Congress can spend less money than it did on the last economic stimulus package, create more jobs and help stave off catastrophe via climate change.
That's the gist of an authoritative new report from U-Mass Amherst and the Center for American Progress. Green Recovery outlines how to spend $100 billion over two years to create nearly 2 million new jobs.
Invest the same money in the oil industry, and you get just 542,00 jobs (and a commitment to more fossil fuel pollution). Invest the same money in tax rebates and you get 1.7 million jobs (and a whole lot more consumption).
"Why does this program create more jobs? One, this program is more labor-intensive. For every dollar spent, we spend more on jobs and less on machines, less on supplies," said Robert Pollin, director of the U-Mass Political Economy Research Institute. Second, he said, more of the money is spent domestically.
And, recall that the last economic stimulus package cost 68% more $168 billion. And by all accounts, that stimulus has now exhausted itself, as people paid off debts or bought gas or did whatever they did with the rebate checks that arrived earlier this year.
Unlike that one-off stimulus, this program would continue to generate or save money for years. Retrofitting every publicly owned building in the United States every town hall, library, school and bureaucratic office to enhance energy efficiency would cost $26 billion. But taxpayers would earn that money back in reduced energy bills within five years. Tax incentives for similar improvements to private buildings would pay themselves back in three years, and would leave home and business owners with more money to spend as much, or more than they received from the one-off tax rebate every year indefinitely.
So how would it work?
The report recommends investing in four priority infrastructure projects:
Using existing technology, existing federal programs and existing tax credits, Congress could encourage more people to make energy efficiency upgrades to their homes and buildings. A new law requiring all federal or all publicly owned buildings to be retrofitted would jump-start the process.
Mass Transit and Freight Rail
More riders means more conductors and more maintenance workers. While serious expansion of light rail service would take longer than two years to implement, jobs could be created quickly by expanding service on existing bus and subway lines; subsidizing reduced fares, state and employee expenditures on mass transit; and boosting funding to break "bottlenecks" preventing approved projects from starting.
Like public transit, most investments in energy grid efficiency would yield jobs down the road, but pilot programs could be expanded with more money in federal matching grant programs.
Congress is letting jobs slip away by failing to renew tax incentives for renewable energy, because investors won't invest in emerging technologies like wind, solar and next-generation biofuels without the knowledge that government-backed loan guarantees and incentives will help the nascent industries grow. It's one example that shows how Congress can foster an environment conducive to investments in new technologies that create new jobs.
Because the jobs created by these types of investments everything from construction and steel workers to civil engineers and chemists would be distributed wherever there are homes, public buildings, public transportation, and wherever there is wind and sun, the program could create jobs across the entire U.S.
Enough jobs, its authors say, to drive down unemployment from the five-year high of 6.1% to 4.4%.
The Sierra Club, NRDC and the United Steel Workers endorse the plan, which sounds something like Barack Obama's $150 billion 10-year renewable energy plan. The union and the Sierra Club have both previously endorsed Obama over McCain, and the Center for American Progress was developed back in 2003 to provide a ballast to right-wing think tanks, and is led by former Clinton Chief of Staff John Podesta, whom Obama reportedly wants to run his transition team if he's elected in November.
In other words, the plan is not free of politics. That doesn't mean it's not a smart strategy.
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