A Nation of Ditch Diggers

From the wires today:

Eager to show action on the ailing economy, President Barack Obama promised Monday to speed federal money into hundreds of public works projects this summer, vowing that 600,000 jobs will be created or saved.

What are these jobs exactly? The phrase “public works” sounds so regal, but in reality we are talking about government jobs to dig ditches and lay asphalt. I keep imagining the following question from child to parent:

“Mom, dad, do I really have to lay asphalt as a career? Why did I even go to school?”

Relax college graduate. The suits in DC have it all figured out. Your future? You have Social Security for that. For now? Asphalt work is just a temporary as we “fix” the economy. It’s amazing to me that solutions and “fixes” that would otherwise be labeled as moronic actually gain traction when fear is in the air.

9 thoughts on “A Nation of Ditch Diggers

  1. Ken, we have to disagree on this one. Government created jobs are just plain baloney to me. What are we up to now 1 in 6 adults working for the government? Ug. Seriously, if the private sector, the one who worries about a profit is firing people, and the government is hiring…we are at a bad inflection point.

  2. I was just pointing out that it was more than ditch digging and asphalt jobs being created. Wasn’t debating whether govt jobs are good or bad. I think most of the engineering jobs are contracted out to private firms anyway though.

  3. One thing to keep in mind about government spending? By and large States have to accept the low bidder for work all other things being equal. Well, all other things are never equal so the reality is that some of the least skilled contractors are often hired by States and municipalities across the country. That equals shoddy work in many cases. Could you imagine a private builder sacrificing quality all together over price? Of course not, but that’s what happens when government jumps in.

  4. I noticed as you did, there is only mention of jobs, not specific projects.

    Reminds me of a quote attributed to Milton Friedman, when he was in India and was observing a public works project, a canal, under construction – he asked why the workers were using shovels and there were no earth moving machines on the jobsite.

    “Oh, sir, this is a project to put men to work, the canal is only a minor objective.”

    Hearing this, Friedman is to have replied, “If that is so why didn’t you issue the workers spoons instead of shovels.”

    Sorry if I’ve screwed up the details of the anecdote, but I think I’ve got the thrust of his comment correct – and it seemed appropriate here.

  5. Well the way I see it there are only 2 options:

    a) pay people to sit at home and do nothing (through unemployment and welfare)


    b) pay people to lay asphalt (and do some engineering)

    I agree both options suck, but which is worse?

  6. Ken, if we are sadly (and I tend to agree realistically) at the point where option “C” doesn’t exist or can’t even make it to the table…are we really the wonderful country talked about in the history books? Depressing!

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