On The Promise Of "Green Jobs"

Sometimes it seems like the biggest selling point advanced in favor of “renewable energy” is the promise of what are called “green jobs.” What are those? Proponents are often vague, but I suppose that the green jobs largely consist of the work of building, installing, and maintaining the vast future farms of windmills and solar panels, and related infrastructure like transmission lines. Since most of these jobs involve some combination of strenuous labor in remote areas and/or a high level of skill, of course they will be very high-paying jobs. Millions of them. What’s not to like about that?

President Obama was an early arrival at the “green jobs” party, tossing out a “plan to create 5 million new green jobs” as part of his 2008 presidential campaign. (Politifact in November 2016 struggles to figure out how many of those jobs ever got created, and if so, where they may be.) You won’t be surprised to learn that Obama’s ideas pretty much all consisted of some variety of government subsidies, programs, mandates, tax credits, “investments,” expenditures, and the like, e.g., a new “job training program for clean technologies,” a new federal “renewable portfolio standard” to force utilities to switch to wind and/or solar generation, extension of the “production tax credit” for wind and solar, and so on and on.

More recently “green jobs” promoters have further upped the ante. In January of this year, Francie Diep of Pacific Standard quoted the Center for American Progress as predicting that a federal “investment” of just $800 billion per year (!) toward cutting carbon emissions to zero would create 6.8 million net new jobs. Meanwhile, the International Labor Organization (part of the UN) put out a study in 2018 predicting that implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement would create some 24 million “net” green new jobs worldwide by 2030. It all sounds like a near-infinite bounty of new wealth.

Do you spot the fallacy here? . . .

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The Best Part Of Not Being A Progressive Is Not Having To Feel Guilty All The Time

I often tell my kids that the most important thing you can do with your life is enjoy it. Life is way shorter than you think, and if you blow your precious days coming up with fake reasons to feel anxious or guilty, you have no one to blame but yourself. Instead, count your blessings and seize every minute.

Then there is the progressive approach to life. I think that the whole progressive philosophy boils down to coming up with fake reasons to feel anxious and/or guilty in order to prevent any and all enjoyment of life. You worked hard and made some money? Then you have caused income inequality! You had a delicious steak for dinner? Then you have caused the degradation of the environment and you are ruining your own health! I’m sure that readers can come up with dozens more such examples.

How to explain this phenomenon? Could it be that there is some dark, twisted pleasure in creating fake guilt for yourself so that you can wallow in it and feel miserable? It doesn’t make any sense to me, but that’s the best hypothesis I’ve got. However, this I do know: There is definitely much pleasure to be had in watching progressives wallowing in their guilt and sapping all the joy out of their lives. This can be quite entertaining.

A great example of the genre is an article that appeared in the Travel section of the New York Times over the weekend. The headline (in the online version) is “If Seeing the World Helps Ruin It, Should We Stay Home?”, and the author is Andy Newman. This was not just any old article, but the lead article, occupying the entire front page and the entire back page of the section. It had the official New York Times imprimatur as the most important thing happening in the world of travel right now. So what is the official word? . . .

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What's The Potential Bipartisan Compromise On "Climate" Policy?

What's The Potential Bipartisan Compromise On "Climate" Policy?

Many bemoan how our political culture has become increasingly and perhaps irretrievably polarized in recent years. Seemingly all of Washington consists of nothing but two sides endlessly screaming at each other. What happened to what once were the regular outbreaks of “bipartisanship”? Can’t these people work together any more to “get things done”?

For myself, I’ve never been much of a fan of “bipartisanship” or “getting things done” in Washington. Almost always, these are euphemisms for adding to the government’s budget and to counter-productive programs, albeit a little more slowly than the Democrats would have liked. How about getting less done in Washington, and letting the states, or the people individually, take care of these things?

But suppose you are a fan of the growth of government and its spending as the route to solve all the big problems of the world. Then the “climate change” mantra may well seem to you like a godsend. Here is a catch-all slogan that can be used to advocate for most or all of your major goals, while bringing to the mix a claim of moral necessity and urgency that many people, especially young people, find politically irresistible. Do you want to have the government take a more active role in maintaining and improving the environment? How about a more active role to make industry or agriculture or transportation more “sustainable”? How about to thwart capitalism and bring about a more just and fair society organized on a socialist model? How about to redistribute income from rich to poor? Make it all about “climate change.” Now you’re not just playing to envy and using taxpayer dollars to buy votes. You’re fighting to “save the planet”! The moral high ground is yours. . . .

But there is a fundamental problem here in trying to reach any kind of half-way compromise on an emissions reduction program intended to affect the climate. The problem is that the whole concept of affecting the world’s climate through attempted emissions reductions quite obviously doesn’t make any sense at all except on the very grandest of scales. Halfway (or ten percent of the way) measures are completely useless. . . .

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More Excitement In The Air In New York: Rent Regulation To Be Expanded And Tightened

A couple of months ago I wrote about the excitement in the air in New York City as the newly elected state legislature, with large progressive Democrat majorities in both houses for the first time in many years, looked set to pass a “pied-à-terre” tax for New York City on high value condos owned by non-residents. Finally, we were going to get even with those evil out-of-town mega-billionaires for their sin of coming to our city and spending their money. The idea was that the state legislature would authorize the City to impose special real estate tax surcharges thought sufficient to raise some $650 million per year from just 5400 super-wealthy people who owned very-high-value residences. That would be some $120,000 per year from each one of them. Take that, billionaires! One guy — a hedge funder from Chicago named Ken Griffin, who had just bought an apartment on “billionaire’s row” for $263 million — was theoretically going to get socked for about $10 million per year.

And then, as quickly as it had arisen, the excitement dissipated. Somebody noticed that the high end condo market in Manhattan was already in sharp decline. This tax threatened to kill it off completely, along with the jobs of the people building and selling the apartments. Meanwhile, the tax looked to be relatively easy to evade, as by a mega-billionaire subleasing his apartment and staying in a big hotel suite. The originally-$650 billion estimated annual tax take started to drop like a stone. Today, the pied-à-terre tax idea seems to have died, although with the legislature still in session anything could happen.

But suddenly a new excitement is rising up. A key progressive agenda item, tighter and stricter rent regulation, long blocked by the formerly Republican-controlled state Senate, now looks set to sail through before the legislature winds up in June. Finally, we will be able to achieve perfect justice and fairness in rental housing prices, through the magic of government command and control. . . .

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How Corrupt Is The New York "Affordable Housing" Game?

How Corrupt Is The New York "Affordable Housing" Game?

In New York City we have a dizzying array of taxpayer-subsidized “affordable housing” schemes: low income public housing; mixed income public housing; “limited equity” co-ops; the so-called “Mitchell-Lama” program; 80/20 and 70/30 “inclusionary zoning” requirements; and plenty more. Something around 1 million people live in one type or another of these subsidized projects. That would be about 1 person out of eight in the City.

The whole idea with these schemes is that each resident pays substantially less than what would be the market rent for the same unit. After all, by hypothesis, we have a “crisis” of housing cost, where market rate apartments are priced too high for many people to afford. Therefore, we need politicians to provide taxpayer-financed subsidies to create a large tier of the “affordable” apartments. The actual rents for each “affordable" apartment are then determined by a political rather than a market process. In the case of the low-income projects, the rent is set as 30% of the tenant’s income, meaning that a tenant with no income could pay as little as nothing in rent, even when the apartment is in a desirable location. Other apartments in different programs first have a rent set, and then are allocated to people whose income has been determined to be appropriate for that rent. Sometimes these politically-determined rents might be relatively close to a market rent for a comparable apartment in the same area; but other times the “affordable” apartments are located in desirable areas, and the local market rent for a comparable apartment could exceed the “affordable” rent by a factor of five, ten, or even more. Such disparities occur, for example, in desirable Manhattan neighborhoods, as well as in waterfront areas in Manhattan and also Brooklyn.

So we have large numbers of apartments that would have market rents of perhaps $3000 up to even $10,000 per month, going for perhaps $500 to $1500. Of course, long waiting lists develop for these subsidized apartments. Some designated political gatekeeper gets to decide who gets the next apartment when it becomes available. Now, what is the chance that such a process can proceed for years and decades without pervasive corruption? . . .

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New York Gets Crazier And Crazier Every Day

We last examined the total insanity of New York City progressivism back on April 23, with a post titled “Mayor de Blasio Sets Out To Accelerate New York City’s Decline.” The particular focus of that post was a proposal from our Mayor to impose onerous efficiency standards on office buildings as the latest progressive idea to “save the planet” from the scourge of climate change. If you thought that that proposal just had to represent the ultimate low point of progressive craziness, and that it couldn’t possibly go any lower, then you just haven’t been paying attention. In the last few weeks, the new emergency rules and bans that must be imposed immediately by government to save the world have been coming ever faster and faster. You almost can’t learn about one before the next one is upon you, each one somehow more urgent in the case made for it, more burdensome in its application to the citizenry, and yet even more trivial in potential effect (if any at all) on the planet or the environment or whatever it is we are trying to “save.”

First up, the package of six bills covered in that April post, going by the collective name of the “Climate Mobilization Act,” promptly passed the City Council and became law. The CurbedNY website provided a summary of the bills on April 22, including this gem:

Come 2024, the legislation mandates landlords move toward cutting their building emissions 40 percent by 2030, and would put the city on a path toward reducing its carbon emissions by a whopping 80 percent by 2050.

Of course, the new law puts the steepest burdens on the buildings that are already the most efficient (e.g., modern skyscrapers), while exempting huge categories of buildings that are the least efficient (e.g., City buildings, low income public housing, rent regulated apartment buildings, single family houses). Some City Council members took the occasion to make totally delusional statements about what they think will be the effect of their handiwork. For example, one of the prime sponsors was a guy named Costa Constantinides from Astoria, Queens. His comment:

“There are talks about the Rockaways, Coney Island, and neighborhoods in Staten Island literally being wiped off the map by the end of this century if we do not act,” said [Constantinides]. . . . “No single-handed policy can completely reverse the effects of climate change, but this policy, when enacted, will be the largest emissions reduction policy in the history of New York City or any city anywhere.”

Or this from City Council Speaker (and my own representative) Corey Johnson:

“Our planet is closing in on a breaking point … we have to transition from investing in fossil fuel infrastructure to clean, renewable energy,” Council Speaker Corey Johnson said during the vote. “We have to act decisively and we have to act now.

Do these numbskulls actually think that by upgrading the energy efficiency of a few office buildings in New York they can somehow affect the level of the oceans? . . .

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