Last week the presumptive presidential nominee of the Democratic Party, Joe Biden, disclosed an economic program that, he says, will put money into jobs that are “shovel ready.” That is to say, he promised public spending on jobs for which the match of workers and tasks is trouble free, as when someone directs a digger to the necessary shovel and the spot for the hole.
The term “shovel ready” for jobs that will be created either by a public works program or a stimulus package has had an unhappy history. When the Obama-Biden administration came into office in 2017, it too said that it would put people to work on literally or metaphorically “shovel ready” infrastructure projects. The matching of workers to tasks proved to be a good deal more complicated than that implied, and former President Obama has expressed regret about the metaphor.
The Thing to Know:
The Federal Highway Administration no longer even uses the term “shovel ready” as a project classification. Experience indicates that if those in charge of allocating funds are looking to get something underway quickly i.e. looking for something “shovel ready,” they are not looking carefully at the suitability of the project.