Wednesday, April 1, 2009


"President Obama needs to spend less time in photo ops at 'green factories' and figure out how to drive the transformation of whole industries, like autos, steel...[T]he New Deal--particularly the Civilian Conservation Corp and the Works Progress Administration -- provides some models ..[that]..used the unemployed to create new dams, eletrical transmission systems, and bidges that boosted nation's productive power."

Joel Kotkin,"Anger Could Make Us Stronger," Newsweek, March 30, 2001.

It's reasurring to me that there actually are green factories for photo ops -- so keep them coming. And I think the last few days have shown us that President Obama is paying attention to the auto industry-- and its transformation.

But the second half of the argument, about public jobs, represents a good idea that doesn't get much traction anymore. There is something politically toxic about the memories of CETA in the 1970s and the communication challenge of "make work" government jobs. Instead, we have created a stimulus/recovery approach that bounces between 'shovel ready' projects that aren't the most strategic to creating whole new energy industries from the ground up. And lot's of people will be left out of the jobs.

I'm a localist at heart, but I think the problems of CETA grew primarily from running the program through cities and jurisdictions. We need a federal Green Conservation Corp. Can't we build upon what has been learned from the military, Americorp, national parks, YouthBuild, and local conservation corps? And, of course, we need a Harry Hopkins.

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