Signs of the Times

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The other day,
wending my way from Woodsville, N.H., 40 miles south to Plymouth,
I came across several "stimulus" projects – every
few miles, and heralded by a two-tone sign, a hitherto rare sight
on Granite State highways. The orange strip at the top said "PUTTING
AMERICA BACK TO WORK" with a silhouette of a man with a shovel,
and the green part underneath informed you that what you were about
to see was a "PROJECT FUNDED BY THE AMERICAN RECOVERY AND REINVESTMENT
ACT." There then followed a few yards of desolate, abandoned
scarified pavement, followed by an "END OF ROAD WORKS"
sign, until the next "stimulus" project a couple of bends
down a quiet rural blacktop.

I don’t know
why one of the least fiscally debauched states in the Union needs
funds from "the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act"
to repair random stretches of highway, especially stretches that
were perfectly fine until someone came along to dig them up in order
to access "stimulus" funding. I would have asked one of
those men with a shovel, as depicted on the sign. But there were
none to be found. Usually in New Hampshire, they dig up the road,
regrade or repave it, while the flagmen stand guard until it’s all
done. But here a certain federal torpor seemed to hang in the eerie
silence.

Still, what
do I know? Evidently, it’s stimulated the sign-making industry,
putting America back to work by putting up "PUTTING AMERICA
BACK TO WORK" signs every 200 yards across the land. And at
300 bucks a pop the signage alone should be enough to launch an
era of unparalleled prosperity, assuming America’s gilded sign magnates
don’t spend their newfound wealth on Bahamian vacations and European
imports. Perhaps if the president were to have his All-Seeing O
logo lovingly hand-painted onto each sign, it would stimulate the
economy even more, if only when they were taken down and auctioned
on eBay.

Meanwhile,
in Brazil, India, China, Japan and much of Continental Europe the
recession has ended. In the second quarter this year, both the French
and German economies grew by 0.3 percent, while the U.S. economy
shrank by 1 percent. How can that be? Unlike America, France and
Germany had no government stimulus worth speaking of, the Germans
declining to go the Obama route on the quaint grounds that they
couldn’t afford it. They did not invest in the critical signage-in-front-of-holes-in-the-road
sector.

And yet their
recession has gone away. Of the world’s biggest economies, only
the U.S., Britain and Italy are still contracting. All three are
big stimulators, though Gordon Brown and Silvio Berlusconi can’t
compete with Obama’s $800 billion porkapalooza. The president has
borrowed more money to spend to less effect than anybody on the
planet.

Actually, when
I say "to less effect," that’s not strictly true: Due
to Obama, one of the least-indebted developed nations is now one
of the most indebted – and getting ever more so. We’ve become
the third most debt-ridden country, after Japan and Italy. According
to last month’s IMF report, general government debt as a percentage
of GDP will rise from 63 percent in 2007 to 88.8 percent this year
and to 99.8 percent of GDP next year.

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the rest of the article

September
3, 2009

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