I’m hearing that Ron Suskind’s new book reports that President Obama was warned much, much earlier that there’s “no such thing” as shovel ready jobs. Until recently, we were informed that Obama learned that shovel ready jobs didn’t exist only after dedicating stimulus money to them. This has been a minor obsession of mine for quite some time.
The fact that Obama didn’t know there were no shovel ready jobs is a damning indictment of his entire presidency, given that he came into office feigning mastery over public policy, and yet he didn’t know something so basic.
But it’s worth noting that when we say there’s no such thing as shovel ready jobs it’s not like saying there’s no such thing as the bogeyman or unicorns or good flan. Those things don’t exist, period. But shovel ready jobs do exist. Drive by your local Home Depot and hire some day laborers. Take them to your back yard and say “I’ll give you $50 to dig a hole.” Guess what? They’ll dig a hole.
What we don’t have is shovel ready government. The only impediment to shoveling is, simply, government. It is government that requires employers to jump through hoops for months to get the right paperwork. It is government that imposes costs on hiring and working. Some of those costs may be warranted, even if the delays are not. But that doesn’t change the fact that there are countless shovel ready jobs, shovel ready workers, and shovel ready shovels. What we don’t have are shovel ready bureaucrats. And that is something Obama could change if he wanted. He is perfectly placed to pursue shovel ready government if he wanted to. But he doesn’t, for political and ideological reasons, as well as a more basic failure of imagination.
But at the end of the day, the fact remains that the most important player for creating shovel ready jobs simply is not shovel ready himself.
UPDATE: Steve Hayward has similar thoughts.