Move the UN to Elkhart -- and Presto, Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!
President Obama picked Elkhart, Indiana to make a townhall-meeting pitch on Monday for the porker of an $800-billion-plus stimulus spending package -- his rational being that "Elkhart is a place that has lost jobs faster than anywhere else in America."
Obama -- this is his description, not mine -- presented Elkhart as a place of bewildered, helpless people, wandering the ruins of a dying private sector, picking through the debris of tested-and-failed-and-junked capitalism, waiting for the only possible form of salvation to arrive in the form of torrents of government funding for roadworks, extended unemployment insurance, etc... people with "no idea what to do or who to turn to." So there he was, to save the day.
But even accepting Obama's vision (in which it is hard to recognize any vestige of America's pre-change character), there is, for Elkhart, a much better solution:
Move the United Nations to Elkhart!
The UN is on a spending spree that has entailed record-breaking budgets year after year, with expanding programs, reach, and jobs! jobs! jobs! Of course, about one-quarter of those many billions spent by the UN come from U.S. taxpayers, so it's not as if the UN actually creates wealth. (But neither does the vast bulk of the stimulus spending bill). Like Obama, the UN is mainly in the business of transferring wealth, taking it from the more productive sectors and sinking it into the less productive (including, in substantial part, its own staff). But that's no reason some of the money shouldn't be sunk into Elkhart.
Consider: Right now, the UN is busy renovating its midtown Manhattan headquarters at a cost of some $2 billion. American taxpayers are likely to get stuck with that extravagant tab, just as they get stuck with the lion's share of the bills for the sky-high costs of running the tax-exempt UN in Manhattan. UN personnel grumble constantly about the high cost of living, when not helping themselves to rent-controlled apartments or crowding out New York families for taxpayer-subsidized housing (see Kofi Annan's old housing arrangements) .
Elkhart, by contrast, is an incredible bargain. There is space, there is parking (no more problems with those tawdry parking tickets) there are rentals galore (for monthly prices that would barely get you a parking space in Manhattan). There are airports. And lest anyone worry about depriving UN-ocrats of their cultural fix, Elkhart -- however dire its financial straits -- appears to be spending $18 million renovating the local performing arts theater.
Right now the UN is planning on dislocating its headquarters staff in any event, while the high-ticket renovations in Manhattan proceed. For $2 billion, imagine what could be built in Elkhart! Imagine the jobs as the UN gets down to work ordering such delicacies as the shrimp and crab buffet in the Delegates' Dining Room, with which Sudan recently celebrated taking over the chairmanship of the G-77! Imagine the jobs as orders pour forth from the re-located UN for security, and furnishings, and limousines, and other staff amenities!
This would also solve the current spat over premises for the UN press corps, many of whose members have long enjoyed rent-free facilities at UN headquarters. The UN is now reconsidering that policy, which is drawing protests that some members of the media, especially from poor countries, would not be able to afford offices if they had to pay actual New York rents. Elkhart would solve all that. Manhattan would probably come out ahead as well, with a lot of space freed up for any Americans who might still believe that in the big city there are opportunities for even the reviled private sector to invent, create, and actually produce wealth (and pay taxes) -- instead of simply waiting for Obama to arrive with his magic money machine.
There is the drawback that there's an even better case to be made for simply moving the UN out of America altogether -- say to one of its more natural, spiritual homes, in Caracas, or Tripoli, or Tehran. But in emergencies, there may well be need for compromise. Seriously -- why is it treated as reasonable to spend billions buffing up the UN in Manhattan, but unthinkable to do something as obvious as move it lock, stock and bureaucracy, to Elkhart?