Even though the U.S. employment situation continues to worsen – the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 10.3 million people (6.7 percent of the potential work force) are unemployed – it soon may be a good time to be a construction worker.
President-elect Barack Obama wants a $700 billion economic recovery package passed by Congress and ready for his signature the day he takes office. The money would go toward infrastructure funding in transportation, schools, roadways and similar areas, creating a massive public works program along the lines of the Works Progress Administration that created millions of jobs during the Great Depression.
(For perspective’s sake, CNN noted earlier this week that the U.S. government spent $597 billion on the Iraq war during the past five years, $237 billion to develop the space program and land a man on the moon, and $217 billion to make the Louisiana Purchase. The latter two amounts are adjusted for inflation.)
Needless to state, this proposal for massive job creation in the infrastructure industry via what essentially is another federal government bailout is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for states to catch up on long-delayed maintenance and improvement projects. It is the kind of opportunity Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich might call “(bleeping) golden.”
Blagojevich reportedly gave the Obama transition team a list of about 300 transportation projects for which he would like Illinois to receive federal funding. Lumped together, the relatively short-term projects would cost an estimated $2.4 billion and put about 94,000 people to work, according to the Chicago Tribune.
However, the Tribune reports there is concern among planning and transportation experts that Illinois could mess up a much-needed infusion of federal dollars for infrastructure improvements because of “the state’s track record of too much politicking and too little discipline over project selection.” That poor track record is evidenced by almost a decade of delayed and deferred roadway maintenance and mass transit expansion projects during the Blagojevich and George Ryan administrations.
I’m sure the ongoing Blagogate saga doesn’t help the state’s chances of getting a lot of the federal funds it wants, either. Blagojevich’s refusal to step down as governor, and the resulting consideration of his impeachment by state legislators, mean there is even less of a chance a state capital plan for infrastructure projects will be created in the near future. Nor will such a plan be appearing on the list of 25 accomplishments as governor that Blagojevich’s lawyers are going to give the House impeachment committee in an effort to show Blagojevich has always been working to make people’s lives better. (Excuse me while I laugh.)
Speaking of the Blagojevich list, the embattled governor addressed that topic Friday in a short, impromptu interview with ABC7 political reporter Andy Shaw.
“I think the accomplishments for people speak for themselves,” Blagojevich said. “If that’s impeachable then I’m on the wrong planet and living in the wrong place.”
At least he got that last part right about living in the wrong place. Feel free to move elsewhere, Blago – preferably to a prison cell.