OK, all you Americans still clinging to your guns, religion, and failed ideas of the past two centuries or so about a country built on individual enterprise and responsibility — here’s your chance to get with the new program.
To go with the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act,” a.k.a. the “stimulus bill,” a.k.a. the $787 Billion Great Leap Toward Socialism in America, there is the new web site, Recovery.gov — which describes itself as “the centerpiece of the President’s commitment to transparency and accountability.” Think of it as the Facebook of the Welfare State, the Twitter of the Visible Hand.
This site promises all sorts of interactive graphics and data to come. But one of the graphics already online is an amazing display of central planning in action. It shows a map of all 50 states, and as you roll your cursor across each state, you can see the number of “Jobs created/saved in next 2 years.” The numbers are both unnaturally round, and highly specific: 369,000 jobs “created/saved” for California; 269,000 for Texas; 37,000 for Iowa; 12,000 for Rhode Island. A pitiful 8,000 for Alaska — though I’m sure that’s nothing personal. You can play with it here, on the Estimated Job Effect page.
But what are they actually talking about? The formulation of “created/saved” is, in itself, a phrase of such utter murk as to render the whole exercise meaningless. Is there no difference between a job created and a job saved? If the government takes money from taxpayers, or inflates away the value of your income, in order to directly “create” some of these jobs, then shouldn’t there also be a corresponding interactive map for “Jobs eroded/destroyed?” If a job not directly hooked up to the state dole is either “saved” or “created,” or perhaps adapts to demand to become a somewhat different job, who’s to know for sure whether that was due to government spending, or individual enterprise?
America is going through bad times right now — not helped by the apocalyptic pronouncements of the likes of George Soros, or the President himself. But the U.S. economy is not an algebra equation in which planners can plug in a number here, and be sure of an output there. The U.S. economy, with more than $13 trillion in output last year, involves a population of more than 300 million people, a work force of more than 150 million, and creates wealth by way of countless individual decisions, efforts and exchanges of services and goods, all of this interacting with complex global markets. And yet, what our government now bestows upon us is an interactive map decked out with precise and nifty numbers that would have had Soviet Central planners salivating.
Perhaps more illuminating among the features now up on www.recovery.gov is the link to the White House photo gallery showing “The Story of the Economic Recovery Package.” No pictures here of the millions of Americans toiling away in the private sector, creating the real wealth of this nation, and real hope of recovery. Lots of pictures, however, of President Obama — conferring, striding, speaking, bestowing, and apparently all-knowing: 70,000 “Jobs created/saved” for Arizona … 32,000 for Utah … 59,000 for Colorado … 215,000 for New York. And 148,000 jobs for Illinois … or should that be 147,999, in the event that Tony Rezko isn’t out of jail and back at work by by 2011?