Neither is the precedent of the New Deal jobs programs of the 1930s. Then, talented administrators like Harry Hopkins employed millions in a matter of months. But that would be impossible with the encumbrances of today's civil service, due process, civil rights and environmental rules, even if Barack Obama could find someone as able as Hopkins.
The uncomfortable reality is that creating many millions of useful, interesting, psychically rewarding new jobs is something only the private sector can do. And it does it, as we saw during the prosperous quarter-century from 1983 to 2007, in ways that government planners are unable to predict.
In the meantime, the big-government policies of the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress have worked to stifle private-sector job creation. A large share of the $787 billion stimulus package has gone to keep current state and local public sector employees on the payroll (and paying union dues). That does nothing for young people seeking work.
In addition, the Democrats' health care bills would raise the cost of health insurance for young Americans, who would in effect be subsidizing their elders. And the staggering federal deficits that, according to the Congressional Budget Office, loom as far as the eye can see will mean more national debt that young Americans will have to pay off.
Barack Obama in his autobiographies records how he spurned private-sector work and opted instead for community organizing and political office. Public-sector careers can provide good incomes and the satisfaction of doing useful work -- but only for a comparative few. A vibrant and competent public sector depends on a vibrant and competent, and much larger, private sector.
Encouraging the growth of the private sector did not seem to be a problem when Obama began his campaign in February 2007, when unemployment was at 4.5 percent. It is certainly a problem now, with unemployment at 10.2 percent. Thoughtful Democrats can see that their party has not done much lately for the young voters, who provided 80 percent of their victory margin in 2008. But they're having trouble figuring out what to do.