American Elephants

The Morbid, Miserable Story of Your Tax Dollars at Work. by The Elephant's Child

Last year, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn announced proudly that Seattle had won a coveted $20 million federal grant to invest in weatherization.  As the left-leaning online newspaper the Seattle Post Intelligencer wrote:

The unglamorous work of insulating crawl spaces and attics had emerged as a silver bullet in a bleak economy – able to create jobs and shrink carbon footprint – and the announcement came with great fanfare. McGinn had joined Vice President Joe Biden in the White House to make it. It came on the eve of Earth Day. It had heady goals: creating 2,000 living-wage jobs in Seattle and retrofitting 2,000 homes in poorer neighborhoods.

But more than a year later, Seattle’s numbers are lackluster. As of last week, only three homes had been retrofitted and just 14 new jobs have emerged from the program. Many of the jobs are administrative, and not the entry-level pathways once dreamed of for low-income workers. Some people wonder if the original goals are now achievable.

Michael Woo, director of “Got Green,” a Seattle community organizing group focused on the environment and social justice  said “The jobs haven’t surfaced yet.”

“Who’s benefitting from this program right now – it doesn’t square with what the aspiration was,” said Howard Greenwich, the policy director of “Puget Sound Sage,” an economic-justice group. He urged the city to revisit its social-equity goals. “I think what it boils down to is who’s got the money.

The Washington Athletic Club and some hospitals got financing, but half the money is reserved for lower-income homeowners.

Of course they didn’t get around to rolling out the program until April.  Lower income homeowners probably aren’t up for even favorable loans.  So far, only 337 people have applied for the program, and fourteen had gotten a loan or were in the process of getting one. They hope it will pick up in the fall.

It has been a chilly summer here in the Northwest, so perhaps it will pick up in the fall. This has been an intrusion on the existing insulation market.  Did the government not know that there were already people who do this work?  When I had my attic reinsulated last year, the contractor said he was having a really hard time finding employees.

To create 2,000 jobs, the city would need to retrofit 100 to 200 homes a month, but the people targeted by the program — low income workers — will get good jobs, well, just as soon as they find some low-income homeowners willing to take on loans. Mr. Woo thinks the city needs to throw more money on incentives.  Maybe it will come from the $60 new fee for car tabs. That’s supposed to go for fixing potholes, since the road-fixing money goes for bike trails and other amenities.

This is what you get with top-down big government innovation and big ideas.

Day Two: Here’s The Real World’s Most Ominous MotorCoach. by The Elephant's Child

There has been some confusion about the bus itself on President Obama’s three-day bus tour of the Midwest. The Secret Service has ordered up two new armored buses for the transportation of the president and the challenger, at a cost of $1.1 million each. But we were told that the new bus was not in use yet, and President Obama was having to travel in his old bus. One article on the bus tour had the picture which we pictured in the previous post, but that is incorrect. Sorry about that.  Apparently the new buses are ready and in use. And, goodness, are they scary-looking. is greeting the president with a welcome YouTube video, with a tip of the hat to Ed Driscoll who has a delightfully snarky article here.

Nobody but Jay Carney sees this tour as anything but a taxpayer-funded political campaign trip, including the BBC and Chris Matthews.  The president’s arrogant belief that the people are so uninformed that he can say anything and he will be believed is more than a little off-putting.  He may actually believe that the new plan for jobs that he will present when everyone gets back in September, will lead to jobs and he needs lots of spending money to put it into effect.  And the Republicans are to be blamed because they aren’t giving him the money he needs.

As far as the new plan, I’m betting on a Department of Jobs, and an Infrastructure Bank — lots of new jobs in government to fill the new Department of Jobs and the Bank of Shovel-Ready Jobs.  If you are keeping track, you might notice that this president does not change his mind.  He still believes in exactly the same ideas he came in with.

Here is the actual world’s most ominous-looking motorcoach passing by a Ford dealership in  Zumbrota, Minnesota. One commenter at YouTube called it aptly —”the funeral procession for the economy.”

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