Keystoned Out of Their Minds?

What’s wrong with a temporary job?

To hear the president tell it, when it comes to the Keystone Pipeline, there’s everything wrong with it. The administration’s latest argument against building Keystone has been that the jobs it generates will be few, and the few that will be generated will be part-time.

Leaving aside that countless other studies, including one conducted by the very State Department that’s been exploring this matter for more than six years, figure anywhere from 20,000 to 42,000 jobs will come from the construction of this massive project -- this massive infrastructure project.

You’d think on that basis alone, and given the administration’s fondness for any type of infrastructure spending, Keystone would be a no-brainer. Advice for future reference, Keystone backers, insert “infrastructure” into your argument.

But here’s what’s weird -- even making that pitch now seems to fall on deaf ears. Suddenly the folks for whom any job beat no job, now can’t soil themselves trumpeting part-time jobs. Excuse me? Your concern is such jobs will be temporary? Aren’t all infrastructure jobs, by their very nature, temporary? I know it often seems like those construction crews doing repairs on that highway near you seemed to have been there forever, but in actuality, they’re not supposed to be repaving or re-surfacing, or even building bridges to nowhere without eventually stopping somewhere and at some set time.

Generally such projects are slated to last anywhere from two to five years -- at the most. By their very nature, they’re timed projects; not un-ending projects. So again, five years, tops, ideally.

That’s a whole lot less time than a two-term president. If you think about it, he gets eight years tops. But just because his is a temporary job, doesn’t make it any less important a job. So forgive me if that argument seems a little hollow coming out of anyone in the White House -- all of whom come and go pretty much at the whim of the voter and the tight time-leash our Constitution enforces.

Temporary jobs, but again, to the folks in that White House, including the one who lives there, pretty important jobs nonetheless. So who are they to sniff at Keystone jobs that would be just as important to the folks who have them, for however long they have them?

Surely the White House isn’t saying those Keystone part-timers wouldn’t be as important as those Pennsylvania Avenue part-timers? That would be arrogant. That would be condescending. That would be wrong. That would be like saying you know better, and when it comes to these potential oil workers, you couldn’t care less. I’m sure that’s not the message intended. It couldn’t be, right?

Because all those politicians and bureaucrats no doubt argue their jobs are important to them, just as these Keystone jobs would be important to the tens of thousands of Americans who desperately need them.

That’s not just me saying that; that’s a lot of unions pushing for that, and those men and women who want the work. I’m sure they know as well that this massive infrastructure project won’t go on forever, but it will go on long enough to put food on a lot of tables, and hope in a lot of Americans’ hearts.

Then there’s that other Keystone benefit that works to all Americans’ interests -- the security in knowing we are tapping more of our ample energy resources here. Critics contend what’s the big deal to that if oil companies just sell it abroad? Even assuming all that oil drilled here gets sold somewhere else, which it wouldn’t  -- doesn’t that make American energy companies stronger and the American energy influence bigger? And isn’t that a net benefit to this country? Wouldn’t you prefer America calling the energy shots and not someone else? Is there no value to keeping our energy riches in the family? Is there no upside to no longer being held up by forces across the globe who might not have our interests at heart?

To assume that Keystone isn’t worth it because the part-time jobs aren’t worth it means whatever bragging rights the administration’s claimed to the improving jobs picture is completely lost. It knows full well that most of those jobs have been part-time, and fewer have been financially significant. Yet Keystone jobs will be around longer, and they’ll come with paychecks that will be a lot bigger. This isn’t about being grateful for the chance, this is about giving families the dignity of a paycheck so that they have a chance.

Bottom line, you can’t have it both ways on jobs. They either matter or they don’t. Part-time or full-time, they beat no jobs, any time. Yet that’s just the risk if the administration once again gives just the same old cold shoulder to Keystone. Leaving aside the energy independence this country surely needs, and the ample resources at our collective disposal we should surely leverage, is anyone at all talking about the very real dignity this will add to tens of thousands Americans who know the value of a paycheck…no matter how long they’re lucky enough to be getting it?