Back in early 2009, President-elect Barack Obama was asked on "Meet the Press" how quickly he could create jobs. Oh, very fast, he said. He'd already consulted with a gaggle of governors, and "all of them have projects that are shovel-ready." When Obama revealed the members of his energy team, he explained that they were part of his effort to get started on "shovel-ready projects all across the country." When he unveiled his education secretary, he assured everyone that he was going to get started "helping states and local governments with shovel-ready projects."
In interviews, job summits and press conferences, it was shovel-ready this, shovel-ready that. Search the White House website for the term "shovel-ready" and you'll drown in press releases about all the shovels ready to shove shovel-ready projects into the 21st century, where no shovel is left behind.
It turns out, as Obama admits in a pending New York Times magazine article, "there's no such thing as shovel-ready projects."
So, either the president lied when he hyped all these "shovel-ready" projects as a justification for pushing through his "stimulus" plan or he was duped as badly as the rest of us. I don't see how it can be any other way. Either the man conned us or he was himself conned. Whichever is the case, we're out a trillion dollars ($1,000,000,000,000) and stuck with two more years under a president with no credibility.
Astonishingly, Obama still insists that he got the policy right. He is "supremely sure" of this, according to the Times article. His only regret is that he didn't market it better:
"Given how much stuff was coming at us," Obama explains, "we probably spent much more time trying to get the policy right than trying to get the politics right. There is probably a perverse pride in my administration -- and I take responsibility for this; this was blowing from the top -- that we were going to do the right thing, even if short-term it was unpopular. And I think anybody who's occupied this office has to remember that success is determined by an intersection in policy and politics and that you can't be neglecting of marketing and PR and public opinion."
This makes no sense. The policy was predicated on the existence of legions of "shovel-ready" jobs, jobs the president now confesses never existed. We've charged trillions of dollars to an already maxed-out credit card and the economy is still tanking. No amount of "marketing and PR and public opinion" can change any of that. In what sense -- or in what alternate reality -- does that constitute "getting it right?"
Or, as Goldberg concludes:
The only problem with that: facts. Obama's health-care plan raises taxes on Americans (though Obama says this is not so, they're merely mandatory fees and premiums) and will cost trillions. He wants to raise taxes on "the rich" -- defined so that a cop married to a nurse might well count as rich -- and on small businesses.
Meanwhile, Washington is now spending 23 percent more than it did two years ago. As the Washington Post recently editorialized, Congress' "emergency" bailout to avoid "a teachers crisis" was a fraud to simply transfer billions to the teachers' unions in advance of the midterms.
And then, of course, there's the stimulus that paid for all of those "shovel-ready jobs" that Obama now admits never existed. Los Angeles County deployed $111 million in stimulus money to "save" 55 jobs at the cost of $2 million apiece. The White House has spent $192 million on road signs that brag about how the construction delays ahead were paid for by the stimulus. Meanwhile, unemployment is a full three points higher during Obama's "recovery" than it was during the "worst recession since the Great Depression."
I love that last line, and I intend to use it. Rattling off a crisp line like that every now and then brings a bit of cheer to help me brook the madness.