Everything I Know About Construction I Learned In Business School

Watching the news concerning all the jobs the stimulus bill will create, I began to notice a pattern.  Talking heads tell me that the stimulus will get construction workers back to building light rails, highways, and bridges, and put skilled laborers back in factories to build Caterpillar tractors, cars and trucks.

I even heard that the controversial health care reform element of the package (which has created an uproar in the last 24 hours) would help stimulate the economy by keeping a patient from being mixed up with different treatments and keep her healthy and at work—this kind of stunning insight isn’t exactly the kind of thing you hear in a macroeconomics course.

More to the point, the pattern in coverage paints a picture of the stimulus as a bill that provides jobs in construction or manufacturing.  This is undoubtedly appealing news for those who work in construction or skilled labor—the construction and manufacturing sectors have shed around 318,000 jobs in January.

But the tech industry also lost 265,000 jobs over the last several months.  What is this supposed job stimulus doing for them?  Were they supposed to sit around waiting until the construction and manufacturing sectors stimulated the economy?

For that matter, what about the banking sector, the out-of-work salesman, or managers from companies that no longer exist?     Are 50-year-old, out-of-shape computer programmers supposed to start laying asphalt?

The Keynesian economics coming out of the White House and now being put into action by lawmakers on Capitol Hill makes little sense.  Throwing money at a handful of industries won’t get everyone back to work next month, no matter how much hope we have.

If the stimulus bill is supposed to stimulate the economy, then it would need to stimulate all of the economy.  Of course the only way to do that is to start taking a hatchet—not Mr. Obama’s scalpel—to the tax code and to the hundreds of thousands of pages of federal regulations.  We haven’t seen enough “change” for something that radical to occur.

Me?  I’m just glad my MPA had a required course in masonry.