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Infrastructure: The right jobs for the right people doing the right things at the right time

PH2010100103516.jpgThe Council of Economic Advisers has a report (pdf) out today making the case for more infrastructure investment. Most of the arguments will be familiar to folks who read last week's column on the subject, but the CEA presses one button that I wish I'd had the space to emphasize more: Jobs.

Lots of stimulus programs can create jobs. But infrastructure investment creates the right jobs, for the right people, doing the right things -- and at the right time. Or, to say it more clearly, infrastructure investment creates middle-class jobs for workers in a sector with high unemployment and it puts them to work doing something that we actually need done at a moment when doing it is cheaper than it ever will be again.

Remember that the Great Recession was driven by a collapse in real estate -- which meant a collapse in the construction industry. About 21 percent of the eight million jobs lost between December 2007 and December 2009 were in the construction industry. Unemployment in the sector is still at about 17 percent.

Repairing the nation's infrastructure is a lot more like building a house than writing a book. As such, the people it employs are, well, people who build things, and folks from related industries. The CEA predicts that the unemployment rate among those who would get work from infrastructure spending is currently 15 percent -- so you're drawing workers from the really high-unemployment groups, which is both good for those workers and good for the workers left in those groups, as now there's less competition for the few private-sector jobs that are available to them.

And then there are all the other arguments you've heard me make. Raw materials are cheap. Labor -- due to the high unemployment rate -- is cheap. Borrowing money is cheaper than at any time since the 1950s. And this is one sector where the normal deficit objections simply don't apply. "You run a deficit both when you borrow money and when you defer maintenance that needs to be done," Larry Summers told me. "Either way, you're imposing a cost on future generations." Not spending a dollar on infrastructure repairs today means we'll have to spend it tomorrow -- and by that time, it will cost more than a dollar. More so than anything else I can think of in the economy, infrastructure investment is win-win-win-win, and I'm not certain I've tacked enough "wins" on there.

By Ezra Klein  | October 11, 2010; 11:38 AM ET
Categories:  Infrastructure  
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Comments

Unfortunately, the Republicans have been engaged in a war on jobs the past two years, doing whatever they can to hinder President Obama's efforts to help our economy recover. So, unless we reject the Republican obstructionism this November, common-sense infrastructure spending will not occur.

http://www.winningprogressive.org/let%E2%80%99s-end-the-republican-war-on-jobs

Posted by: WinningProgressive | October 11, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

This is all fine and well all may be true too.

But did you read the Politico story about how Christie is on mind whenever anyone says 'infrastructure spending' in this country?

Unless correct answers are given to NJ Governor Christie's questions about why that tunnel costs are increasing; we are nowhere near getting started on the infrastructure. Clearly Christie's objections could be politically motivated. But unless he is answered satisfactorily and a way out is found for that tunnel project (either Christie publicly accepts the price increase or Fed shells out more money for him); infrastructure spending will be stuck.

In other words, what happens to that project, single handedly determines where we are going in this country. It is that important.

Let us get the politics sorted out first. No matter how sound a policy is, Health Care Reforms have shown us, if Politics is screwed up; we are dead.

Posted by: umesh409 | October 11, 2010 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Why don't we make the workers that staff these government projects use spoons for shovels, use only hand tools (no power tools), and no engine driven equipment like dump trucks. Then we'll have lots of people working in the make work government projects.

Posted by: 50Eagle | October 11, 2010 11:59 AM | Report abuse

@WinningProgressive: "So, unless we reject the Republican obstructionism this November, common-sense infrastructure spending will not occur."

Or, unless Republicans win the house and much of the senate. They will be in more of a "ownership" position, and just saying "no" to the Obama agenda will no longer be sufficient. It's unlikely that Democrats holding on the house and senate will actually stop Republican obstructionism, but Republicans winning majorities may obligated them to do something re: the economy, or get quickly booted out again.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | October 11, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

This is the kind of stuff that should have been in the $787B stimulus bill instead of all that social services crap and weak, non-recurring tax cut stuff. Now, it is too late to do any more stimulus. An opportunity was very much missed and it was Nancy Pelosi's fault.

Posted by: lancediverson | October 11, 2010 12:04 PM | Report abuse

And your second graph is a bit dated. 10-year yields are about 30 to 40 basis points below what you have - creeping into 2.3% territory.

http://www.treas.gov/offices/domestic-finance/debt-management/interest-rate/yield.shtml

http://finance.yahoo.com/q?s=%5ETNX

Posted by: chrisgaun | October 11, 2010 12:28 PM | Report abuse

So, Kevin, you're saying that Republicans will only "allow" us to fix our problems if they rule, right? I.O.W., the Pubs are holding a gun to the economy's head and saying "put us in charge or the economy gets it."

Or maybe they're saying "Nice little country you got here. Be a shame if something happened to it."

Or... well, you get the idea. Pubs are acting like thugs, and they expect to be rewarded for it. And they probably will be. And then they have the gall to bemoan the lack of "civility."

I'm so disgusted by them - and by the people who are on the verge of rewarding them for their thuggery - that I can't find words to express it.

Posted by: KarenJG | October 11, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse

What utter foolishness here.

Moron liberals have already bankrupted the nation with Medicaid. There is no money for 'infrastructure'.

Posted by: krazen1211 | October 11, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

"This is the kind of stuff that should have been in the $787B stimulus bill instead of all that social services crap and weak, non-recurring tax cut stuff. Now, it is too late to do any more stimulus. An opportunity was very much missed and it was Nancy Pelosi's fault."

Yep. But you missed the heirarchy of needs for the Democrats:

Paying off the welfare queens > Paying off Al Gore, Planned Parenthood, and chosen industries > paying off the public sector unions > paying off those 18-29 students >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Actually building infrastructure.


That's why $800 billion gets you so little of the last one.

Posted by: krazen1211 | October 11, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

"More so than anything else I can think of in the economy, infrastructure investment is win-win-win-win"

Definitely a good thing. But the other investment which I think might be just as good, or even better, is early childhood healthcare and education. What happens to kids aged 0-5 has a huge influence on their future health and productivity; and the
way we handle it at the moment is an inefficient mess. Look at what high-income families are prepared to pay for decent childcare, and you have to conclude that scarcity is driving up the price. But *why* is it scarce, if people want it ? My guess is that it's because we don't view childcare as a "real" career on par with nursing or grade-school teaching; lacking a comprehensive system of institutions and training and career paths for early-childhood education, we end up with an inefficient system where undertrained people operate in an inefficient way -
one expensive nanny looking after one or two kids in a home; rather than 3 or 4 well-trained professionals dealing with 20+ kids in a purpose-designed well-equipped facility. As with healthcare, we end up with very high total spending but unimpressive average results, and terrible outcomes for those on the bottom of the pile.

Of course, nothing significant is going to happen either on infrsatructure or early childhood education unless and until we fix the procedural paralysis of Congress. But we can dream.

Posted by: richardcownie | October 11, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse

"Definitely a good thing. But the other investment which I think might be just as good, or even better, is early childhood healthcare and education. What happens to kids aged 0-5 has a huge influence on their future health and productivity; and the"

We tried that in New Jersey already, starting 10 years ago. It led to the bankruptcy of the state government, and the inability to afford things like tunnels under the Hudson river.

Posted by: krazen1211 | October 11, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

"So, Kevin, you're saying that Republicans will only "allow" us to fix our problems if they rule, right? I.O.W., the Pubs are holding a gun to the economy's head and saying "put us in charge or the economy gets it."

It looks like two years of No will allow the GOP to regain at least one house of Congress. Extrapolating out, two more years of No might get the GOP the WH?

Posted by: tuber | October 11, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

"We tried that in New Jersey already, starting 10 years ago"

A comprehensive approach to this problem would have to take much longer than 10 years: you've got to evolve towards making early-childhood education an attractive career path, ramping the number of slots for training, ramping up the number of childcare clots, and as such it's going to have to build up over 20-30 years.

And the problem with it is that the benefits would be long-term, in that the cohort of kids with better early-childhood experience would start saving you money probably only about 15 years later, with less crime, less healthcare costs, and more productivity and taxes paid as young adults 18+. But hey, that's what investment means: you incur costs *now* for benefits *later*.

Posted by: richardcownie | October 11, 2010 3:17 PM | Report abuse

The argument assumes two things. One, that the funds are available today and have a repayment plan, and two, that we are seeing inflation and not deflation.

So assume debt is illimitable and you have the money.

Inflation would encourage paying down the government debt with cheaper dollars, not building with them. Deflation encourages waiting to build when it will be cheaper (although deflation with a $13 trillion debt will destroy the country).

Posted by: katorga | October 11, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Typical liberal tripe. When a liberal talks about infrastructure grab your wallet. To a liberal infrastructure is granola type projects like high speed rail (only works when subsidized), solar energy, wind power and other pie in the sky green energy projects. How about some common sense infrastructuer spending, roads, bridges, airports, more nuclear energy and more gas and oil exploration. Won't happen with the envrironmental party in power. They would rather spend a trillion creating 1000 green energy jobs than a billion creating the same number of jobs in proven technology positions. And while your at it libs please stop your union friends from dumbing down our educational system and bankrupting states and municipalities with their gold plated pension plans.

Posted by: jkk1943 | October 11, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse

That unemployment chart says it all. Congress spends $800 billion and despite it all, unemployment in the construction sector soared to (what looks like 28%) into the end of 2009, about 6% higher than the end of 2008.

Sure, spending money on useful infrastructure sounds good but if the federal government is in charge the vast majority will be wasted (as we have seen). Why should we have any confidence that Congress will spend our money properly?

Posted by: justin84 | October 11, 2010 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Two toughts: First, we already tried this plan. It was called the "STIMULUS," and we all see how well taht worked our for us, don't we? Secondly, this congress and administration have breached the public trust by enganging in cynical, back-room deals in which the government picks winners (i.e. unions) and losers (everyone else). They have lost he consent of the governed.

Posted by: DWinMadison | October 11, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Sure, building infrastructure is more like building houses than like writing books. But if you're an electrician, I don't see how building freeways or bridges is going to help a whole lot. Same goes for plumbers. And painters. And drywallers.

Which is not to refute the plan, overall, so much as point out that if you're going to make the guns 'n butter argument, think it all the way through.

Posted by: bsimon1 | October 11, 2010 3:29 PM | Report abuse

The Journolist likes Obama's plan to transfer even more money to union goons!

I can say that ONLY because Obama has made illegal to receive pay for infrastructure work UNLESS you are union goon.

If you are construction worker that does not belong to union: No work for you!

Isn't great living under a 'progressive' government?


Posted by: TECWRITE | October 11, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

infrastructure is great, but it needs to be focused. we can repave the suburbs like we did with the stimulus, or we can rebuild bridges, expand public transportation, and make other strategic investments. if we limit ourselves to potholes and curbs, then we might as well throw away the money.

Investments in the next generation, who we're already saddling with debt, need to strategic and sustainable.

Posted by: bhg2 | October 11, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

infrastructure is great, but it needs to be focused. we can repave the suburbs like we did with the stimulus, or we can rebuild bridges, expand public transportation, and make other strategic investments. if we limit ourselves to potholes and curbs, then we might as well throw away the money.

Investments in the next generation, who we're already saddling with debt, need to strategic and sustainable.

Posted by: bhg2 | October 11, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Jeez ... you guys never stop ... get it through your thick skulls ... YOU CANNOT CONTROL THE ECONOMY ... that is the sole property of millions of different individuals with millions of different hopes, dreams and visions of their own achievements ... you don't stick them on a government payroll ... you create the conditions that allow them to thrive and you turn them loose ... that is what made this country and that is what will remake this country if the beancounters and social engineerists get the H * L L out of the way ...

Posted by: cunn9305 | October 11, 2010 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Sure just everyone in America a check and we're all employed.

Posted by: wbindner | October 11, 2010 4:06 PM | Report abuse

Sure just give everyone in America a check and we're all employed.

Posted by: wbindner | October 11, 2010 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Sure ezra... just liek the first $878B dollars were the "right infrastructure investment".

With this $50B, who gets paid off by obama this time?

Posted by: wilsan | October 11, 2010 4:09 PM | Report abuse

During the depression, we got public works like Hoover dam - big, visible symbols that people could rally behind. What are we doing now? Fixing potholes and planting shrubs on medians (to pick a couple of local examples). Where are the 'shovel ready' projects? Where are the things our kids can look at in 20 years and say 'my dad helped build that?'.
Having big, ambitious, visible projects - started with stimulus dollars - that are on time, and on budget makes people feel better about how their money is being spent. Where is todays Hoover dam?

Posted by: invention13 | October 11, 2010 4:12 PM | Report abuse

By, "the right jobs, for the right people.." you mean, jobs for union people who will support Obama and the Democrats.

The problem with Progressives is they think they should decide who should get jobs, rather than creating an environment where jobs are created by the market where they are really needed.

Posted by: yourmakinmecrazy | October 11, 2010 4:19 PM | Report abuse

What Ezra, and other Liberals, keep forgetting is that Dems have had control of Congress for month's now and the only thing they got done was a crappy Health Care Bill that they shoved down our throats and bought votes for. And if you notice, not a single one of them are championing that bill during these elections now are they?
Also, what you fail to realize is that the reason Republicans are winning this election cycle is because the "Blame it on Bush" strategy or "You're a Racist" taglines aren't going to work this time around. People in this country are TIRED of government shoving bills down our throats that we clearly DO NOT want, but they get the "We know what's best for you" attitude and "give" it to us anyways!
Finally, the main theme of this article: spend,spend,spend more money that we don't have! And I know some may say, but we do have it in the stimulus, but that doesn't work either! This creates job, yes, but more government jobs who will most likely be overpaid workers who do very little but whine about not getting paid enough or being worked too hard! Also relevant is the fact that this is partially why we are at the deficit we are and why credit cards companies are running amuck these days- people want, want, want and want it now, rather than being responsible and saving the money or cutting back on other things to get enough money for what they want! As my husband says..."You can want in one hand, and s*** in the other!"

Posted by: ohmom3 | October 11, 2010 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Infrastructure spending is terrific, especially if you’re a high-paid union member... while you work, your non-union neighbors are waiting for their unemployment checks to arrive. The $850 billion Stimulus package’s shovel ready jobs did not keep unemployment below 8%, as we had been promised. This isn’t the 1930’s when CCC jobs kept men out of soup lines. Infrastructure spending is just another way to add $50 billion more to our deficit, so that Democrats can pay back their union supporters prior to the November elections. Robert J. Thorpe, author of “Reclaim Liberty: 3-Step Plan for Restoring our Constitutional Government” www.reclaimliberty.us and also available on www.Amazon.com, “Laus Deo”

Posted by: ReclaimLiberty | October 11, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

More Liberal Wandwaving.

The typical liberal believes he is wiser than the market, and Klein believes he is wiser than the typical liberal.

Yet Klein knows only enough to follow his totems.

If it says "government spending" on the label, Klein wants to buy it.

Never mind that it was government spending in the form of implicit or explicit guarantees to irresponsible lenders and borrowers that caused the housing and financial crashes.

Never mind that nearly a trillion dollars of government "stimulus" has only stimulated the unemployment rate.

Never mind that just about every American for the past year has seen his or her commute disrupted by "infrastructure workers" that take a year to do something that should take a week, or something that did not need to be done at all, but was only done because the government wanted to display those ridiculous "stimulus" signs.

And let's not forget how Obama and Biden's "Recovery Summer" eventuated in zero improvement in unemployment, and how Pelosi's boast that passing "healthcare reform" would result in a million jobs "almost immediately" also turned out to be a lie.

None of these people knows a thing about creating wealth, which alone creates jobs. Indeed, they want to strip the wealth from people who actually create jobs, and give it to people who vote for them.

There will never be a sustained jobs recovery again until these people are removed from office.

Posted by: SARileyMan | October 11, 2010 4:31 PM | Report abuse

So let me see if I understand this correctly. The Clinton Administration, in order to win Black American's votes, denounces "Red Lining" (yes, I'm old enough to remember this) and forces banks to lend money to people who cannot afford to make the payments on homes. Freddie and Fanny follow suit. The bleep hits the fan when the Federal Government spends every dime it has on programs not inherent to it's Constitutional responsibilities. So, they no longer have money to maintain, modify or improve public infrastructure and now Mr. Klein says we should borrow more money to pay for something the Federal Government should have been doing all along. Throw in the fact that infrastructure projects are typically done by large machines and cannot in the slightest be considered to be labor intensive , ergo job creators and I come to the conclusion that Mr. Klein's proposal is not well thought out. Now if he wants to return this country to job producing self sufficiency then we need to dis-empower jobs killing agencies like the EPA and all of the other "totally green" agencies stifling business in this country, quit demonizing American business and the jobs creating wealthy.

Posted by: mlyates | October 11, 2010 4:32 PM | Report abuse

this is just another UNION payoff to supports of Obama. Journolist Ezra will extoll the virtues of anything BO and the Dims throw out there!

Posted by: morphy | October 11, 2010 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Ezra if you support infrastructure spending so much let's take the $400B Obama stole from Medicare to fund his crappy health care deform package and build 50 nuclear power plants to diminish our reliance on foreign sources of energy. I am sure in a $2T federal budget we could carve some money out for sound infrastructure projects if they are so important. Isn't that what shovel ready jobs were supposed to be about?

Posted by: dalelama | October 11, 2010 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Great post - Frank Sobotka would be proud. I’ll add one more point of my own – infrastructure is stuff that is unquestionably the role of government. No matter what anyone thinks about OTHER government interventions in the economy, even the most hard-nosed libertarian would never argue that natural monopolies like roads or utility lines should be wholly privatized. So the arguments typically leveled against OTHER government spending, whether “government power bad” or “deficits bad,” simply do not apply to infrastructure spending. Like energy efficiency, it’s not just a win-win... it’s a win-win-win-win.

http://akwag.blogspot.com/2010/10/build-s.html

Posted by: AndrewKent | October 11, 2010 4:55 PM | Report abuse

Another Journolist2.0 propaganda piece for His Majesty O. This is so wrong and so lame on some many levels. First, who says you or any government stooge smart enough to decide these are the right kind of jobs that should be created? Shouldn't job creation be decided by the free market? Second, aren’t these the jobs that Americans aren’t willing to do any more according to the Libs. So a lot of this money will go to hire illegal labor which will then be sent to Mexico to prop up their failing country. The American's who will be hired will of course be required to be unionized which then allows money to sent back to the Dem pols through union campaign contributions. See how this works people. This is mostly just another payoff to big greedy union labor and other Dem constituencies. Another aspect is that we are creating manual labor jobs to stimulate a high tech economy. Nobody with a shred of economic sense would buy it. Applying 30s economic policy which didn't even work then to our current economy which is completely different isn't going to work. Third, these jobs are temporary. Once the government money runs out, the jobs are done. The reason these government make-work jobs never work is that any benefit to gain for the economy is more than canceled out by the effect of more debt and higher taxation to pay for it. BTW, real estate construction is completely different from infrastructure construction. You can't just flip a switch and transition over. This whole article is an embarrassment and demonstrates why know nothing liberals always screw things up.

Posted by: raemu8 | October 11, 2010 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Ezra,

You may be right, infrastructure spending may create jobs. We wouldn't know though, because the Democrat congress spent the LAST $1Trillion that was supposed to go to "shovel-ready" projects on pork for their home districts. Most of which was nothing even resembling infrastructure. What assurances do we have that the latest round of spending hikes they're asking for won't end up exactly the same? None.

Besides, isn't this what my gasoline tax (yeah, that hidden one that makes up 1/3 of what I spend at the pump) is supposed to be paying for?

When a Congressman tells you his project is shovel-ready, he usually neglects to mention that what he intends to shovel is manure.

PS: How's that JournoList thing working out Ezra? Still guiding the narrative?

Posted by: devildog_jim | October 11, 2010 5:18 PM | Report abuse

"US borrowing costs are at an all-time low."

The US manipulates its currency shamelessly, as does the rest of the world. We don't actually "print" money anymore, we game our borrowing costs. When even that isn't enough, we "buy" our own bonds (!) with money created out of thin air.

If borrowing costs are at an all-time low, its because the government wants it that way so we can inflate our way out of all this pain. Inflation is just another form of borrowing. You don't have to say you're reneging on your debt, you just keep it long enough until its value drains away.

So, borrowing even more on top of all the inflation merely throws fuel onto the fiscal fire. It's just more imaginary dollars we tell ourselves will be paid in the future by someone else. But in our heart of hearts, we know you can't borrow your way out of debt -- even debt spent on "infrastructure".

Posted by: dmarney | October 11, 2010 5:29 PM | Report abuse

This subject is a lost cause...
Ezra what makes us different than the USSR? They kept spending money they didn't have on the defence. Then they colapsed...
Bush was progressive light, so was McCain etc. Obama is progressive heavy! Almost to the point of being communist. Clowerd-Piven anyone?

It's like all the people at NBC, and MSNBC accusing others of being racist, and bigots. Bryan Williams isn't giving up his job to Lester Holt or illegal aliens is he?

What about Keith Oberman, or Rachel Maddow? I don't see them handing over thier jobs to others who "deserve it" like illegals.

How about you Ezra, will you give your job to ilelgal immigrants? Then you can stand in the "Jobless Line" like the rest of Americans!

Posted by: ReddStripe | October 11, 2010 5:29 PM | Report abuse

As per usual, another lib with no clue on economics.

Ezra, how do you think "infrastructure" gets paid for...? There are only two sources for the money to finance such endeavors: taxes & debt. So building infrastructure at a time like this is like replacing the wiring in a million dollar mansion when you only have $50,000 income. You could go ask for a raise (increase taxes) or take out a 3rd mortgage (because you have already maxed out your 1st and 2nd).

You want to know why the big push of "infrastructure" spending? Unions. It is a payoff disguised as a “stimulus” (just as all “stimulus” is…)

The reality is the economy will begin to hum again when some adults (of either party) begin to address the fiscal crisis that is facing us, before we end up like Greece. Once certainty returns to businesses (by making current tax rates permanent), rolling back healthcare reform, creating a reasonable energy policy, reigning in entitlement spending and setting a course for future entitlements to be self-funded, businesses will once again pursue capital, which will be enthusiastically loaned to them.

It is the uncertainty facing businesses that keeps them from expanding and hiring more people here in the US.

This is all more failed Keynesian economic mumbo jumbo.... True voodoo economics...

Posted by: an80sreaganite1 | October 11, 2010 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Gee, Mr. Klein... what happened to all those "shovel-ready" projects the FIRST stimulus was supposed to pay for? How about all those MILLIONS of jobs they created?

Oh? They didn't create ANY? And so now you want us to throw MORE money down the toilet?

F. U., you intellectually dishonest liar.

Posted by: Malvenue | October 11, 2010 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Dummycrats always want their buddies to have jobs - you know the guys who contribute big bucks to Dummycrats.

How about just reducing taxes so small business can hire people instead of pay taxes to big government?

Or how about a 6 month tax holiday - that would get things going.

But no, Dummycrats would not have control over us - so reward big campaign contributors instead.

Same ol' same ol' and reason to kick Dummycrats out of office and try something much simpler and quicker.

Think of it this way - each $1 "given back to taxpayers" is worth $1.50 to the citizen since they don't have to

Posted by: PerryM1 | October 11, 2010 5:32 PM | Report abuse

A Journolista plea for more union funding

Repeal Davis-Bacon, then talk Federal infrastructure investment.

November is National "Dump-ALL-Democrats" month....for America's Recovery!!

Posted by: georgedixon1 | October 11, 2010 5:35 PM | Report abuse

Oh pouleeze Ezra. As an economic dunce as well as a Dem propagandist-Journo-List, your article lacks any gravitas because these people you adore are socialists and simply believe in tax and spending. Now, if free enterprise companies could bid for infrastructure jobs without Federal strings, then we could have actual jobs with hired construction people that will create good roads , bridges et al. Again, without Obama baloney and laws trying to enforce so called diversity building laws. Yipe. And you Ezra, quote Summers, another economic loser. Please. You are a punk kid without any economic sense but the leftist propaganda that you slurped up at university and now regurgitate it to us. Enough.

Posted by: phillyfanatic | October 11, 2010 6:05 PM | Report abuse

I've sort of already seen my criticism of part of this argument covered by
bsimon1, but I still felt the need to comment. It seems to me that it may be a
mistake to lump all construction workers together, home-builders are not bridge-builders
and I would assume that the largest group of unemployed construction workers are the
home-builders. There may be some overlap in earth-movement and heavy equipment, but I
would imagine that even in that area mostly different people and companies are used.
All that being said, I too agree that Infrastructure is a good and timely pursuit, currently.
You should have found an expert on all types of construction .

Posted by: TheTravisBickle | October 11, 2010 6:22 PM | Report abuse

As a Democrat, my fellow Democrats can sometimes be really misled. For one, remember that 787 Billion dollar stimulus bill for "shovel ready" projects? Hmmm....now we have Obama asking for more money to do "shovel ready" projects?

Think about it. That either means the stimulus bill did not work, or it was payoffs to supporters for getting Obama elected. If our tax dollars were used to "pay off" supporters, then an independent attorney general should be assigned to investigate. I am still wondering how a stimulus bill had $400 billion in pork in it...aren't you?

Then if it is answer two, the stimulus did not work, it proves that Washington does NOT create jobs, the private sector does.

If that is the case, then Washington needs to get out of the way. It is almost laughable that a president and his advisers, who have never run a business, think they can do it better.

Like mandating light bulbs so GE closes it's plant in the US? Trade inexpensive light bulbs for very expensive ones that are filled with mercury. In the quest to "save" energy, destroy the environment, and make the people who do not dispose of the mercury properly sick.

ARE there any Democrats in Washington with one grain of common sense?

I think not.

NOVEMBER IS COMING...

Posted by: Belle6 | October 11, 2010 6:23 PM | Report abuse

I've sort of already seen my criticism of part of this argument covered by
bsimon1, but I still felt the need to comment. It seems to me that it may be a
mistake to lump all construction workers together, home-builders are not bridge-builders
and I would assume that the largest group of unemployed construction workers are the
home-builders. There may be some overlap in earth-movement and heavy equipment, but I
would imagine that even in that area mostly different people and companies are used.
All that being said, I too agree that Infrastructure is a good and timely pursuit, currently.
You should have found an expert on all types of construction .

Posted by: TheTravisBickle | October 11, 2010 6:29 PM | Report abuse

Ezra we know that as the leader of the journolista you will do and say anything to support Obama. What happened to the Stimulus that was touted to be all about shovel ready jobs? In actuality the Stimulus was never about jobs unless one is talking about government employment. It was about power and control. The fact you are still employed after running journolist says more about your employer and liberal bias than any post could ever accomplish.

Posted by: georgiarat | October 11, 2010 6:48 PM | Report abuse

Ezra we know that as the leader of the journolista you will do and say anything to support Obama. What happened to the Stimulus that was touted to be all about shovel ready jobs? In actuality the Stimulus was never about jobs unless one is talking about government employment. It was about power and control. The fact you are still employed after running journolist says more about your employer and liberal bias than any post could ever accomplish.

Posted by: georgiarat | October 11, 2010 6:49 PM | Report abuse

Hey Ezra, if you were to be laid off by the Washington Post for writing stupid columns like this one, would you be happy to find a job holding a flag all day in the hot sun on a highway out in the middle of nowhere?

No, I didn't think so, you are a writer, albeit a stupid one, but a writer all the same. You want a job as a writer. Most people who have been laid off in this recession want jobs in their professions, not shoveling tar on an infrastructure project.

Now admittedly, the housing construction industry is in the toilet, so yeah, maybe infrastructure work helps some of them. But not all construction work is the same either. A framer, electrician, plumber, drywall or carpet installer isn't much good on a highway project, is it? Maybe only slightly better than a brain-dead writer.

This is not a one dimensional economic contraction where only one industry has been hurt, so you can't just take people from the affected sector, hand them shovels and tell them to go build highways, high speed rail and bridges.

The only part of this economic contraction that is one dimensional is that government employment continues to expand, as private sector employment continues to fall. So we're trying to support more government employees with fewer private sector employees.

Sounds like a recipe for disaster to me, but that's what happens when you elect a "community organizer" who's never ran so much as a lemonade stand as the leader in charge of the world's largest economy.

It's going to take years to recover from Obama's insane reaction to what was primarily a financial crisis, just as it took years to recover from Hoover's and Roosevelt's reactions to the stock market crash of 1929.

TARP and some of the bailouts had to happen to prevent everything from crashing to the ground. The stimulus has only made things worse, because it was geared primarily to maintaining government jobs at the expense of private sector jobs. ObamaCare is a disaster, because the last thing a weak economy needs is to be saddled with this mandate monstrosity. And the Wall Street Reform recently passed penalized everyone EXCEPT the idiots that started the problem at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

When are people going to wake up and realize that Democrats have never been serious about fixing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but are running around trying to pass every liberal wet dream as a "response" to the crisis that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac started.

Thank God we're less than a month away from an election so we can put a stop to this nonsense.

Vote Green, Libertarian, or Republican! Do not EVER give your vote to a lying, soft-headed Democrat again.

Posted by: woodwose1 | October 11, 2010 6:51 PM | Report abuse

Ezra,

An abysmally shallow analysis!

First, all construction jobs are not the same. Carpenters do not pour concrete, and so on. So any infrastructure jobs would only effect a small portion of the sector.

Second, there is a difference between a more-or-less permanent job versus some work. These Keynesian stimulus plans may provide some work, at an inordinate cost to the taxpayer, but do virtually nothing for the economy.

Third, speaking as an historian, all such Keynesian stimulus plans have been failures. Government cannot create jobs.

And finally, I question the Constitutionality of the Federal government spending money on anything but Federal property. Even so, if the $862 billion stimulus with all its 'shovel ready projects' had not noticable effect, why should the taxpayer pony up/waste another $50 billion?

Posted by: krand7 | October 11, 2010 6:57 PM | Report abuse

hey ezra, you feckless hack, where are all the "shovel ready projecrs" from the first $787B? know how many i pass in my metro area (NY)? zero. let me echo a poster above: FU, you intellectually dishonest liar. the paper that contains your thoughts and words isn't fit to clean up after my 9lb maltese. i can't wait til november, and i hope the whole country joins together to rub your nose in it, along with beinart's nose, dionne's nose, katrina's nose, anyone else i'm missing.

Posted by: subframer | October 11, 2010 7:25 PM | Report abuse

Explain to me how many unemployed persons know how to operate road graders and CAT bulldozers. Seems like the small percentage who do are probably all male making this necessarily a sexist program.

Posted by: brock2118 | October 11, 2010 7:44 PM | Report abuse

Oh this Journolist leftist goon is still tweeting? And he is talking about 'creating jobs' ? Doesn't he know that creating jobs never was/is the intention of Obama, nor can he create a single job unless he buys a 7-11 and try running that business ...? Ezra, time to quit this nonsense. There will be plenty of time to write (yet another) biography of Obama after Nov 2010. That's a quite serious-sounding word, 'infrastructure', i must admit, though.

Posted by: SECREV | October 11, 2010 7:53 PM | Report abuse

Journ-0-list propaganda. The "right people" are construction union Democrats and illegal aliens who now dominate construciton jobs in teh border states. Federal cosntruction requires union scale, which soaks taxpayers and prevents non-union competition. Infrastructure spending gets siphoned off by environmentalists and consultants, who tie the project up for years with interminable reviews. Bad idea. The federal government needs to turn projects over to states.

Posted by: doctorfixit | October 11, 2010 8:01 PM | Report abuse

Wow Ezra, if you are right and Infrastructure Spending is such an economic boom then the Democrats must be the most incompetent morons in the history of mankind since they squandered $800 Billion on infrastructure in the so called Stimulus Bill and still unemployment is at 9.6% (using government math) & probably closer to 20% with real math & over 3 Million real actual jobs (not fictitious "created or saved jobs") have disappeared since The Anointed One took up residence at 1600 Pennslyvania Ave.

Given your incredible analysis here I assume you are applying for one of the vacant positions on Obama's Economic Team. You'd probably be a good fit there with all the others without a 1st grade understanding of Economics!

So, what are you and the Journolisters working on right now for an October Surprise? How about a sneak peak here soon.

Posted by: wardoskibum | October 11, 2010 8:07 PM | Report abuse

While I completely agree that borrowing costs are at an all-time low, construction costs for fed projects are up 40% because Obama insists all jobs have to be union. Obama had his chance with the stimulus money, and he used it to line the pockets of dem constituencies and public sector unions. They even timed the spending to manipulate the election, all while 20 million pri ate sector citizens waited on the sidelines. Let's have some stimulus infrastructure spending, but not under the corrupt control of the dems.

Posted by: hdc77494 | October 11, 2010 8:23 PM | Report abuse

Fortunately Americans are paying attention to the smug arrogant ricks like LoserProgressive and see right through their perpetual fraud.Obama is a lying kant who belongs in prison. You treasonous frauds keep changing your names and reinventing yourselves trying to pass yourselves off as American. You are not one bit AMERICAN Democrats are anti-American because they have absolutely nothing to offer except to appose Republicans knowing they can never measure up to them and the fact that they cannot win elections on merit or honesty.

Hating Republicans and our American Soldiers who by a majority vote Republican is what you have no answer for and no excuse. The party of democrats caucus with the Communist Party USA because they believe they are smarter than the rest when they are not and believe only they can run this Country when the fact is they are not capable nor worthy of running this Country.

I'm a registered democratic American never a democrat. The party of democrats deserve what is coming to them.

Posted by: RobLACa | October 11, 2010 8:25 PM | Report abuse

Mostly union jobs.

Posted by: hafto | October 11, 2010 9:16 PM | Report abuse

I thought when Obama and the Democrats passed the stimulous bill that it was going to go for infrastructure spending and create jobs? Remember all the talk about shovel ready jobs? Now we find out that nearly a trillion dollars in corrupt spending went to the public employee unions and other special interests. Los Angeles did a study of $111 million in stimulous funds and found it created, or saved, only 55 jobs? That's $2,000,000.00 a job? That's what Obama and the left consider a success? Now the left says we need more money for infrastructure to create jobs? I'm for improving our infrastructure, and I'm for creating jobs, but I wouldn't trust Obama and the Democrats with a single wooden nickle after all the lies, corruption, and debt! Lets pray we get a Republican Congress in Nov and wait until next year before let anyone in Congress spend anymore money!

Posted by: valwayne | October 11, 2010 10:23 PM | Report abuse

Infrastructure spending creates a few jobs - but so much is done with high-tech machinery that we don't get nearly as many people off the dole as you'd hope. No, the real way to create jobs is to stop intervening in the free market. Stop all the mad spending and let free people sort it out. We will. http://bethsaidafigtree.wordpress.com

Posted by: nomasir | October 11, 2010 11:29 PM | Report abuse

Ezra Klein, you are a freakin' moron.

I hope you kneel and pray to Kaplan Online (a diploma mill) every night because the WAPO is hemorhaginf money due to opinon/writing like yours.

Enjoy your paycheck while you have it.

Posted by: NyallsStJohnSmytheIV | October 11, 2010 11:29 PM | Report abuse

Building infrastructure for the sake of creating jobs is bringing on more of what got us here in the first place. We got here because the government artificially distorted the market. The government demanded that banks loan money to millions of people who couldn't qualify for or afford the houses they bought. Along with that lending was made, with low rates, that did not take into account the risks being made. The result was an artificial boom in building that created way more houses than the market really needed. When the market crashed, and the correction set in, the result was a huge surplus of houses on the market, millions of people underwater on their mortgages, and millions of people defaulting on their loans.
Now dumbasses like Ezra Klein are asking us to correct the market by doing more of the same and that is borrowing money for infrastructure spending. The requirement is not because we necessarily need the infrastructure but because we need jobs and borrowing money is real cheap.
I guess being able to borrow money for real cheap provides the real kicker for infrastructure spending. Just like all the people who bought more house than they could afford. Who cares if they could't afford or really even need what they were buying. They sure employed a lot of people.

As a result we have a really screwed up market that isn't even allowed to correct istself. Instead we have a bunch of geniuses, like Ezra, that think they know better.

Posted by: russdog63 | October 12, 2010 12:20 AM | Report abuse

Eisenhower built infrastructure when the US had full employment, global manufacturing monopoly, and money in the Treasury.

Obama can't fund the debt we have let alone take on new debt: and what happens when they raise gas tax $.40 a gallon to pay for this? Tax reciepts will be less than they are now.

There isn't a single mile of government managed track in America that pays for itself. Rail has been a boondoggle for more than 200 years. We presently subsidize every passenger on Amtrak $453 for every trip! Any one who supports 4000 miles of additional high speed rail in America is a fool.

Stop stealing taxpayer dollars and let us support projects with our money that actually make sense.

The best action to restore our economy is to impeach Barack Obama.

Posted by: fbanta | October 12, 2010 2:51 AM | Report abuse

Eisenhower built infrastructure when the US had full employment, global manufacturing monopoly, and money in the Treasury.

Obama can't fund the debt we have let alone take on new debt: and what happens when they raise gas tax $.40 a gallon to pay for this? Tax reciepts will be less than they are now.

There isn't a single mile of government managed track in America that pays for itself. Rail has been a boondoggle for more than 200 years. We presently subsidize every passenger on Amtrak $453 for every trip! Any one who supports 4000 miles of additional high speed rail in America is a fool.

Stop stealing taxpayer dollars and let us support projects with our money that actually make sense.

The best action to restore our economy is to impeach Barack Obama.

Posted by: fbanta | October 12, 2010 2:52 AM | Report abuse

Obama cannot stop spending. He seems to be genetically unable to put the credit cards away even when everyone knows that this out of control spending is going is going to crash and burn his party and ultimately his Presidency.
Is Obama totally out of touch with reality, blinded by ideology, or is it that he just doesn't care?

Posted by: kenhe | October 12, 2010 6:33 AM | Report abuse

Sure....I really like the all of the recently completed corner sidewalk crossings that lead to nowhere. That is great use of talent and money.............

Posted by: humbucker | October 12, 2010 7:55 AM | Report abuse

“Where are the jobs?” demand the GOP leaders.

GOP supports outsourcing of U.S. jobs to other countries.
GOP blocked the attempt to take away the tax and other incentives to stop outsourcing.
GOP policies have created millions of jobs—but, in China, India, and other foreign countries.

Each job outsourced results in more profit for corporations.
Each job outsourced results in lower taxes for corporations.
Each job outsourced results in more bonuses for the top 2% of earners.

Unfortunately, each job outsourced results in more unemployment for American workers.
Each job outsourced results in budget busting costs to taxpayers as they finance the cost of unemployment, welfare, and health care.
Each job outsourced results in budget busting decreased tax revenues for local, state, and federal governments.
Each job outsourced puts downward pressure on overall wages paid to American workers, lowering the living standards of the middle class.

Where are the jobs? Reversing these anti-American economic policies is the first and most important step in bringing back the middle class.

Create jobs in infrastructure improvements that we need to do anyway by giving tax credits to companies who will make these improvements and hire workers.
Each of these jobs will result in greater revenue for local, state, and federal government—decreasing the deficit.
Each of these jobs will decrease the number of tax takers and increase the number of tax payers—decreasing the deficit.
Each of these infrastructure projects will have a major ripple effect in collateral industries that support them like steel, concrete, machinery, etc.—increasing the number of jobs in these industries.
Each of the jobs created CAN’T BE OUTSOURCED.

Posted by: CJfromPA | October 12, 2010 11:08 AM | Report abuse

Jobs? Really? Jobs are a bug not a feature. The goal of an economy is to get consumer goods and services with less work, with the absolute minimum of jobs.

An outsourced job is always, by definition, better for the consumer.

The failure to understand this is another of the great intellectual failures of leftists and populists. 50eagle with his early, sarcastic comment, has it exactly right. The cries for jobs, the claims for job creation by government or environmental regulation all have the same effect, namely, more work for the same consumer goods and services.

America is gradually grinding to a halt. Each half percent efficiency drop mandated by the latest lefty mandate compounds month by month endlessly downwards. Soon commercial friction will be so high that commerce is as corrupt, befuddled and inefficient as a middle eastern bazaar.

Then, happy days, everybody will be fully employed. Too bad it will be in avoiding starvation.

Posted by: BlacquesJacquesShellacques | October 12, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Poor Ezra Klein, he apparently forgot the 40 billion plus Obama threw at "infrastructure" last year. That didn't work because it went to connected people, like it always does. Stupid is, as stupid does, as Ezra Klein's momma used to say.

Posted by: shred11 | October 12, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse

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