Feb 16, 2012 at 3:52 pm
Flitting about the land again, sprinkling progressive economic vibes in my wake…at least that’s the goal. Started out a few days ago talking immigration policy in NYC and then off to Portland.
First, let me say that I like Portland. I’m not an expert, and every city’s got its challenges, but:
–It’s easy to get around, consumer prices seem pretty reasonable (they had a terrible real estate bubble, but “correction” seems largely over), food’s great and healthier than average (as we speak, I’m at the airport very much enjoying vegetarian chili topped with fresh tomatoes—that’s right: the airport!);
–I like the temperature, though you’ve got to be into grey. As Eskimos allegedly have dozens of words for snow, do Portlanders identify many different shades of grey?
–They’re a hardy people. Back in DC, when it rains, they cancel the soccer game. Here, all the parents huddle under a shelter and the kids get a little wet. No biggie.
–Free internet at the airport—as OTE’ers know, that’s big for me.
I’m here talking about green jobs and the economy. Punchline: green jobs—jobs associated with some aspect of environmental improvement—must be part of the solution to two problems: fossil fuels/climate/environmental degradation/exposure to Mideast geopolitics, and jobs. But they will be a small part, at least for now.
A Brookings study I review here finds that by their definition, there are three million such jobs, out of 130 million total jobs. I’m sure there’s many ways to cut this but that’s likely the reality for now.
One thing I emphasized was the role for government to help private firms overcome market barriers they can’t get over by themselves. There is no private firm that can coordinate a national smart grid, make or recoup the investment needed to move advanced battery technology from the labs to the factory floor, penetrate export markets, and fight back against mercantilists trying to sew up market share here in clean energy manufacturing.
And there is no transformative investment that reshaped our economy, from railroads to the internet, wherein the federal government did not partner with the private sector to overcome these barriers. Not here, not in any other advanced economies, not even in emerging economies. To ignore this reality in the interest of “not picking winners” or “government doesn’t create jobs” or whatever atavistic ideology you want to plug in, is to concede global competition to those unburdened by such dangerously wrongheaded thinking.
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