Monday, July 12, 2010

Do Something Visible

I was reading an exchange on another blog in which the usefulness of the “stimulus” was being debated. One defender based the usefulness of the bill on, “we have nicely paved roads that have not been paved in twenty years.”

Really? Paving roads is maintenance. As a businessman, you know what I would call a business which had to borrow money to perform overdue maintenance? Bankrupt. If the stimulus went for basic, overdue and unperformed maintenance, then I’m not really willing to call it a huge success. Paving roads is really short term, and if those were “new jobs,” they didn’t last very long.

Another commenter said that Obama made the mistake of “focusing on saving jobs rather than creating them.” I don’t think he did that at all; I think the “saving jobs” rhetoric was something that the administration came up with after no really visible new jobs had been created.

Yet another pointed out that “there is a sign on every highway project saying the project is funded by the ARRA.” Well, yes, that’s the problem; that sign is on every project, which tends to detract from its credibility.

There is a major project on I-15 just north of my house, and when freeway construction first started getting hit in 2004, CalTrans assured us that that particular one was the first priority in the state and would never be cut back under any circumstances. It is still proceeding, but has slowed a bit due to the nature of its construction, and it has – you guessed it - a sign saying that it is funded by the ARRA.

One person claimed, as Obama himself has done, that unemployment would have been much higher without the stimulus. Yes, and if the dog hadn’t stopped running he’d have caught the rabbit, too. Unless the rabbit outran the dog, or ducked down a hole, or…

My point is not that the stimulus didn’t work. I don’t know if the damned thing worked or not. If it did work, though, you’d think we’d be seeing better defenses of it than the flimsy sort of things that we tend to get. In any case, it only matters now in terms of how it affects what do we do next, and what we should be drawing from it is that whatever we do next needs to be a damned sight more visible.

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