Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich said that restoring America's jobs cannot be done without input from the nation's business interest groups and he criticized the president's forum that focused on the problem.
"Virtually anybody whose real business is trying to create jobs" was absent from the White House event, Gingrich said Thursday to a crowd of about 300 gathered for a town hall at Millsaps College, a private Christian school.
"The way, historically, that we create jobs in America is to encourage people who know how to create jobs. ... We encouraged Bill Gates to invent Microsoft. We encouraged Sam Walton to invent Walmart," the Republican from Georgia said. "Today's White House conference is an enormous disappointment for every American who is worried about the economy."
Gingrich, who led the House from 1995 to 1999, is considered a potential presidential candidate in 2012.
Entrepreneurship should be the focus of stimulating the national economy, he said.
"For the same number of (stimulus) dollars we'd be at 6.5 percent unemployment if the money was part of the private sector," he said.
The government in October reported the national unemployment at 10.2 percent. Forecasters don't expect the November figures to be any better.
He told the crowd about economic proposals that are being promoted by a group he founded called American Solutions for Winning the Future. The group, Gingrich has said, is designed to provide solutions to the most important issues facing the country.
Gingrich talked about the national economy and offered ideas to fix it, including eliminating the capital gains tax and abolishing the death tax.
Gingrich's views impressed 66-year-old Lynda Shive, who agreed with everything he said about the Obama administration.
"I don't feel it's a criticism, I believe it's reality," said Shive of Jackson. "I feel this was a very honest town hall meeting."
Preston Powers, a 37-year-old worker at a fork-lift company from Brandon, said he attended to hear Gingrich's perspective on the economy. Powers said he didn't vote for Obama but he's taking a wait-and-see approach to the president's proposals.
"I keep praying the economy will improve," he said.
Gingrich noted that Republican Gov. Haley Barbour, like other governors in the country, is struggling to deal with a tight budget. He said Barbour, who heads the Republican Governors Association, is going to be a "major factor not only in Mississippi but around the country in helping develop better solutions" to fixing problems in America's economy.
Barbour, who's also been mentioned as a possible presidential candidate, was not at the meeting but talked to reporters about it earlier.
"To Gingrich's credit, this is about the umpteenth of these job conferences that he's had," Barbour said during a news conference where he announced more budget cuts. "I hope this is a sign that the president and the Democratic Party learned from November's state elections in Virginia and New Jersey that the American people want them to turn their attention to jobs and not to a trillion-dollar health care bill, not to an energy bill that will drive up energy costs.
"However, we'll see if it's a one-day phenomenon or whether we actually see some change."
Gingrich's stop in Jackson came a day after a similar visit to Ohio. He plans to hold more meetings around the country.
After Millsaps, Gingrich attended a Republican fundraiser in Rankin County. He said he'll make a decision about his own political future in February 2011.
(This version CORRECTS to show that Haley Barbour heads the Republican Governors Association, not the National Governors Association.)