Jens 'n' Frens
Idle thoughts of a relatively libertarian Republican in Cambridge, MA, and whomever he invites. Mostly political.

"A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures."
  -- Daniel Webster

Thursday, September 15, 2011 :::

Megan McArdle (well, mostly a correspondent) explains why infrastructure spending takes so long - in particular, why it's already too late to pass a bill to fund any serious school refurbishing next summer.

One thought:
I am assuming that there will be waivers of all the usual federal procurement processes to put this money to work. That is a huge assumption. I cannot imagine that there will be any waivers of the environmental hazard remediation inspections or the minority hiring or disadvantaged business subcontracting requirement. Maxine Waters will scream if no one else.
It's not at all my main point, but I'd like to start by pointing out that every time Maxine Waters screams, an angel gets its wings.

My more important reaction to that point is that - like most things that make Maxine Waters scream - rolling back some of the more onerous regulations that prevent projects from being shovel-ready ought to at least be proposed. In addition to minority set-asides, Davis-Bacon comes to mind. There are also a lot of regulations unrelated to federal contracting that make employing people more expensive. Often, these regulations aren't so much onerous for what they require as for the administrative overhead and legal risk they confer; for example, most businesses would be happy to make reasonable accommodations for disabled people, but the ADA provides a cause for legal action without even allowing the business a warning that they may have made a mistake. A very few businesses have been telling job applicants not to bother sending in applications unless they are already employed. In response, Obama has proposed that the vast majority of businesses who don't issue automatic rejections to the unemployed be ready to prove it in court while those who do issue automatic rejections would be required to waste applicants' time.

Some of these costly and burdensome regulations might be repealable (or, as with the ADA, amendable to be less burdensome without doing much harm to their ostensible purpose). If they aren't, they should be campaign issues next fall. Some members of the administration may want to frame the options as exactly what Obama has proposed or nothing at all, but that obviously isn't true (and note that, later in that article, Obama disputes Axelrod's comment). Obama's proposal seems to have some bad things (see the previous paragraph), some good ideas, botched, and, perhaps, some good things. Nobody should pass exactly his bill and only his bill just because (s)he was mesmerized by his repeating "pass this bill right now" a week before he proposed his bill, nor should anyone reject his bill out of hand and fail to support better ideas, either because she is running for president and trying to define herself as his diametric opposite or because whenever Obama attacks one of his legion of straw-men, (s)he sees in that straw-man a role model. Obama's good ideas should be supported; good ideas that Obama doesn't support should be pushed anyway, and, if vetoed or not passed, campaigned on; and anything that makes Maxine Waters scream should be pushed hard.

::: posted by Steven at 10:41 PM

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Idle thoughts of a relatively libertarian Republican in Cambridge, MA, and whomever he invites. Mostly political.

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