Green Jobs in the Red
From the Scrapbook
Sep 12, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 48
It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week for green jobs. Solyndra, a solar panel manufacturing company much ballyhooed by the Obama administration, declared bankruptcy. The company had received $535 million in September 2009 from a Department of Energy grant program funded by the stimulus. Supposedly, the grant would create 4,000 jobs—at a bargain basement cost to taxpayers of $133,750 per job.
Obama at Solyndra in 2010
At the time the grant was issued, Joe Biden proclaimed that the investment in Solyndra is “exactly what the Recovery Act is all about.” In hindsight, The Scrapbook agrees with the vice president wholeheartedly.
As if the White House didn’t have enough rhetorical egg on its face, Obama himself gave a speech at Solyndra in 2010 in which he declared, “You’re demonstrating that the promise of clean energy isn’t just an article of faith. . . . It’s happening right now. The future is here.”
The truth is that “green jobs” is a 21st-century euphemism for a more familiar term—crony capitalism. It’s probably not surprising to learn that one of Solyndra’s key investors, Tulsa billionaire George Kaiser, was an Obama campaign “bundler” raising between $50,000 and $100,000 for the president’s 2008 race; Kaiser himself, along with Solyndra executives and board members, donated another $87,050.
Not surprisingly, that kind of campaign cash will get you preferential treatment. House Energy Committee chairman Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican, recently sent a letter to the White House that read, “We have learned from our investigation that White House officials monitored Solyndra’s application and communicated with [Energy] and Office of Management and Budget officials during the course of their review.” Upton is promising to investigate the question of improper influence thoroughly.
The Center for Public Integrity’s iWatch News and ABC News have further discovered that Energy Department officials announced support for Solyndra even before final marketing and legal reviews on the grant were completed—a move that raised the eyebrows of a Government Accountability Office analyst.
Nonetheless, the Department of Energy is unchastened. “The project that we supported succeeded,” DOE spokesman Damien LaVera said Wednesday. This led the Washington Examiner to ask the relevant question: “So a bankrupt firm lays off all of its workers after blowing through half a billion in private venture capital, then consuming half-a-billion in taxpayer-subsidized loans, and this is a ‘success?’ What would failure look like?”
Of course, there were already reams of evidence that “green jobs” programs were destined to fail. After the president praised Spain no less than eight times as a model for a green jobs economy, Bloomberg reported on a Spanish university study that concluded “subsidizing renewable energy in the U.S. may destroy two jobs for every one created if Spain’s experience with windmills and solar farms is any guide.” FOIA emails showed the DOE and EPA coordinating with wind industry lobbyists and liberal think tanks to try to put a positive spin on the story.
Alas, even the White House’s favorite media organ is not buying the green jobs hype any more. Last month, the New York Times ran a story announcing that the “Number of Green Jobs Fails to Live Up to Promises.” Although it recited a litany of failed jobs programs, the article actually understated the problem. “A study released in July by the non-partisan Brookings Institution found clean-technology jobs accounted for just 2 percent of employment nationwide,” observed the Times.
Time magazine delved a little more deeply into the Brookings study and found that “more than 90 percent of the clean economy by Brookings and Battelle’s accounting lie in older segments that provide basic services—mass transit—or fight long-existing environmental problems like polluted air and water.” The most common “green job,” employing 400,000 workers, is waste management and treatment.
In other words, those guys who have the thankless task of hauling your garbage away every week are now holding down dynamic, politically exciting green jobs.
Ozzie and Harriet Live!
The Scrapbook has a weakness for perennial newspaper stories—the old Willkie voter horrified by today’s Republican party, a onetime professional athlete now down on his luck—and the Washington Post carried one of our favorites last week: “Minorities are now the majority in D.C. region.” This was on the front page, of course.
The Scrapbook isn’t arguing with the Census, but this is a national trend that ceased being news during the Johnson administration. The “white” population of the United States is aging and moving beyond the childbearing years, and the bulk of our immigration in recent times has been from Latin America and Asia. It would be newsworthy if “minorities” had not become the majority in many urban centers, such as the Washington, D.C., region.
But the reason this is a perennial story in the Post—which is the same reason news organizations search relentlessly for Reagan voters who dislike the current crop of Republican candidates—is that it conforms to a certain stereotypical vision of American society. That is to say, back in the godawful fifties, America was populated exclusively by Ozzie and Harriet Nelson, their two sons, and the Cleaver family; but beginning in the swinging sixties this white-bread vision of an idealized United States—picket fences, hoop skirts, twin beds, and Ike—began to be supplanted by an influx of Others who frightened and enraged the Nelsons and Cleavers and, in due course, outnumbered them.
The trouble with this vision—which, of course, expresses not so much delight about “minorities” as contempt for Ozzie and Harriet—is that it’s based on the solid left-wing doctrine that race is destiny. No “minority” would wish to buy into the so-called American Dream of, say, higher education, marriage, church membership, or home ownership in the suburbs. Once “minorities” were a majority in America, the Cleavers and their unbearable standards would be sent into permanent exile.
Except that it hasn’t happened that way. It is true that, as a matter of demographics, what the Census defines as “white” people are increasingly outnumbered in America’s large metro-politan centers, for what it’s worth. But it is equally true that “nonwhite” people—Latinos, African Americans, Asians—are just as interested in pursuing the American Dream as people who arrived here at other times in our history. Which means that the fact that “majorities are now the minority” anywhere in America is, for all practical purposes, meaningless.
Indeed, the next time you drive through a residential neighborhood, gawking at the Cleavers and Nelsons in their habitat, you are likely to find that they are named Rodriguez or Washington or Kim and doing their best to emulate Ozzie and Harriet.
The Scrapbook wasn’t shocked last week to read this sort of left-wing hand-wringing over the Republican House’s supposed “disrespect” toward Obama (because it refused to accede to the president’s demand that he choose when to give a speech to Congress):
But we were a bit surprised to look up from this choice specimen of special pleading and realize we weren’t reading the Nation but rather the New York Times, which went on to suggest that “there is the persistent and deeply uncomfortable question of race” raised by House Republicans’ opposition to Obama. Well, maybe that question persists on Eighth Avenue. The real story, of course, was that the White House had high-handedly announced its preferred time for the speech, which just happened to conflict with a long-planned GOP presidential candidates’ debate at the Reagan library.
This sort of “reporting” has shown up with increasing frequency in the Times, which of late seems to be reinventing itself as a niche publication for Manhattan liberals.
Compare and contrast with how the Washington Post—no slouch when it comes to carrying water for the Obama White House—covered the same jobs-speech faceoff. Reporter David Nakamura noted correctly that the initial White House spin was that the Wednesday date for the speech had been “carefully selected,” with press secretary Jay Carney implying that Boehner’s request to move the speech to Thursday was about petty politics. In fact, the Post continued,
Would that the Times’s Washington correspondents attempted such straight reporting.