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The Green Jobs Fiasco
The stimulus bill set aside $500 million for a program to train and recruit people for the new green economy. The program promised to place 80,000 people in so-called green jobs. The grant period is more than half over, and the program has placed only 8,000 people in jobs, according to a report by the Department of Labor's Inspector General.
In downtown Silver Spring, a union-backed organization called the International Transportation Learning Center got $5 million in stimulus dollars partly to recruit thousands of new workers and train them in new "green job" skills. But because transit workers already face low unemployment and low turnover and the new jobs weren't materializing, the group is instead using the entire grant to teach new skills to workers who already have jobs.
"The spirit of the stimulus shouldn't be to get people who already have jobs to get more money to do the same thing, just bigger," says de Rugy. Under stimulus theory, she says, "government spending should be going to places where unemployment is very high, going to people who are poached from unemployment lines."
Weatherizing Homes: Not So Shovel Ready
According to the Keynesian theory that undergirds it, stimulus spending must be spent quickly to be effective. By Barack Obama's own testimony, one of the most "shovel-ready" stimulus programs was supposed to be a $5 billion program to weatherize 590,000 homes around the country.
But the weatherization program started off as a slow-moving, dismal failure. According to a February 2010 report by the Department of Energy's Inspector General, only 8 percent of the weatherization money had been tapped in the program's first year.
In Silver Spring, Gov. O'Malley held a press conference at the home of Sonja and Richard Lowery in June 2009. It was the first home in Maryland to get weatherized with stimulus money. The program was underway. And then it nearly ground to a halt. In the first year, Maryland weatherized only 279 homes, or 4 percent of its goal.
The main holdup was a concession to organized labor that the "prevailing wage" rules apply to programs funded by stimulus dollars. That meant weatherization workers had to earn at least the average wage in their area for the particular work they were hired to do. Before workers could be paid, Maryland (and every other state) spent months conducting surveys to determine average wages and benefits for workers weatherizing homes in every county.
Today Maryland is racing to spend the remainder of its weatherization money before it's forced to forfeit what's left in early 2012.
"The main lesson of the stimulus is that creating jobs is a very complex process," says de Rugy, "and certainly it can't be directed by a top down institution that pretty much fails at everything it does."
Written and produced by Jim Epstein, who also narrates.
Approximately 8 minutes.
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