A Surge in Public Works Jobs Too?


From a Wash Post piece outlining the generally negative reception about a potential troop surge in Iraq comes this tidbit about plans to restart the moribund– (update based on comments below) or is that booming, or maybe both at the same time?Iraqi economy:

A fourth option would add major funds to a short-term work program to hire Iraqis to clean up trash or do repairs after U.S. and Iraqi troops secure neighborhoods. This Pentagon-run program is a way to lure unemployed men who had joined militias back into the mainstream economy, at least briefly, with the U.S. intention that Iraq would eventually spend its own money to create permanent jobs.

Whole thing here.

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  1. Moribund economy? It’s been growing lately. Come on, you’re an English major, you know what the word means.

  2. No doubt we’ll be treated to the sight of self-described “libertarian” hawks explaining how government make-work projects are part of creating a liberal society.

  3. restart the moribund Iraqi economy

    There was a Newsweek article going around not too long ago talking about how the Iraqi economy is actually growing quite a lot.

    Civil war or not, Iraq has an economy, and-mother of all surprises-it’s doing remarkably well. Real estate is booming. Construction, retail and wholesale trade sectors are healthy, too, according to a report by Global Insight in London. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce reports 34,000 registered companies in Iraq, up from 8,000 three years ago. Sales of secondhand cars, televisions and mobile phones have all risen sharply. Estimates vary, but one from Global Insight puts GDP growth at 17 percent last year and projects 13 percent for 2006. The World Bank has it lower: at 4 percent this year.

  4. In Nick’s defense, moribund does sound snarky, and as a trip to Dkos will illustrate, snark is important to acceptance.

  5. So Larry and Steven, are you saying the Bush Administration is stupid to include an economic development component to the surge because Iraqis are so well off?

  6. The “moribund” economy comment seems to be the result of dubious decision making on the part of the Reason ‘editorial’ staff.

  7. Jim,

    Maybe you had a long weekend, but if you reread the above, I think they are taking issue with Nick’s description of the Iraqi economy as moribund. You could discuss another aspect of the article/issue Nick brings up without mischaracterizing the posts of other. Of course, that’s how some get their rocks off.

  8. If we’re hiring unemployed Iraq militia, how will we stop them from using their wages to support their former terrorist masters?

  9. cinnabob: But if the economy is robust, what need is there for a US-funded (jobs program, centered around menial labor yet? If the economy is robust, why does the Administration want to stress an economic recovery component to the escalation? Either the Administration is stupidly ignoring the health of Iraq’s economy or the economy is . . . not so fresh.

    How an economy could be not so fresh while showing robust GDP growth is an interesting thought problem. I don’t think it’s one that will confuse libertarians for very long though. (Hint: “Broken window fallacy.”)

  10. Jim Henley,

    Cinnabob is correct, I was taking issue with the adjective “moribund.” But to your question, if “an economic development component” is another way of saying “CWA/WPA/CCC style programs” then, I am not in favor of that.

  11. Wondering if this new Congress should be included in the calculus for this announcement?

    Remember, the people running the place now were the ones who demanded post 9/11 homeland security include a giant public service welfare component for major US cities. Sounds a little similar on the surface.

  12. Yeah, just what we need more money to that rat hole. Let’s just bribe the barbarians into being civilized. “I used to saw off live human heads for a living now thanks to uncle sam I sweep up debris from US air raids! Allah Akbar!” Quit playing stupid games, get the hell out, if they build a government that supports terror (like every other middle eastern government) just nuke the place till no two stands are standing atop one another and say, “Try again!”

  13. Why exactly haven’t we been paying them to do the rebuilding since the begining? The knowledge was clearly there; somebody had to have built those burned out buildings before they were, well, burned out. Makes a lot more sense to pay Iraqis than to hire American firms to do it for them.

  14. I’m sure you’re all aware that GDP can increase (especially if your economy is about 70% oil-based and the price of oil is rising) without a necessarily positive effect on incomes and employment. In the Iraq of today, GDP is a crappy proxy for economic well-being.

    The Newsweek article is simply a rehash of information available in other places.

    I really long for the days when I was mainly concerned with tank gunnery and maintenance.

  15. Trooper Jones,

    Rough & smoothe, you’re in the groove?

  16. ack! “smooth” that should be.

  17. Why exactly haven’t we been paying them to do the rebuilding since the begining?

    Speaking as a former troop that participated in such meaningless Foreign Job Corps projects when this mess first began, we have been in the business of “make work” since OIF began. Unfortunately, most of your tax dollars were swallowed up in graft, mismanagement and military officials doling out dough to Iraqis without basic FASB or GAAP accounting principles taken under consideration.

    This new billion will disappear in a similar fashion. However, it should buy Bush another six-months to a year of face-saving

  18. Khristos Rozhdaetsia!

  19. Except for the fact government can only destroy jobs overall, rather than create them, this is a mahvelous idea.
    But wait. Perhaps the US could pay Iraquis to join a new faith-based initiative militia. They would be compassionate conservatives. Pat Robert could probably be persuaded to be an advisor.
    Or why reinvent the wheel? Form an Iraqui branch of Vista Volunteers.

  20. There we go! Let’s have a “faith based” occupation force! Oh wait, I think we have been! LOL. Cry…

  21. Quoting Shem:

    Why exactly haven’t we been paying them to do the rebuilding since the begining? The knowledge was clearly there; somebody had to have built those burned out buildings before they were, well, burned out. Makes a lot more sense to pay Iraqis than to hire American firms to do it for them.


    Why would we pay Iraqis when the point of the invasion was to enrich corporations?

  22. So when we have to start subsidizing this economic nonsense will it come out of our welfare budget or our defense budget? Maybe it will be an earmark?

  23. New Deal-style public works projects are lousy for the economy long-term, but they’re great politically (as witnessed by FDR’s popularity). We, to be cynical, don’t care so much about the economy–either it’s booming or it won’t boom ’til the violence stops–but getting people who aren’t working to start working will have a greater cooling effect on the violence than anything our troops can do.

  24. I’m not sure if this plan is more or less wasteful than rebuilding New Orleans. I think more, but maybe not. New Orleans definitely will be exposed to future storms, but Iraq might not be destroyed again.

    Then again, is April Gillaspie still presnting U.S. opinion?

  25. That’s a long read. Here’s the April G. meat from the link (for those that missed this back in the Gulf War I days – it didn’t seem to get much MSM press):

    “In the late 1980’s, Kuwait and Iraq were having a dispute over the Ar Rumaylah oil field, which straddles their borders. Kuwait, Iraq claimed, was stealing oil by means of slant drilling. Negotiations failed, as the Emir of Kuwait seemed obstinate. Hussein, fresh off his US-aided victory over Iran, wanted to settle the matter militarily. In a special meeting, he asked US Ambassador to Iraq April Gillaspie what the position of the US would be should he invade Kuwait. Gillaspie relayed the Bush Administration position – it was an Arab matter. The US had no interest.”

  26. Great way to “boost” GDP – Blow a bunch of stuff up, ruin the economy – Then, when the whole thing is over, even a tiny economic growth is a huge percentage growth.

    Expect to see a huge growth in New Orleands GDP real soon as well!

  27. Ooh, ooh, to really get the economy going we could break all the remaining windows in Iraq, then hire a bunch of Iraqis to replace them.

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