Why stimulus money can't create jobs - Tucson Local Media: Editorials

Why stimulus money can't create jobs

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Posted: Tuesday, September 14, 2010 11:00 pm

Syndicated columnist Michael Barone tells us the Pentagon was built in 18 months, while a small bridge project within view of it is estimated for completion 42 months after the final decision to build it.

Barone further says about current stimulus funding: "Of the $140 billion authorized for infrastructure spending, less than $20 billion had been disbursed 12 months later." The reasons for this, he points out, are the need for clearance from multiple environmental agencies, the "intricacies and incrustations of federal procurement policy," the "endless negotiations with state and local agencies" and "the lawsuits inevitably launched by environmental advocacy groups." I would add personnel mandates and union contracts.

Government regulation and policies not only strangle private endeavors, they have grown to be the single biggest impediment to government itself.

A local case in point in the private sector is the proposed Rosemont Mine in the Santa Ritas. Full disclosure, I'm opposed, but I'm also disturbed at the process.

The 1872 Mining Law, wretched though parts of it may be, gives Rosemont a reasonably clear path. It's been five years and still no decision from the U.S. Forest Service that if favorable will be challenged multiple times in court while state and local government agencies will further retard the progress. Some consider this good, but that's outweighed by the many other times it isn't. The biggest problem is the erosion of both the rule of law and the ability of government to function at all.

My personal witness to this process dates back to my employment in the Pima County Facilities Management Department, once titled Physical Plant. Note how governments add syllables to as many functions as possible making their roles both larger and murkier. "Personnel," three syllables, became "Human Resources," five. "Highway," two, became "Transportation and Flood Control," eight.

We were involved in drawing the contract specifications for a simple paint shed at the old highway yard on Mission. Estimated cost circa 1980, about $30,000. Beside representatives from the two departments directly involved, we established a committee including risk management, the county attorney, the health department (which had yet to break off a separate outfit called "environmental quality"), purchasing (now called something longer) and maybe somebody I forgot. Meetings were held, memos went back and forth, and eventually a spec was arrived at.

It went out to bid. Nobody responded. The final document was so convoluted no one wanted the job.

If it was that bad 30 years go in a middle-sized county with a minor project, care to guess how bad it's gotten in larger jurisdictions, all with overlapping powers?

New Deal models are what today's neo-Progressives like President Obama and economists like Paul Krugman claim we need to follow and expand upon. Difference is that in 1933 FDR could tell Harry Hopkins to go out and hire millions of unemployed folks and Harry did. Beyond constitutional arguments, there was nothing much to stop him. Now there is a myriad of roadblocks, all intricately placed by governments at all levels.

One of my all-time favorite movies is "Quigley Down Under." In the great final scene, good guy Tom Selleck tells bad guy (exquisitely played by Alan Rickman) "This ain't Dodge City and you ain't Bill Hickock."

This isn't 1933, Ted Geitner isn't Harry Hopkins and Barack Obama is not FDR. Yesterday's liberals were made of sterner stuff.

Barone summates it well. "Big government has become a big, waddling, sluggish beast, ever ready to boss you around but not able to perform useful functions at anything but plodding pace. It needs to be slimmed down and streamlined so it can get useful things done fast."

Hear Emil Franzi and Tom Danehy Saturdays 1-4 p.m. on KVOI 1030AM.

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