Back in October, when Obama admitted that he had to learn on the job that shovel-ready jobs don't exist, then-Democratic Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell -- a leader in the push for the stimulus -- told the New York Times it was all a terrible misunderstanding. "When we said 'shovel ready' we meant 'shovel ready' in the way we do things." He added, "I don't think we meant to be deceptive."
You've got to love the "I don't think" there.
The "way we do things" involves endless paperwork, union regulations, environmental red tape and the like. That's why it only took 410 days to build the Empire State building and 16 months to build the Pentagon but nearly 20 years to complete Boston's Big Dig. Lord knows how long it will be for the government to finish work on Ground Zero.
The point is that the president and his team came into office insisting that they were on top of things and above mere ideological considerations. When confronted with skepticism about the existence of "shovel-ready" projects, they in effect rolled their eyes and scoffed at the backseat drivers.
But they were the ones who were blinded by ideology. One need not be an ideologue to understand that public works contracting has become bloated and inefficient. Indeed, one must be an ideologue of a certain kind not to understand that. Or one has to be incredibly naive. Or both.
Perhaps that's why Obama's real economic agenda never changed to fit the economic crisis. During the campaign he promised to reform health care and fight for a green economy. After the financial crisis, the "pragmatist" stuck to his outdated agenda, saying -- surprise! -- what the economy needs is the same agenda he promised before. So while he kept saying he was obsessed with job creation, he spent all of his political capital on health care reform and energy. All the while, the White House tries to spin its agenda as something it's not.
For instance, you know where this jobs council meeting took place? At Cree Inc., an LED light bulb maker. Under the supposedly jobs-boosting stimulus, Cree received $5.2 million. According to Recovery.gov, that $5.2 million created 3.02 jobs. That's $1,716,171 per job.
There's a funny joke in there somewhere, but I don't think Obama wants to tell it.