It’s weird: It is the best and worst of times — if you’re an urban planner, union organizer, comedian, county commissioner, Democrat or even, yes, an employed journalist. To all these people and more, what’s actually happening — economically and class-wise, anyway — is the worst of times they’ve seen in their lives, followed by what they hope will be one of the best evolutionary steps in this American baby’s life. Work, in other words, is on their minds. And money.

“What’s frightening about the economy today,” said Josh Bivens, of the Economic Policy Institute, “is that everybody’s doing badly.”

But Uncle Sam is on the way. And like always, everyone’s got their doo-dad to sell. Municipalities have their prime projects at the top of long lists of job-creating priorities. Contractors and other business interests are jockeying for position with boxes of steaks and free pool tiles. And laid-off workers are creaking out of the fetal position in hopes of the classified section taking up some space again.

You better believe the think tanks — at least half of them — are hard at work persuading the right people to direct the anticipated $800 billion in economic stimulus toward the creation of well-paying, green-leaning jobs and the eventual reformation of the long-belittled middle class.

“What’s critical here is the choice of policies,” said Wendy Patton of the Apollo Alliance, a sponsor of the event, which is pushing for $300 billion over a decade toward sustainable energy independence. “With the right policies in place, this green energy renaissance can bring good-paying jobs back to Ohio.”

Policy Matters Ohio, the North Shore Federation of Labor and the Center on Wisconsin Strategy also had their stamps on the platform-building that went on Monday at Crowne Plaza Hotel downtown, where more than a hundred policy tinkerers — from union leaders and workforce developers to counselors, planners and strategists — joined forces for “Labor in the New Energy Economy.”

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