November 30, 2008

Obama's upcoming buzzphrase: "human infrastructure"

Establishment media are starting to notice that Obama's plan to add 2.5 million public works jobs in "infrastructure" in 24 months seems implausible. The LA Times observes:

One detail of the recovery plan that may not emerge until closer to Inauguration Day is how the money will be disbursed for infrastructure projects. Such undertakings often require long lead times to prepare engineering studies and environmental surveys and address other technical issues, possibly delaying their stimulative effect.

You don't say?

Consider the Big Dig in the heart of Blue State America, Boston. This 3.5 mile freeway tunnel was conceived in the 1970s, officially proposed in 1982, got federal funding in 1987, and the first dirt was turned in 1991. By the end of 2003 it was more or less usable and by the end of 2004, it was reportedly 95% finished. Then, it started leaking.

It supposedly cost about $14 or $15 billion (assuming it's done, which it probably isn't), up from an initial estimate of $4 billion in today's dollars.

Now, here's an interesting number: at its peak, the Big Dig employed about 5,000 construction workers. That's a lot of construction workers relative to most big projects. But it's a tiny number compared to Obama's 2.5 million number. So, Obama is proposing, in effect, to have 500 Big Digs going full blast in 24 months.

Even assuming away the lead time issue, just notice from the Big Dig that infrastructure is a very, very expensive way to create jobs. This isn't 1935. Public works workers need more than just shovels. The capital requirements for infrastructure jobs are enormous.

The next thing the media are going to notice about infrastructure projects is that they and the rest of Obama's base don't actually want jobs operating, say, a jackhammer. If a journalist gets laid off by his newspaper, is he going to want Obama to give him a jackhammer job? Of course not. He's going to want Obama to get him a job where he sits at a desk with a computer and a phone in an air-conditioned office.

In fact, Obama's people don't want anybody operating a noisy, smelly jackhammer anywhere near them. It's not that they're against infrastructure per se. Indeed, they would like infrastructure to have been built, but Obama People are going to oppose via lawsuits the actual building of infrastructure anywhere close to them, with its attendant racket, odors, and traffic jams. Not in my back yard!

In contrast to infrastructure jobs, Obama will eventually realize, makework office jobs are relatively cheap and easy to create. To employ people to administer programs aimed at, say, enhancing outcomes among our troubled youths, you don't need an environmental impact statement. You don't need to buy a bulldozer for a new worker, just a computer, a desk, and a chair. (Eventually, you'll need guys with jackhammers to come build another office building for all the new staffers, but you can squeeze them in for awhile.) And every bureaucracy already has lots of existing plans on file to hire more staffers to help them do whatever it is they do.

And Obama's kind of people like office jobs administering social work programs a lot more than they like jackhammer jobs. So, it's a win-win proposition!

Therefore, expect to hear the term "human infrastructure" a lot this winter as the Obama Administration starts to realize that actual infrastructure projects aren't going to make much of a dent in the unemployment rate before the 2010 elections, but hiring a ton of people to staff, say, innovative programs to foster excellence in public schools are an easy way to provide jobs for the boys (and girls).

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer


Anonymous said...

Steve, can you offer any advice as to how we can get nice gigs supervising all that human infrastructure? Do you think all the hiring will be into civil service jobs, or do you suppose Obama would be open to contracting-out?

Anonymous said...

Will any white workers be eligible for human infrastructure jobs?

Anonymous said...

On the news the other day I heard that China is planning to build the world's biggest nuclear power plant - 3rd generation French technology, with the 'passive' borated water safety system that the engineers assure us will make sure that 'meltdown' or near 'meltdown' can never occur again.
Apparently earth will be turned next year and the project finished by 2012.Compare this to England where by all accounts the English *talk* about building a nuclear power plant for 20 years - and maybe then produce a 'parliamentary report' on the project which is usually promptly shelved indefinitely when a new admisistration gets in, only for the same bureaucratic cycle of scream and counter scream to begin again 30 years down the road when half of the original planners are dead.
Anyhow oil might be down to $50 a barrel now, but we all rememember what happened a few months ago, when the cry went up 'Why hasn't nuclear been developed?'
At least with their 'fiscal stimulus' (unlike supposedly 'richer' Britain China actually has the cash to do these things at the drop of a hat), the chinese are actually building something of great utility for future generations.

Anonymous said...

My understanding is that it's hard to get federal jobs if you're not a minority or a veteran. Not sure if you want to enlist right now with the war still going on.

This is an interesting prediction from Steve; sounds sensible. Let's see if he's right...

Anonymous said...

According to the LA Times: "Such undertakings often require long lead times to prepare engineering studies and environmental surveys"

Ha ha, that's an understatement! Depending on the type of construction it can takes years to beat off the environmental groupies and angry local residents. And getting the financing done is also not that easy since most banks are loathe to invest in a low-tech industry such as construction with razor-thin margins. From what I understand it’s not like the US gov. has all that money lying around in Washington drawers.

Anyway, maybe Obama and the NYT can ask their environmental nut friends to just lay off their routine and give the new prince the break he needs to show those pesky racist whites that the new overlord is the better leader. As they say: different strokes for different folks.

Anonymous said...

A bit OT, but I believe some istevedores are keen on the Border Fence. I've no idea if this is a good idea, and I'm not really concerned, but in my helpful way may I suggest you recast it as an infrastructure project? Forget some cheap fence, go for the Great Wall of the Rio Grande, visible from outer space, with a light railway running along the top, towers with revolving restaurants etc. Don't just think big, think grandiose.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post Steve! You nailed it right there, with the numbers to go! Like I said before, infrastructure projects are lousy for job creation. Certainly in Germany and even in the US. Since as you point out nobody is going to start hiring shovel operators, which are basically just illegals, to replace excavators. And infrastructure jobs usually pull lots of political corruption, which is another problem for Obama already.

So we are just going to have more civil service growth, or in other terms bureaucracy. In that sense Obama is sticking to his African roots. If anything, the so-called post-colonial liberation regimes created nothing but bureaucracy. At the expense of the EU, UN and US, that’s their tax-dollars.

Anonymous said...

Nice prediction, Steve. I believe it. "Human infrastructure" has the perfect bland, vague, technical-yet-warm sound that bureaucrats just love. The administration should really hire you.

Anonymous said...

Re: fostering excellence in inner city schools.

UNCF slogan: "A mind is a terrible ting to waste."

Honest translation: "A terrible mind is a thing to waste."

Stopped Clock said...

Leaking wasnt the worst of the problem. The concrete ceilings of the tunnels were working their way loose and one of them actually fell on a woman as she was driving through.

Then, most of the tunnels were shut down for a while so construction workers could fix the ceilings and the resulting traffic jams caused another death as an ambulance got stuck in the mess.

Anonymous said...

"John of London said...

A bit OT, but I believe some istevedores are keen on the Border Fence. I've no idea if this is a good idea, and I'm not really concerned, but in my helpful way may I suggest you recast it as an infrastructure project?"

It is a good idea. As the poet Robert Frost observed - in a now trite aphorism - "Good fences make good neighbors". To make it more contemporary, I would ammend this saying to read: Good double-layer fences topped with concertina wire, backed by land-mines and machine-gun nests make good neighbors.

However, the fence is now dead. In the last appropriations bill, the actual paying for it was put at the discretion of the Secretary of Homeland Security. The re-animated corpse who now fills that office, Michael Chertoff, hates the fence, and so will any Obama apointee.

There will be no fence.

Anonymous said...

Good post Steve.

In my home state of Montana the big spending Bush administration had so much money pumped into DOT funding that the gripe a couple of years ago was that MT DOT couldn't spend it fast enough, and might have to turn some funding back. Every engineer and road crew was occupied for the foreseeable future.

Anonymous said...

"Will any white workers be eligible "
as with universities, white WOMEN will be eligable..and gee, imagine that, the only males around are non white...its not to encourage anything... but 'hybrid vigor' might be a happy side effect on our long march to eliminate racism.

Truth said...

Which economist was it that said that the best way to stimulate economic growth was to hire one crew of workers to dig holes, and another crew to fill them?

Anonymous said...

The Big Dig is a shining model of speed and low cost and competency in comparison to New York's Second Avenue Subway.

Anonymous said...

And all these "human infrastructure" jobs can easily be outsourced to India....

Anonymous said...

Two Shout-Outs

John of London: Great Idea!

Piper: The feds have a strict whiteRpeople set-aside program but Oppressor-Americans need not apply!

Anonymous said...

It isn't 1935 now, but give it a year.

kurt9 said...


Being from SoCal, you certainly remember all of the contortions the Century Freeway project went through before it could be built. You are also correct that, since being mechanized, construction projects do not employ that many people for the size of the project being built.

There is one possible exception to this: Building subsidized solar energy plants on federal land in Arizona and Nevada. As you know, the feds own something like 85% of Nevada and Arizona. Getting the Fed to change the land-use rules on its own land to allow construction of solar energy plants will be relatively easy compared to buying that land through eminent domain from private owners. Solar energy, being the pet "green" thing, is likely to be popular in the Obama administration. Thus, a "public works" program to build solar plants in the desert is likely to be at least to be discussed.

Of course, all of those laid off office workers are not suddenly going to do construction work. So, such a solar energy public works project is really a new deal for Mexican immigrant workers.

You're right, of course. It is unlikely that there will be any public works projects involving construction of physical infrastructure. So the mantra we will hear this winter and early spring will be "human infrastructure" (I love the phrase - good one, Steve).

Anonymous said...

John of London wrote:

"I've no idea if this is a good idea, and I'm not really concerned..."


I'm sure he's concerned about "climate change" though. And whales!

And being in London isn't an excuse. They tell me that London is quickly turning into a third-world city.

Anonymous said...

"A bit OT, but I believe some istevedores are keen on the Border Fence. I've no idea if this is a good idea, and I'm not really concerned, but in my helpful way may I suggest you recast it as an infrastructure project? Forget some cheap fence, go for the Great Wall of the Rio Grande, visible from outer space, with a light railway running along the top, towers with revolving restaurants etc. Don't just think big, think grandiose."

Excellent idea!

Slightly off-topic: Mark Krikorian is reporting over at NRO's Corner that the 2010 Census will mail bilingual Census forms to homes that don't respond to the first mailing. The Census Bureau also wants a halt in immigration law enforcement so illegals won't be scared when papers from the government show up in their mail.
"Community outreach" don'tcha know!

-Vanilla Thunder

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous said...

John of London wrote:

"I've no idea if this is a good idea, and I'm not really concerned..."

Anonymous, I think you have misinterpereted John of London. I believe what he meant by "I'm not really concerned" is "as it does not directly concern me", concern in this instance meaning "have an effect on". I've read many of John's posts, and his opinions are generally in sympathy with the immigration-restrictionist view that prevails on this board.

albertosaurus said...

One clear indication of bad government is the emergence of the neologism. Just as a neologism is an indicator of insanity, the government neologism is an indicator of programmatic failure or wishful thing. The particular neologism chosen can be diagnostic of the underlying problem.

We used to have state and federal Unemployment Departments. If you were unemployed and looked that name up in the phone book you could find the address. Soon however it became the Employment Department (more positive don't you know). As people and employers learned that these Employment Departments were singularly poor at their mission's a new name was needed. They then became Human Resources Departments. Alas the acronym was troublesome. Employers were reluctant to get prospective employees from the herd.

This reminds me of that other acronym failure - the Work Incentive Program - even though historically the whip has long been a powerful incentive to work.

The Human Resources Department name has stuck and spread even though it sounds like like an ante-bellum slave agency.

Now we are to have Human Infrastucture. As a term it is just quirky enough to distract the public from the realizaton that it is an oxymoron. It's rather like that other term Human Capital.

The conventional meaning of the term infrastructure is a framework of technical systems that allow society to function.

Capital is only effective in building wealth when it is supported by roads, rails, electricity, and water. In classical economics wealth is created by Land, Labor and Capital. Infrastructure is a modern term for some of the elements that are part of the meaning of Land.

If you want to build a business you need Capital (cash money, a bank loan, a stock issuance, a venture capitalst, etc..), you need Land (a physical site served by transportation and utilities - called nowadays infrastructure) and finally you need Labor(a work force).

Calling Labor by the name Land is another manifestation of an underlying belief in the Labor Theory of Value - one of the core tenets of Marxism.

Anonymous said...

The troof is out there..
"The shift in resources, which would come partly out of the military's huge budget, would create a greatly expanded corps of diplomats and aid workers that, in the vision of the incoming Obama administration, would be engaged in projects around the world aimed at preventing conflicts and rebuilding failed states. Obama also said he was nominating Susan Rice, blah blah..." IHT 0112

We are all diplomats now!

p.s. 'failed states', is that a code for Cali?

Anonymous said...

Except Steve, that program of Obama's is a political disaster. He's rapidly approaching Marion Barry levels of competence in politics.

He is buying according to Drudge, his wife Michelle an $80,000 diamond ring. In the midst of a severe depression.

Now, makework stuff for community organizers, no White guys need apply, might conceivably employ a couple of million of his backers, who are already his backers, but leaves unemployed, angry, and desperate the kind of guys who make up the majority -- the blue collar White guys and white collar White guys.

In all these layoffs, Obama provides ... Black and Hispanic plus a few feminists make-work office jobs doling out welfare. Wow.

THAT right there is a recipe for social unrest and evolution. Already the WSJ is reporting that the Chinese are scared of all the migrant workers, returning home, broke, angry, and desperate.

Unless Obama can jump start any kind of massive employment program, he's in for a bonus Army of some sort, marches on Washington, angry unemployed White guys who had it all and now don't. With Affirmative Action barring them from government and other jobs.

That's affordable in good times, not bad ones, and Obama has no political clue. Human infrastructure won't cut it because it does not take care of the majority, who Palin or Huckabee or Romney or Rudy can claim easily, all the more with Open Borders threatening to erase any ability to take lower-paying jobs to get by (see Guzzardi's column in VDARE on the ethnic nepotism effect on hiring in manual labor jobs).

It's true White women (who are mostly single) will back Obama, but he faces losing White men quickly if he does not produce. Which means jobs. Patronage stuff for his backers won't cut it.

Anonymous said...

Valid points. However don't underestimate the boldness and sheer arrogance of AA recipients. The best comparison you guys can make is with South Africa, though the racial composition is just the opposite way round, which should be helpful to you. I have a feeling though that Americans and Europeans are loath to look at South Africa for advice in tricky racial conflicts. It’s probably due to them being used to looking down on South African whites as being primitive racists. Little did they realise that whites there were just much further along the racial conflict curve and had made their decisions based on that experience. Rhodesians were even further along the curve. These 2 groups are good case studies because they were also settlers and not colonialists like the British, who always had a bank account in London and the British passport in their back pockets. Most Rhodesians and South Africans did not have those luxuries.

Another reason is that most Americans supported sanctions against Apartheid and agreed that whites there should be punished. So it’s a little hard for them to admit they were wrong and make and about face.

But the point is that radical AA with blacks who took the presidency by hook and crook is a well known factor with whites in South Africa, Rhodesia and basically all over Africa. It’s just usually much more violent in Africa, but then there were credible threats out there that if Obama loses there would be riots. Mugabe threatened the rural blacks with a continuation of his terror campaign if they voted for the black Bishop Sithole who had good relations with whites. Sounds similar.

South African whites have managed to deal with the new corrupt and incompetent leadership far better than most blacks. The ones in charge are burning money like crazy and accomplish nothing. The country is reverting back to the jungle. But a surprising number of whites prosper, in spite of hideous AA-legalism, direct racial discrimination against whites, collapsing infrastructure and out of control crime and government corruption. Over 50% of white males are self-employed. Most married white men are working for themselves and their white wives are making use of AA where it’s still possible, though the government is trying to close that window for white women as well. They realised that white women were helping out their white men and of course shutting down AA for white women shows that the government was just out to get whitey and not "correct imbalances of the past".

All of this is just plain vanilla in-your-face racial conflict and none of the racial harmony shit Obama and Mandela have been talking about. And if whites had any sense they would fight for the spoils instead of trying to feel morally superior.

Anonymous said...

Sure enough, "Intellectual infrastructure" rears its head in the Gray Lady.

Audacious Epigone said...

Nancy Pelosi used the phrase in an interview with NPR this morning:

Pelosi also noted that investments in the country's physical and human infrastructure create jobs faster and "bring a bigger bang for the buck" than tax cuts, so health and education "have a strong piece of the recovery package."

You can actually hear the Speaker say it in the audio archive (same link).