Barack Obama on Friday returned to his campaign promise of creating millions of jobs in a new, renewable economy, announcing a task force on the middle class that next month will launch with a focus on 'green jobs.'
Environmentalists have championed the phrase and the concept behind it, while conservative economists have dismissed "green jobs" as an empty slogan built on shady math. Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are now taking another stab at the definition.
They have called green jobs "good jobs," jobs that can't be outsourced. Today, they're explaining another point: Green jobs are middle-class jobs, directly tying their creation to the fate of America's largest demographic and the one around which Obama built his campaign. (He's still not defining, though, precisely who fits in the middle class, which is a whole other battle of terms.)
"First, quite simply, it means more jobs."
The task force, to be chaired by Biden, will discuss this point at the group's first meeting, set for Feb. 27 in Philadelphia.
The site calls for finding innovative ways to create new jobs at a time when the economy is shedding them by the tens of thousands. Tops on the list of these new areas for employment are building a new power grid, manufacturing solar panels and weatherizing all types of public and private buildings.
The phrase "green jobs" suggests the country can fix the economy and the environment at the same time when the two goals had long been considered at odds with each other. The task force seems to be extending the logic one step further: Even if you, personally, don't get a green job, you'll still benefit financially from their existence.
"More green jobs mean more money in your pocketbook at the end of the month," the blog post continues. "If we create jobs that aim to reduce your energy costs – like your electric bill and your home heating bill – that means you have more disposable income for other things."
The administration appears to be testing a new bumper-sticker-ready slogan for the green-job movement: "It helps the economy as a whole; it helps our environment; and it will save you money."
Everyone ought to want at least one of those things — even Republicans.
In addition to Biden, the task force includes the secretaries of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Commerce and has as its major goal raising the living standards of middle-class families.
In an opinion piece published today in USA Today, Biden not-so-subtly blames George W. Bush for the need to create such a task force.
"For years, we had a White House that failed to put the middle class front and center in its economic policies," he wrote, adding that during the boom years "the middle class participated in very few of the benefits. But now in the midst of this historic economic downturn, the middle class sure is participating in all of the pain."
He stops short, though, of blaming Bush for the other problem at hand: the need to clean up the environment.