… Hoppin’ down the money trail?

The “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act” is supposed to provide $ 100 million in assistance grants to small shipyards. The Act will also give States $ 60 million for ferry and ferry terminal projects, it will give the Coast Guard $ 450 million for acquisition, construction and improvements, and it will give $ 456 billion to the Corps of Engineers, (that’s billion, with a “b”).

Don’t be surprised if less than a hundred jobs are generated by that $ 456,510,000,000 in gratuities handed over to States, the Coast Guard and the Corps of Engineers. And don’t be surprised if the amount of profit is negligible.

If, however, $ 100 million were to be set aside to revitalize each of, say, 65 shipyard sites around the U.S., approximately 24 million new jobs would be created. 24 million? That’s a coincidence. That’s about how many there are in the U.S. labor force who are out job-hunting right now.

In today’s New York Times, Louis Uchitelle provides some interesting numbers that were just released by the Congressional Budget Office and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to those sources, more than 24 million men and women, or 15.6 percent of the labor force, are either hunting for work, or working fewer hours than they would like to work, or are too discouraged to seek work, although they would take jobs if offered to them.

The number of job-seekers in this underutilized group is up by 10 million since early last year, the government sources said, and even if the nation’s employers stopped dismissing more than 600,000 jobs each month and instead began hiring in earnest, it would take several years to generate work for so many people.

Review those World War II years again. Our wartime shipbuilding program put considerably more than 24 million people to work, and it didn’t take “several years”. It was more like several weeks. Hardly any of them knew the difference between an “aft” and a “stern”, and all required extensive training in order to participate in the construction of so many different types of warships. But they got the job done. U.S. shipyard workers turned out sophisticated warships at the rate of about 1,000 per year over a five-year period.

So let’s say that those 65 shipyard facilities, at $ 100 million apiece, get a total of 6,500,000,000. $ 6.5 billion, please note, is much, much less than the $ 450 billion being delivered to the Corps of Engineers, and much, much less than the seven and the eight hundred billion dollar bailouts we’ve been reading about, so it isn’t as though a program to revitalize shipyards is overly expensive or unaffordable.

Such a program will be extremely profitable, though. Considering the fact that our patented vessels will outperform any containership ever designed, and that Jones Act vessels must be built in U.S. shipyards, must be owned by U.S. people, and must be crewed by U.S. personnel, the revitalization of our shipbuilding industry is guaranteed to revitalize our nation’s economy.