Belmont Club

"Shovel ready"

Large oaks from little acorns grow. John Boehner (R-OH), looking at one, is questioning the inclusion of “groups like the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now” in the target group for stimulus funds. ACORN has already received large amounts of government money and may receive more as part of the ‘recovery package’. The organization has in the recent past been accused of engaging in voter fraud. ( Hat tip: Gateway Pundit.)

The episode over ACORN highlights a key issue: who gets the money? The wrangles over who is qualified to get a slice of the gigantic stimulus package being discussed in Washington has already given rise to a number of interesting conundrums. For instance, there is the debate over the definition of which projects are “shovel ready”. Christopher Dodd, in discussions with regional officials observed that current definitions would exclude many of them. (Hat tip: Glenn Reynolds)

However, the definition of “shovel-ready” has proved elusive and, some say, counterintuitive.

Dodd provided a local example: the $34 million middle school expansion and renovation in Griswold, which broke ground in December, would not qualify because it is already under way.

”If you have a shovel in place, then it is not shovel-ready,” Dodd cracked.

The stimulus package is intended to provide new money for projects, not replace existing funding. That creates another problem, local leaders said. Any project within 90 to 120 days of starting – the common definition of shovel-ready – would already be permitted and into the bid process.

”Most towns don’t do that until the funds are already in place,” Mark Oefinger, Groton Town Manager, said.

So maybe the solution is to amend the rules so the money can be put on the table before the bid process. That will ensure a greater amount of grassroots participation. Glenn Reynolds, who has been following the stimulus package issue, notes the potential for moral hazard.

“Oefinger, like others, expressed concern that the stimulus will not provide long-term benefits or jobs. ‘I think it’s going to be dumping a lot of money down the rat hole and not have a lot to show for it,’ he said.” Gee, do you think? Meanwhile, it’s now been 185 days since Dodd promised to release those Countrywide mortgage documents.

The potential for hanky-panky was recently illustrated in the UK where four Labour Peers are being accused of the stiffer upper lip version of “pay to play”. The Telegraph reports:

Several Labour peers are prepared to accept fees of up to £120,000 a year to help make amendments to legislation in the House of Lords on behalf of business clients, it has been alleged. Lord Truscott, the former energy minister, Lord Taylor of Blackburn, Lord Moonie, a former defence minister, and Lord Snape, a former Labour whip, were named in the investigation by the Sunday Times. The paper said its reporters had posed as lobbyists acting for a foreign client, who was setting up a chain of shops in the UK and wanted an exemption from the Business Rates Supplements Bill. It claimed that two of the peers were covertly recorded telling the journalists that they had previously secured changes to bills going through parliament to help their clients. Lord Taylor of Blackburn, a former BAE consultant, claimed he had already changed the law to help his client Experian, the credit check company, the paper claimed.

I’m so glad that sort of thing has never been heard of in Chicago. The tree of liberty was picturesquely said to be watered by patriotic blood and tears, but modern trees, especially those which grow from acorns, need something a little greener to sustain them. Who said Green Tech was impractical?

Getting “shovel ready”

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