“At what point has the creation of jobs become the trump card of selling points for us to not fully evaluate a proposal where job creation is a secondary benefit of the plan?”
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Zachary Antoyan is a political science senior and Mustang News liberal columnist. These views do not necessarily reflect the opinion or editorial coverage of Mustang News.
I remember hearing about the California High Speed Rail Initiative in 2008. I remember thinking that, amid all the turmoil created by the recession at the time, it would be something of a boon for the state. I also remember thinking that the notion of having another mode of transportation out of Fresno, faster than most methods, was very enticing.
California politics then was mired in budget battles with opposite parties so entrenched it made the recent federal budget crisis look like good governance. We were told that this project, linking the northern and southern parts of the state by a train that could make the whole trip in a few hours, would bring jobs and spurn growth. Six years later, the project is “projected” to get started in 2014. But first, I need to bring your attention somewhere else.
Last quarter I wrote a whole article about how New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was a good guy. Well … considering the recent news about his office taking political retaliation against a mayor that didn’t support Christie, it turns out I was wrong. So let’s pretend the article was about how awesome Nerds Rope was and call it a day.
Now, I don’t feel like having the conversation about how the $33 billion, then $68 billion, and most recently estimated cost of $91 billion project is an utter failure. Anyone could have predicted that six years ago. Rather, I want to focus on the arguments that the government and proponents of high speed rail used to pass the initiative in the first place, and continue to use to justify the further existence of the project.
What I am trying to draw attention to is the fact that we consistently attempt to qualify spending copious amounts of money, risking possibly negative environmental impacts and providing aid to companies with one overarching claim, that endorsing any specific plan creates jobs.
Without a doubt, jobs are a necessity, I shouldn’t have to explain the importance of putting people in this nation to work. But at what point has the creation of jobs become the trump card of selling points for us to not fully evaluate a proposal where job creation is a secondary benefit of the plan?
Take, for instance, the high speed rail for California mentioned above. After these past six years, there have been virtually no reports of job creation, as the project itself is stuck in land acquisition, legal battles and a serious lack of funding. Californians at the onset were promised that once the construction began that there would be approximately 66,000 jobs created a year over the span of 15 years.
That is a significant number, yet one that was presented almost two years ago, and has not been updated since. With such an enormous project, and so much riding on its back, I cannot help but wonder how those numbers are established and justified. Provided as perhaps one of the biggest selling points, the creation of jobs was in this case used to sell to the public a government project that is now struggling to even begin.
However, governments are not the only large entities to use this ploy in order to drum up support; oil and natural gas companies routinely use job creation as a justification for potentially harmful resource extraction methods. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has been a hotly contested practice for obtaining oil and natural gas, and environmentalists consistently assert that the technique not only harms natural ecosystems, but also contaminates water deposits.
States that allow fracking have had numerous reports of water contamination, and while instances may only be seen in close proximity to drilling operations, the push by oil companies to use this method is gaining steam. They establish that the more resources they can extract from within the U.S. the less we become dependent on foreign suppliers. Making the United States more energy independent in addition to creating jobs are two very important selling advantages for companies to put forth. However, once again, we are forced to weigh the possibility of creating jobs and energy independence with our health and the health of the environment.
Perhaps it is that we are too willing to accept that the health of the economy by way of job creation is more important than being critical of the source of that job growth. I cannot in good faith look at job creation statistics of a proposed project and accept that in due time that those jobs will exist, nor is the risk of failure or harm to the community worth the the possible economic boon. For me, creating jobs is just not good enough, I expect my government and large companies to do better than that.
This is Zachary Antoyan, thinking polar vortex what now? Have a fantastic week everyone.