Pete Buttigieg's 'Learn to Code' Moment and the Canard of High-Paying Green Union Jobs

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Pete Buttigieg went in front of the Senate yesterday to provide testimony for his confirmation hearing. The previous day, President Joe Biden had stopped the Keystone XL project cold in its tracks. Senator Ted Cruz had some pointed questions about this move and the impact from it. This exchange is important for a few reasons.


First, Cruz points out that the cancellation of the Keystone XL infrastructure project eliminates 11,000 jobs. This year, 8,000 of those would be high-paying union jobs. When asked what he would say to the 11,000 people who no longer have a job, Buttigieg responds as you would expect from the liberal gentry:

“I think the most important thing is to make sure that we make good on the promise of the president’s climate vision as being on that, on net, creates far more jobs. Millions, we hope. I know that won’t just happen. We’ll have to do a lot of work to make sure that’s real. But getting this right means ensuring there’s more good paying union jobs for all Americans. Delivered from that infrastructure vision.”


When Cruz asked whether that meant that the answer to the displaced workers was that someone else would get jobs, Buttigieg answered:

“The answer is that we are very eager to see those workers continue to be employed in good-paying union jobs. Even if they might be different ones.”

This flawed assumption emerges when you put people who know nothing about the trades and have never had a job that didn’t require sitting at a desk in charge. Learning a new skilled trade is not the same as learning a new version of Excel. Keystone XL employed many pipefitters. That skill likely required a multi-year apprenticeship to attain. It is not necessarily transferable to the green energy jobs that Buttigieg is so excited about. They would, at minimum, need retraining.


This is an unworkable answer for an additional reason. As President Biden should have learned during the “shovel-ready jobs” phase of the Obama administration, infrastructure projects can take years from the time the funds are allocated:

William Ibbs, a professor of civil engineering at the University of California at Berkley, was quoted in a September 26, 2011, Politico article saying, “As a rule of thumb, you’re looking at three years for a project, really going from the time the federal government says we have the money and want to spend it…The politicians really don’t understand how cumbersome the process is these days. Environmental permitting, especially on road projects can take years. You’re hiring attorneys, not really shoveling a lot of dirt.”

If environmental permitting on roads can take years, wait until you see what it takes to do wind or solar farms. Most communities don’t want them because they are eyesores. President Biden’s Energy secretary nominee, Jennifer Granholm, has proposed putting green energy production on federal lands. However, states have some role in regulating federal lands and may choose to take the federal government to court.

After spending $830 billion in stimulus funds, the Obama administration went into the 2012 election with unemployment climbing rather than receding. They claimed to have “saved or created” 3.6 million jobs, yet the unemployment rate went from 8.2% to 9.1%. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the number of people employed had also fallen by 2 million. This spending is a drop in the bucket compared to Biden’s proposed green energy spending, and you can be sure the results will be no better.


Buttigieg’s comments also confirm what Reason’s editor-at-large, Nick Gillespie, said during the campaign. When Biden unveiled his climate plan, Gillespie said:

“In fact, it is the same worn out jobs program for Democrat Party interests that he’s been pushing since he became a Senator in the ’70s.”

Cruz pointed out that these programs have never worked:

 “There is also some rich irony in the long history of the Democrat Party. There was a time when the Democrat Party, under presidents like FDR, was considered the party of union workers, of blue-collar workers. And decisions like yesterday, and I fear more decisions that we will see in the days and weeks to come are demonstrating more and more that today’s Democrat Party is not concerned with working men and women having jobs.”

Good to know Cruz got the memo. Progressive policies hurt working and middle-class families in favor of social justice priorities. If Cruz decides to run for president again, you can bet on who he will craft a platform to attract: the workers that the Democrats and their corporate oligarchs would be just as happy to subsidize rather than employ.

Today, thanks to Biden and Buttigieg, 11,000 of them are out of a job.

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