February 6, 2009

February 6, 2009 | Commentary on Federal Budget, Immigration

Red Faces About 'Green' Jobs

It's red faces for those claiming government should subsidize "green " jobs for American workers.

According to new reports, they're not very well-paying jobs, and many could be exported to overseas workers. Plus, many of the other jobs from the bill would go to illegal immigrants!

President Obama and others such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi want to subsidize alternative energy to the tune of $15 billion of taxpayers' money each year for 10 years. They claim it will produce 5 million "green jobs." Basically, it's billions in "walking around" money to help their political allies hire people.

What they've typically failed to mention is that any new jobs would displace a similar number of existing jobs. The Heritage Foundation's Ben Lieberman has noted that such plans may actually create a net loss of jobs. This is because they would eliminate work in the traditional energy sector, which would have a competitive disadvantage against the subsidized "alternative energy" sector. Plus, traditional energy and its jobs would be punished via expensive new government regulation, such as the proposed "cap and trade" system President Obama supports. Candidate Obama even told a San Francisco newspaper that, "under my [energy] plan ... electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket."

The "good news" about green jobs may be that the Institute for Energy Research says it will require 600,000 new government bureaucrats to administer the program. Just that thought may turn some people's faces green!

A report released yesterday by two Democrats (Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash.), states, "Green jobs are not automatically good jobs." It was commissioned by several labor and environmental groups. The report concludes that makers of components for wind power and solar power typically pay less than other companies that manufacture durable goods -- although more than most workers at Wal-Mart.

It also notes that the makers of those items have already moved much of their production overseas, to places like China and Mexico.

Any efforts to guarantee that the subsidized "green " jobs would be red, white and blue American jobs would have a problem. President Obama has already signaled that "Buy American" provisions in the bill must be toned down to avoid a trade war with Europe and other nations.

Equally embarrassing to "stimulus" backers is a report from the Heritage Foundation's Robert Rector, who finds that the measure's touted infrastructure spending (actually a small part of the $888 billion measure) would likely result in hiring 300,000 illegal immigrants. As Rector writes in his new study:

If enacted, the Senate stimulus bill would fund over $100 billion in new government construction projects with the goal of providing additional jobs to unemployed Americans. The House-passed stimulus bill contains explicit language to bar employment of illegal immigrants in these construction projects. However, the Senate bill deliberately omits this language.

If the Senate version of the bill becomes law, a great number of the workers employed in government construction programs will, in fact, be illegal immigrants. About one out of seven (or 15 percent) of workers employed in construction in the U.S. is an illegal immigrant. Unless strong mechanisms are put in place to prevent the hiring of illegal immigrants, it is reasonable to expect that a similar proportion of workers hired for construction projects under the stimulus bill would be in the country illegally.

All these studies point to the same problem: When Washington pretends it's creating jobs, it's usually creating more of a mess than anything else.

Ernest Istook is recovering from serving 14 years in Congress and is now a distinguished fellow at The Heritage Foundation.

About the Author

Ernest Istook Distinguished Fellow
Government Studies

First Appeared in WolrdNetDaily