We are less than two days out from President Barack Obama’s speech to a Joint Session of Congress and to the nation to outline proposals to help put Americans back to work. This speech could be a strident call for all-out measures to reinvigorate American employment, a more limited set of programs constructed and conceived within a belief that deficit reduction is the most critical task facing the nation, or …
How can we judge the President’s proposals?
One path, it seems, is to lay out what we believe makes the most sense to help address America’s challenges in the near, mid, and long term and use this as a standard by which to judge the proposals.
After the fold are some thoughts, developed through the years, about how to achieve these things:
• Put Americans back to work — in large numbers, throughout the country, in meaningful employment that (in most cases) offers paths for continued, long-term employment.
• Help address our intertwined economic, energy, and environmental challenges to foster a more prosperous, climate-friendly future.
• Set the path for addressing our ‘deficit’ challenges via economic activity fostering increased government revenues rather than ever-more devastating slashes to the
Yes, the ideas that follow the fold might not meet the political reality of Grover Norquist idolatry even as reality-based analysis would show how these are the sorts of meaningful system-of-system opportunities to actually solve problems and help us (the U.S.) move forward in our quest for a more perfect union.
Since before the 2008 election, the core challenge for the incoming President was clear: JOBS! JOBS! JOBS!
Yes, we were amid a collapse of the economic system, it required stabilization. JOBS! JOBS! JOBS!
Yes, our energy situation was (is) a mess and the climate is boiling. JOBS! JOBS! JOBS!
Yes, our political system is broken. JOBS! JOBS! JOBS!
Yes, our health care is a mess. JOBS! JOBS! JOBS!
What is amazing is that sensible JOBS focused action can help on all the other fronts and set the stage for stronger action tomorrow.
NOTE: this is a repost (several times over) that originated before President Obama took the oath of office and which is built on multiple posts over the years. E.g., this is not a new theme in my discussions or a change in the reality of necessity combined with opportunity. January 2011 version was in the hours prior to the 2011 State of the Union where “jobs! jobs! jobs!” was supposedly to be at the core of the President’s comments. Sadly, in this era of ‘bipartisanship’ with an anti-science and fossil-foolish Republican majority in the House and indicated by Carol Browner’s departure from the White House, this sort of win-win-win-win-win-win-win strategy did not form the core of President Obama’s speech nor does it appear center stage of the White House agenda for the rest of the Presidency … even as this is a path toward addressing our employment and other economic challenges while positioning the nation for (survival and) greatness into the future.
In July 2010, Turkana’s (Laurence Lewis) front page post at Daily Kos, Daily Kos NYT editorial: Obama must lead on climate legislation, engendered a huge amount of discussion … with much of it focused on a ‘how dare the net roots attack Obama’ and ‘he has done so much’. One of my responses included these words
Yes, the Administration has acheived things — even ‘historic’ things. Yes, the Republicans make the ‘do nothing’ Congress Truman faced look like cuddly teddy bears. Yes … However, we are talking about an existential threat that requires very, very serious action. I don’t see the push for that from the White House.
I actually think that Obama ‘gets it’, to a reasonable degree about climate change. Yet …
Much of the “how dare the netroots attack Obama” was ‘why don’t you offer solutions rather than critiques’? (This is, imo, an utterly false strawman considering what many of us write.) There was also lots of ‘what would you do’ questioning.
In June 2011, Laurence Lewis (Turkana) had another must-read discussion of climate issues. Climate change is the most important issue humanity has ever faced. And, well, much of the discussion was similar to last year’s with attacks on the Administration and reactions of The Obama Administration has done more than any administration to boost solar and renewables in general. My reaction (see the thread for full) in part:
The Obama team has both done an amazing amount and not a fraction of what is required.
By what standard should we judge action? From comparisons with the past, by which the investment in ARRA/otherwise are impressive, or by the standard of what is required … where we see that we are not nearly enough and far too pandering to fossil-foolish ways.
In response to a painful question, ‘what if what is necessary on climate is not politically possible,’ the response really is ‘change the politically possible’ and here are some quick thoughts:
1. Not shy away from talking honestly about climate change — educate and set out a record.
2. Seek paths (even if incremental) that help set the infrastructure (fiscal, cultural, technical, etc …) for being able to do more tomorrow.
3. Make sure to speak of the whole benefits of action — the Administration has, all too often, fallen into a trap of understating benefits. (On the CAFE standards, for example, see: Understating the value of new CAFE standard targets.) If proponents are understating value of action, that is preemptive concession to opponents of action.
4. Take steps that are quite concrete in terms of helping improve people’s lives (JOB! JOBS! JOBS!) that also lead to rapid/serious improvements in terms of reduced/cleaner energy use and reduced emissions. (See: Clean Energy Jobs Stimulate Me!
Clean Jobs could stimulate U.S. … and set us on path to tackle climate change
Too many Americans remain unemployed. Far too many. And, underemployed. And, the prospects are grim for too many. Individuals, families, communities, and the nation are suffering. The ARRA/stimulus package was inadequate … we know that. It helped stave off utter catastrophe but it didn’t fill the gap. This was not inevitable.
Our economic system remains fragile based on wasteful use of polluting energy. The Administration has taken steps, even significant steps, to reduce emissions moving forward that range from investing in clean energy deployment and research, increased CAFE standards, and otherwise. The question is whether, with a JOBS! JOBS! JOBS! focus we could move from ‘even significant steps’ to meaningful, economy wide action on climate change … even without a ‘climate bill’. And, whether taking this path could prove a political plus for the Obama Administration (and Democratic Party) and set the stage for meaningful climate legislation in the years ahead …
Taking that thought, a redacted and slightly edited reprise of Clean Energy Jobs Stimulate Me!
Official unemployment is now back above nine percent and doesn’t have great prospects, with current policies (and Republican House majority and focus on “deficit reduction” above investment) doesn’t have great prospects for getting better. Real un- and under-employment is likely more in the 20 percent range. There is are real reasons why, even though the worst might have been averted due to Obama Administration and Democratic Congressional action in 2009 (and, well, to a lesser extent in 2010), that JOBS remain the top of agenda for so many in America.
In 2009, Congress passed a stimulus package. It had an effect, but with so many Americans unemployed and States/Local governments slashing budgets, that impact was not enough and we look to be going in the wrong direction.
Looking at the numbers, we shouldn’t be surprised. The financial frauds, collapse of the real-estate bubble, and other elements cost the United States something like $1.3-2 trillion in annual demand. Looking at the stimulus, there was all of about $600 billion or $300 billion per year. As at least half that figure simply made up for state and local government cutbacks. Thus, the stimulus package amounted to covering perhaps 10 percent of lost demand from the economy … and that coverage is running out.
We’ve been through this … but, is it time for a summit and legislation to stimulate job growth? Even in the face of Tea Party dominance of the Republican House Majority?
A core element of all government policy should be to seek win-win-win-win-win-win solutions, wherever possible. We don’t just needs jobs, which are desperately needed, but we need good jobs that help strengthen American society and the American economy so that this stimulating jolt helps turn us (the U.S.) toward a stronger, more sustainable, more prosperous Union.
Etymology: From Latin stimulatus past participle of stimul? (“goad on”) .
Verb: to stimulate: To encourage into action. To arouse an organism to functional activity.
Synonyms: encourage, induce, provoke, animate, arouse, energize, energise, excite, perk up
Antonyms: de-energize, sedate, stifle
For eight long years, this nation was de-energized, had productive advancing of the economy stifled, and good governance sedated nearly out of existence.
While we have seen change, change for the better, the sweeping change required to emerge truly from the miasma of the previous regime has not yet occurred.
Americans were stimulated via systematic malfeasance (governmental, fiscal, environmental) into a path that offers the potential for change for the better — across all facets of society, from the White House to my House.
A simple request …
President Obama …
Stimulate the U.S. to something better.
Change is reality
The world around us is changing.
This is true when it comes to political power. Sigh … as we saw in November 2010 and in the House today.
This is true in terms of “fiscal realities”.
This is true of the world around us and the people we know and …
Change is normal, nothing is static, … except when it isn’t, such as the reality and risk in the pure physical nature of the world that we are creating via our own actions.
What we desire is to drive change toward betterment, not worsening, of our situation. And, of the situation for generations to come. We have started that process, with an election and a move, for “Change we can Believe In”.
I … You … We were stimulated to action and were excited to the potential for something better to come. We need to return to that excitement with a call and steps for real solutions to the real problems that face us (all of U.S.).
Re the jobs package we need
A shorthand for thinking what makes sense …
• Stimulating jobs through “green”. Yes. GOOD
• Stimulating jobs through strengthening societal fabric via, for example, Universal Health Care start-up costs. Yes. Good.
• Stimulating jobs via investments that strengthen societal infrastructure (schools, health care, science, …) to help us (the U.S.) over the long term. Yes. Good.
• Stimulus jobs through building new roads and expanding airports and other pollution supporting / enabling infrastructure. Not so smart … tending toward bad.
• Stimulating through increased “consumption” that eats resources today while creating nothing for tomorrow. Foolish … Bad.
• Stimulating not many jobs through pathways that have been shown not to work (e.g., more money for ‘abstinence only education’). Imbecilic. Very Bad.
• Stimulating essentially no jobs through sending checks out via the bank accounts of foreigners? Idiocy. These are not ‘tax cuts’ or ‘rebates’ but tax increases on the unborn. It is time to end Tax Increases on the
Unborn. They were idiocy under Bush. They will be idiocy tomorrow. BAD! [Even as, sigh, this was done this past December under a Democratic Majority in the House and Senate.]
Failure to communicate with Congress has been a problem for the longest, I guess But maybe one day we can make some progress Eminem … Stimulate
We should strive to prod American on a win-win-win path of improved near-term economic activity (putting people back to work or to better employment), improved long term economic performance, a strengthened and more equitable society, and a more climate friendly society. We have the opportunity to Energize America out of the unemployment funk and toward something better. [Please note that the following sentence was written, originally, in late 2008 amid discussion of the stimulus package. While the need remains, "the" opportunity was not truly seized -- that opportunity to truly turn the tide on our oil addictions and climate chaos promoting path slipped passed us and might never return.] We have AN opportunity, an opportunity emergent through a smart jobs growth package, to achieve a real win-win-win-win-win path through an E2 solution path to Energize America toward a better future.
Stimulate US in a good way and a good direction
Here are some thoughts as to win-win-win concepts. Some small. Some large. All meeting these criteria:
• Improve near-term economy
• Improve long-term economic prospercts
• Improve societal equity (avoid hurting it)
• Reduce climate impacts
• Create jobs … REAL JOBS … NOW!
Carbon Neutral Private Buildings Architecture 2030 (Ed Mazria) has proposed a $170 billion, two-year package to spur energy efficiency investments in private infrastructure (homes and commercial structures via subsidizing mortgages and refinancing. This program could spark $1.5 trillion in economic activity, save private citizens and business $10s (actually $100s) billions/year in energy/other costs, potentially pay for itself through increased tax revenue, accelerate a massive improvement in US building infrastructure energy efficiency with concurrent reduced energy use and pollution, and foster potentially 8.5 million jobs (with specific elements within to foster green jobs). For more, see: Massively effective way to stimulate the economy.
Greening Affordable Housing (especially rental) While the above will drive huge investments in the private sector, including in rental units, we should assure ourselves that that the poorest are not left on the side. For roughly $30 billion, affordable-housing rental units can be brought to high energy efficiency levels, reducing utility costs and improving the living conditions for those renters.
Greening Transport: BruceMcF has, among others, highlighted several key initiatives including rail, increased rail-to-trails, and electrification of America’s rail infrastructure. As for the last, a $20 billion federal commitment in the coming two years with a total of perhaps $50 billion/year would help spark a matching private sector investment that would cut perhaps ten percent of America’s oil use, more than paying for the total cost via reduced imported oil costs (without even considering the benefits through reduced pollution, etc …). Combining increased public transport (both supporting improved current operations in the face of local budget cuts and investments in new infrastructure (whether plug-in-hybrid buses or light rail or nodal transport), funding for bike trails and improved pedestrian movement in urban areas, better traffic controls, subsidies for ever-more fuel efficient vehicle developments, electrification of rail and otherwise, the transport sector should see a minimum of $50 billion and preferably $100 billion of the stimulus package.
Accelerate Intelligent Grid / HVDC grid deployment Core to achieving an energy smart future will be an upgrading of the electrical grid to enable more demand management (controlling, for example, cooling loads to reduce peak demands), distributed power generation and storage, along with the introduction of cleaner energy options (whether renewables of all types, increased efficiency of use of existing resources, or nuclear power). The Stimulus Package included $8 billion for the smart grid. The funding for ’smart grid’ should be accelerated, along with acceleration of standards for appliances/such to be able to integrated into a smart(er) grid. (For example, right now refrigerator ‘auto-defrost’ cycles are random, being able to control these remotely would be invisible to users and enable reducing peak demand cycles.) As for a High-Voltage, Direct Cable, part of the “deal” for federal funding of electrification of rail should be access to rail right of way for HVDC lines for moving power around the country more efficiently. (As an aside, electrification of rail makes essentially every rail spur a potential location for a grid-supported distributed power source whether, for example, a wind turbine, concentrated solar power facility, or small nuclear reactor. The ‘connection’ to the grid would be near free and the construction supplies/equipment could be moved from site-to-site by rail, potentially greatly reducing the installation costs.) An additional 15 $20 billion, over the next two years, could spark real movement in these arenas.
Plug-In-Hybrid Electric School Buses (PHESBs) An example of a ‘narrow’ item, PHESBs are ready to go today, to be coming off the manufacturing line soon after orders flow. But, there are barriers to deploying them (especially as local communities slash procurement budgets to reduce deficits). A $100 million / year program for five years would move PHESBs from marginal (about 18 deployed in a test program) to core in purchasing. This program could easily move beyond school buses to other larger vehicles (think, for example, hotel / airport shuttle buses, local public transport, light trucks, etc …) but even ‘just’ school buses would have a wide range of real benefits beyond simply reducing fuel use, to improve student (and community) health with reduced diesel fumes, emergency power generation (imagine if there had been 15,000 mobile 50 kilowatt generators all around the areas affected by Katrina), and a path toward using centralized locations (schools, school bus maintenance lots) for introduction of localized power storage (Vehicle-to-Grid) as part of a smart(er) grid. While such a program could likely absorb more money, $100 million/year would spark a revolution in school transport and start protecting / creating jobs quickly (as school bus orders are plummeting). School bus sales, an American industry, have plummeted as local governments around the country tighten their belts even further. This measure would spark some jobs (perhaps ‘just’ 2000) while setting the stage for transforming yellow buses across the nation.
AmeriTREC As part of the fostering of renewable energy and a new path forward, the United States should drive forward clean energy deployment (whether targeting Gore’s ten year or Google’s 20-year plans for eliminating coal from the electrical grid (or my 20 year plan). Efficiency is a key element for rapid and significant change, but introducing clean power is important as well. A network of concentrated solar thermal power (CSTP) plants along the US-Mexican border (both sides) could offer a real opportunity for change: clean electricity, employment, desalinated water supplies, ‘greening the desert’ with agriculture, and a path for potentially significant carbon sequestration while enriching the soil. Such an AmeriTREC might provide an effective path for providing a significant portion of America’s energy with all these ancillary benefits. Combined with using this as a path for ameliorating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Perhaps $20 billion in commitment over the coming two years, with the doors open for more if these paths prove as successful as the promise suggests. This would create some 200,000+ jobs while creating clean energy, clean water, and clean agriculture infrastructure for years and decades to come.
Greening Public Infrastructure: We must, as well, invest quite seriously in improving the energy efficiency of public infrastructure. Beyond “energy efficiency”, we should “green” our public infrastructure: reducing not just energy wastage but other resource wastage and other forms of pollution. The benefits will go well beyond fiscal savings, as discussed in Greening the School House. Dependent on the analysis and approach, this merits between $26 billion (a low-ball, basic energy efficiency figure, imo) and perhaps $100 billion over a two year period. A $100 billion program, split between general maintenance and Greening schools, would create (or, at least, protect) over one million jobs throughout America. (For a similar idea, see the Fix America’s Schools Today (FAST) program … oped discussion here.)
Greening the Urban Space: Greening public spaces, such as done by groups like Sustainable South Bronx, in an incredibly powerful way to improve urban life, reduce pollution, and cut into the urban heat island. We should dedicate at least $10 billion, over the coming two years, to changing the livability of America’s cities via greening public spaces and encouraging urban greening (such as greening roofs). This would spark in the range of 100,000 jobs (including significant numbers in some of America’s most neediest communities, whether in the Bronx, Oakland, Anacostia, Southside Chicago, or East LA). Related, of course, is greening our rural spaces … Like the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) during the Depression (should I write, “during our last depression”?), there are many ways to put Americans productively to work improving our nation’s ‘rural’ / natural infrastructure and, well, planting trees.
ARPA-E: The Stimulus package contained $400 million for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) to support energy research and development projects around the nation. When ARPA-E put out a call for research proposals, for a tranche of $150 million, there were nearly 4000 proposals. (And those 4000 were just a small share of potential projects, as institutions pared down the numbers of proposals to avoid having too many proposals on the table.) Based on conversations with key players in this process, between 33-50 percent of the proposals (33 on a “high probability of success”, 50% with higher degree of risk) merited funding. At the end of the day, less than 2 percent of the proposals were funded. ARPA-E could, without difficulty in terms of finding projects meriting funding, spend an order of magnitude more funding and not run out of great projects to execute. Give ARPA-E $8 billion of additional funding for two years (with a commitment of at least this amount of funding to ARPA-E for the rest of the decade, or a commitment of $40 billion of additional clean energy research and development funding). This would create some 80,000 jobs while sparking inventions and developments to rocket America into a leadership position in the clean energy revolution.
The key point
If there is one, any jobs package and proposal won’t be perfect. I understand that. It will have elements that will help dig our holes deeper. The reality of the American political process and structure make this an inevitability. It will, as well, have elements that could help change the situation for the better. Our necessity is to maximize the second and minimize the first.
And, the reality, we could have the opportunity before us for win-win-win-win solutions that will help get the US through (and out of) current economic doldrums, strengthen the economy into the future, reduce social inequity and strengthen society, reduce our polluting ways, help turn us (as individuals, as the U.S., and as a global society) on a path toward a prosperous, climate-friendly future which creating huge numbers of Green Energy Jobs (JOBS! JOBS! JOBS!).
The challenges are real. The risks and dangers are not just real, but terrifying. In face of these challenges, we have a tremendous opportunity. We, quite literally, cannot afford to blow this opportunity. The win-win-win paths are there, we must work to convince the national leadership to chose them.
I … You … We must make the call on our leaders to stimulate U.S. toward something better, to not simply seek to breath life with ineffective and short duration jobs that will strengthen a polluting and wasteful economic structure that will drive us to even greater problems tomorrow.
My call …
Stimulate me, stimulate US to something better!
Clean Energy Jobs series posts that lay out sensible, efficient paths to foster over 10 million jobs and lower US unemployment into the 5-6 percent range include the following:
• Clean Energy Jobs Go Swimming (note that this post focused on solar power when, in fact, there are huge opportunities in terms of better pumps and other energy efficiency investments)
NOTE: Again, this is a limited editing of a post written in headier days.
In my personal life, I go into debt for ‘investment’: a home, education, business creation. We are, as a nation, focused on “debt” rather than on focused on what creates a better future. The policies outlined above might seem to create ‘debt’ but that would be near term — these are not “costs” to bear, but investments to create a better reality today, tomorrow, and for the days that follow. The Republican domination of the House and the ‘conservaDem’ alliance (too often) with Republicans in the Senate might make these ideas DOA in the current Congress — but leadership means leading, including telling people what they should hear. These are policies that would strengthen the nation and strengthen the budgetary outlook and help turn the tide on climate disruption’s rising seas.