Putting the cart before the horse

$ 50 billion for infrastructure projects is President Obama’s latest idea. But, as we recalled on Dec. 12th, 2008, using the CCC to build roads and stone walls and bridges didn’t work back then so there’s no reason to think that it’ll work now. The Great Depression persisted. So will this one.

The roads and bridges and stone walls built by the CCCs can still be seen in back woods, out-of-the-way places. This was the youth segment of the WPA and it was strictly make-work. It was a way to preoccupy the young jobless kids who would otherwise be inclined to rouse a lot of rabble.

Nothing was manufactured, mind you. Nothing was turned out that could be marketed for a profit. “Infrastructure” is silent and unmoving. In some cases – like roads and bridges – the structures provided passage, but in other cases – like the stone walls built in our back country and forests – the “infrastructure” just lies there. In every case though, decay and corrosion will set in and the time and effort spent is seen as a total waste. Not a dime’s worth of profit was realized, and no permanent employment resulted.

If you think the last depression was “Great”, wait till you see this one. It has already arrived but our leaders aren’t ready to admit it. They want to get the new WPA organized first. Our President-elect, in fact, has already stated that the nation’s “infrastructure” has top priority on his agenda. Road and bridge construction projects will generate approximately 3.5 million jobs, we’re being told.

What we’re not being told, however, is why overseas factories are cutting production and why the amount of goods arriving at U.S. ports is slowing to a trickle. These declining numbers mean that large numbers of container ships – now considered to be “excess capacity” – are being taken out of service. So if the need for transport over U.S. roads and bridges is becoming less and less of an issue because of decreasing volumes of imports, why spend billions for “infrastructure” projects? For whom, or for what, will these roads and bridges provide passage? Oh , that’s right – let’s not forget the real reason for these projects. It’s about those 3.5 million make-work jobs.

And let’s not forget about cause-and-effect relationships. Those overseas manufacturers didn’t reduce production on a whim. There was a reason (cause) for this reduction in supply, and the reason (cause) was a reduction in demand by U.S. consumers. What’s causing this reduction in demand is the U.S. consumer’s loss of buying power (demand) which was caused in turn by the devastating loss of jobs throughout the U.S.

Building “infrastructure” would be like putting the cart before the horse. The creation of permanent and productive employment is the logical first step in an effort to revive our economy. 3.5 million jobs won’t be enough of a rescue package. Ten times that many jobs would be created by the shipbuilding program we’ve been recommending. Our international patents would preclude competition, and because so many newly-employed people would be demanding products from overseas, our busy U.S.- built, owned, and crewed container ships would require rapid and efficient means of product delivery … and only then would it make sense to upgrade our “infrastructure”.