The Great Green Job Mystery

I used to think Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s favorite word was “jobs.” But after reading this press release his office sent out today, I’d have to say it’s actually “green.”

“California is already seeing green job growth but we must continue working to accelerate this trend,” he’s quoted as saying in the release. “These Challenge grants will encourage innovative green companies to train and hire Californians to further our state’s leadership in the green economy.”

In all, the one-page press release uses the word “green” nine times. I’ve found that this is a common phenomenon in political speechcraft: using ambiguous words over and over convinces people that you know what you’re talking about, even when you have no clue.

The phrase “green jobs” or “green economy” appears constantly in Schwarzenegger’s (and President Barack Obama‘s) speeches. Billions of dollars of state and federal tax money are going to create/subsidize these jobs, but in truth, no one really knows what a green job means. It’s a concern that’s gone on for years.

In 2008, the progressive publication Grist ran “How do we define the green-job economy?” The answer wasn’t exactly clear:

“How many jobs are being created through all of the kinds of activities measured in this report? No one knows.”

Fair enough. But a year later, AlterNet ran “Just What Is a Green Job Anyway?” The answer was… still up in the air.

“Exactly what a ‘green job’ is, though, most people aren’t quite sure yet,” Emily Badger wrote. “‘Green job’ — like ‘e-commerce’ and ‘social networking’ before it — is so new a term that it is open to both general confusion and competing interpretation.”

Sigh. Of course, that was a year ago. Surely there’s been some crystallization of a definition…

“[N] one can count green jobs because, fundamentally, no one knows what a green job is,” Laurent Belsie wrote in the Jan. 8, 2010 Christian Science Monitor article “Obama to create 17,000 green jobs. What’s a green job?”. “Even the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which has been cogitating on the problem since last spring, hasn’t made up its mind on how to count green jobs.”

So while it’s still not clear what a “green job” actually entails, it is clear that politicians like Schwarzenegger — who are throwing ever-greater sums of tax money at these things — have no idea what they’re talking about.

-Anthony Pignataro

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  1. EastBayLarry
    EastBayLarry 26 May, 2010, 20:23

    “Green Job”: Any job that is not competative in a free market economy, i.e. a job in an industry that cannot compete in the market without massive government subsidies.

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