Daily Archives: September 23, 2011

Counting Jobs: Green or Not?

OK. I hate to spoil the weekend, but it looks like we are heading for a so-called double-dip recession in the USA and in many countries around the world. And for most people other than those Inside the Beltway or on Wall Street, the Great Recession never really ended.

We need to create jobs. But that sure looks shaky right now — as all the Prez can do is plead with a gridlocked Congress to do something and as consumer, investor and business confidence continues to erode.

Next thing you know, Boston and Atlanta will fold and fail to make the MLB playoffs. I digress.

Anyway, I’m not sure that anyone has the answer right now to creating jobs and improving the economy.

For instance, does anyone really know what a green job is? Investing in new technologies and green jobs became a centerpiece of Stimulus One — but now that Solyndra has gone belly up with some $500 million of our tax dollars heading down a rat hole, members of Congress and the administration can’t even agree on what a green job is.

Here’s a classic exchange, as reported by the NYT, during a House committee hearing yesterday:

The title of the hearing was, “How Obama’s Green Energy Agenda is Killing Jobs,” a title that one Democratic member, Mike Quigley, Democrat of Illinois, complained was a “raw partisan assertion that presupposes the answer.”

But in between rounds of jousting, the hearing sometimes touched on some of the difficulties of defining and measuring green jobs. Keith Hall, the director of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which got money last year to start counting green jobs, testified that companies that produce both “green and nongreen outputs” had problems counting the green jobs.

Republican members of the committee and the Democratic witnesses, including Hilda L. Solis, the Secretary of Labor, tangled on whether, for example, a worker who was trained to drive a hybrid bus qualified as holding a green job.

“What makes driving a hybrid bus a green job and driving another bus that’s not a hybrid bus not a green job?” asked Connie Mack, Republican of Florida. “Driving a bus is driving a bus, right?”

Ms. Solis replied, “the vehicles that are built there are green buses, they are fuel efficient.”

Mr. Mack replied, “but this is the bus driver. If I’m sitting in a chair that was made out of green material, does that make my job green?”

But further discussion clarified that the driver of the ordinary bus also had a “green job,” because all mass-transit workers fit the definition of a green job as they provided “services that benefit the environment.”

Sigh.

Anyway, immediately following the launch of Stimulus One I attended a briefing Inside the Beltway — and no, I wasn’t offered any $16 muffins — where a high-level administration official opined about how the spending would spur new job creation in the millions, if not more.  And many of those would be green jobs.

Oh well.

Better to keep an eye on the Red Sox and the Braves. At least in baseball you can actually count the wins and losses.

And as we slide into the weekend, good luck to everyone running in the Akron Marathon and related races. It’s a great event for the city and for the thousands of runners who will take to the streets.