Thursday, August 25, 2011

Is "shovel-ready" still possible with today's regulations?

In the 1930's, FDR was able to create thousands upon thousands of jobs and stimulate the economy through infrastructure projects such as the Hoover Dam. In 2009, a similar attempt by Obama fell flat. Projects that were said to be "shovel-ready" were in fact nowhere near. According to this Wall Street Journal article, those projects failed to get off the ground largely because of a maze of environmental regulations and bureaucratic procedures that did not exist in the New Deal era. The effect of these regulations is substantial; according to a firm that advises on public works projects, a new bridge or a road through an urban area often requires five to seven years of planning before it is ready for a shovel. It is possible, says the author, that the Hoover Dam could not even be built today.

Obama is pushing for a new round of infrastructure spending to stimulate the economy, but any stimulus is unlikely to happen as long as these delays remain in place. I can't help but wonder what will happen to the country's infrastructure if it takes five years of bureaucratic haggling to even get started on a project.

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