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Ed Driscoll

The Increasingly ‘Shovel-Ready’ Administration

June 13th, 2011 - 4:44 pm
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Today, President Obama told a “joke” that must come across as grim gallows humor to those who are part of the 9.1 percent or more currently unemployed:

One of the Council’s recommendations to President Obama was to streamline the federal permit process for construction and infrastructure projects. It was explained to Obama that the permitting process can delay projects for “months to years … and in many cases even cause projects to be abandoned … I’m sure that when you implemented the Recovery Act your staff briefed you on many of these challenges.” At this point, Obama smiled and interjected, “Shovel-ready was not as … uh .. shovel-ready as we expected.” The Council, led by GE’s Jeffrey Immelt, erupted in laughter.

Nice of the Ruling Class to have a chuckle on behalf of working Americans’ bad fortune. And yet, it was that same Ruling Class that set the train wreck of the last two and a half years in motion, months before there was a full-blown economic meltdown.  Back in May of 2008, then-Democratic Congressman Paul Kanjorski was ready to set the controls for the heart of the 1930s:

“All we’re doing is going into the basket and saying, ‘Damn, what did they do in ‘32*, what did they do in ‘34, what did they do in ‘36,’ and we’re pulling them out, dusting them off, giving them a paint job, correcting the fenders a bit, and we’re using them,” Congressman Paul Kanjorski (D-PA) said. “To get us through the horrendous problems we may have over the next several years, we’ve got to make these old programs work, and we’ve got to be as inventive as hell.”

Mind you, in May of 2008, the Dow was over 12,700, unemployment was at 5.5 percent, and the collapse of the fall of 2008 was still nothing but a Sorosian fantasy.

But then, as Jonah Goldberg noted last year, the modern left is incapable of going into the basket doing what they did in ‘34 and ’36 — and yet, the Cargo Cult of the New Deal (and its successor, the Great Society) is so much of a siren song that it’s impossible for today’s Democrats to ignore:

Gleichschaltung is a German word (in case you couldn’t have guessed) borrowed from electrical engineering. It means “coordination.” The German National Socialists (Nazis) used the concept to get every institution to sing from the same hymnal. If a fraternity or business embraced Nazism, it could stay “independent.” If it rejected Nazism, it was crushed or bent to the state’s ideology. Meanwhile, every branch of government was charged with not merely doing its job but advancing the official state ideology.

Now, contemporary liberalism is not an evil ideology. Its intentions aren’t evil or even fruitfully comparable to Hitlerism. But there is a liberal Gleichschaltung all the same. Every institution must be on the same page. Every agency must advance the liberal agenda.

And this is where the Catch-22 catches. The dream of a nimble, focused, problem-solving government is undone by the reality of hyper–mission creep. When every institution is yoked to an overarching philosophy or mission, its actual purpose can become an afterthought. In 2005, volunteer firefighters from all over the country offered to help with Katrina’s aftermath. But FEMA sent many of them to Atlanta first to undergo diversity and sexual-harassment training (which most already had).

Such examples are everywhere. What is political correctness other than the gears of the liberal Gleichschaltung? The financial crisis was worsened because Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac became tools for liberal social engineering. Let’s not even mention public schools.

The White House is determined to be a great friend (i.e., servant) to the unions, so everything from the stimulus to the automaker buyout to the Gulf spill must first pass union muster. Remember those vital, “shovel-ready” weatherization jobs the stimulus was supposed to pay for? The Labor Department delayed them for nearly a year while trying to figure out how to comply with pro-union “prevailing wage” rules for each of more than 3,000 counties.

Liberalism has become a cargo cult to the New Deal, but many of the achievements of the New Deal would be impossible now. Just try to get a Hoover Dam built today. **

And as early as January of 2009, seemingly everyone on the right warned Democrats that “shovel-ready” was folly. As Ace wrote back then:

As we now know — again — there simply aren’t a lot of “shovel-ready” projects ready to begin on a short time frame. Having conceded he was right, I suggested that there really ought to be some office in DC that does nothing but survey, plan, get the necessary permits, etc. for new infrastructure work on a moment’s notice, and constantly update such plans and permits so that they never go stale.Well, of course no one did that. (I don’t mean to suggest DC should have jumped at my offhand suggestion; just that my offhand suggestion was common sense and should have occurred to someone.) So here we are again. All this money for kill-two-birds stimulus and infrastructure work, but we can’t kill two birds, because if we work on infrastructure the money won’t be stimulative now as it won’t begin flowing for up to to years (or more), and if we “stimulate” the economy, it’s going for condoms and diaphragms, because, apparently, you don’t need as many engineers or permits or EPA impact analyses to give people birth control.

And so the money gets pissed away on a large number of smaller-bore new spending initiatives.

Read the whole thing, which in retrospect is a remarkable foreshadowing of how the next two and a half years would play out. Or as I said a month later in February of 2009, you and I have a “Rendezvous With Scarcity,” because of the anti-business climate that had arrived in Washington.

And as investment speculator Jeff Carter writes, “No President since Jimmy Carter has enacted programs that were so job destroying.” Carter calls it “Obama’s Undeclared War” on the American people, but hey as a famous member of the Ruling Class said in the late 1960s, War Is Over, If You Want It:

Which is why, as Peter Wehner writes at Commentary, “Obama Has No Idea How Vulnerable He Is.”

* Wait, wasn’t Hoover still in office in ’32? Amazing how easy it easy to confuse him with FDR, isn’t? (And vice-versa.)

** See also, MSNBC’s inadvertently hilarious recent advertisement filmed at the Hoover Dam.

Update: Video of the shovel-ready quote added above.

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