Not All Jobs Are Created Equal

Posted on August 1, 2013 by

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I have written about the Keystone Pipeline on this blog before and I do not intend to go back through the reasons why I think it is something the President should support here.  I was struck this week, however, by his recent comments that the pipeline would not produce meaningful jobs.  He believes it would only produce 50 long term jobs with perhaps 2,000 short-term jobs.  Other estimates suggest the project could produce more than 20 times the latter number.  Regardless of who is correct, I think there is something telling in these comments.

First, it is clear that his misguided belief that the pipeline will somehow damage our environment is more important than the human benefit associated with it.  Even his own State Department found that there would be little negative impact from the pipeline.  Nonetheless, in his final analysis, the environment is more important than the jobs and income the pipeline would create.  This viewpoint has, of course, fueled his war on coal and his support of renewable energy sources that with current technology have proven to be overbearing and unsustainable in even the most sympathetic cost-benefit analyses.  One has only to consider the long term impact of President Obama’s energy policy—which is systematically raising the cost of fossil fuels and thereby increasing the cost of electricity, heating oil, and gasoline—to realize that the impact on jobs in this country will be significant.

Second, it is also clear that the President does not believe all jobs are created equal.  President Obama apparently favors jobs created by government spending over jobs created by private enterprise.  The administration’s regular assault on big business and its support of attacks on Wall Street (ie. the 99% mob) have signaled a lack of faith in the private sector.  Yet an examination of his approach to job creation through the government raises some important questions.  The 2009 stimulus has saved or produced, according to the Congressional Budget Office, some 3.3 million jobs.  Many question this figure, I among them, but it is the largest I have seen and I will use it so as not to be accused of relying on unflattering statistics.  Clearly, if the stimulus did produce or even save that many jobs, then the administration can gloat.  The stimulus involved spending in the neighborhood of $800 billion dollars to produce those jobs.  I am not even going to get into the negative impact deficit spending has on the overall economy and job production or the irony that many note that most of the jobs created by this stimulus were temporary.  Setting those and other objections aside, the cost per job saved or created was $242,000.

So, I am left with questions.  Why would the government want to spend that kind of money to create one job when it could, by simply cutting back its reach, allow a job to be created at the expense of private enterprise?  Why is a questionable concern about the environmental impact of the pipeline more important than job creation?  And why in the world would the President of the United States criticize job creation by the private sector?  It is disturbing to me the President thinks that not all jobs are created equal.  His discriminatory policy is perplexing and costly.  Given that he is an intelligent man, this policy suggests that he values something more than either jobs or fiscal responsibility.

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