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The Great Green Jobs Flimflam

By Jane Chastain

Some people learn from their mistakes. It appears Barack Obama is not one of them.

Immediately, after assuming the office of president of the United States, Obama began clamoring for an unprecedented $787 billion dollar stimulus package. It was necessary, he told us, in order to put Americans back to work and arrest the rising rate of unemployment at eight percent.

A year later, the unemployment rate is hovering around 10 percent, but when you add to the list the number of discouraged workers or those working only part time, the rate is a staggering 17.3 percent.

What went wrong?

Central to the president’s plan was his pledge not simply to create jobs, but to create “green jobs.”

After one year of this, we’ve seen four million more jobs evaporate, but the president’s answer to this problem, incredibly, is more green jobs.

Last week, Obama demonstrated that he is in serious denial by proclaiming, “The Recovery Act has been a major force in breaking the trajectory of this recession and stimulating growth and hiring. And one of the most popular elements of it has been a clean energy manufacturing initiative that will put Americans to work while helping America gain the lead when it comes to clean energy.”

Obama announced that he plans to use another $2.3 billion from the stimulus for tax credits for American manufacturers of clean energy technologies and he wants Congress to chip in another $5 billion. Obama marveled that he had “far more qualified applicants than we’ve been able to fund.”

No surprise here. When the government is handing out money there will never be a shortage of people willing to accept it.

Now, I have nothing against green energy, but in a free market economy, it is not the government’s place to pick winners or insure losers.

Obama isn’t the first president to throw money at green energy. He is simply building on the mistakes of his predecessors. In fact, our subsidies have become so attractive that in 2008, BP and Royal Dutch Shell announced they were abandoning their plans to build wind farms in Britain in favor of the United States. Lucky us! Doesn’t that prove that renewable energy is viable only where there is taxpayer support or mandates?

Nevertheless, our president remains wildly enthusiastic claiming this latest initiative likely will generate “17,000 jobs” and the roughly $5 billion more that we’ll leverage in private sector investments “could help create tens of thousands of additional jobs.”

What’s wrong with this picture?

Most of the president’s assumptions are based on myths created by a plethora of special interest groups. In fact, there are seven major myths that have been created by these groups.

Andrew Morriss and William T. Bogart, senior fellows at the Property and Environmental Research Center, PERC, have produced a study on these myths along with colleagues Andrew Dorchak and Roger E. Meiners.

The seven “green jobs” myths are as follows:

  • Everyone knows what a “green job” is.
  • Creating green jobs will boost productive employment.
  • Green jobs forecast are reliable.
  • Green jobs promote employment growth.
  • The world economy can be remade by reducing trade, relying on local production, and lowering consumption.
  • Government mandates are a substitute for free markets.
  • Wishing for technological progress is sufficient.

Yes, you may think that you know what a green job is but it seems there are as many definitions as there are interest groups.

Green jobs are a lot like art. They are in the eye of the beholder. Your idea of a green job is another man’s boondoggle or another man’s trash, literally.

According to this PERC team, the biggest gain in green jobs in one study were secretarial positions; management analysts, bookkeepers, janitors and lawyers. Still another study counts government administrators. Furthermore, these studies consistently ignore the millions of jobs that will be destroyed by the restrictions imposed by governments on disfavored products and technologies.

It may surprise you to learn that the green jobs literature essentially dismisses nuclear power, which is clean, cost effective and essentially carbon free. This calls into question the expressed concern of “green power” advocates which is to reduce carbon.

Bottom line: Either this president is gullible or he is in the pocket of these green jobs special interest groups, and he is willing to run our economy into the ground in order to do their bidding.

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