Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Infrastructure Jobs

I was cleaning out my email inbox, and ran across my congress-critter's latest update on the Stimulus.

I think there's good news and bad news in the stimulus. I agree with all of the efforts to help people who are being hurt (through no fault of their own) by the recession; lets extend unemployment benefits, etc.

But then there are claims like this one:
Modernizing Roads and Bridges – creates 835,000 jobs through investment in transportation, with $30 billion for highway construction.
My idealistic vision is that the government will hire lots of unemployed people to build or fix highways and bridges. But EIGHT HUNDRED THOUSAND?

How many people are currently employed building or fixing highways and bridges? Well... five years ago there were 410,822 (according to the Census Bureau). Their total payroll was about 15 billion dollars (which jives with the notion that if we spend $30 billion we can hire twice that many people).

So the plan is to triple the number of people working on roads for a couple of years and then fire most of them when the economy picks up again?

More funding for roads and bridges is a good idea, but we should find a sustainable way of paying for it-- it would make a lot more sense to raise the gas tax or implement a carbon tax rather than claim that we can hire and train 800,000 people quickly enough to help pull us out of this recession.

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