Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Silly Job Talk Sells

Everyone's doing it, shouldn't you too?

Either side of almost any issue these days frames legislation in terms of impact on jobs. Trouble is it's mostly bunk, or questionable at least. The word an economist from University of California Berkeley uses is "silly", according to the New York Times.

“Many economists think most of that is pretty silly,” said David Card, an economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who is president of the Society of Labor Economists.

“It’s just a selling point. You can say anything, no matter what, creates jobs. I don’t think people should pay much attention to it.”

Trouble is people are paying attention to it. Cooler heads prevail? Not really. These days when people (especially pundits and politicians) can say things that are simply untrue with slim accountability, rationale flies out the door.

It is not to say that all the claims are false. I can't know that from where I'm sitting. But people that know much more about labor economics suggest such comparisons and claims are meaningless at best.

Still, job creation or job related messages have become the sound bites over the past year. The latest is simply "job killer" heard often from Republican candidates for President. But if you do not have a response to the wild claims from the opposition, you lose. So the nonsense spirals.

"A coal-industry group, attacking power-plant rules proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency, says they would “destroy over 180,000 jobs per year.” The estimate comes from a study commissioned by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, whose members include coal producers like Peabody Energy and Arch Coal.

Not to be outdone, companies that make scrubbers and other pollution-control equipment have their own trade association, the Institute of Clean Air Companies. They support many E.P.A. clean air standards. And they say that 1.5 million jobs will be created in the next five years as a result of the new requirements."

Eco Ocean is guilty, too. Last week I quoted an article that said wind energy will create 54,000 jobs. Mainly, I felt it was the kind of hopeful response needed to much of the negative clean energy "job loss" talk from climate deniers and the fossil fuel industry.

The sober reality of framing legislation around job impact also reinforces the call for reason that I'm hearing out there, when it's not drowned out by the noise. Smart people are promoting positive change but in the context of thoughtful, rational, and effective decision-making. Now that's not silly.

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