It was more than a little jarring when President Obama joked during a meeting with his Jobs and Competitiveness Council in Durham, N.C. on Monday that "Shovel-ready was not as shovel-ready as we expected." Everyone at the head table had a good laugh.
After all, Mr. Obama argued for the $830 billion stimulus that America’s governors “all…have projects that are shovel ready, that are going to require us to get the money out the door.” And Vice President Joe Biden echoed the President, saying it “provides a necessary jolt to our economy to implement what we refer as ‘shovel-ready projects.”
The Obama White House understood “shovel ready” conveyed the sense of good construction jobs and that their constant repetition of the phrase would leave the impression the stimulus was mostly about building roads, repairing bridges, constructing runways, and extending rail lines.
But the reality is that only $47.4B – of 5.7% of the total stimulus – went towards spending on roads, bridges, railroads, airports and even high speed rail. This was apparent to anyone who even glanced at the stimulus legislation. Surely both the President and the Vice President knew what a small portion of the spending was going to “shovel ready” projects.
Mr. Obama said unemployment was supposed to be around 6.8% right now because of his stimulus. Instead, unemployment was 9.1% last month.
While Mr. Obama overpromised and undelivered on shovel ready projects, it’s no reason for laughter by him or anyone else. His little joke rings hollow for the 13.9 million Americans out of work today.