$490,000 Green Stimulus Grant Produced 1.72 Permanent Jobs

Published September 30, 2011

A “green stimulus” grant of nearly half a million dollars to grow trees in Nevada produced only 1.72 permanent jobs, according to the federal government’s Recovery.gov Web site.

Bait-and-Switch Job Goals

Although the green stimulus was advertised as a key component of “shovel-ready” jobs designed to boost employment rates immediately, the recipient of the funds now admits the grant had nothing to do with creating jobs.

“If the question is, ‘Was this a job-creating project?’ the answer is, ‘No, it wasn’t,'” said Bob Conrad, public information officer for the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which oversaw the grant money distributed to Nevada’s Clark County Urban Forestry Revitalization Project, as quoted on FoxNews.com on Aug. 22. “It was one of a number of projects that we do believe helped improve natural resources in the state.

The grant provided funding for tree planting and environmental education in urban portions of Clark County. The Nevada Division of Forestry reported the grant produced one temporary full-time job and 11 temporary part-time jobs.

‘This Is Ridiculous’

Federal stimulus programs are the equivalent of taking water from the deep end of the pool and moving it to the shallow end—after spilling some on the concrete walkway along the way—and hoping that this raises the water level. They don’t work, and it’s wrong to impose additional debt on Americans to fund these programs,” said Steven Greenhut, director of the Journalism Center at the Pacific Research Institute.

“You cannot take a dollar in debt or taxes from someone who earned it and give it to someone who is politically connected and claim you are increasing wealth,” agreed Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform.

Greenhut observed, “Even as make-work programs go, this is ridiculous. But who really expected a federal tree-growing grant to yield jobs?”

“Stimulus projects like this shrink the purchasing power of private individuals and families since they are inevitably financed through direct taxes, government’s pilfering of credit markets, and/or the inflation tax,” said Geoffrey Lawrence, deputy director of policy at the Nevada Policy Research Institute. “As such, the things that families really value or need go unproduced while politicians shuffle money around with no clear rhyme or reason.

“If Washington really wanted to create an income for a single Nevadan, it would have been better just to cut him a check,” Greenhut concluded.

Other Programs Even WorseThe Nevada Division of Forestry (NDF) defended its utilization of the federal grant.

“The Nevada Division of Forestry could only create project proposals that fell within existing U.S. Forest Service program areas. Urban forestry is one of those program areas, and is part of the Forest Service’s state and private forestry emphases,” NDF explained on its Web site. 

“At $290,697 per ‘job’ created, the Nevada tree-planting program is a rare if highly relative stimulus bargain,” deadpanned Christopher Horner, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

“Averaging out the $787 billion stimulus, it created or ‘saved’ jobs at about $393,500 per temporary position filled. ‘Green jobs’ in the same package cost about $355,555 [apiece]. And Solyndra [government-subsidized solar power] temp jobs wrung us out for $479,000 each. Heck, promote this manager and tell him to make it up in volume,” Horner joked.

Destroying Other Jobs

This spending ultimately costs many other people their jobs, Horner noted. 

“Of course, viewing matters this way requires one to, like the Obama administration, ignore the jobs also lost through opportunity costs associated with taking money from the productive sectors of the economy and transferring it to unproductive, largely make-work uses,” Horner said. “That ran in Obama’s erstwhile models in Europe anywhere from 2.2 to 4.8 jobs [lost] per temp position created. So the best news is the low numbers involved here. If Obama truly did ‘create millions of green jobs’, it would be our ruin.”

Exacerbating Water Strains

“In several southern Nevada municipalities it is illegal for private individuals to plant new trees on their property because of the region’s chronic water shortage. Yet politicians in Washington have decided they can add value to Nevada’s economy by straining water supplies in the desert even further,” Lawrence noted.

D. Brady Nelson ([email protected]) is a Milwaukee-based economist.