Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Your Government at Work, Part II - the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

I first noticed the signs Sunday afternoon while on a mission to refill two empty growlers at a craft brewery a couple of counties away. The signs weren't everywhere--only at a few places along the highway--but there were enough of them to keep the thought of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stuck in my head. It was kind of insidious the way they did it, really. Too many signs would have been overkill, but these few seemed hardly conspiracy-worthy.

The signs, as you'll know if you paid attention to the picture at the beginning of this rant, point out to the traveler, certain, specific projects funded by the former contents of his wallet. Those projects, as the signs explain, are designed to create jobs.

The signs were nice and all, but I didn't see any actual working projects. No bulldozers digging up dirt. No workers with hard hats leaning on shovels. Of course it's clear that the signs at least created jobs for sign makers. In fact, at $2000 a pop, they must be high paying jobs too. Still, a stimulus recovery package that only benefited sign makers seemed kind of short sighted.

Eventually I got home, and while sampling the contents of my newly filled growlers, I started to think more about the signs. It's true there were no actual work projects happening near the signs. But then I remembered seeing the orange and white traffic barrels.

In fact, nearby every sign, were a minimum of one hundred or so traffic barrels.

Now, this might not seem important to you at first glance, but the fact is, those barrels don't come cheap. The average price is about $100 per. What that means is that each sign (providing $2,000 worth of sign making jobs) generates an additional $10K in traffic barrel making jobs. When you toss in the jobs created for the folks needed to install the signs and move the barrels into the rode at daybreak and off the road at sunset, you can begin to see the genius of the government's plan.

I just hope they don't get all giddy with success and go and do something stupid like try to actually fix roads or repair overpasses in a way that might last, say, twenty years. Because then the sign jobs would go away, and the traffic barrel jobs would go away, and then where would we be?