One of my favorite moments from the new book The Escape Artists: How Obama’s Team Fumbled the Recovery:Read the Reuters story for what was either the Obama administration's naïveté, ignorance, or dishonesty about how they were going to fight unemployment by using the government to fund new green jobs. They still can't even define what a green job is with various government agencies having different definitions. But it just isn't turning out that the federal government can pump enough money into such approved industries to make a measurable drop in unemployment. They made nice promises:Energy was a particular obsession of the president-elect’s, and therefore a particular source of frustration. Week after week, [White House economic adviser Christina] Romer would march in with an estimate of the jobs all the investments in clean energy would produce; week after week, Obama would send her back to check the numbers. “I don’t get it,” he’d say. “We make these large-scale investments in infrastructure. What do you mean, there are no jobs?” But the numbers rarely budged.
In December 2009, Vice President Joe Biden said the effort would create 722,000 green jobs.Then there are the companies that have gone bust despite receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money.
The White House said in November 2010 that its clean-energy efforts had generated work for 225,000 people and would ultimately create a total of 827,000 "job years" - implying average annual employment of around 200,000 over the four years of Obama's presidential term.
White House officials stand by that estimate and say job creation is only one aspect of the clean-energy push....
One problem is that, unlike other elements of the Recovery Act that injected money into the economy quickly, efforts to develop high-speed rail or electric-car batteries Obama also promoted could take a decade or longer to yield dividends.
Gains in the sector don't necessarily lead to wider employment.
The wind industry, for example, has shed 10,000 jobs since 2009 even as the energy capacity of wind farms has nearly doubled, according to the American Wind Energy Association. Meanwhile, the oil and gas industry has added 75,000 jobs since Obama took office, according to Labor Department statistics.
Federal agencies also have struggled to get stimulus money out the door in a timely manner, even for prosaic efforts that help local governments reduce energy costs.
The rush of funding encouraged private-sector participants to inflate their job-creation projections as they angled for a piece of the action, insiders say.
"They were obviously just guessing," said Robert Pollin, a University of Massachusetts professor and green-energy supporter who helped the Energy Department sort through loan applications. "If an undergraduate gave me a paper of that quality I would have probably given them a C or a C-plus."
The high-profile failures of companies that have benefited from federal backing, such as Solyndra and Beacon Power Corp., have given ammunition to Republicans who paint the effort as a costly boondoggle.The administration adamantly refuses to let the marketplace determine the success of such companies. They want to put their fingers on the scale to help out favored companies. Unfortunately, their fingers are made up of taxpayer money that takes funds out of the economy to be funneled as politicians choose.
They also have targeted the $500 job-training program that aims to train workers for skills they would need in a new "green economy."
The program's initial results were so poor that the Labor Department's inspector general recommended last fall that the agency should return the $327 million that remained unspent.
The numbers have improved somewhat since then, but the department remains far short of its goal of placing 80,000 workers into green jobs by 2013.
By the end of 2011, some 16,092 participants had found new work in a "green" field, according to the Labor Department - roughly one-fifth of its target. The program also helped employed workers upgrade their skills.
So the other side of the story that never gets covered is what that money could have bought if it hadn't been spent on these boondoggles.