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Jargon Watch: What Is "Shovel Ready"?

One bone of contention in the debate surrounding the $820-odd billion stimulus package is whether we can actually get started on the projects it'll fund-whether these projects are "shovel ready." Some people argue that if a proposed school, or bridge, or road repair isn't ready for workers, then funding it in the stimulus bill won't do the economy any good in the short run because the money won't be spent quickly. It would sit idle as the planning process grinds on.The stimulus bill defines a project as "shovel ready" if work can begin within 90 days, and Obama has touted the number of "shovel ready" projects in the bill, as if to allay fears that billions will languish in bureaucratic purgatory. But shovel readiness might be the hallmark of a dud.As Popular Mechanics explains:"The programs that would meet the bill's 90-day restriction are, for the most part, an unappealing mix of projects that were either shelved after being fully designed and engineered, and have since become outmoded or irrelevant, or projects with limited scope and ambition. No one's building a smart electric grid or revamping a water system on 90 days notice. The best example of a shovel-ready project, and what engineers believe could become the biggest recipient of the transportation-related portion of the bill's funding, is road resurfacing-important maintenance work, but not a meaningful way to rein in a national infrastructure crisis."So now you know. Shovel ready projects are ones that can get going fast, and might help create jobs. But they're also projects that-by definition-require fewer than three months of forethought, and they probably won't to much to improve our situation vis a vis the environment in the long run.(Photo from Flickr user Mannequin-)

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