Saturday, April 02, 2011

On the Stimulus

During the 1930s, a less complicated version of capitalism was salvaged by employing socialistic approaches to keep idle men busy. It worked because the people in charge had some understanding of how the world works. The point was to keep people busy. In 2009, the same approach, called an “Economic Stimulus,” was tried again. Its impact was not as great. Why? In part, the fact that construction techniques have grown less labor intensive meant less people were employed for shorter amounts of time. A paving project in the 1930s was accomplished by trucking asphalt and dumping it on the road. It was then shoveled and raked by gangs of men. The only heavy equipment on-site was the compactor (steam roller). Now, this work is done by machines. There may be a few workers on the ground, but (not counting the truck drivers) the labor has been reduced from scores to about five or six. In addition, the requirement was the project to be “shovel ready.” Such projects, unless due to timing, are generally smaller in scope and duration than those undertaken in the 1930s. The laws impacting projects are much more stringent. Permits take years to obtain. Environmental Impact Statements take years to prepare. The days of filling in wetlands are long over. As someone who professionally worked on stimulus construction projects, I can attest that the politicians responsible for crafting the policy knew next to nothing about large scale construction projects. Their mediocrity is appalling.

-Excerpt from a work in progress.

No comments: