New Jobs: Green, "Shovel Ready" or Military-Industrial?

As the economy continues to sputter, the WaPo’s Paul Kane and Michael D. Shear front-page “Green’ Jobs Compete for Stimulus Aid: Obama Weighs Them Vs. Traditional Projects” contrasts with “Defense Spending Would Be Great Stimulus: All three service branches are in need of upgrade and repair” by WSJ board of contributors member Martin Feldstein, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Reagan and a professor at Harvard. I’ve got to wonder about the latter, as Lawrence F. Skibbie paraphrased an observation by one of the members of his National Defense Industrial Association in his June 22, 1998 testimony to the Commission to Study Capital Budgeting:

it is unclear that a meaningful assessment can be made of the economic return on investment for resources committed to military capital assets

Kane and Shear write,

environmentalists and smart-growth advocates are trying to shift the priorities of the economic stimulus plan that will be introduced in Congress next month away from allocating tens of billions of dollars to highways, bridges and other traditional infrastructure spending to more projects that create “green-collar” jobs.

That’s drawing flack from the Blue Dog Coalition of fiscally conservative House Democrats. Congressman Baron P. Hill (D-IN), incoming co-chairman told

If we’re going to call it a stimulus package, it has to be stimulating and has to be stimulating now. I think there are members of our caucus who are trying to create a Christmas tree out of this

The Post paints this as “shovel-ready” union construction job v.s. green-collar job competition and in an example of stating opinion without supporting facts says the latter,

often have the long-term potential to revolutionize the economy but tend to lack the short-term bounce of old-fashioned infrastructure work

Anna Burger, chairman of Change to Win, a union group is quoted as saying,

In fact, we do have crumbling roads and bridges that need to be repaired. It’s not about pitting one against the other. It’s about how we find a sustainable economy.

Terence M. O’Sullivan, head of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, adds

We’re committed to green jobs and rapid transit and all the rest of it.

Senior aides in the new administration and the congressional leadership

suggest that there have been delays in identifying enough of the environmentally friendly projects to reach a dollar level that will truly jump-start the economy.

Democratic negotiators plan to reconvene around New Year’s Day to try to hash out the final details of the plan before the 111th Congress starts Jan. 6, with a goal of passing a bill out of the House and Senate shortly after Obama is sworn in Jan. 20. At a meeting of Obama’s transition team yesterday, Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. vowed that the proposal would not become a “Christmas tree” for lawmakers’ policy earmarks. He defended it against the criticism on the left that too much of its focus would be on old-fashioned projects.

“We’ve let our infrastructure crumble for a long, long time from water to roads to bridges. It makes sense to invest in them now,” Biden said.

Colin Peppard, a transportation expert for Friends of the Earth was not as deferenital:

They’re going to put a bunch of money through a broken system to stimulate the economy. That doesn’t make sense to me….One minute they want to spend it quickly, the next minute they want to spend it well.

FOA has begun a Road to Nowhere campaign, saying that new roads would lead to “new pollution — keep the economic stimulus clean.” But what about existing roads that need repair?

Meanwhile, speaking of economic stimulus, you gotta laugh to keep from crying. Check out Chuck Collins‘s & Nick Thorkelson‘s Economic Meltdown Funnies from Jobs with Justice and the Institute for Policy Studies Program on Inequality and the Common Good.Check out Chuck Collins & Nick Thorkelson Economic Meltdown Funnies from Jobs with Justice and the Institute for Policy Studies Program on Inequality and the Common Good.

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