Obama's 'Green' Groups Eye Lots of Greenbacks

It's easy to get caught up in personalities, especially when you're looking at organizations like the Apollo Alliance, the Blue-Green Alliance and individuals like Anthony K. "Van" Jones, the White House Special Adviser for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation at the Council for Environmental Quality, colloquially known as the "Green Jobs Czar."

But falling into conspiracy theories, even factual ones like the ones I've discussed recently on the "Glenn Beck" show, can distract us from the important public policy questions at hand--specifically, will these groups succeed in getting billions of taxpayer dollars from the stimulus bill and potentially trillions of dollars from a cap-and-trade bill?

The Apollo Alliance unifies the three most powerful elements of the political left: environmental groups, labor unions, and street organizers like ACORN, and points them toward a common goal that enriches all of them under the banner of "green jobs." Apollo and the Blue-Green Alliance (a similar group with overlapping membership) are outgrowths of the Blue-Green Working Group, an informal coalition that for years has attempted to align the interests of environmentalists and union bosses.

In late 2008 the Apollo Alliance--with Van Jones then serving on its board of directors--seized on the financial crisis as an opportunity to repackage the ideas it had long been promoting as a stimulus bill.  Many of those ideas would be incorporated into the enacted legislation, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), in February of 2009.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) specifically credited Apollo, saying: "This legislation is the first step in building a clean energy economy -- The Apollo Alliance has been an important factor in helping us develop and execute a strategy that makes great progress on these goals and in motivating the public to support them."

Green jobs programs like the ones in the stimulus bill serve a political purpose but not an economic one.  Most green jobs consist of hiring low-wage workers with caulking guns to weatherize buildings. We are trading away high-wage, high-value manufacturing jobs for these green caulking jobs. Any time you spend billions of dollars you will create some jobs, but the key question is, what the cost is when you divert resources from higher-value activities?

Spain tried a green jobs program that President Obama and his allies have held up as a model for cap-and-trade.  According to researchers at the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, the results have been disastrous -- every "green job" created by government intervention destroys 2.2 real jobs in the private economy.  Since 2000, Spain has spent $753,778 on each "green job," while their greenhouse gas emissions have increased nearly 50 percent.

Those green jobs are union jobs, so they are a giveaway to organized labor as well as environmental groups.  Union bosses got provisions added into the stimulus bill applying federal Davis-Bacon prevailing wage requirements in an unusually broad way.  Guidance from the Department of Labor said: "As a result of specific language in the ARRA, all requirements of the Davis-Bacon Act apply to construction projects that receive ARRA funds, with an added provision that "projects funded directly by or assisted in whole or in part by and through the federal government as a result of the ARRA must also comply."  These requirements will force above-market wages to be paid, fleecing taxpayers while paying union dues that can be funneled back into political activities.

The social justice community organizers also stand to be funded by the stimulus bill. ACORN, the largest and most active social justice member of Apollo, and similar organizations are eligible to apply for as much as $4.19 billion of stimulus funding under the so-called "Neighborhood Stabilization Program" and are likely eligible for other stimulus programs as well.

On February 6, 2009, Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana offered an amendment that would have blocked ACORN from receiving stimulus funds.  The amendment failed on a 45-51 vote, with just six Democrats voting yes.

The Apollo Alliance and the Blue-Green Alliance are making plans to spend the stimulus funds while also working on a much bigger haul.  Happy but not satisfied with the "first step" Sen. Reid gave already gave them, they are now feverishly pursuing the potential trillions of dollars they could reap from a cap-and-trade bill. As Blue-Green Alliance executive director David Foster explained last week, cap-and-trade "is an economic restructuring bill for the global economy. We should not pretend that it isn't. Instead, we should do it right."

This is about whether economic central planning, perhaps on a global scale, can be resuscitated under the guise of  "green jobs" and environmental political correctness.  The lesson of the Twentieth Century should be that central economic planning is a disaster that not only fails to achieve its goals, but often leads to authoritarianism. Yet elites still fall prey to the siren song of central-planning.  They must believe that it has always failed only because previous planners haven't been clever enough, and that this time it will be different.  It won't.  We must stop the cap-and-trade effort to restructure the global economy, and we also have to watch stimulus-funded projects like hawks to make sure as little taxpayer money as possible ends up funding left-wing political activities.

Mr. Kerpen is director of policy for Americans for Prosperity. He can be contacted through Phil Kerpen.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.  His free two-minute Podcast is available daily.