A recent report report by the Center for American Progress estimates that investing just $100 billion in the green economy (one-seventh the amount contemplated in the administration's proposed Wall Street bailout) would create 2 million new jobs, with a significant percentage of those coming in the struggling manufacturing and construction sectors. In contrast, investing that much money in the financial services sector would generate just 1.1 million jobs, according to an analysis conducted by the study's authors, Robert Pollin and Heidi Garrett-Peltier of the University of Massachusetts. In other words, Wall Street's offering about half the jobs for the same money: hardly a smart bet for the taxpayer.
A green investment on the level of the Wall Street bailout could create growth on a much larger scale, almost entirely eliminating unemployment and significantly raising middle-class incomes. Instead of golden parachutes for CEOs, the government could finance America's transition from an oil- and fossil-fuel-dependent economy into one run completely on clean energy. Instead of buying up bad McMansion mortgages, we could pay people to retrofit their houses with high-efficiency appliances and green roofs.
The green stimulus could reach far beyond the energy sector to provide income and employment for rural America as well. It could finance the conservation of tens or hundreds of millions of acres of wildlands, providing income to farmers and other landowners--and make possible a whole new generation of national parks. (Many of those lands are now under threat exactly because of too-easy credit: without limits on lending, it's been all too easy for real estate developers to find the cash to pave over back-country wilderness for sprawl and ranchettes).
The time has come to take a hard look at where we are in this nation and where we want to go.
The question is this: Do we want to leave the next generation in debt and in crisis from a dangerous climate or do we want to take the initiative and start the inevitable conversion to a green economy? To me the answer is obvious. What's less clear is what Congress will do. Make your voice heard at www.projecthotseat.org