Hugh’s Modest Proposal

The Democrats are poised to spend something like a trillion dollars to “stimulate” the economy, and at this point no one has any clear idea where it is going to go. My fear is that it will introduce a new phrase into our political lexicon: “crony socialism.” Well, maybe that’s redundant, but you get the idea–the Dems’ friends and patrons get billions, and the rest of us are stuck with the tab.

Hugh Hewitt proposes something much bolder and more productive:

If President Obama was to demand the funding for and enabling legislation to kick start the construction of the dozens of new nuclear power plants this country needs, as well as the wind turbines envisioned by T. Boone Pickens and the grid expansion everyone knows is necessary, not only would he be creating thousands and thousands of great jobs, he’d be powering the U.S. up for a second American century.

The appropriation is only the first step. He’d need not a car czar, but a power czar, tasked with delivering the plants on a schedule and authorized to blow through logjams. To get such a massive and necessary expansion of our power supply underway, he’d also have to have “notwithstanding any other law” language in the appropriations bill, or every one of the new plants would be quickly swamped in the sorts of environmental challenges that bedevil every major infrastructure project in the county. (Here’s just one example –a proposed 88 mile natural gas pipeline from Baltimore to PA, threatened by the Indiana bat and the bog turtle. Those of us who practice law in the world of endangered species and wetlands know this is the rule for big projects, not the exception.)

The good news is that the spending bill that looms is so huge that all but the most ardent environmentalist can be bought off with a set aside of billions for habitat acquisition for any threatened or endangered species impacted by the power project.

You can argue around the edges, but I think Hugh’s point is basically right. If the government is going to spend a trillion dollars, it should build something. We’ve been hearing about America’s “crumbling infrastructure” for how many years now? Isn’t this an opportunity to rebuild at least some of it? And if infrastructure spending is done wisely, it can actually help the economy, like the interstate highway construction of the 1950s. That contrasts with the creation of “green jobs,” which, if it just means subsidizing the inefficient production of energy, destroys wealth rather than creating it.

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