The economy is shaping up to be Barack Obama's Katrina. If President George W. Bush was blamed for his slow response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 -- there was plenty of blame to go around, of course, but the disaster was on Bush's watch--then Obama will get the blame for his slow response to the current recession. The difference, of course, is that Katrina afflicted a city and a few states, while the recession afflicts the whole country.
Unemployment is 9.5 percent and rising fast, certain to go higher than 10 percent. And what is the federal government doing about it? Not much. And so House Republican Leader John Boehner makes a good point when he asks, "Where are the jobs?"
On Sunday, Vice President Joe Biden said that the Obama administration had "misread" the economic indicators. So what are they likely to do about it? More of the same--which is to say, not much.
The problem the Democrats have--and come to think of it, the country has it, too--is that even if you want to build something, you can't do it. That is, you can't do it without plowing through years' worth of lawyers and environmental-impact-statement-writers, nor without enduring endless hearings and lawsuits where every last NIMBY gets a whack at the project. And so even before this terrible recession, America's capacity actually to build anything--build a highway, build a bullet train, build a power plant -- had been crippled.
So piling on new money does no good, because the old money hasn't been getting spent. Getting spent, that is, on bricks and mortar and technology, as opposed to lawyers and consultants. In the past, "stimulus" was a way to put blue collars and hardhats back to work. Yet now, the only people being stimulated are white-collar lobbyists and litigators.
To be sure, Obama's federal government will spend a lot of money. The feds are asking for $3.5 trillion for fiscal year 2010, and that's not counting the $787 billion "stimulus" package, as well as trillions in funny-money income transfers to big banks--including such improbable "banks" as General Electric, parent company to NBC, MSNBC, and CNBC--through shadowy organizations, such as the Federal Reserve Bank and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
But all that money is pushing the wettest of wet noodles--because governments, surrounded as they are by Greens and NIMBYs, can't do anything.