Two years later, Obama can joke about the fact that the shovels were not as ready as he thought. In reality, the shovels were never ready. It can take forever to get all the environmental approvals to build anything in today's political and legal climate.
If Obama didn't know that, his advisers surely did. He can treat it as a joke today but it is no joke for those who are saddled with the debts produced by his runaway spending in the name of "shovel-ready projects."
Nor is it a joke to the unemployed, who remain unemployed despite all the "stimulus" spending.
The talk about the many "green jobs" created by the government is likewise no joke. Since the government creates no wealth, it can only transfer the wealth required to hire people. Even if the government creates a million jobs, that is not a net increase in jobs, when the money that pays for those jobs is taken from the private sector, which loses that much ability to create private jobs.
Back in the 1930s, Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration hired more young men in the Civilian Conservation Corps than there were in the U.S. Army. But that never brought unemployment down into single digits at any point during that entire decade. As late as the spring of 1939, the unemployment rate was 20 percent.
Government-created jobs did not mean a net increase in jobs then -- or now. But this is only mundane reality. What makes a great political talking point is government coming to the rescue of the unemployed by creating jobs. That talking point helps politicians get reelected, even if it does nothing for the economy in general or for the unemployment rate.
Among the biggest triumphs of talking points over reality are political discussions of rent control and gun control. Rent control supposedly rescues helpless tenants from the high rents charged by "greedy" landlords -- at least in political rhetoric.
But the two cities which have the oldest and strongest rent control laws in the country also have the highest rents -- New York and San Francisco. Yet that plain reality has not made a dent in the thinking, or lack of thinking, of those who support rent control.