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Ain’t you boys built that dang road yet?

Obama’s stimulus plan involves an infusion of cash for middle-class tax cuts, rebuilding roads, bridges and schools, building broadband Internet access and investing in clean energy. November 23, 2008

Spending tens of billions of dollars on new infrastructure such as schools, bridges and water systems could also be effective, both as a short-term economic boost and as a means of raising the country’s long-term productive capacity. January 7, 2009

In what amounts to the second stimulus plan since he took office – this one estimated at $75 billion to $200 billion – Obama asked Congress to fund jobs to rebuild roads, bridges, railways and waterways. December 08, 2009

Ten months into President Barack Obama’s first economic stimulus plan, a surge in spending on roads and bridges has had no effect on local unemployment and only barely helped the beleaguered construction industry, an AP analysis has found. Jan 11, 2010

…the stimulus has cut taxes for 95% of working Americans, bailed out every state, hustled record amounts of unemployment benefits and other aid to struggling families and funded more than 100,000 projects to upgrade roads, subways, schools, airports, military bases and much more. Aug. 26, 2010

The $450 billion package would raise income, boost hiring, and improve roads and bridges. Sep 9, 2011

Shall I go on? I could, you know. On and on and on. Or you could do it yourself: go to Google and search +Obama +stimulus +roads. Those quotes cover three years and three separate demands for huge wads of money.

The whole rest of the package was more of the same, too. I mean, he ran his first campaign on this shit.

But I was struck by the roads and schools. Because construction projects can only go at a finite pace, and it sounds like he’s jammed so much money down that funnel already that some of it is bound to be sitting there now, stimulating nothing.

How many crappy roads have we got?

Picture nicked from the excellent Shorpy.com.


Comment from zooomzooom
Time: September 9, 2011, 9:13 pm

Maybe its time he ditch the bridges and try something new………hmmmmmm

I know…..

Solar Power…..

you have to admit, it will work at least as good as all the new bridges he’s built…….

Comment from Oldcat
Time: September 9, 2011, 9:32 pm

Quite a number. But they don’t get better by allocating money and dumping it in the pockets of your Chicago cronies.

Ask Chicagoans when the Toll Roads will be paid off.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: September 9, 2011, 9:35 pm

Oh, and if you haven’t seen this from Redstate, about all the times Obama was fixing to pivot to jobs…you should.

Comment from Oldcat
Time: September 9, 2011, 9:42 pm

Pivoting alone just moves in empty circles

Comment from Bruno Braun
Time: September 9, 2011, 10:13 pm

Have they fixed that damn bridge at Chappaquiddick yet?

Comment from Mindy
Time: September 9, 2011, 10:41 pm

So Obama has cut taxes for 95% of working Americans.

My taxes have certainly gone down — because my income has gone down. Is that what he meant?

Comment from David Gillies
Time: September 9, 2011, 11:06 pm

Nicked? Stoaters, you have gone full on Anglo-Weasel. Although I’m hardly one to talk. I remember my mother asking me lo these ten years ago what I meant by ‘a tad bit’. I knows eldritch things, the like of which ye simple English peasants wot not. I knows, my dearies, what is an unassisted double play. I knows where is the Show Me State. Brrrr. Spooky. I knows, forsooth, the name of the river that drains the most into the Pacific*. I can also as a side-effect curse filthily in five languages.

* Columbia

Comment from Scubafreak
Time: September 9, 2011, 11:11 pm

Interesting. I think I just found a picture of Flashheart/Oceania….. 😉


Comment from Andy
Time: September 10, 2011, 12:48 am

Stuck on stupid.

Comment from Nina from GCP
Time: September 10, 2011, 1:09 am

Mindy? Yeah. Exactly.

Comment from Oceania
Time: September 10, 2011, 2:21 am

Ahhh never send a Mulatto to do a White Mans Job!

Looks like Ron Paul is you only option, and he’s a left wing libbtard.

But he IS White 🙂

Comment from Armybrat
Time: September 10, 2011, 2:35 am

Oceania, you seem to be the only one beating that drum here. I question your motives.

Comment from Feynmangroupie
Time: September 10, 2011, 2:48 am

The amusing thing…oh wait, I meant to say infuriating thing about all those construction dollars, allocated to each state, is that they probably went into the pockets of out-of-state construction companies who won the bid for the contract. Most of the time, the job is woefully underbid. The contractors make up the difference by over-charging and inventing extra costs such as ‘differing site conditions’ which are rarely challenged by the agency.

Then there is the problem with states re-allocating those funds to pet projects. Most of those projects will likely be awarded to out-of-state businesses as well.

The only jobs created were temporary and any stimulus was fleeting, if it not imaginary.

Comment from Oceania
Time: September 10, 2011, 3:05 am

Me? I always beat things. I do it because it is True.
The future of the human species is too important to be left to the ‘multikultural’ cess pit of the present West.

Comment from Sven in Colorado
Time: September 10, 2011, 2:34 pm

Gotta love Shorpy.com. I particularly like the blogger’s inclusion of his own family photo history, a quirky window on the last half of the twentieth century in central California.

Jobs? — I have been marginally employed for over three years. My young partner and I are doing what all entrepreneurs do, start businesses. Ours is a woodworking business. Before 9/11, and this ludicrous administration’s Federal “stimulus” mudpit, I would see one out of five job bids come back as a signed contract. Now, we consider ourselves lucky if one out of ten to twelve bids turn into work.

Oceania must not be taking his/her meds again.

Comment from Mono The Elderish
Time: September 10, 2011, 3:48 pm

@sven I’m of the opinion that he hasn’t started.

Comment from Feynmangroupie
Time: September 10, 2011, 4:24 pm

It occurred to me that it might have sounded as though I felt that the stimulus funding was merely misused, and not outright unbelievably wrong-headed. Hopefully the next administration will just stay the hell out of the way of American businesses instead of regulating, propping up, and saving industries that made shitty unethical business choices.

The Husband made an interesting observation about Obama trying to model himself after FDR over and over again.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: September 10, 2011, 6:12 pm

Well, there’s truth to the idea the infrastructure could use work. The problem is that road work is a racket in most places (when I lived in Rhode Island, it was said all the road construction companies were mafia fronts, and godnose our road repairs were awful).

You’ve got government hosing billions at a crooked industry, it’s not going to end well.

Comment from JeffS
Time: September 10, 2011, 7:25 pm

Working as I do for the Federal Goobermint, I can assure you that much infrastructure work is pork, and not just for the mafia fronts. The goobermint agencies involved always — without fail — add on their administrative and overhead costs. Which can be as high as 200%, depending on how many times the money changes hands.

I mind me one small project, which was a line item on one particular Congressional bill. It was authorized $400,000 by Congress, but all my office got was $300K, because the national office kept $100K for themselves for “administration”……when their ONLY administrative tasks were limited to transfering the funds, and writing some reports.

And THEN we started charging our own overhead to the stupid project. We spent maybe $200K on the actual work.

And all this before the contractors get hold of the bid. Those multi-million dollar projects are even worse.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: September 10, 2011, 10:06 pm

Okay, Jeff, so where does that money *go*? It can’t go to salaries or office supplies or rent…those things have fixed budgets that are applied for every year, like in the private sector, right? I don’t see how they manage to apply those monies to operating costs.

I’ve never understood where pork meets accounting.

Comment from Sven in Colorado
Time: September 10, 2011, 10:57 pm

Jeff and Stoaty…and all,

I took on a part-time job at the local True Value Hardware. The store has been a family run operation for two generations.

Why? — we need some steady income.

Point being is the “reclamation” of a mid-twentieth century trolley line for the local museum. It is all done under the pretext of repaving a section of street full of small businesses, one of whom is my barber of 30+ years, another is the hardware store.

I have watched these union asshats show up late, stand about drinking coffee, whilst the labor force, (illegal aliens from Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras) filter in and begin Obambi’s shovel ready work.

*THEN*, once the re-mesh is set, concrete ordered and poured, (which might take a full week!)… some wingnut with a white shirt, a roll of blue prints under his arm and an attitude that clearly calls for a calloused fist in the face, rolls onto the job site with a entourage of lackies pushing hither and yon.

All of a sudden, jackhammers are brought in, fresh set concrete is dug up and the whole damn process begins again.


It has nothing to do with race. It has everything to do with a goram federal government that has been allowed, nay, encouraged!!! to take over every aspect of our daily lives.

Ya’ want to talk? — I’ll be in the reloading shed!

Comment from Oceania
Time: September 11, 2011, 12:17 am

We passed legislation removing the power of unions altogether, in favour of emplyment contracts. Much simpler.

Comment from JeffS
Time: September 11, 2011, 7:29 am

It can’t go to salaries or office supplies or rent…those things have fixed budgets that are applied for every year, like in the private sector, right? I don’t see how they manage to apply those monies to operating costs.

Actually……yes, it can and does go to those very things, Swease. That “fixed budget” isn’t a budget, it’s a moving target.

I guess the real problem people have with government accounting is that it’s mostly smoke and mirrors, not the real budgets the rational segment of the unwashed masses (RSotUM) deal with.

Example of the RSotUM: You and UB know your income, and set a budget to live within it. You go into debt, debtors get nasty, you pay debtors off, etc. We all know the drill.

Government accounting is bizarre. Example, obvious one: the Federal Government of the United States has operated without an approved budget for damn near THREE YEARS. Technically, that’s against the law. Yet……Uncle Sugar soldiers on. How? Answer: because Congress says so through a series of continuing resolutions, emergency appropriations, deficit spending, and sheer bluff. Must work, I’m still getting a pay check. (Although those suckers in the Postal Service might not, come October.)

OK, that’s at the national level, which sets a really bad example. Let’s go down to the local level. Sven offers a good one — I’ve seen that happen before, but that’s in the project management arena, where a bunch of clueless clowns and no relevant training or experience (save a college degree, maybe relevant to the project, but generally not) are allowed to run a project. So let me offer one closer to Sweasel’s question.

My office has a set number of people, using well defined facilities, and working 40 hours a week, with some variations in overtime. They need supplies, electricity, computers, clerical support, vehicles, etc. Estimating an annual budget from that is entirely possible. I know, we used to do it all the time.

That budget assumes a certain amount of overhead costs. Has to, there are some tasks that aren’t project specific. Examples include time keeping, maintaining office space, etc. And there are the direct costs, the salaries of the staff working on the project, vehicles, etc.


Every government agency has a set of employees who are expected to charge directly to one or more projects, in a general support role. For an agency that builds and maintains roads, that could be an engineering design office, with several types of engineers, but it could inspectors, environmental specialists, contracting support, etc. Doesn’ matter, really, as a specific service is desired. That office needs administrative support as well, so they have clerks, managers, office space, etc.

The question now becomes, how big is that office? Well, that depends on the work load. X projects means Y engineers and Z support staff. Easy, no?

No. Go back to the budget: How many projects will actually be approved and funded? Or, better asked, how much work will the agency actually be funded for in a given year?

If the agency is underfunded, they face a dilemma. I can’t say about non-Federal agencies, but it’s a real problem for the Feds. And that problem is: what to do about the budget shortfall?

Their options are few. The obvious one — laying off people — is actually forbidden by law, without Congressional approval, the infamous “Reduction in Force”. They could encourage voluntary retirements and transfers, but that’s time consuming, and generally ineffective. Furloughs are theoretically possible, but many Federal employees view that pay check as an entitlement. Congress does listen to harsh publicity; you should have heard the screaming during the 1996 furloughs when Bubba Clinton and Newt Gingrich locked horns, and shut down the Feds for a few days.

This lag problem between the actual workload and the number of employees is an old. Theoretically, one could maintain a small staff, and augment with contractors as needed. In practice, small staffs do not bureaucratic empires make. That lag always exists.

So what happens? Creative accounting, and lots of it. I mentioned the $100K getting sucked off at the national level; multiply that by a couple thousand times, and you’ve got serious money being diverted from projects to the bureaucracy.

Locally, there’s a whole lot of direct charging to the projects, whether you need the services or not. If I engage the services of one particular office, I have to pay for 3 people with different skills (or at least different job titles), whether the project needs them or not. Or the supervisor of a supporting office might charge an absurd number of hours to another project. Or someone sees a pot of money, and tries to gets funding for a superfluous project just so an employee is gainfully employed. Or a work estimate is grossly overestimated, but gets spent anyway.

I’ve seen all of these tricks during my time as a Federal employee. Hell, I’ve had outright attempts to divert funds from my budget to highly questionable, if not outright illegal, projects. (Didn’t work. I’m not very popular with the senior executives, by the way.) But the end result is that a whole lot less of the project funds are spent on the project, and whole lot more on the care and feeding of the subject agency.

I haven’t even gone into the actual administrative overhead, which is generally overstaffed, underworked, and always ready to impose more controls so that they get their cut of the take. Nor the outright greed, corruption, incompetences, and sheer indolence.

And there’s another problem: senior leaders view the budget as an entitlement, and are always trying to get more. Sometimes, they’ll hire people (or raise their pay) on the assumption the budget will be increased. Things get a little heated when the assumptions are wrong, a frequent occurence in my agency.

Or another problem, carefully not discussed in most agencies: the average operating costs are going up, while most budgets are relatively flat….or declining. If an annual budget hasn’t changed significantly in a number of years (say, $10 billion every year for the past decade), and the agency hasn’t downsized, or otherwise controlled costs, that $10 billion doesn’t go as far as it used to. There was a bit of an outcry a year ago, or so, about the average Federal salary being well above the average private sector salary. That’s highly relevant, because 10-15 years ago, Federal employees were generally paid well below public sector rates.

It’s to the point that actually meeting payroll is a problem with some Federal agencies. What’s happening to the Post Office (not a Federal agency as such, but certainly Federally funded) is by no means unique.

If you want to use phrases like “steal”, “embezzle”, and so on, feel free. I won’t argue the point.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: September 11, 2011, 10:26 am

Ugh. Thank you for that, JeffS. I mean, it’s depressing as hell, but thanks for taking the time.

Comment from Oceania
Time: September 11, 2011, 11:54 am

Sounds like operations in a corrupt unproductive Communist Country to me.

Thankfully National Socialist countrys like China are not this corrupt – as they execute their public servants without a second thought.

Comment from Oceania
Time: September 11, 2011, 12:07 pm

A few of us tonight were sitting around discussing the collapse of the US economy, and the reasons why.
Then the more cynical amongst us started discussing an economy that appears to have made a Giant Leap Forward – China!

What sort of economy are they?

They have moved from Communist to Restrained Free Market – so they are sort of Socialist – with Nationalist tendencies.
They have a huge advanced educational and manufacturing sector.
They have huge economic growth.
They have the majority of the fiscal wealth of the world invested with them
The now have the largest, and highest increasing rate of gold reserves.
They will soon have the most advanced research society (they do now by default).
They excute their criminals an public servants without a second thought.
They practice population control.
They practice Eugenics.

I would call them well organised, planned – just like a National Socialist country from the 1930’s that we all know well.

I’d say that their policies are probably worth emulating? What does everyone think? Don’t be shy .. it would be a brave poster that would describe the Chinese as National Socialist Eugenics Mad High Technologists? 😆 😆 😆

But its true.

Comment from David Gillies
Time: September 11, 2011, 12:26 pm

Hah, JeffS! I think the EU has now been operating for something like 12 years without the auditors feeling themselves able to sign off on the accounts. If iit were a business it would have been wound up years ago and placed in administration. A large fraction of the board would have faced criminal sanction, including gaol time.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: September 11, 2011, 1:20 pm

Oh, god, the EU!

Comment from JeffS
Time: September 11, 2011, 2:33 pm

Stoatie, I regret having to lay this turd out on your blog. Alas, the truth isn’t always nice and shiny. It is indeed depressing.

Perhaps a small flicker of hope: a great many of my fellow employees do not like this. It is the current leadership that crams this down our throats. Given a little time and luck, maybe we can boot the bastards out of their snug little thrones.


David, I am not surprised to hear that about the EU. However, we may well be ahead of them in one regard: our accountants are part of the shell game. Or a good many of them, at any rate. What I described above is official, enforced through an elaborate system of policies, directives, processes, oversight, and micromanagement.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: September 11, 2011, 3:48 pm

I have to admit, seriously retarded accounting policies happen in the private sector. The company I used to work for had very strict budget guidelines. You got exactly as much as you got, and you got it until December 31.

So one year, the training department did really, really well…they sold WAY more training sessions than expected. These were seminars on the road so, as a result, they went way over their travel budget…and got into serious trouble for it.

Oh, and there was the year the approved the money for the computer network but not the cable to hook it all together (hey, you can’t have EVERYthing you want).

The private sector can get sclerotic, too.

Comment from JeffS
Time: September 11, 2011, 10:10 pm

Oh, I believe that the private sector can get ossified, Stoatie. After all, the private sector is run by humans, same as the government. Humans can and will do stupid things. And people will react in stupid ways to unexpected problems.

But at least the private sector tends to follow the Darwinian principle when it comes to success, unlike the Federal government, where problems become features, and the system totters along until it completely disintegrates.

Unless it’s part of the private sector that’s “too big to fail”, and gets a cash infusion from tax payer pockets.

Comment from Oceania
Time: September 12, 2011, 11:12 am

God dammit!

We have increased retroviral expression in our trans-human sheep!
As you all know, sheep cause cancer http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1401489/

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