Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Growth and Work Time in the Inaugural Address

We can't make any predictions about the Obama administration from the inaugural address, which we would expect to be filled with the most conventional rhetoric, but it is striking that he echoes the conventional wisdom that we should promote economic growth purely to create more work.

He does mention shorter work time, but he considers it a sacrifice that people might have to make during the current economic emergency:

"It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours."

The shorter work time movement will not get anywhere until people realize that working less is a benefit, not a sacrifice. But here Obama says just the opposite.

After the levees break, we want to rebuild homes as quickly as possible, so people no longer have to make the sacrifice of giving up part of their home to strangers. Likewise, it seems that, after people cut their hours, we want to stimulate the economy as quickly as possible, so people no longer have to make the sacrifice of working less.

And how will we stimulate the economy and promote growth? The first thing on his list is roads:

"For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act — not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges,..."

I think Obama is carried away by his stimulus package here, and he actually does realize that roads are environmentally destructive. I expect a shift to transit under the Obama administration.

But that makes it all the more telling that he wants to build roads to stimulate the economy. Even if they are useless, even if they are destructive, we need to build them purely to promote growth and create more work.


Blogger dirtycrumbs said...

I hope you're right... But there's a lot coming from Obama to be discouraged about...

Considering the source, your optimism is welcome.

I also saw that Kos linked to your site today. You should encourage him to blog more about livable streets issues!


9:49 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home