- The Washington Times - Monday, January 30, 2012

The live video chat from the White House Monday night was billed as a chance for regular people to “hang out” with President Obama, but at times it sounded like he was running an employment agency.

Two people who participated in the discussion asked Mr. Obama point-blank for help finding jobs, and another man offered to do some technology consulting for the White House.

Jennifer Weddel of Fort Worth, Texas, whose husband is an out-of-work engineer in the high-tech industry, asked the president, “Why does the government continue to extend H-1B visas when there are tons of Americans just like my husband with no job?” The visa allows employers to hire foreign workers temporarily for specialty jobs.

Said Mr. Obama, “There’s a huge demand around the country for engineers. Send me your husband’s resume. I’d be interested in finding out exactly what’s happening. The word we’re getting is, somebody in that high-tech field … should be able to find something right away. The H-1B should be reserved only for those companies who say they cannot find somebody in that particular field.”

The employer-in-chief didn’t stop there.

“I will follow up on this,” he said to Mrs. Weddel. “Maybe we can get some information as to why your husband’s been having trouble getting placed. We want to encourage more American engineers to be placed.”

She replied, “I’ll have to take you up on that, Mr. President, thank you.”

Another woman who submitted a question via YouTube, identified as Linda Barrett, 52, of Portland, Ore., told Mr. Obama that she has been unemployed for five years. She is an Occupy Wall Street protester.

“Mr. President, I voted for you,” she said. “I need help. Do you have a plan for me?”

The president replied that he outlined in his State of the Union speech last week a strategy for limiting outsourcing of jobs, improving skills for workers, and creating a fair tax code.

“There are models out there that work,” Mr. Obama said. “Obvioiulsy, for someone who’s been laid off and they’re 50 or older, it’s a lot tougher. The most important thing I can do for folks who are out of work right now is to grow the economy.”

Mr. Obama spoke in a live video chat room known as a “Hangout,” part of search giant Google’s social networking site Google Plus. More than 100,000 questions were submitted via Google and YouTube. Mrs. Weddell and several others, including a class of students, interacted with Mr. Obama live from other locations.

Another woman, from Evanston, Ill., asked the president how the country could educate children about economics because, she said, when she was a child, “Wealth equaled success. I think we all know in this day and age, that’s just not true.”

Mr. Obama replied that he tries to “remind this generation that previous generations have had tougher times.”

“We’ve always come out on top as long as we’ve worked together,” the president said.

Near the end of the 50-minute session, Mr. Obama called out to Mrs. Weddell, “Jennifer, remember to send me that information.”

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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