POLITICAL observations & opinions

* on the claim that environmental initiatives produce jobs, and on many other issues, we need fewer “sound bites” and more fact-based analysis … we should judge political candidates on which of these they provide

Posted by Lew Weinstein on September 6, 2011


who should we listen to? who gives us sound bites? who cites facts?


 An email from MoveOn (9/5/11) …

  • President Obama overruled EPA science and blocked crucial new protections against smog pollution that have been years in the making.
  • The result, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, is likely to be tens of thousands of premature deaths, as well as increased illness among seniors, kids with asthma, and people who have lung problems.
  • Worse, in announcing his decision, President Obama repeated discredited tea party talking points about environmental rules costing jobs.

The reality is that these (environmental) standards were the best thing

for the economy and the environment.

    • Source: NONE
  • With congressional Republicans planning a series of votes starting this week to block other health and environmental standards, we need to set the record straight, right away.
  • What’s more, Nobel-Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman pointed out that this anti-smog rule would actually create clean energy jobs: “It would have forced firms to spend on upgrading or replacing equipment, helping to boost demand. Yes, it would have cost money—but that’s the point!”


David Brooks writes in the NYT (9/5/11) …

  • With the economy stagnating and unemployment high, where are the jobs of the future going to come from? A few years ago, it seemed as though the Green Economy could be a big part of the answer.
  • Alas, it was not to be.
  • The gigantic public investments in green energy may be stimulating innovation and helping the environment. But they are not evidence that the government knows how to create private-sector jobs.
  • Recently, Aaron Glantz reported in The Times on some of the disappointments.
    • California was awarded $186 million in federal stimulus money to weatherize homes. So far, the program has created the equivalent of only 538 full-time jobs.
    • A $59 million effort to train people for green jobs in California produced only 719 job placements.
    • SolFocus designs solar panels in the United States, but the bulk of its employment is in China where the panels are actually made. As the company spokesman told Glantz, “Taxes and labor rates” are cheaper there.
    • According to Investor’s Business Daily, executives at Johnson Controls turned $300 million in green technology grants into 150 jobs — that’s $2 million per job.
    • Sunil Sharan, a former director of The Smart Grid Initiative at General Electric, wrote in The Washington Post that the Smart Grid, while efficient and environmentally beneficial, will be a net job destroyer. For example, 28,000 meter-reading jobs will be replaced by the Smart Grid’s automatic transmitters.
    • A study by McKinsey suggests that clean energy may produce jobs for highly skilled engineers, but it will not produce many jobs for U.S. manufacturing workers.
  • Gordon Hughes, formerly of the World Bank and now an economist at the University of Edinburgh, surveyed the landscape and concluded:

“There are no sound economic arguments to support an assertion

that green energy policies will increase the total level of employment

in the medium or longer term ”

  • We should pursue green innovation. We just shouldn’t imagine these efforts will create the jobs we need.

read the entire article at … http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/06/opinion/brooks-where-the-jobs-arent.html?_r=1&ref=opinion



  • The letter from MoveOn is passionate, and there are sources quoted, although there is no support cited for this central MoveOn  assertion … “The reality is that these standards were the best thing for the economy and the environment.”
  • David Brooks is not opposed to environment programs for their own value, but he raises fact after fact to suggest that we should expect no short-term job-creating benefits.
  • My point here is that our political arguments need to be buttressed by facts, not simply emotions. And of course the facts are always complicated. Sometimes there are relevant facts on both sides of a particular issue.
  • In political campaign discourse, sound bites always seem to win out over reasonable analysis.
  • One role for journalists is to ask candidates who are claiming this or that … what is the basis for your assertion? what facts are you citing?

When a candidate has no factual answer, or refuses to answer,

that doesn’t prove the argument is wrong,

but it does indicate the shallowness of the candidate,

and suggest that his or her assertions are worthless rhetoric

rather than fact-based analysis.



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