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Issa: Obama administration classifies jobs with political purpose

 

The Obama administration on Wednesday acknowledged a wide-ranging definition of  “green jobs” that includes bus driver, bicycle-shop clerk and other unexpected lines of employment, which the chairman of the GOP-led House oversight committee said is being done for “clearly political purposes.”

GOP Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, made the assertion during a hearing on how the administration counts so-called green jobs and the Labor Department’s recent change to how reporters can access key unemployment reports and other information.

The Labor Department "has jeopardized the integrity of employment data in some cases for clearly political reasons," he said.

Issa suggested the administration is reclassifying such jobs to prove that billions of taxpayer dollars, through the federal stimulus program, have created green, or environmentally-focused jobs – a major initiative for President Obama.

“It’s about politics. It’s always been about politics,” said Issa, R-Calif. “If you work at the Salvation Army, that’s a green job.”

When Bureau of Labor Statistics Acting Commissioner John Galvin balked on what qualifies as a green job under the agency definition, Issa responded, “Just answer the question.”

“Does someone who sweeps the floor at a company that makes solar panels -- is that a green job?” Issa asked.

“Yes,” replied Galvin, who also acknowledged that a bike-repair shop clerk, a hybrid-bus driver, any school bus driver and “the guy who puts gas in a school bus” are all defined as green jobs.

He also acknowledged that an oil lobbyist, if his work is related to environmental issues, would also have a green job.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics states a green job is either: a business that produces goods or provide services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources, or a job in which a worker's duties involve making their establishment's production processes more environmentally friendly or use fewer natural resources.

The bureau states on its website it developed the definition of green jobs for use in data collection in two planned surveys. 

Diana Furchtgott-Roth, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and contributing editor of RealClearMarkets.com, said the administration should be focused on simply creating jobs, not classifying them.

She cited the administration putting $3.5 million into the failed Solyndra solar-energy company as an example of the administration appearing to misleadingly or incorrectly tout green-job creation.  

Rep. Elijah Cummings, the committee’s ranking Democrat, said the number of green jobs created under the administration is even higher than the 3 million reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Unfortunately, this committee seems more intent on challenging the methodologies used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics rather than helping put people back to work,” said Cummings, D-Md.

The second concern is the Labor Department recently ordering reporters to use government-issued software and other equipment to access Bureau of Labor Statistics reports, perhaps a violation of free-speech laws.

“This proposal threatens the First Amendment," said Daniel Moss, a Bloomberg News executive editor, testifying at the hearing.

The Labor Department officials suggested they would allow some flexibility on the July transition date.