Barackrobatics: Shovel-Ready

Back when President Obama was pushing for his stimulus package, he was all about the shovel-ready.

Meet the Press, December 7, 2008:

Well, I think we can get a lot of work done fast. When I met with the governors, all of them have projects that are shovel ready, that are going to require us to get the money out the door, but they've already lined up the projects and they can make them work.
Press Conference, December 16, 2008:
And my economic team, which I'm going to be meeting with today, is helping to shape what is going to be a bold agenda to create 2.5 million new jobs, to start helping states and local governments with shovel-ready projects, rebuilding our roads, our bridges, making sure that schools…
Quoted on CNN, December 18, 2008:
We've got shovel-ready projects all across the country. And governors and mayors are pleading to fund it. The minute we can get those investments to the state level, jobs are going to be created.
In Grand Junction, Colorado, August 15, 2009:
There are almost 100 shovel-ready transportation projects already approved in Colorado which are beginning to create jobs.
Relevant observation: those of us who've spent some quality time in barns or stables know that there's always "shovel ready" material there. Thanks to Mickey Kaus, who read The Promise by Jonathan Alter, we know what Obama was saying behind the scenes:
Obama said later that he learned that "one of the biggest lies in government is the idea of 'shovel-ready' projects." It turned out that only about $20 billion to $40 billion in construction contracts were truly ready to go. The rest were tied up in the endless contracting delays and bureaucratic hassles associated with building anything in America.
I suppose we need to know precise timing of when the President "learned" this to determine whether he was lying or just speaking out of inexperienced naïveté. Neither would surprise me. And as Mickey points out, the "shovel-ready" bullshit was used to misdirect billions that might have been more effectively used elsewhere, instead of shovelled into the stimulus-that-didn't.

Of course, everything the President's saying now is fine, just fine.

Last Modified 2012-10-03 8:51 AM EST