The imprudence over which Van Jones lost his job should not divert attention from the conviction that had propelled him into the administration of US President Barack Obama.
Jones resigned Sept. 6 from his position as special adviser for environmental jobs following reports about politically indelicate utterances in his past.
His resort to vulgarity to describe Republicans caused some concern—although it was hardly unprecedented.
More damaging was his signature on a 2004 petition suggesting that the administration of former President George W. Bush allowed the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to occur so as to have an excuse to wage war on Iraq.
After disclosure of that indiscretion—which supporters incredibly attributed to failure to read before signing—Jones looked irretrievably radical.
Conservatives, led by television analyst Glenn Beck, hyped the image in what Jones, to no help to himself, branded at the time of his resignation as “a vicious smear campaign against me.”
The worst part of the affair is that the Obama camp has shed itself of Jones but not of the commitment he embodied to “green jobs.”
Before his brief career in federal government, Jones had attracted attention for his work linking environmentalism with advocacy for the poor.
In his vision, the government creates green jobs that simultaneously lift unemployed people out of poverty and save the planet.
While the vision glitters with sales appeal, it can’t work. Its assumptions about the link between environmental progress and employment are specious.
Government jobs require money diverted from private enterprise by taxation. That money can’t be spent on private-sector salaries.
And green employment is the core rationale for heavy subsidization and forced sale of energy too costly otherwise to compete.
Economic theory questions the effectiveness of work programs rooted in noncommercial energy. Experience, documented recently in a Spanish study noting the loss of 2.2 jobs for every renewable-energy position financed by government, substantiates the doubt (OGJ, Apr. 20, 2009, p. 64).
Costs and inefficiencies make governmentally sponsored green employment a net job destroyer.
Jones and his former boss do the poor no favors by insisting otherwise.
(Online Sept. 11, 2009; author’s e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)