This piece is part of a leadership roundtable on unemployment and restarting America’s jobs engine — with opinion pieces by former Treasury Secretary Paul H. O’Neill, Harvard Business School professor and author Bill George, leadership expert Katherine Tyler Scott, Wharton School professor Michael Useem, and Woodrow Wilson Center scholar Amy M. Wilkinson.
The American economy is a complex system of multiple, interdependent, moving parts; any attempt to solve the unemployment crisis without recognizing this reality will fail. Leaders, be they in business, government or the social sector, cannot afford to keep offering simplistic quick-fix ideas and pithy campaign slogans as solutions. A significant reversal of these job losses will not happen in the short term. Decades of neglecting these issues have created a situation that cannot be easily or quickly repaired.
Faith in Congress’s willingness and capacity to engage in the real work of solving the country’s unemployment problems is at a record low. There were some government and business leaders who grasped the enormity of the problem, but most ignored the signs of crisis and made profitability their only priority. Many business leaders sat on the sidelines, taking a “let you and them fight” stance instead of using their power to change the tone and terms of a vitriolic legislative debate.