the Ferguson story is alarming
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 2035 GMT (0435 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says we all need to work together to make sure the tension between police and African-Americans doesn't result in more tragedies
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
Pepper Schwartz asks why young women are so entranced with Kardashian, who's putting together a 352-page book of selfies
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 2308 GMT (0708 HKT)
Michael Friedman says depression does not discriminate, cannot be bargained with and shows no mercy.
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 1525 GMT (2325 HKT)
LZ Granderson says we must not surrender to apathy about the injustice faced by African Americans
ADVERTISEMENT