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The government announced today that unemployment hit 9.7 % a 26-year high.  Although the White House will tell us that the rate of job loss is shrinking signaling the start of a economic comeback, that belies an understand of how companies lay people off.

Usually the first layoffs are lower level employees, they make less money so companies have to lay off many of them to have a bottom line effect. As more layoffs are needed a company will start to get rid of the bigger salaries or else no one will be left to do the work. So even if nothing changes, as the recession continues you are going to see  a decline because more “Chiefs” and fewer “Indians” are getting fired.

And what about the wonderful, super, stimulus protect passed months ago, where are the jobs from that? Well No where. If Congress decided on a tax cut rather than a pork-laden stimulus our unemployment nightmare would be probably be turning around by now.

Don’t think that the money isn’t being spent it sure has. And some of it has been spent on really stupid projects, below are some examples from Money magazine:

  • Bobber the Water Safety Dog (and friends)The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has spent $51,500 of stimulus money on nine mascot costumes and robots, including Bobber the Water Safety Dog, Coastie the Water Safety Education Seaboat and Seamoor the Sea Serpent Robot.They’ll be used in parks in Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana and Utah to teach children about safe boating and swimming. It seems a little strange, but the project manager at one location that got a Bobber costume says the mascot has been a wild success.

Those children love Bobber,” said George Williams, Army Corps of Engineers project manager at Green River Lake, near Campbellsville, Ky. “If we teach and mentor these children about water safety, they’re going to carry that into adulthood, and we’re going to reduce the number of drownings and fatalities.”

Williams said there have been 36 drownings at the site since 1969, so the park was very pleased to get Recovery Act funding for the Bobber costume. Park rangers will often dress up as Bobber and put on skits for the 23,000 school-age children that come to the lake each year.

  • Dam Ice The Army Corps of Engineers used $455 of Recovery Act money to rent two ice machines and 300 bags of ice for the Melvin Price Lock and Dam auxiliary gate repair modification project in East Alton, Ill. The dam gates open and close with a tension rod much like a screen door, with one big exception — each gate weighs 200 tons, which is just a little less than the Statue of Liberty. When one of the replacement pins wouldn’t fit in the tension rod, an engineer suggested freezing the hardware to contract it slightly. Alas, that didn’t work. But the engineers did find a use for all that ice.

“In early July and August, it’s hot, and there’s no wind in the dam” said Alan Duley, spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers. “We put the ice machines down there so people could fill up their Gatorade and water bottles.”

  • Golf Cart to distribute Oyster shells The National Park Service purchased an electric golf cart for $8,223 to distribute oyster shells at the DeSoto National Memorial in Bradenton, Fla.  The memorial commemorates the Spanish exploration of Florida. There are several walking trails around the site, and one happened to be made from crushed oyster shells. As oyster shells tend to do, many washed away in rain and in high-tides. The Park Service wanted to re-shell the trail, but didn’t have the manpower to do it.

Here’s where the cart comes in: The Park Service had enough money to buy the replacement shells but the bags were too heavy for one person to manage. With the carts, one person drives down the trail, while another spreads the new shells from the bag off the back of the cart.

In addition to repaving the trail, both the cart and the shells were purchased from local companies, so that helped the local economy, said Park Service spokeswoman Joan Moody.

  • Courthouse freezer Here’s another cool place where stimulus money is going: The General Service Administration’s Public Buildings Service bought a reach-in freezer for the cafeteria at the Robert J. Dole Courthouse in Kansas City, Kan., for $2,655. Why do courthouse employees’ frozen appetites need to be stimulated?

“We received Recovery Act funds to improve the whole building, and we planned to replace all of the building’s equipment with Energy Star equipment,” said Charlie Cook, spokesman for the GSA. “As we were repairing the building, the existing freezer stopped working.”

“We were going to spend money on a new freezer eventually anyway, so we just bought it earlier than planned,” Cook added.

  • Ham — cooked to your specifications The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service spent $24.3 million of stimulus funds on the other other white meat. To be specific, AMS bought $16.9 million of canned pork, $2.6 million of ham, with water added, cooked and frozen, and $4.8 million of sliced ham (with water added, cooked and frozen). No, it has nothing to do with stimulating the pork and ham markets due to misinformed people boycotting pigs over swine flu concerns.

The Agriculture Department is sending the meat to food banks as part of a $150 million effort to feed hungry Americans — of which there have been record numbers during the recession.

  • Office furniture, care of the local penitentiary The Energy Department spent $73,150 on 115 office chairs — 25 mid-back and 90 high-back — for their Arvada, Colo., field office. It’s not that the old chairs had workers screaming for more lumbar support. The field office has just taken on more than 100 new employees for new energy projects funded by the Recovery Act.

“The office has been given a significant chunk of Recovery Act money to support research and development of clean energy projects,” said Charlie Powers, spokesman for the Energy Department. “We had to add significant staff to take on the projects — and we needed something for them to work on.” 

One other interesting tidbit: The chairs were made by prisoners as part of the government’s UNICOR program. UNICOR, created by Congress in 1934, hires inmates to make everything from flatware to t-shirts to safety goggles.
Lots of lawyers

  • Lawyers.The Department of Energy is spending $3.3 million of stimulus funds on lawyers to support the $25 billion Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturers Loan Program.

It’s not strange that lawyers are involved with stimulus — government and corporate legal experts are working overtime behind the scenes on the massive spending bill. But the Energy Department program, which gives loans to auto manufacturers and parts suppliers to create new fuel-efficient vehicles, is the only program that has given private lawyers a specific stimulus contract.

The DOE said all the legal aid was need to support the processing of applications for the program.

“The legal companies … provided their expertise for technical and financial review of the applications as well as for negotiations with the applicants who were chosen to receive loans,” said Energy Department spokeswoman Stephanie Mueller.

Its not that any of these projects might not make sense at a different time, and in aggregate they don’t amount to that much money in government terms. These projects are systematic of our government spending in general, and the porkulus project specifically. Government forgets the basic fact that the money in their budgets belong to the people not the politicians, this spending as well as the rest of the so called stimulus project do not belong in the hands of government but in the hands of the taxpayers.

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