Tilting at Green Windmills
By George Will
WASHINGTON -- The Spanish professor is puzzled. Why, Gabriel Calzada wonders, is the U.S. president recommending that America emulate the Spanish model for creating "green jobs" in "alternative energy" even though Spain's unemployment rate is 18.1 percent -- more than double the European Union average -- partly because of spending on such jobs?
Calzada, 36, an economics professor at Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, has produced a report which, if true, is inconvenient for the Obama administration's green agenda, and for some budget assumptions that are dependent upon it.
Calzada says Spain's torrential spending -- no other nation has so aggressively supported production of electricity from renewable sources -- on wind farms and other forms of alternative energy has indeed created jobs. But Calzada's report concludes that they often are temporary and have received $752,000 to $800,000 each in subsidies -- wind industry jobs cost even more, $1.4 million each. And each new job entails the loss of 2.2 other jobs that are either lost or not created in other industries because of the political allocation -- sub-optimum in terms of economic efficiency -- of capital. (European media regularly report "eco-corruption" leaving a "footprint of sleaze" -- gaming the subsidy systems, profiteering from land sales for wind farms, etc.) Calzada says the creation of jobs in alternative energy has subtracted about 110,000 jobs from elsewhere in Spain's economy.
The president's press secretary, Robert Gibbs, was asked about the report's contention that the political diversion of capital into green jobs has cost Spain jobs. The White House transcript contained this exchange:
Gibbs: "It seems weird that we're importing wind turbine parts from Spain in order to build -- to meet renewable energy demand here if that were even remotely the case."
Questioner: "Is that a suggestion that his study is simply flat wrong?"
Gibbs: "I haven't read the study, but I think, yes."
Questioner: "Well, then. (Laughter.)"
Actually, what is weird is this idea: A sobering report about Spain's experience must be false because otherwise the behavior of some American importers, seeking to cash in on the U.S. government's promotion of wind power, might be participating in an economically unproductive project.
It is true that Calzada has come to conclusions that he, as a libertarian, finds ideologically congenial. And his study was supported by a like-minded U.S. think tank (the Institute for Energy Research, for which this columnist has given a paid speech). Still, it is notable that, rather than try to refute his report, many Spanish critics have impugned his patriotism for faulting something for which Spain has been praised by Obama and others.
Judge for yourself: Calzada's report can be read here. And here you can find similar conclusions in "Yellow Light on Green Jobs," a report by Republican Sen. Kit Bond, ranking member of the Subcommittee on Green Jobs and the New Economy.
What matters most, however, is not that reports such as Calzada's and the Republicans' are right in every particular. It is, however, hardly counterintuitive that politically driven investments are economically counterproductive. Indeed, environmentalists with the courage of their convictions should argue that the point of such investments is to subordinate market rationality to the higher agenda of planetary salvation.
Still, one can be agnostic about both reports while being dismayed by the frequency with which such findings are ignored simply because they question policies that are so invested with righteousness that methodical economic reasoning about their costs and benefits seems unimportant. When the president speaks of "new green energy economies" creating "countless well-paying jobs," perhaps they really are countless, meaning incapable of being counted.
For fervent believers in governments' abilities to control the climate and in the urgent need for them to do so, believing is seeing: They see, through their ideological lenses, governments' green spending as always paying for itself. This is a free-lunch faith comparable to that of those few conservatives who believe that tax cuts always completely pay for themselves by stimulating compensating revenues from economic growth.
Windmills are iconic in the land of Don Quixote, whose tilting at them became emblematic of comic futility. Spain's new windmills are neither amusing nor emblematic of policies America should emulate. The cheerful and evidently unshakable confidence in such magical solutions to postulated problems is yet another manifestation -- Republicans are not immune: No Child Left Behind decrees that by 2014 all American students will be proficient in math and reading -- of what the late Sen. Pat Moynihan called "the leakage of reality from American life."
The Communist Past of the 'Green Jobs' Czar
By Sam Theodosopoulos
July 10, 2009 - 17:16 ET
The administration’s “Green Jobs” czar, Van Jones, has a “very checkered past” deep-rooted in radical politics, including black nationalism, anarchism, and communism. The broadcast network newscasts have mostly failed to report on Mr. Jones’s past political affiliations which are lock-step with the network’s downplay of coverage regarding President Obama’s associations with the former radical and terrorist William Ayers during the election.
At 6:47 a.m. EDT on the July 10 edition of “Fox and Friends,” Americans for Prosperity Policy Director Phil Kerpen, told interviewer Brian Kilmeade that Jones is “somebody who was involved in radical politics in San Francisco, “who was self-admittedly “radicalized in jail” and found “Communism and anarchism.” Kerpen compares Van Jones’s Communist past with his new quest for environmentalism and the creation of green jobs:
I think it’s pretty instructive what his past is...it’s the same sort of philosophy, the idea that government ought to be reordering society in accordance with some utopian vision that failed with communism and socialism, and will fail with this green jobs idea.
In an April 12, 2009 World Net Daily article titled “Will a “red” help blacks go green?”Aaron Klein reports that Jones himself stated in a 2005 interview his environmental activism was a means to fight for racial and class “justice,” and that he was a “rowdy black nationalist,” and a “communist.”
Because the administration’s “czars” do not go through congressional confirmation, and are therefore not scrutinized or vetted, many Americans have no idea who they are or where they come from.
Kudos to Fox News for bringing Van Jones’s controversial past and political ideology to light.
The following was aired on the July 10 edition of Fox and Friends:
BRIAN KILMEADE, co-host, “Fox and Friends”: Phil, we have a czar, he’s a green jobs czar, he’s Van Jones, he’s got a deep history in communism.
PHIL KERPEN, AFP Policy Director: He does. He has a very checkered past. This is somebody who was involved in radical politics out in San Francisco, California. He was arrested during a demonstration/riot following the Rodney King verdict. And he said himself that he was radicalized in jail, that he found communism and anarchism. And then he started a pretty radical, kind of communist, socialist, utopian group that was supposed to end all racism though central planning. And then he decided that the real path the sort of progressive nirvana, was the this green jobs idea. I think its pretty instructive what his past is, I am not just trying to smear the guy, but I think it’s the same sort of philosophy, the idea that government ought to be reordering society in accordance with some utopian vision that failed with communism and socialism, and will fail with this green jobs idea. We are imposing a top-down vision.
GRETCHEN CARLSON, co-host: And more importantly for America Phil, is the fact that we already have an Energy Secretary, who by the way had to go through Congress to be approved. And the reason that these czars, you don’t know anything about them, is because they don’t have to go through that process.
Why We'll Leave L.A.
The business climate is worse than the air quality.
By RICK NEWCOMBE
If New Yorkers fantasize that doing business here in Los Angeles would be less of a headache, forget about it. This city is fast becoming a job-killing machine. It's no accident the unemployment rate is a frightening 11.4% and climbing.
I never could have imagined that, after living here for more than three decades, I would be filing a lawsuit against my beloved Los Angeles and making plans for my company, Creators Syndicate, to move elsewhere.
But we have no choice. The city's bureaucrats rival Stalin's apparatchiks in issuing decrees, rescinding them, and then punishing citizens for having followed them in the first place.
I founded Creators Syndicate in 1987, and we have represented hundreds of important writers, syndicating their columns to newspapers and Web sites around the world. The most famous include Hillary Clinton, who, like Eleanor Roosevelt, wrote a syndicated column when she was first lady. Another star was the advice columnist Ann Landers, once described by "The World Almanac" as "the most influential woman in America." Other Creators columnists include Bill O'Reilly, Susan Estrich, Thomas Sowell, Roland Martin and Michelle Malkin -- plus Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonists and your favorite comic strips.
From the beginning, we've been headquartered in Los Angeles. But 15 years ago we had a dispute with the city over our business tax classification. The city argued that we should be in an "occupations and professions" classification that has an extremely high tax rate, while we fought for a "wholesale and retail" classification with a much lower rate. The city forced us to invest a small fortune in legal fees over two years, but we felt it was worth it in order to establish the correct classification once and for all.
After enduring a series of bureaucratic hearings, we anxiously awaited a ruling to find out what our tax rate would be. Everything was at stake. We had already decided that if we lost, we would move.
You can imagine how relieved we were on July 1, 1994, when the ruling was issued. We won, and firmly planted our roots in the City of Angels and proceeded to build our business.
Everything was fine until the city started running out of money in 2007. Suddenly, the city announced that it was going to ignore its own ruling and reclassify us in the higher tax category. Even more incredible is the fact that the new classification was to be imposed retroactively to 2004 with interest and penalties. No explanation was given for the new classification, or for the city's decision to ignore its 1994 ruling.
Their official position is that the city is not bound by past rulings -- only taxpayers are. This is why we have been forced to file a lawsuit. We will let the courts decide whether it is legal for adverse rulings to apply only to taxpayers and not to the city.
We work with hundreds of outside agents, consultants, independent contractors and support services -- many of whom pay taxes to the city of Los Angeles. This spurs a job-creating ripple effect on the city's economy. Yet I suspect many companies like ours already have quietly left town in the face of the city's taxes and regulations. This would help explain the erosion of jobs.
Regardless of the outcome of our case, the arbitrary and capricious behavior of some bureaucrats is creating a lose-lose situation for everyone involved. If we win in court, the taxpayers of Los Angeles will have lost because all those tax dollars will have been wasted on needless litigation.
If we lose in court, the remaining taxpayers in Los Angeles will have lost because their burden will continue to swell as yet another business moves its jobs -- and taxpayers -- to another city.
As long as City Hall operates like a banana republic, why is anyone surprised that jobs have left the city in droves and Los Angeles is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy?
Mr. Newcombe is president of Creators Syndicate.