Washington Watch

Biden bypasses Congress to create climate corps, Whitmer announces Michigan version

No experience, no problem: Biden jobs program will subsidize 20,000 workers; Michigan will start with 30

Over the specific objections of Congress, President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced the creation of the American Climate Corps, an initiative to subsidize 20,000 jobs in what he called the “clean energy and climate resilience economy.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer followed Biden’s lead Thursday, announcing a Michigan version called the MI Healthy Climate Corps. It’s named after Whitmer’s 2022 MI Healthy Climate Plan, which the governor and some legislators are working to enact into law.

The Michigan version is modest in size, starting with 30 AmeriCorps members.

“Starting in early 2024, the MI Healthy Climate Corps will field a cohort of 30 AmeriCorps members who will provide critical support to communities tackling climate change,” the Michigan climate corps website reads. “MI Healthy Climate Corps members will receive significant training and career development support to step into Michigan’s climate leadership pool.”

The White House announcement says the climate corps will fund “good-paying jobs” at $15 per hour. Whitmer uses that same cadence, “good-paying jobs,” to describe state-subsidized jobs in Michigan.

U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost, D-Florida, hailed the Biden announcement Wednesday on the floor of Congress.

“This is youth workforce development,” Frost said, “and will help us in many different issues, from gun violence to the economy.”

Frost did not explain how the program would lessen gun violence.

Rather than hire workers directly, the climate corps will subsidize the training and work experience of 20,000 people. Media reports describe it as a New Deal-style initiative, a callback to the days of the Civilian Conservation Corps under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Critics argue, as they did in the time of FDR, that this is an expense America cannot afford. Critics also argue it’s a jobs program for the politically connected.

“This is pure socialist wish-fulfillment,” U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said in 2021 regarding an earlier attempt to create a climate corps.

Republicans pinned an $8 billion price tag on the program back then.

“No prior education or experience will be required,” the AmeriCorps announcement explains. The first hires will be made for a forestry program, and they “will receive a compensation package equivalent to $15 an hour and includes lodging, transportation, clothing, a living allowance, health benefits, and more.”

The White House announcement says there is a racial justice element at play, too.

“The American Climate Corps will focus on equity and environmental justice – prioritizing communities traditionally left behind, including energy communities that powered our nation for generations, leveraging the talents of all members of our society, and prioritizing projects that help meet the Administration’s Justice40 goal,” read the White House announcement.

Justice40 is another White House initiative. Its aim is that “40 percent of the overall benefits of certain federal investments flow to disadvantaged communities that are marginalized, underserved, and overburdened by pollution.”

The first cohort of the MI Healthy Climate Corps will start work in January.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.