Sunday, November 28, 2010
By Frank RichNov 13, 2010
...The president’s argument against extending the cuts for the wealthiest has now been reduced to the dry accounting of what the cost would add to the federal deficit. As he put it to CBS’s Steve Kroft, “the question is — can we afford to borrow $700 billion?”
That’s a good question, all right, but it’s not the question. The bigger issue is whether the country can afford the systemic damage being done by the ever-growing income inequality between the wealthiest Americans and everyone else, whether poor, middle class or even rich. That burden is inflicted not just on the debt but on the very idea of America — our Horatio Alger faith in social mobility over plutocracy, our belief that our brand of can-do capitalism brings about innovation and growth, and our fundamental sense of fairness. Incredibly, the top 1 percent of Americans now have tax rates a third lower than the same top percentile had in 1970.
“How can hedge-fund managers who are pulling down billions sometimes pay a lower tax rate than do their secretaries?” ask the political scientists Jacob S. Hacker (of Yale) and Paul Pierson (University of California, Berkeley) in their deservedly lauded new book, “Winner-Take-All Politics.” If you want to cry real tears about the American dream — as opposed to the self-canonizing tears of John Boehner — read this book and weep. The authors’ answer to that question and others amounts to a devastating indictment of both parties.
Their ample empirical evidence, some of which I’m citing here, proves that America’s ever-widening income inequality was not an inevitable by-product of the modern megacorporation, or of globalization, or of the advent of the new tech-driven economy, or of a growing education gap. (Yes, the very rich often have fancy degrees, but so do those in many income levels below them.) Inequality is instead the result of specific policies, including tax policies, championed by Washington Democrats and Republicans alike as they conducted a bidding war for high-rolling donors in election after election.
The book deflates much of the conventional wisdom. Hacker and Pierson date the dawn of the collusion between the political system and the superrich not to the Reagan revolution, but to the preceding Carter presidency and its Democratic Congress. They also write that contrary to the popular perception, America’s superhigh earners are not mostly “superstars and celebrities in the arts, entertainment and sports” or the stars of law, medicine and real estate. They are instead corporate executives and managers — increasingly (and less surprisingly) financial company executives and managers, including those who escaped with outrageous fortunes as their companies imploded during the housing bubble.
The G.O.P.’s arguments for extending the Bush tax cuts to this crowd, usually wrapped in laughably hypocritical whining about “class warfare,” are easily batted down. The most constant refrain is that small-business owners who file in this bracket would be hit so hard they could no longer hire new employees. But the Tax Policy Center found in 2008, when checking out similar campaign claims by “Joe the Plumber,” that only 2 percent of all Americans reporting small-business income, regardless of tax bracket, would see tax increases if Obama fulfilled his pledge to let the Bush tax cuts lapse for the top earners. The economist Dean Baker calculated that the yearly tax increase at the lower end of that bracket, for those with earnings between $200,000 and $500,000, would amount to $700 — which “isn’t enough to hire anyone.”
Those in the higher reaches aren’t investing in creating new jobs even now, when the full Bush tax cuts remain in effect, so why would extending them change that equation? American companies seem intent on sitting on trillions in cash until the economy reboots. Meanwhile, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office ranks the extension of any Bush tax cuts, let alone those to the wealthiest Americans, as the least effective of 11 possible policy options for increasing employment.
Nor are the superrich helping to further the traditional American business culture that inspires and encourages those with big ideas and drive to believe they can climb to the top. Robert Frank, the writer who chronicled the superrich in the book “Richistan,” recently analyzed the new Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans for The Wall Street Journal and found a “hardening of the plutocracy” and scant mobility. Only 16 of the 400 were newcomers — as opposed to an average of 40 to 50 in recent years — and they tended to be in industries like coal, natural gas, chemicals and casinos rather than forward-looking businesses involving the Green Economy, tech or biotechnology. This is “not exactly the formula for America’s vaunted entrepreneurial wealth machine,” Frank wrote...
Saturday, November 27, 2010
BRADDOCK, Pa. — As Americans wonder just how horrible the economy will become, this tiny steel town offers a perverse message of hope: Things cannot possibly get any worse than they are here.
Hunched on the eastern edge of the Monongahela River only a few miles from bustling Pittsburgh, Braddock is a mix of boarded-up storefronts, houses in advanced stages of collapse and vacant lots.
“Everyone in the country is asking, ‘Where’s the bottom?’ ” said the mayor, John Fetterman. “I think we’ve found it.”
Mr. Fetterman is trying to make an asset out of his town’s lack of assets, calling it “a laboratory for solutions to all these maladies starting to knock on the door of every community.” One of his first acts after being elected mayor in 2005 was to set up, at his own expense, a Web site to publicize Braddock — if you can call pictures of buildings destroyed by neglect and vandals a form of promotion.
He has encouraged the development of urban farms on empty lots, which employ area youths and feed the community. He started a nonprofit organization to save a handful of properties.
In an earlier era, Braddock was a famed wellspring of industrial might. The steel baron Andrew Carnegie put his first mill in the town, the foundation of an empire that helped build modern America. With the loot and guilt Mr. Carnegie piled up, he also built a library here, the first of more than 1,500 Carnegie libraries in the United States.
Friday, November 12, 2010
Thursday, November 4, 2010
by Timothy Egan, NY Times
...The banking system was resuscitated by $700 billion in bailouts started by Bush (a fact unknown by a majority of Americans), and finished by Obama, with help from the Federal Reserve. It worked. The government is expected to break even on a risky bet to stabilize the global free market system. Had Obama followed the populist instincts of many in his party, the underpinnings of big capitalism could have collapsed. He did this without nationalizing banks, as other Democrats had urged.
Saving the American auto industry, which has been a huge drag on Obama’s political capital, is a monumental achievement that few appreciate, unless you live in Michigan. After getting their taxpayer lifeline from Obama, both General Motors and Chrysler are now making money by making cars. New plants are even scheduled to open. More than 1 million jobs would have disappeared had the domestic auto sector been liquidated.
“An apology is due Barack Obama,” wrote The Economist, which had opposed the $86 billion auto bailout. As for Government Motors: after emerging from bankruptcy, it will go public with a new stock offering in just a few weeks, and the United States government, with its 60 percent share of common stock, stands to make a profit. Yes, an industry was saved, and the government will probably make money on the deal — one of Obama’s signature economic successes.
Interest rates are at record lows. Corporate profits are lighting up boardrooms; it is one of the best years for earnings in a decade.
All of the above is good for capitalism, and should end any serious-minded discussion about Obama the socialist. But more than anything, the fact that the president took on the structural flaws of a broken free enterprise system instead of focusing on things that the average voter could understand explains why his party was routed on Tuesday. Obama got on the wrong side of voter anxiety in a decade of diminished fortunes.
“We have done things that people don’t even know about,” Obama told Jon Stewart. Certainly. The three signature accomplishments of his first two years — a health care law that will make life easier for millions of people, financial reform that attempts to level the playing field with Wall Street, and the $814 billion stimulus package — have all been recast as big government blunders, rejected by the emerging majority.
But each of them, in its way, should strengthen the system. The health law will hold costs down, while giving millions the chance at getting care, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Financial reform seeks to prevent the kind of meltdown that caused the global economic collapse. And the stimulus, though it drastically raised the deficit, saved about 3 million jobs, again according to the CBO. It also gave a majority of taxpayers a one-time cut — even if 90 percent of Americans don’t know that, either.
Full Article: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/02/how-obama-saved-capitalism-and-lost-the-midterms/?src=me&ref=general
Thursday, October 14, 2010
I like playing in the sand what's mine is ours
If it doesn't remind me of anything
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Confounding Fathers: The Tea Party's Cold War roots
A few seperate clips:
Several times a week, Beck informs his audience that socialists (whom he also sometimes calls Fascists or Communists) led by Obama have seized power, and that patriotic Americans must take their country back. His TV show for some time featured “Comrade Updates,” in which Beck described perfidy while the Soviet anthem played in the background. He attacks all the familiar bogeymen: the Federal Reserve System (which he asserts is a private conglomerate, unaccountable to the public); the Council on Foreign Relations (born of a “progressive idea” to manipulate the media in order to “let the masses know what should be done”); and a historical procession of evildoers...
For the moment, though, it appears that the extreme right wing is on the verge of securing a degree of power over Congress and the Republican Party that is unprecedented in modern American history. For defenders of national cohesion and tempered adversity in our politics, it is an alarming state of affairs.
Saturday, August 28, 2010
Above, the controversial New Yorker cover depicting the Obama's as Terrorists.
It would be nice to dismiss the stupid things that Americans believe as harmless, the price of having such a large, messy democracy. Plenty of hate-filled partisans swore that Abraham Lincoln was a Catholic and Franklin Roosevelt was a Jew. So what if one-in-five believe the sun revolves around the earth, or aren’t sure from which country the United States gained its independence?
But false belief in weapons of mass-destruction led the United States to a trillion-dollar war. And trust in rising home value as a truism as reliable as a sunrise was a major contributor to the catastrophic collapse of the economy. At its worst extreme, a culture of misinformation can produce something like Iran, which is run by a Holocaust denier.
It’s one thing to forget the past, with predictable consequences, as the favorite aphorism goes. But what about those who refuse to comprehend the present?
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
If Obama is to have a truly transformative presidency, there could be no better catalyst than oil. Standard Oil jump-started Progressive Era trust-busting. Sinclair Oil’s kickback-induced leases of Wyoming’s Teapot Dome oilfields in the 1920s led to the first conviction and imprisonment of a presidential cabinet member (Harding’s interior secretary) for a crime committed while in the cabinet. The Arab oil embargo of the early 1970s and the Exxon Valdez spill of 1989 sped the conservation movement and search for alternative fuels. The Enron scandal prompted accounting reforms and (short-lived) scrutiny of corporate Ponzi schemes.
This all adds up to a Teddy Roosevelt pivot-point for Obama, who shares many of that president’s moral and intellectual convictions. But Obama can’t embrace his inner T.R. as long as he’s too in thrall to the supposed wisdom of the nation’s meritocracy, too willing to settle for incremental pragmatism as a goal, and too inhibited by the fine points of Washington policy debates to embrace bold words and bold action. If he is to wield the big stick of reform against BP and the other powerful interests that have ripped us off, he will have to tell the big story with no holds barred.
Don't Get Mad Mr. President, Get Even by Frank Rich
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
I think that this is great -- taking all 32 World Cup teams and putting them into terms that we on this side of the pond can understand. Really excited about this summer too. U-S-A!
If you're American, soccer probably isn't your cuppa tea. But, due to ESPN's admirably relentless promotion (they'll be unleashing their three Big B's: Bob Ley, Bill Simmons and Bono), you're probably at least a little curious about the World Cup, if you're a sports fan anyway. But when it comes to going the extra mile and actually learning about all the teams, perhaps that sounds like something for which you can't be bothered.
I'm here to help.
What follows is a list of every one of the World Cup's 32 teams, alongside the American sports team it most parallels. Some of these analogies are slightly better than tenuous. Some of them are dead-on. All of them are at least a decent starting point to give you a frame of reference.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Grace Kelly is beautiful. Growing up, the musical High Society was one of my favorite movies (still is), so Kelly found an early spot in my heart. Just saw this slideshow on Vanity Fair about an exhibition on her next month, and thought I'd pass it along. Enjoy.
Eternal Style of Grace Kelly by Laura Jacobs
Next month, London’s Victoria and Albert Museum will feature a collection of Grace Kelly’s clothes and accoutrements, from her Philadelphia society days to her Hollywood stardom, to her Monegasque princesshood. VF.com matches classic shots of our May 2010 cover subject with images from the exhibition.”
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Turns out that Zoltan was a team captain, and lead the Big-10 in yards per punt. With a 6'5, 230 lb frame, he was also a running threat, and a 4-year letterman.
These facts were nothing after I Youtube'd the guy. Training camp isn't months from starting, but I might have a new favorite Patriot.
Sorry for the recent hiatus from the blogosphere, but I was in the process of switching coasts.
Maybe I should have been changing more than that, if what Stephen Hawking recently said is correct. Looking to start a colony on a different planet?
In a new series about the Universe on the Discovery Channel, Hawking said humans should fear a potential alien encounter, and he believes that their existence is virtually guaranteed.
[Hawking] suggests that aliens might simply raid Earth for its resources and then move on: "We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn't want to meet. I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonise whatever planets they can reach."
He concludes that trying to make contact with alien races is "a little too risky". He said: "If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn't turn out very well for the Native Americans."
Friday, April 16, 2010
To understand what’s really at stake right now, watch the looming fight over derivatives, the complex financial instruments Warren Buffett famously described as “financial weapons of mass destruction.” The Obama administration wants tighter regulation of derivatives, while Republicans are opposed. And that tells you everything you need to know.
Since the 1930s, we’ve had a standard procedure for dealing with failing banks: the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation has the right to seize a bank that’s on the brink, protecting its depositors while cleaning out the stockholders. In the crisis of 2008, however, it became clear that this procedure wasn’t up to dealing with complex modern financial institutions like Lehman or Citigroup.
- Paul Krugman, The Fire Next Time
The Media is gearing up for the next big battle in Washington, this time over proposed Financial Reform. But the objectives of reform are so clearly in the interest of the American people and our national economic solvency, that the Dems seem "giddy" at the thought of Republican opposition. November here we come?
Brian Beutler elaborates on this in his article on Talking Points Memo, Make Our Day! Democrats Giddy Over GOP Opposition to Financial Reform:
About a week or two. That's how long Republicans have to decide how they ultimately want to play their hand on financial regulatory reform. According to numerous Democratic aides and key senators, the GOP will either have to join forces with Democrats on a bill that hews very much to the White House's demands, or they'll have to do their best to block a bill that enjoys wide popularity. But as much as Democrats want to change the rules that govern Wall Street quickly and smoothly, they also love the politics of moving the bill forward without GOP support and letting Republicans publicly justify their decision to protect hated financial institutions from the regulations they oppose.
Aides go further, admitting that they'd relish the prospect of putting Republicans on the side of big banks in opposition to reg reform. In stark contrast to their approach to the year-long fight over health care reform, Democrats now say broad bipartisan agreement isn't worth it if it sucks up too much time, and needlessly weakens the bill.
Here's a few of his best from the last two weeks:
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
|The Big Bang Treaty|
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
|A Farewell to Arms|
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
Not only do I love the message behind this track, the music video is unreal. The contraption in the video is called a Rube Goldberg, a machine that performs a simple task in complex fashion using chain reactions, which took over six months to design and build. All for a 3:00 minute song. Enjoy!
Art is not like other culture because its success is not made by its audience. The public fill concert halls and cinemas every day, we read novels by the millions, and buy records by the billions. We the people, affect the making and quality of most of our culture, but not our art.
His art? Well, that's a slightly different story.
Banksy, the renowned British Graffiti Artist, is believed to have been born sometime in the mid-1970s near Bristol. I first came in contact in his work while in Edinburgh during April of '09. I was walking down an alley and found a mural on the side of a wall, depicting a man and women embracing but unable to touch because of large metal helmets, the kind you'd imagine in Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I was blown away. His first film, a documentary entitled Exit Through the Gift Shop, opened this year at the Sundance Film Festival to rave reviews.
Some of his work is more playful, and some pretty moving. The first piece above is actually in Bethlehem on a wall separating Israeli and Palestinian settlements. In 2005 he stenciled into the wall at the Penguin exhibit at the London Zoo We're bored of fish, and managed to place art of his own in the British Museum, London Tate, Metropolitan Museum of Art, MOMA, and the American Museum of Natural History without detection.
There's NO WAY you're going to get a quote from us to use on your book cover.
(on the cover of his new book)
I don't know how many people in what I would consider my "cohort" read (or even know about) Tom Englehardt. Nonetheless - you/they should. Hell, I don't check his "Tomgram's" nearly as much as I should, but when I do, I'm never disappointed.
Tom's guest blogger for this post is Jo Comerford, NPP's Executive Director. In his post, Jo looks closely at the city of Binghamton, NY, home of the flagship University of the SUNY system, and Matt Ryan as Mayor, an old college buddy of my Mom. After crunching the numbers, Ryan realized that the residents of Binghamton have paid 138.6 million dollars thus far for our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Comerford puts that in perspective:
For a small city with an annual budget of $81.1 million, $138.6 million would be a hefty sum, even in non-recessionary times. For the same amount of money, Ryan could fund the Binghamton city library for the next 60 years, or pay for a four-year education for 95% of the incoming freshman class at the State University of New York at Binghamton, or offer four years of quality health coverage for everyone in Binghamton 19 or younger, or secure renewable electricity for every home in the city for the next 11 years. If he was feeling really flush, he could fully fund one-third of New York State's Head Start slots for one year.
For the same sum, Ryan could also authorize a $2,900 tax refund for every woman, man, and child in Binghamton or pay the salaries of all of Binghamton's hard-hit public school teachers and staff for about two years.
For $138.6 million, Mayor Ryan could hire 2,765 public safety officers for a year, or simply refund the 12 police positions cut in the latest budget contraction and guarantee those salaries for the next 230 years. Ridiculous? These days, no one is laughing in Binghamton or other cities like it.
Pleasant reading, and happy Taxday!
Remember, the good news is that we do have the most progressive tax code in decades now thanks to Obama's tax cuts. (EFF those tea-parties and their propaganda.) Bad news? We still need to analyze our national priorities.
If you’re an average American taxpayer, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have, since 2001, cost you personally $7,334, according to the “cost of war” counter created by the National Priorities Project (NPP). They have cost all Americans collectively more than $980,000,000,000. As a country, we’ll pass the trillion dollar mark soon. These are staggering figures and, despite the $72.3 billion that Congress has already ponied up for the Afghan War in 2010 ($136.8 billion if you add in Iraq), the administration is about to go back to Congress for more than $35 billion in outside-the-budget supplemental funds to cover the president’s military and civilian Afghan surges. When that passes, as it surely will, the cumulative cost of the Afghan War alone will hit $300 billion, and we’ll be heading for two trillion-dollar wars.
In the meantime, just so you know, that $300 billion, according to the NPP, could have paid for healthcare for 131,780,734 American children for a year, or for 53,872,201 students to receive Pell Grants of $5,550, or for the salaries and benefits of 4,911,552 elementary school teachers for that same year.
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of hosting two old friends from back East - Ash Gol and Sadie Brum. It was a great trip, and Sadie and I were able to take some pretty unreal photos using her new camera. Ash kept asking us for a "top 10" - which even now I can't --- but I guess I can try. So here goes a shot, with 1 for good luck. What to call it? How about SF Knights for now. Suggestions accepted.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Pena (1950-2005) was born on Cape Cod, to parents of Cape Verdean decent. He was blind by the time he was 20, but boy could he sing and play the guitar. He opened for the Grateful Dead, performed at the Newport Jazz Fest, and was featured in the Documentary Genghis Blues.
Check 'em out
Obama Puts His Own Mark on Foreign Policy Issues - NY Times
If there is an Obama doctrine emerging, it is one much more realpolitik than his predecessor’s, focused on relations with traditional great powers and relegating issues like human rights and democracy to second-tier concerns. He has generated much more good will around the world after years of tension with Mr. Bush, and yet he does not seem to have strong personal friendships with many world leaders.
“It is a vital national security interest of the United States to reduce these conflicts because whether we like it or not, we remain a dominant military superpower. And when conflicts break out, one way or another, we get pulled into them. And that ends up costing us significantly in terms of both blood and treasure.
- Barack Obama
Addendum 4/15: Obama Speech Signals a U.S. Shift on the Middle East
This shift is driving the White House's urgency to help broker a Middle East peace deal. It increases the likelihood that Mr. Obama, frustrated by the inability of the Israelis and Palestinians to come to terms, will offer his own parameters for an eventual Palestinian state.
Mr. Obama's words reverberated through diplomatic circles in large part because they echoed those of General David H. Petraeus, the military commander overseeing America's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
With the surge in Afghanistan, withdrawal of combat forces from Iraq due to begin this year, Special Forces operations (and drone strikes) in Pakistan - as well as new diplomatic pressure, movement towards international economic sanctions against Iran, and now this new potential strategy at brokering an Israeli-Palestinian deal, Mr. Obama is quickly reshaping American Foreign Policy in the Middle East. Call me a cynic (or a realist), but in each case it seems as though he is delicately scaling a mountain of kindling, and one match (or misstep) could ignite an inferno of flames.
The Avett Brothers have the heavy sadness of Townes Van Zandt, the light pop concision of Buddy Holly, the tuneful jangle of the Beatles, the raw energy of the Ramones.
Comprised of two brothers from North Carolina, Seth & Scott, who play the banjo and guitar, and a friend who plays the stand-up bass, these guys have something good going on.
Monday, April 12, 2010
Got real excited when I saw this pop a few weeks ago on their site, and Jack said they killed it in concert. Looks as though the summer 2k10 anthem is spoken for...
'Heaven is Whenever' - buy it on Itunes, May 4
The Hold Steady recently put the finishing touches on ‘Heaven Is Whenever,’ their new album set for release May 4th. Singer Craig Finn says 'Heaven is Whenever' is about “embracing suffering and finding reward in our everyday lives.” Piano and keys take a backseat to guitar on the new record, which also gets production help from guitarist Tad Kubler.
Recorded in several smaller sessions spread out over a long period of time, the songs on ‘Heaven Is Whenever’ received the benefit of being tested on the band’s recent tours. As Finn says this allowed them to “see what was working and what wasn’t. I believe this record benefits from us working at a more deliberate pace.”
Sunday, April 11, 2010
London based indie-rock group One eskimO performing Kandi off of their most recent album.
magical, ambient, filmic, acoustic, beautiful and meaningful.
I wanted to write about how I felt about
losses and failures,
highs and lows, even heartbreaks.
But also about how amazing human life is,
and how mind-blowing our very existence is.
Friday, April 9, 2010
A Photographer Whose Beat Was the World
Rarely has the phrase “man of the world” been more aptly applied than to the protean photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, the subject of a handsome and large — though surely not anywhere near large enough — retrospective opening at the Museum of Modern Art on Sunday.
For much of his long career as a photojournalist, which began in the 1930s and officially ended three decades before his death in 2004, Cartier-Bresson was compulsively on the move. By plane, train, bus, car, bicycle, rickshaw, horse and on foot, he covered the better part of five continents in a tangled, crisscrossing itinerary of arcs and dashes.
In addition to being exhaustively mobile, he was widely connected. Good-looking, urbane, the rebellious child of French haute bourgeois privilege, he networked effortlessly, and had ready access to, and friendships with, the political and culture beau monde of his time.Slide Show: Cartier-Bresson’s Modern Century (Lens Blog)
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Friday, April 2, 2010
Turkish Photographer, Architect, Historian, and Publisher, Ahmet Ertug, began taking photos in the early 1970s, while studying at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London. His photographs frequently focus on art and architecture, or subjects of anthropological and historical significance. In short, they're beautiful.
"[His] photography has a deep meditative energy and it withdraws the observer into the intellectual content of his subjects, ranging from the vast interior of monumental buildings to the silent gazes of ancient sculptures."
Check out his galleries:
By Sam Houghteling, Apollo News Service
On Dec. 21, 2009, the largest thin-film solar photovoltaic (PV) power plant in the United States began its commercial operations in little-known Blythe, Calif. The new facility – located roughly 200 miles southeast of Los Angeles in Riverside County – was developed by Tempe, Arizona-based First Solar, Inc. and purchased by NRG Solar, a subsidiary of NRG Energy, Inc. The Blythe facility will help California meet its goal of generating 33 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. NRG has a 20-year power purchase agreement with the local electric utility, Southern California Edison (SCE), which guarantees that SCE will purchase all of the energy produced by this independently operated facility. According to Marc Ulrich, SCE Vice President of Renewables and Alternative Power, “Solar is the great untapped resource in California.” Southern California Edison estimates that the 21-megawatt (MW) plant will power nearly 17,000 homes.
While California continues to struggle with rising unemployment, the construction of the Blythe facility was a boon for local workers, employing 296 union members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 440 over the course of three months. This included 109 journeyman electricians, 129 registered apprentices, and 58 electrician trainees. According to Roger Roper, president of IBEW Local 440, the average base pay for union electricians is $35.50 per hour plus $14.00 per hour in benefits, with an additional $10.00 per hour in subsistence pay due to the remote location. Older and more experienced workers make considerably more. Project developers collaborated with the Workforce Development Board to hire local residents seeking work, which resulted in the hiring of 23 local electrical workers, including 16 from the city of Blythe itself. Furthermore, collaboration with “Helmets to Hardhats,” an organization that helps transition military veterans into the civilian workforce, put more than two-dozen electricians with military backgrounds into apprenticeships during the construction of the Blythe facility.
Currently, the only PV solar plant in the United States larger than Blythe is the Desoto Next Generation Solar Center in Arcadia, Florida, with production capabilities of 25 MW. However, the Blythe Solar Plant uses thin-film PV panels made of cadmium telluride, which have significantly lower manufacturing costs than traditional silicon PV panels. Though thin-film PV panels require a larger surface area to generate a comparable amount of electricity, they are more flexible, lighter, durable, and have a slower degradation rate than silicon-based solar panels.
While large-scale solar projects like the Blythe Solar Plant create some U.S. manufacturing jobs, more than 90 percent of worldwide PV solar panel production occurs outside the United States, according to the Solar Energy Industry Association. America can reverse this disturbing trend and create high-quality manufacturing jobs here at home by increasing investment in the domestic manufacture of renewable energy systems and components through legislation such as U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown’s Investments for Manufacturing Progress and Clean Technologies (IMPACT) Act, which would provide domestic manufacturers with the capital they need to retool to meet increased clean energy demand.
In a press statement about the Blythe project, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said: “It is no surprise that America’s largest thin-film solar project was built right here in California, where my Administration has successfully created a climate where green businesses can thrive. It is forward-thinking businesses such as First Solar that will help California reach its nation-leading greenhouse gas reduction and Renewable Portfolio Standard goals, as well as create the new green jobs that will help spur our economic recovery.”
The rapid job creation that occurred at the Blythe facility bodes well for future solar projects. In August 2009, First Solar and Southern California Edison announced plans for two more large-scale PV plants in Desert Center and San Bernardino County. Together, these two plants will have production capabilities of 550 MW. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2012 and 2013, respectively, with a projected completion date of 2015. According to First Solar and NRG, these plants will power 170,000 California homes, produce 1.2 billion kilowatt hours of clean energy annually, and will create thousands of local jobs.
With more renewable energy projects on the way, the commencement of operations in Blythe represents an important transformation occurring in the California energy sector, and a symbol of the bright and renewable future ahead.