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Obama can create jobs by modeling two good ideas

He should combine New Deal-era solutions with Germany's successful work-share program.

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With the nation’s unemployment rate at 10 percent, the highest in a generation, President Obama could learn a thing or two about job creation by heading to the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

On display is an exhibit of New Deal-era paintings that show men building roads, laying pipe, and shoveling snow. The artists were paid by the New Deal to paint these portraits; and the people in them were paid by the New Deal to construct public-works projects and the nation’s infrastructure.

Almost every community in the United States has a park, bridge, or school constructed during the New Deal, built by the calloused hands and strong backs of Americans who were working directly for the government.

With the US unemployment rate surging to historic proportions, why has the White House avoided New Deal-type programs that could keep Americans employed? 

Aside from a small summer employment program for young people, Mr. Obama seems unwilling to create jobs on the public payroll. But feeling the urgency of the dismal job market, recently he proposed using some leftover money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), originally allocated for bailing out failing banks, to lend to small businesses to create jobs. He also proposed increased spending on infrastructure investment and home-weatherizing, also targeted to create jobs. 

That’s in addition to last February’s economic stimulus, which provided billions for investments in energy efficiency, broadband access, and other areas partly to stimulate job growth. 

But it may be too little or too late. So what else should Obama do? After visiting the Smithsonian, he should look across the Atlantic.

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