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Bill Clinton Seeks Private Initiatives to Boost U.S. Hiring

As President Barack Obama and congressional leaders continue wrangling over deficits and debt, former President Bill Clinton will be trying to round up new ideas to spur job growth.

Clinton will welcome more than 700 business leaders, politicians and nonprofit association executives to Chicago tomorrow for a two-day meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative. Among those scheduled to attend are Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour and Tony Hsieh, chief executive officer of Zappos.com Inc.

Private efforts to jump-start hiring are needed, Clinton said in an hour-long conference call with reporters, because political gridlock and Washington’s focus upon the budget deficit mean that “it’s inconceivable to me there’ll be another big government stimulus program any time soon.”

The former president said he hoped to discover ways to unlock investment capital idling in U.S. banks or offshore. Corporations hold $1.9 trillion in liquid assets; in 2007, before the recession, that figure was $1.5 trillion.

“There’s more than enough there to start not just an American recovery, but a global recovery,” he said.

Clinton acknowledged that amid weak private-sector demand, there are limits to what can be done. “If there’s no demand for loans and no demand for economic activity, we can’t create it. But we can do better,” he said.

He said he wants to tap what he called “nascent demand” by encouraging utilities to finance the retrofitting of schools and other public buildings to make them more energy-efficient. Every $1 billion spent on such projects would create 7,000 jobs, he said.

‘Make a Difference’

In 2005, the former president founded the Clinton Global Initiative as a means of providing tangible remedies for the world’s problems. The sessions require participants to promise specific actions to “make a difference in others’ lives.” So far, those attending the meetings have made more than 2,000 commitments affecting the lives of 300 million people in 180 countries, the organization says.

The Chicago conference represents the first time the organization has held a meeting entirely focused upon the United States.

Detouring into politics, the former president said he would be “surprised” if Obama were not re-elected, despite the 9.1 percent unemployment rate. No president since Franklin Roosevelt has been re-elected with a rate above 7.2 percent.

“He can be re-elected, particularly if he’s opposed by people whose only idea is to cut taxes and eviscerate the government,” Clinton said.

To contact the reporter on this story: David J. Lynch in Washington at dlynch27@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net

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