walter russell mead peter berger lilia shevtsova adam garfinkle andrew a. michta
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Why Nothing Is "Shovel Ready" Anymore

President Obama recently admitted he was surprised to discover that shovel ready didn’t mean shovel ready anymore.

He shouldn’t have been: the essence of blue social policy is to make everything complicated and hard.

In the Depression, shovel ready still meant something.  No OSHA inspectors, no EPA paperwork: if the government wanted to open a camp and put 1,000 untrained young men to work clearing brush and draining the local swamp, it could do it without tripping over red tape — and without armies of trial lawyers looking to sue on behalf of any temp workers hit by falling trees, bitten by snakes, or scared by spooky bats.

These days, it would take months if not years to get all the permits in line to plan and build the camp; put the sanitation facilities in, get the right fire extinguishers from the licensed suppliers, develop a plan for waste disposal and recycling. Then the greens take you to court to protect the wetlands and the lesser bramble thrushes and spiny skinks within.

Multiply by 100,000 for anything big like a bridge or a dam or a new section of highway.  And don’t even think about windmills where the Kennedy family might see them.

We’ve created such an intricate and expensive regulatory environment these days that you can’t put people to work on real projects even if you try.

What we have now are “keyboard ready” projects: contracts that start armies of already-employed white collar bureaucrats pushing proposals and specifications around in dizzy little circles.  Not much comes out in the way of jobs — but money is spent, briefs are filed, and emails fly.

That’s the blue model for you: sixty years of non-stop progressive improvements, and we’ve lost the ability to put young people to work.

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