Paul Krugman: Why GOP Arguments for the Keystone XL Pipeline Are a Sick Joke

No one, including Paul Krugman, was surprised that the first move the Republican Senate has made is to try, once again, to force President Obama to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. As the the columnist points out in Monday's New York Times, "the oil and gas industry — which gave 87 percent of its 2014 campaign contributions to the G.O.P. — expects to be rewarded for its support."

If that is not appalling enough for you, then you are a very jaded observer of American politics. But, alas, this corruption-in-plain-sight has become commonplace in American politics.

More cynical still is the absurd Republican argument in favor of an environmentally damaging project at precisely the moment when the glut of oil has caused oil prices to plunge—so it really isn't that we need more oil. No, Mitch McConnell and pals say it's all about jobs.


Where, Krugman wonders, was this concern about jobs when "Republicans blackmail over the debt ceiling" forced cuts in federal spending that cost thousands of jobs? "Oh, and don’t tell me that the cases are completely different. You can’t consistently claim that pipeline spending creates jobs while government spending doesn’t," Krugman writes. Just not true. Most sane economists agree that Obama stimulus helped stave off an even higher unemployment rate, and Krugman argues that the recovery that seems underway may in part be due to the fact that the government on every level has finally stopped slashing spending. "When the Congressional Budget Office was asked how many jobs would be lost because of the sequester," Krugman writes, "the big cuts in federal spending that Republicans extracted in 2011 by threatening to push America into default — its best estimate was 900,000. And that’s only part of the total loss."

And that alone is more than twice the best estimate for how many jobs the pipeline would create temporarily. Once it's built, there would be very few permanent jobs.

Of course, there is one kind of government spending that Republicans like, and that they agree creates jobs: Military spending. "When it comes to possible cuts in defense contracts, politicians who loudly proclaim that every dollar the government spends comes at the expense of the private sector suddenly begin talking about all the jobs that will be destroyed," Krugman writes, ruefully. "They even begin talking about the multiplier effect, as reduced spending by defense workers leads to job losses in other industries. This is the phenomenon former Representative Barney Frank dubbed 'weaponized Keynesianism.'"

The argument for Keystone XL could be called "carbonized Keynesianism," Krugman says.

But if you really want to create jobs—and not simultaneously endanger the environment—why not opt for investment in American's crumbling infrastructure? Wouldn't that be a win-win?

Krugman's Conclusion: Ignore jobs claims about Keystone XL. The numbers are tiny, and, "the jobs argument for the pipeline is basically a sick joke coming from people who have done all they can to destroy American jobs — and are now employing the very arguments they used to ridicule government job programs to justify a big giveaway to their friends in the fossil fuel industry."

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