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January 22, 2009

Obamanomics: "Stimulus" Money to Be Spent Mostly Well After the Recession; Lefty Robert Reich Argues Against Spending Infrastructure "Stimulus" on White Male Contractors

Most of the "stimulus" will not be spent during the recession at all, but well after it, like around 2011 or so... which just happens to be the year of Obama's run for re-election, the critical year in which opinions about the economy which will inform the election are shaped.

A coincidence, I'm sure.

So, the economy will emerge from the recession with little aid from Washington, and then Obama and the Democrats will pour money into an already-recovering economy (at the expense of long-term growth, of course), in order to make it look as if they've really done something.

Meanwhile, Reich wants to avoid the sin of paying construction stimulus money to actual construction workers, looking for a formula to avoid paying money to "highly skilled white contractors" (i.e., those people actually working in the field) in favor of "the long-term unemployed, minorities, women" (people not in the field).

In other words, he wants to spend the construction "stimulus" not on construction at all but a thing pretty much just like welfare, with people not paid in return for any particular service provided, but just because they vaguely "deserve it' and "it's their turn" and etc.

Obviously this is odious in terms of the "positive racism" on display. But what's worse is that it's yet another fraud perpetrated on the American public. The "stimulus" is being sold not just as throwing money at the wall in hopes some will stick; but as payment for long-needed infrastructure improvements which, the argument goes, we should have done long ago so, in effect, we're killing two birds with one stone. We're both injecting money into a sluggish economy, and improving infrastructure which we should have improved anyway, recession or not.

This is how non-insane liberals buy into the program. I was just speaking to a non-insane liberal about this -- one of my oldest friends -- and eventually I just summed the disagreement up. "Fundamentally, as a conservative, I don't trust the government to make these 'critical improvements' which they promise to make, and fundamentally, as a liberal, you do."

Reich's argument that money for construction can and should somehow be channeled to avoid paying actual construction workers would seem, I think, to vindicate my bias and decimate my friend's.

If you're not paying "highly skilled contractors," whether white or black or even Mellow Yellow or Get Ahead Red, with this construction "stimulus" money, what the fuck construction are you actually paying for?

The only sorts of "construction" the unskilled can perform at all is... well, of the unskilled variety, like, um, pouring sacks of gravel into bike paths. Bullshit like that, which I termed, in arguing with my friend, the sort of "soft" spending (as opposed to "hard" spending, as on bridges and roads) this money is always pissed away on.

Sorry, Robert-- for real infrastructure work, eventually you're going to have to pay a guy who knows how to use a laser for surveying or how to operate a crane or how to weld steel. You cannot just draft the "long term unemployed, minorities, women" into real infrastructure work. Except, again, for pure bullshit soft shit like putting a couple of planters of flowers around a walkway to a federal building.

When people think about infrastructure, they are decidedly not thinking about widening bike paths and placing some flower planters around a joint. But that's precisely what Reich has in mind, because that's the level of "infrastructure repair" his preferred cadre of workers is capable of.

White Contractors? MDH writes:

Reich doesn't know shit if he thinks all construction workers and contractors are white males. Clearly he's not been at a job site over the last twenty years. Asshole.

Indeed. I suppose the more important part of Reich's complaint is that we should be paying long-term unemployed minorities, rather than working minorities (and whites) who have already, I guess, gotten some federal construction money in the past. So it's the chronically unemployed who are "due."

Whether or not they are "due," I do not personally wish to drive across a bridge fashioned by the chronically unemployed.

Again, the only work such people are even marginally qualified for is stuff like painting the roofs of buildings white (white, he snickered) to reflect sunlight. And some very light landscaping. And tamping down the ground for bike paths.

Soft stuff like that.

I suppose there's not a big problem with some small fraction of the money going for such unskilled labor, but the really necessary stuff -- bridge and road repairs -- requires highly skilled workers.

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posted by Ace at 11:32 AM

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