Friday, December 26, 2008

Green Public Jobs

"One minute they want to spend it quickly, the next minute they want to spend it well."

Colin Peppard, Friends of the Earth, quoted in: Paul Kane and Michael D. Shear, "'Green' Jobs Compete for Stimulus Aid: Obama Weighs Them Vs. Traditional Projects," Washington Post, December 24, 2008.

The debate is not just about highways vs. wind mills but also about who gets the jobs -- recently unemployed or long-term un- or under-employed, men or women, inner city or metropolitan.

More broadly, the question is how do we resolve the tension between a short-term adrenaline shot for the economy, laying the groundwork for a more sustainable and competitive economy, and ensuring some modicum of social equity progress no matter how we invest the stimulus.

I know it's old-fashioned but at some point we need to take another look at public works employment programs like those of the 1930s and 1970s, warts and all. Public jobs targeted toward low income communities would provide direct employment, connect to community priorities, support the beleaguered nonprofit sector, and contribute to green projects and skill-building.

Public jobs probably isn't a day 1 priority for the economic stimulus -- but I bet we could get our act together by the end of the year.

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