June 28, 2021
A Charcuterie of Opportunity Reduced to a Pork Sandwich America Can’t Stomach
The Biden administration’s $6.25 trillion “American Jobs Plan” promises…
Oh, what doesn’t it promise?
… reliable transportation, safe water, affordable housing, healthy schools, clean electricity, broadband for all, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.
I may be slightly misquoting the last part. But not by much.
This article would be much shorter if I made a list of what the American Jobs Plan is not vowing to accomplish. In fact, I might be able to write the piece in three words…
Make pigs fly.
No. Strike that. We’d have to put wings on a whole bunch of swine if all the pork that Biden proposes is going to get off the ground.
But one thing in the American Jobs Plan that’s certain to come true is the promise that your head will explode if you try to read it.
Here is an outline of the spending agenda presumably simplified to the point where even Democratic members of Congress can comprehend it. And this – the condensed, dumbed-down, EZ-reading version – is 27 pages long.
Although it is not, in fact, easy reading. Sample prose style:
… the President’s plan will use smart, coordinated infrastructure permitting to expedite federal decisions while prioritizing stakeholder engagement, community consultation, and maximizing equity, health, and environmental benefits.
The White House needs to quit getting its junior staff from Harvard and Yale and start hiring people who are better educated.
I’m not sure if you remember books, America, but it’s what people used to sink their faces into to avoid dealing with family and strangers. Our editor-in-chief, P.J. O’Rourke, has written a few in his time, and he’s re-releasing his bestselling Eat the Rich, complete with a new chapter to take on the absurdity of 2021 economics. And as an American Consequences subscriber, you can have access to the newly released edition for free! Claim Your Copy Now.
The Fact Sheet is, however, illuminating. You need to go no farther than its second sentence to discover that the American Jobs Plan is not only squandering in its expense and ridiculous in its expanse, but also wrong and bad:
This is the moment to reimagine and rebuild a new economy.
Such moments have come before. There was the moment when Lenin nationalized all business and industry in the U.S.S.R., the moment when Stalin collectivized Soviet agriculture, the moment Hitler decided to pay off the German national debt by conquering Europe, the moment Mao announced his “Great Leap Forward.” Not to mention the moments of reimagining a new economy in Mussolini’s Italy, Kim Il-sung’s North Korea, Castro’s Cuba, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, etc.
The idea that a government can “rebuild” an economy (versus the idea that, at best, a government can provide conditions in which an economy builds itself) is a serious and complex proposition – too much so to be considered here.
But economic facts are economic facts no matter what any White House “Fact Sheet” proclaims. And we divorce ourselves from facts at our peril.
The idea that a government can “reimagine” a “new” economy is a foolish and stupid proposition. Try going to the person to whom you’re married and telling him or her you’re “reimagining a new spouse.” What fun!
Speaking of which, there are the remaining 26.5 pages of hogwash about letting every governmental pig out of every programmatic sty to cause an immense pork stampede trampling the nation on its way to feed at the taxation trough.
A scolding lament is made:
Public domestic investment as a share of the economy has fallen by more than 40% since the 1960s.
Has it occurred to any idiot at the White House that this might be a good thing? Over the past 60 years, while government control over the economy was falling by more than 40%, the economy was growing by more than 575%. Coincidence? Would Biden like to see the -40% and +575% figures reversed?
I hope not… I don’t think Joe Biden is an evil man, just a blockhead.
America’s economy is already in brisk recovery, though this is apparently news to Biden, who claims the American Jobs Plan will “revitalize manufacturing, invest in basic research and science, shore up supply chains,” and otherwise do what private enterprise has always done better than government can.
Most of the economic health issues that the American Jobs Plan addresses are issues of robust health. Biden is a doctor telling us we’re too trim and fit and need to start drinking, smoking, and overeating and getting our blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol up.
Biden seems to want an economy that’s frail and sickly. The American Jobs Plan might do the trick. One of its top bullet points is…
Build, preserve, and retrofit more than two million homes and commercial buildings…
There are commercial buildings sitting empty in nearly every shopping mall in America. And, as for those homes, has Biden ever been inside a public housing project? Sorry about the elevator being out of order again. And mind the stairs… Urine, empty crack vials, and expended 9mm Glock cartridges can make for slippery footing.
Meanwhile who’s going to be pounding the two million nails? According to the Associated General Contractors of America trade organization, 81% of construction firms are having trouble finding enough people to hire.
The wealth gap in America has never been wider — we’ve still never fully recovered from the Great Recession of 2008, and it’s only going to get worse from here. But the effects of the Big Con are going to devastate those who don’t take action. So do something now while you still can.
Perhaps the American Jobs Plan (“AJP”) can create unemployment sufficient to supply the employees the construction industry will need. The AJP seems intent on trying. Another top bullet point in the Fact Sheet states…
… the plan will require that goods and materials are made in America and shipped on U.S.-flag, U.S.-crewed vessels.
There goes the $3.1 trillion import sector of the U.S. economy. And there goes the $2.5 trillion export sector too. Because the entire U.S. Merchant Marine consists of exactly 115 cargo ships engaged in foreign trade (out of more than 90,000 worldwide).
Only five of the U.S. ships are tankers. But the American Jobs Plan will…
Fix highways, rebuild bridges, upgrade ports, airports and transit systems.
So maybe we can send our oil and natural gas to Europe and Asia in soccer-mom SUVs, pontoon party boats, airline overhead luggage bins, and trolley cars.
And don’t worry about getting fired, because the American Jobs Plan creates “good-paying union jobs.” The phrase is repeated with slight variations ad infinitum in the AJP Fact Sheet. Never mind that only 6.3% of private sector workers are unionized.
Screw the private sector. The AJP is all about the public sector, and 34.8% of public employees are unionized.
Incidentally, those unionized public employees are in an interesting position when negotiating with their “bosses,” who are elected officials desperate for the votes of that 34.8% to get themselves reelected. In any other business, this would be called extortion…
Also incidentally, 3.6 million of those unionized public employees are members of teacher unions. And every one of them should be picketing the White House to protest Biden’s lousy grammar. That’s “well-paying union jobs,” Joe, you dunce.
But I digress… Which is understandable. It’s easy to get distracted during the mind-numbing trudge through the AJP Fact Sheet. I wish I could present you with an organized and logical analysis of the American Jobs Plan, but that would require some organization and logic in the plan itself. It doesn’t have any. It’s just a dump – excuse me, a recycling center – of used-up and worn-out ideas from the New Deal, the Square Deal, the Great Society, etc. We thought these notions had rotted away 40 years ago during the Reagan era, but it turns out that the Left/liberal mind is even less biodegradable than the Styrofoam it resembles.
The best I can do is walk you through the junk heap, pointing out pieces of trash that are particularly hazardous to the environment – the environment, that is, of common sense and practicality.
It won’t be a pleasant stroll…
The plan targets 40% of the benefits of climate and clean infrastructure investment to disadvantaged communities.
How’s that going to work? Will 40% of the better weather of Palm Beach be shipped to Detroit? Will the slum-dwellers of the South Bronx have to take a subway to Manhattan to do 40% of their littering on Park Avenue?
… it will… expand transit and rail into new communities.
The built, preserved, and retrofitted home you’re getting may turn out to be in a noisy part of town, with the train station on your patio.
… makes substantial investments in… our care economy, starting by creating new and better jobs for caregiving workers.
Which would require new and better people to care for. Let’s toss the crabby old folks out of the memory-care units and replace them with cheerful young couples who haven’t forgotten where the toilet is.
… ensure other nations won’t gain a competitive edge by becoming tax havens.
By invading the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Monaco, and Liechtenstein? I’m sure American troops will enjoy this more than they enjoyed Afghanistan and Iraq.
… deliver infrastructure Americans can trust, because it will be resilient to floods, fires, storms…
What is “resilient to” supposed to mean? Are we getting rubber roads and phone poles that will bounce right back after the hurricane?
… make sure fewer families mourn the loss of a loved one to road crashes.
A federal program to increase our dislike of parents, siblings, and progeny so that we won’t feel so bad when they’re killed in a car wreck?
… fund state and local “vision zero” plans… to reduce crashes and fatalities, especially for cyclists and pedestrians.
Though I don’t understand how riding a bicycle blindfolded or walking the dog with your eyes closed will fix this.
… build a national network of 500,000 EV [electric vehicle] chargers by 2030…
And, knowing how government works, you’ll have to drive to a congressional district with a Democratic incumbent to find one.
[fund]… affordable, convenient, car-free access to air travel.
It’s called walking.
… reconnect neighborhoods cut off by historic investments and ensure new projects increase opportunity, advance racial equity and environmental justice, and promote affordable access.
The neighborhood of Harlem was cut off from the neighborhood of Midtown by that historic investment, Central Park. Let’s get rid of it. Whether this will increase opportunity or advance racial equity, I’m not sure. But we could get some environmental justice by turning the animals that used to be in the Central Park Zoo loose on tourists.
… protect and, where necessary, restore nature-based infrastructure – our lands, forests, wetlands, watersheds, and coastal and ocean resources.
Cue the 1969 number-one hit single, “I Can’t Get Next to You,” by The Temptations:
I… Can turn the gray sky blue,
I can make it rain, whenever I want it to,
Oh I can build a castle from a single grain of sand,
I can make a ship sail on dry land…
I can turn back the hands of time, you better believe I can,
I can make the seasons change, just by waving my hand…
The fact sheet continues in this vein of magical thinking, saying…
Broadband is the new electricity.
Try plugging your toaster into it.
And, channeling Gyro Gearloose from Donald Duck comic books, the Fact Sheet proposes…
… an investment in 15 decarbonized hydrogen demonstration projects in distressed communities…
As if the train station on your patio weren’t bad enough, the Hindenburg is tethered to your backyard flagpole.
But the AJP isn’t done with its “there goes the neighborhood” projects…
For decades, exclusionary zoning laws – like minimum lot sizes, mandatory parking requirements, and prohibitions on multifamily housing – have inflated housing and construction costs and locked families out of areas with more opportunities.
Those “exclusionary zoning laws” pretty much describe the White House, which sits on 18.7 acres of “areas with more opportunities” in thriving downtown Washington, D.C. Looks like a great spot for a trailer park to me.
Meanwhile the AJP is…
… advancing environmental justice through a new Civilian Climate Corps…
GREETING: You are hereby ordered, for induction into the Civilian Climate Corps, to turn zoo animals loose on tourists in New York.
Kids will be hoping for student deferments – or maybe not…
Funds also will be provided to improve our school kitchens, so they can be used to better prepare nutritious meals and go green by reducing or eliminating the use of paper plates and other disposable materials.
(Raw broccoli in cupped hands and sips from the drinking fountain for lunch.)
But plenty of fresh air…
In classrooms with poor ventilation… student absences are 10% to 20% higher.
Open the f***ing window.
If the kids play hooky that won’t be a problem either. There will be an…
… expanded tax credit to encourage businesses to build child care facilities at places of work.
I work at home. My “places of work” is a child-care facility and has been since we had our first child in 1997. Can I get a tax deduction for every time I’ve closed my laptop and squashed Cheerios or a gummy bear into my keyboard?
Finally, there is – despite very stiff competition – the winner of the Fact Sheet “Well, Duh” award:
Research shows that increasing the pay of direct care workers greatly enhances workers’ financial security
Had enough? Me too. I could go on… But you’d want to kill me, and I’d want to let you.
There is a Yiddish proverb: “Man plans. God laughs.” We’d better laugh the American Jobs Plan out of the House (and the Senate). It’s either laugh or cry.
To Randal O’Toole and Chris Edwards, distinguished scholars at the Cato Institute, for the generous help they gave me in my attempt to understand the American Jobs Plan. They have written prolifically and perspicaciously about what’s wrong with this mad scheme. If you want a more intelligent and detailed critique of the AJP than I am able to provide, you’ll find their work readily available on the Cato at Liberty blog and The Antiplanner (Dedicated to the sunset of government planning) website. And additional thanks, of course, to the Cato Institute itself – that best of free minds and free markets think tank.