Patterico's Pontifications


Joe Biden Amazed that Red Tape Is Holding Up Infrastructure Projects

Filed under: General — JVW @ 3:00 pm

[guest post by JVW]

National Review Online points us to a CNN Story:

President Joe Biden has privately flashed impatience to his senior advisers as his White House struggles to change public opinion on his economic record ahead of the 2024 election, expressing deep frustration that he can’t show off physical construction of many projects that his signature legislative accomplishments will fund.

The president is said to have griped that even as he travels the country to tout historic pieces of legislation like the bipartisan infrastructure law, it could be years before the residents of some of the communities receiving federal funds see construction begin, according to three sources familiar with Biden’s comments to his top aides.

“There’s immense frustration in that, and he has vocalized that very clearly,” said one administration official.

It’s almost funny, isn’t it? We know that Joe Biden is a man of middling intelligence to begin with, and we of course are acutely aware that he appears to be in ongoing cognitive decline. But for a man who has spent a half-century mucking around in the federal outhouse to only now discover that big government tends to move rather slowly pretty much defies belief. A cynic (like me) might even suggest that Democrats, including the President, knew damn well that these projects wouldn’t be completed on any sort of reasonable schedule, and certainly not as quickly as proponents were promising they would in order to sell this orgy of spending as a stimulus measure to a gullible public. It was never going to be the case that environmentalists, OSHA, and various regulatory busybodies would stand down in the name of expediting these projects. And it was certainly never going to be the case that thousands and thousands of literature, marketing, or social justice majors would suddenly learn how to put up drywall or operate a cement-mixing truck; we were always going to be constrained by the limited number of skilled constructions workers who would be able to take on these projects. California makes this sort of mistake all of the damn time: promise all of this building and public renewal only to run up against the reality that we don’t have the workforce to complete it, and we can’t bring workers in from out of state because it’s too damn expensive to house them here, even temporarily.

Jim Geraghty, who reported on President Biden’s frustration, reminds us that this over-promising and under-delivering is nothing new for progressive big-spenders:

Back in March 2021, a White House “Fact Sheet” — more like an “Assertion Sheet” — claimed, “the president’s plan will accelerate transformative investments, from pre-development through construction, turning “shovel worthy” ideas into “shovel ready” projects.”

Those of us with long memories are having flashbacks, as yet another Democratic president remembers that construction and infrastructure projects, touted as being “shovel ready” and prepared to quickly create lots of jobs, turn out to be more tied up in red tape than expected.

It’s true, I’ll readily admit, that a number of Republicans in Congress were happy with the idea of using federal playmoney to sponsor blue-collar jobs, enough so that their blundering ensured that Democrats were able to talk Joe Manchin into wasting a couple more trillion than otherwise would have been spent. The leading contender for the GOP’s 2024 Presidential nomination has in the past been a strong proponent of this sort of cooperation between government and the private sector, even at the expense of continually blowing up our national debt. So it’s not as if either party has completely clean hands in this matter, though clearly it is Democrats who are the most wasteful, while also being the most joyfully cynical about it.

Just another day in Washington, DC, where nobody seems to be willing to own up to the serious problems we face.


17 Responses to “Joe Biden Amazed that Red Tape Is Holding Up Infrastructure Projects”

  1. This reminds me that sometime this spring we should be getting the annual update on the ongoing failure of the California High-Speed Rail Authority. I’m so looking forward to that.

    JVW (03a183)

  2. To be fair, he has operated at the top of the government pyramid and may not be aware of the pettiness and obstruction that is rampant at the local level. You know, how that homeless housing is held up by NIMBYs local activists demanding that it include gray-water systems and social support facilities at the bare minimum.

    Kevin M (ed969f)

  3. ongoing failure of the California High-Speed Rail Authority

    It will be now limited to a Bakersfield to Tulare line with 47 local stops.

    Kevin M (ed969f)

  4. We know that Joe Biden is a man of middling intelligence to begin with…



    Even at his best, he had the brain wattage of a bag of potato chips. He could only ASPIRE to “middling”.

    The situation is not improving with age.

    alanstorm (f4c424)

  5. Thanks for another on-target post, JVW. If it weren’t for your posts serving as ballast and balance, I’d probably no longer spend any time here….

    ColoComment (429eb7)

  6. I realize that it’s expensive in the short-term, but there are issues with our manufacturing sector that needed some investment in order to make long term investments in communities that should also have long term returns for the countries. And it won’t do our country any harm to have more fabs either.

    Nic (896fdf)

  7. Laws need to be changed so that public projects can be completed faster, like they used to be. It took 24 years to build new span (not even the whole thing!) of the Bay Bridge after the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, which is ridiculous. The original Bay Bridge was completed in three years, the Golden Gate Bridge in four.

    norcal (17ddaf)

  8. I realize that it’s expensive in the short-term, but there are issues with our manufacturing sector that needed some investment in order to make long term investments in communities that should also have long term returns for the countries.

    That’s what venture capital money ought to be for. Not taxpayer money.

    JVW (4514d7)

  9. A civil engineer friend in So Cal told me that a major freeway expansion project he was in charge of took 10 years to get final approval by all concerned parties. Apparently this is typical. And it is why new projects to help with the god-awful traffic on So Cal roads are almost useless by the time they are actually built. By the time it is completed, the traffic has continued to increase and it costs way more than originally estimated. I understand that city road construction and expansion is approved much more quickly.

    Dana (932d71)

  10. @JVW@8 And that’s great in theory, but if the governments of other countries heavily underwrite their industries, it isn’t a level playing field and it distorts the economics. Venture capitalists go where they see the best economic risk/reward.

    Nic (896fdf)

  11. The way the environmental impact laws are written, everyone has standing to intervene, making them a NIMBY heaven. There should be exceptions when needs are critical, and the existing laws need to be toned down.

    If the Constitution is not a suicide pact, then evironmental law shouldn’t be either. And then there’s the only absolute law in the country: the Endangered Species Act, which doesn’t care if you are saving the planet long term if a fish has to die this week.

    Kevin M (ed969f)

  12. Doesn’t Joe Biden remember Barack Obama discovering that there were and are no shovel ready projects any more?

    (There haven’t been since the 1970s when Environmental Impact statements began to be required. Congress had to pass a special law allowing the Alaskan Oil Pipeline to be built.

    And this is an issue with the Mexican wall, too.)

    Sammy Finkelman (1d215a)

  13. In spite of the fact that Environmental Impact statements have been required for50 years, it hasn’t changed any of the way projections are made.

    Sammy Finkelman (1d215a)

  14. Doesn’t Joe Biden remember Barack Obama discovering that there were and are no shovel ready projects any more?

    Well, let’s face it: the concept of Joe Biden “remembering” anything almost prima facie assumes that he will be mis-remembering it. His memory of the Obama shovel ready projects is probably that they were massively successful and that we met the ridiculously sunny projections for economic growth that the Obama Administration promised, rather than the reality that we remained in economic doldrum for the better part of his Presidency.

    JVW (6a5491)

  15. it hasn’t changed any of the way projections are made.

    No, it’s just slowed all progress.

    Kevin M (ed969f)

  16. The cottage industries that have sprung up around federal projects have learned to embrace the delays. That 10 year delay is a 10 years of fat consultant fees and the goal is to spend the entire budget over 5 years, get the next 5 funded, spend that and then get the feds to fund the actual project at some grossly bloated amount

    steveg (f5a088)

  17. Kevin M (ed969f) — 12/21/2023 @ 5:33 pm

    No, it’s just slowed all progress.

    But when arguing for or appropriating money the same projections of cost are made as if these delays were not inevitable.

    … The President is touting this $50 billion expenditure as a way to immediately put thousands of Americans back to work; however, infrastructure experts are skeptical that the money will produce the short-term unemployment fix that the president is promising.

    Harvard economist Martin Feldstein calculated that each job created by President Obama’s American Jobs Act would cost taxpayers $200,000. When asked about this statistic in a September 26, 2011 interview with ABC News, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner did not dispute the figure, and added, “the price tag is the wrong way to measure the bill’s worth.”

    The money would be spent on a variety of infrastructure projects, such as improved highways, railways, and transit systems. The national infrastructure bank, according to Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), would end up functioning as a “public private partnership like Fannie Mae.” Such a comparison should give taxpayers heartburn.

    While the goal of putting Americans back to work as quickly as possible is commendable, experts note that factors such as extensive permitting, environmental hurdles, public hearings, and land acquisition often result in even the simplest of projects taking multiple years to get started,,,,

    Sammy Finkelman (1d215a)

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