Porta-Potties to Antiques: The Curious Journey of Obama's 'Green Jobs'

Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.), questioning a panel today about how the Labor Department counts "green jobs," noted that he recently visited a huge wind farm and found that it employed just 12 people.

But the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing also revealed that the department has some interesting ideas about exactly what constitutes a green job.

"You'll recall the DOL received $500 million in stimulus funds to train workers for so-called green skills," said Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.). "But an audit by the inspector general found the program to be an utter failure and represented a tremendous loss to the taxpayer."

And the Labor Department, he charged, is "using the guise of green jobs to justify ongoing funding of the president's green agenda."

What counts as green? Newspaper reporters who write on environmental issues. Think-tank wonks who study environmental policy. College professors teaching about the environment and lobbyists are counted.

"There's a lot of green with lobbyists; none of it should be counted as an environmentally green job," Issa quipped.

Even welders and sheet-metal workers, he noted, are suddenly colored green "after hundreds of years of being around as a profession."

"There are 33 times as many so-called green jobs in the septic tank -- and you can't make these things up, guys -- septic tank and portable toilet servicing industry as there are in solar energy and utility areas," Issa said.

"Using these tactics to manipulate the number to mislead the American people is nothing short of embarrassing and a betrayal of the standards that President Obama established for his administration," the chairman added.

Particularly telling was an exchange Issa had with John Galvin, acting commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about what does and does not count as one of the "3.1 million jobs constantly touted by this administration," as noted by the chairman.

Issa first asked Galvin whether sweeping the floor in a green-energy facility counted as a green job.

When the commissioner hedged on his answer, Issa said he could tell Galvin was not "a delighted witness."

"I asked you a question; please answer it," Issa said.

"Yes," Galvin answered.

Galvin also answered "yes" to a string of occupations listed by Issa that the administration considers green jobs.

These include school bus driver, the guy who gases up the school bus, and a clerk at a bicycle repair job.

And it also includes someone who works at an antique dealer, someone who sells rare books and manuscripts, or someone who works at the Salvation Army thrift shop or a consignment store. Those jobs are now considered "recycling."

"Do garbagemen have green jobs?" Issa asked.

"Yes," Galvin responded.