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Pop Goes the Green Jobs Bubble

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
Before his American Jobs Act failed to pass a Senate cloture vote Tuesday, President Barack Obama made a last-ditch speech to talk up his troubled bill. Not once did Obama mention "green jobs" -- his erstwhile jobs of the future.

Smart move. Obama's 2009 $787 billion stimulus package included $500 million for training programs that were supposed to create new green jobs for thousands of middle-class Americans. Last month, however, the Department of Labor's inspector general conducted an audit that found that as of June 30 -- with one-third of the funds spent and more than 50,000 participants -- only 10 percent of trainees were placed in jobs. And only 1,336 participants, or 2 percent, had held jobs for six months or longer.

The audit reported that grant recipients "expressed concerns that green jobs had not materialized and job placements into subsidized employment had been much less than expected." The inspector general recommended that the Labor Department cut its losses and run -- in Washington-speak. The audit advised that the department reassess grants and "obtain an estimate of funds each grantee will realistically spend given the current demand for green job-related skills" so that whatever is left of the remaining $327 million can be put to better use.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who requested the audit, concluded, "The administration continues to push good money after bad into so-called green jobs."

If you can't help but think about Solyndra -- the Fremont, Calif., solar company that filed for bankruptcy after burning through a $528 million federal loan -- go to the head of the line.

I feel for trainees who sign up with the expectation that despite the jobless recovery, they'll land a good job and launch a stable career. The audit suggests that many will be sorely disappointed.

Employment and Training Administration spokesman David Roberts noted that the oldest programs started in late 2009, so the audit came "too early." Some 39 percent of trainees were already employed and enrolled in training to retain or upgrade their jobs. Of 26,000 who completed training, said Roberts, 52 percent of those who were unemployed found a job.

That's an F.

But though the audit noted an increase in completed training in the past three quarters, it found that "at this point, there is no evidence that grantees will effectively use the funds and deliver targeted employment outcomes by the end of the grant periods."

Grassley has fought Washington's efforts to expand the definition of "green jobs" -- so that it now includes financial analysts, public relations specialists, reporters and correspondents.

The green lobby has tried this tack before. The Brookings Institution also employed a generous definition and still had to report that between 2003 and 2010, green jobs grew at a slower rate (3.4 percent annually) than the national economy (4.2 percent).

Grassley rightly argues, "Instead of focusing more money on this failed program, we need to focus on job creation in all sectors of the economy."

Unfortunately, the White House thought that it could stimulate the economy by rewarding favored donors and pet green causes, only to find that you can't build an economic recovery on a bubble of phantom jobs.

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